Chapter 2 : unsupportive as
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Cata was sulky and sullen for the rest of the day, even when the fourth-years challenged her to a snowball fight rematch, so Piper and I stuck to her all day. We were very helpful, too, except for when it didn’t work and she got even sulkier than before.
Her problem was that she didn’t get it. None of us did, and we’d long since learned how to let things go and let whatever it was pass away peacefully. Not Cata. She couldn’t let things go. She had to go on dwell on them, just like Gemma did.
“Corinna,” she said suddenly, after the rematch, when the three of us were snuggled up all cozy in front of the common room fire, “you should try next.”
I had even dragged down the quilt Grandma had sent me for Christmas. Notice the use of “sent” instead of “made.” Piper had been curled up next to me, but even she perked up at the comment.
I, however, played dumb. “Try what next?”
“Talking sense into her. Into them.”
Piper giggled. “Because that will go over well, won’t it?”
“Because Gemma likes listening to sense, doesn’t she?” I continued.
Cata scowled. She’d been doing that a lot that day, and it was getting the teensiest bit annoying. “Oliver, then. Talk to him.”
“What’d he say to her, exactly?” I said. “Any explanation?”
“None that I heard. She started ranting, right, and then he told her to hold it for a minute. Then they left. I don’t know. But… it’s just…” She broke off, unable to find the words to sufficiently express her disgust.
“Have you ever heard of a worse start to a relationship?” Piper sighed. “We dated one summer. He dumped me. I was desperate. Then I demanded that he give me another chance. And we ended up miserably ever after.” She winced again, which was not a good look for her. “God, can you imagine what they’ll be like in a month?”
“I’m trying not to,” said Cata. “But now it’s really hard to avoid it.”
I looked around at the rest of the Puff common room. There were one or two boys napping, but everyone else was in their little clusters of friends, playing Exploding Snap and wizard’s chess, comparing yesterday’s gifts and using them. The type of happy that means you have everything and everyone you wanted.
And there we were, having commandeered the sofas closest to the fire, snuggled in our blankets, the most unsupportive little clique in the world.
“We’re the worst friends ever,” I said flatly. Then I burrowed deeper into the quilt to hide my shame, which evidently neither of the other two felt. They watched me try to disappear, Piper muttering crossly about shifting the quilt towards my side. I sunk until only my eyes peeked above the perfect purple edge.
“No, we’re smarter than that.” Cata was twirling a lock of hair around her finger, lost in sullen thought. “If we really were the worst friends ever, we’d’ve told her to do that sooner. But I’m dead serious. You go talk to Oliver.”
“When were you thinking? Easter? Obviously you should do it now, before anything gets worse. You should go too, Piper. He’s always liked you.”
“Since when?” She seemed fairly scandalised, too.
“I don’t know, but at this point I figure having more backup can’t hurt.” She stared right into my eyes now, or at least however much of my eyes she could see.
Surprisingly, it was Piper who acted instead of me. She crawled out of the quilt and then proceeded to jerk it away, drape it inelegantly on Cata, and then stood. “Coming, Corinna?”
Cata was still staring at me, even as she was fixing the quilt so that it wasn’t bunched up over her legs. Piper was also staring at me, down her long nose. No one else cared what we were getting up to, I knew, but it didn’t feel like that. So, with one last dirty look towards Cata, I slid off the couch and got to my feet.
Purpose in mind, I started trudging back to the door that would lead to the castle proper. The door was already opening by the time I got there, letting some second-year boy and his mates in. They held the door open for me, and once I went through, I held the door for Piper, because I’m unfailingly considerate. But after a good fifteen seconds during which time she didn’t get out, I actually turned around to peek into the common room.
She had moved–to the couch where Cata sat, once again bundled up in my Christmas quilt. She waved when she noticed me watching.
I refused to get angry. That would be like playing right into their hands.
So I let the door shut, and trooped determinedly off to find Crazy and Stupid.
As it happens, I didn’t have very far to look.
They were, in fact, in the very antechamber that lead to the Hufflepuff common room.
With their arms wrapped around each other.
In what I can only assume was a horrendously passionate embrace.
“Fucking–God, Gemma, is that you?” I pretended to be shocked when they broke apart, to see her and Oliver. “Oh my–it is you! With–Gemma, why are you–”
My sister-in-law goes to drama school in London. She’d rubbed off on me. Horrid thought, but my performance was pretty riveting, if I may say so myself.
Gemma’s and Oliver’s weren’t up to par. They looked appropriately embarrassed, but she shucked that off quickly and trotted to me, grabbed my hands, and said, “You know how I hate saying I told you so, but–oh, fine, I won’t.” Then she glanced back at Oliver, who inclined his head to me. “We’re together again,” she said. I’d never heard her sound nearly as blissful.
That was quite worrisome.
“Oh.” I cleared my throat. “Um, congratulations, guys. And actually,” I added, looking at Oliver, “I was looking for you, Oliver, which was why… um, never mind. I’ll let you two get… um, get on with it.” I made to back up and away, but Gemma grinned and wouldn’t let me go.
“Oh, no, that’s okay, we were just saying goodnight. Night, Oliver!” She blew him one last kiss, then scampered away, leaving me alone with him at long last.
When I was sure that she’d gone back inside, sure to face Cata’s fury and Piper’s spirited apathy, I went up to Oliver, who didn’t seem all that surprised.
“Before you ask,” he said, as dryly as you please, “I don’t have a death wish.”
“I wasn’t going to ask that. I was going to ask whether you’ve been hit with too many Bludgers over your long and storied career.”
“Then I would’ve asked if you really are that desperate for some, because if you are, I can point you to about seven other girls in our year alone who will gladly–”
“Really? I already know nine.” He rolled his eyes. “Come on, Corinna, you can do better than that.”
I gave him a cool grin. A special gesture I reserve for boys. “Well, I was trying to keep this civil. I mean, really. You’re kind of delusional. You know that, don’t you?”
“I’ve heard the term, yeah.”
“And you know what Gemma will eventually get like, because you already went through that.”
“She’s promised to behave.”
“Oliver, we’ve literally been trying to figure this out all day. It wasn’t fun. And,” I added, plaintively, “we still can’t. That’s not good. So please, please tell me you have a good reason for doing this all over again, or… or…”
He chuckled. Because he’s completely the sort of bloke to chuckle while a girl tries to get angry enough to threaten him. “I don’t think I have to tell you anything, do I? Seeing as this is my private, personal life, and it’s not like you have a right to the details of said life.” He smiled at me. “You know, you and Garcia are the most unsupportive friends I’ve ever seen in my life.”
I didn’t show any indication that I’d made that very observation literally minutes ago. I dismissed it as easily as Cata and Piper had. “To her, maybe. But keep in mind, part of all this is for your sake. We are trying to save you.”
He seemed amused by this notion. “Oh, yeah? And why might that be?”
Cue cool grin. “We need you to be properly functioning in February. No fun watching Davies and company clobber your lot if you’re not even trying.”
I expected this to get a rise out of him, but it didn’t. “That’s cute. Getting Quidditch into the mix, make things interesting. Very cute.” He glanced at his wrist, even though I could see that there was no watch or anything there. “Would you look at the time? Should be heading back. Curfew, you know.”
I snorted. “Yeah. Curfew.” It was half past seven when I left the common room.
“Nice seeing you, Corinna. Happy Christmas.” He smiled, then left the antechamber. I waited for the sounds of his footsteps to fade away before I turned around and went back to the common room.
When I got back inside and saw Gemma, sitting on the floor while Cata seemed to be lecturing her and Piper was lying inert across an armchair, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know why we were trying to save Oliver, either.
And if you ask me, that’s a pretty big question to ask.
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