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Off-Kilter by GubraithianFire
Chapter 3 : confused as
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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Author's Note All of my love to Annie, Rachel, and Torrie for helping pick a summary tagline. (I will still change regularly because I'm indecisive and all; worry not if it changes every half hour).

Also, there's a lot of this prewritten (shocker). So I don't know how often updates will be, but they will happen! Sometimes. I'm not really sure.

Ahem.





*confused as



I had to go up to both Cata and Piper separately the next day to ask them the question that had been eating at me for hours.

“Why are we trying to help Oliver?”

Cata’s answer: “Because it’s not going to help Gemma at all when he remembers what she gets like. And I don’t think any of us can take her whinging and everything for the rest of term.”

Reasonable as ever.

Piper’s answer: “Oh, my God, you like him.”

Contrasted with, well, not.

“Explain to me how that even makes sense.”

Flustered, she admitted that it didn’t.

“Thank you. Now, seriously, why are we doing this for Oliver? Or is he just, like, a peripheral thing that goes along with controlling Gemma, or what?”

She thought for a moment. Piper in thought looks rather adorable. It’s like seeing a tiny puppy in Hogsmeade at Christmastime, which indeed, I had seen the last weekend we went. Gemma was convinced that it had rabies or dragon pox or something similar and didn’t let me even pet the poor thing.

But this was what Piper came up with: “You just don’t want his heart to be broken all over again.”

“Didn’t we agree just now that–wait. His heart wasn’t broken. He’s the one who dumped her.”

She gave me another funny look. (She did that a lot.) This time, it was to say Oh, really?

“Come on, then, spit it out,” I grumbled. We were in the common room, of course, once again sharing my Christmas quilt. Gemma was canoodling with her new/old boyfriend and Cata went off somewhere to have quality time with her brother. “What’re you talking about?”

She gave a self-satisfied grin and leaned in. “Well,” she whispered conspiratorially, “maybe… oh fine, I misspoke. A little bit!” she added hastily. “Merlin, Corinna, calm down.” She rolled her eyes. “What I meant to say was that Oliver has… well, let’s just say that he has a soft spot for her.”

I blinked. “For who her?”

“For Gemma, you idiot. He reckons she’s sweet.”

I straightened up and asked, with the most serious of expressions, “Why do you know these things about Oliver Wood?” In my head echoed his words to me when I’d asked what he was doing, getting back together with her. It’s not like you have a right to the details of said life. What, and Piper did?

“Cata said it herself, didn’t she? He’s always liked me.”

I shook my head, eyes furrowed in confusion. “Enough to tell you that he has a soft spot for his mad ex-girlfriend?”

“Ooh, jealous, are we? Because he didn’t tell you anything?” She smiled in what was obviously misguided triumph. “Does it still not make sense?”

“Yes. And you still haven’t answered my question.”

Piper shifted in her seat; I felt her moving under the quilt.

“Piper?” I asked expectantly. “Do you have something to tell me, or don’t you?”

She waited a minute, as if to draw out the suspense. Or rather, as I suspected, as if she were embarrassed about admitting the truth. “Okay, fine, he didn’t tell me that in, um, words. But–oh, please, stop looking all triumphant–but… I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it? He asked her out for a reason, didn’t he? And he stuck with her all summer, and about half of September, and she started getting–you know–in August. And he didn’t avoid her like the plague and is actually really nice to her, which Cata would know if she paid half as much attention to other people as she thinks she does… and… Corinna. Corinna? Why are you looking at me like that?” Her tone had shifted upwards about a quarter of an octave, which was the closest she ever got to vocally expressing some sort of hysteria.

You can’t imagine how much it pained me to have to utter the words I next uttered. Which were: “Piper, please tell me you’re not stalking Oliver too.”

The scandalised expression she’d had when Cata had mentioned that Oliver liked her was back. Except, in retrospect, that didn’t make much sense with what I’d just inferred, so I resolved to take less stock in Piper’s facial expressions.

“I’m not stalking anybody,” she huffed. “I’m just… I’m observant, all right? And you and I both know that Ced–”

“Oh, no. No, just observant doesn’t cut it. You’re hyper observant and have fairly stalker-like tendencies. Admit it.”

“I’m wondering why you always interrupt me and change the subject when I start talking about how you and I both–”

“And you honed those hyper observant skills of yours by stalking Cedric, didn’t you?”

“Will you keep it down, you tactless hypocrite?”

“PIPER ST–”

“Er… am I interrupting something?”

Speak of the devil and he will come.

“Nope,” I said first, recovering myself fairly quickly. I could do that because it was Piper, not I, who stalked Cedric Diggory. It was a little bit adorable, because she was still almost star-struck around him. “How are you, Cedric?”

“Oh, I’m good. How’re you two?” He was looking at us in something of a quizzical manner.

“We’re fine.” Piper smiled through her teeth, which was a simultaneously charming and threatening gesture.

“Do you need something?” I asked.

“Yeah, actually.” He gave us one last quizzical look, then shook it off and got down to business. “Have you seen Rick around, by any chance? Wanted to get a few of the team members together, talk practices and stuff.”

I found that odd, considering that Ravenclaw unceremoniously handed us our asses and terminated our hopes of at least competing for the rest of the year’s Quidditch Cup. But I supposed that Cedric wanted to make sure his failing team wouldn’t lose what little skill it had.

“Not since this morning. He and Cata were supposed to have quality time together.”

Cedric didn’t seem all that bothered by his Chaser blowing him off. “Oh, all right. I guess I’ll postpone until tomorrow.” He shrugged nonchalantly. “If you see Rick, though, would you mind telling him to come find me? I’ll be in my room.”

“Not at all,” said Piper.

“Thanks.” He gave us a smile (beautiful smile, I won’t lie) and then made his way towards the network of tunnels that led to the boys’ dormitories. Except… I could have sworn…

I glanced at Piper, whose face was getting really red. The sort of red that meant…

“I wasn’t seeing things!”

“What weren’t you seeing?”

“You saw it too!”

“What the hell are you talking about, woman?” There was that note of vague hysteria in her voice even as she pretended to be outraged and confused.

And in my voice was more than a dash of elated scheming. “He was staring at you, Piper!” He definitely was. I saw it–his gaze lingered on her instead of me or instead of the blanket or instead of us as an entity. Cedric was gazing at Piper. “This is such a big step in your nonexistent relationship, don’t you see? Before you know it, you’ll be flirting. Then–holy Merlin, then you’ll progress to unresolved sexual–” But I stopped talking there, fearful, for a moment, that I’d gone too far. When an obsession is the type that Piper harboured, you can’t cross that line. Otherwise you risk putting the obsessed in some sort of shock-joy-coma.

That’s what I thought I’d done to Piper. She froze, no blinking and, for a strange second suspended in time, no breathing. Then she exhaled forcefully, waking herself up from the coma. I felt her curl up in what I could only imagine to be the fetal position, and then I heard her start hyperventilating.

“P… Piper?” I withdrew my hands from under the blanket and put one each on her shoulders. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

Then she shook off the shock and brushed my hands away from herself. “Stop it. I’m fine.”

I blinked.

Then she said the following words:

“Cedricsbeenflirtingwithmeallweekandits–”

“–freakingyouthefuckout?”

She hung her head, dejected, and nodded. Then, without any further prodding from me, she launched into the whole story behind the alleged flirtation that was starting up between her and our House’s illustrious Seeker. Apparently, as she said, it had started out innocently enough–announcements such as the one he’d just made, last minute questions about his Charms homework. Then it evolved to can you review my essay for me (which I had no recollection of whatsoever, because Piper rarely wrote her own essays and probably didn’t take Charms to begin with) and then to your hair looks nice today to–

At that point, I got bored and said that I’d got the gist of the story. Cedric, all of a sudden, was being incredibly nice to her. And this confused the hell out of her because her obsession with Cedric was never, in her mind, supposed to grow into something possibly tangible. And she didn’t know how to handle that.

At which point, she said, in a voice that was both urgent and high, “You have to help me. You absolutely have to. I can’t… I can’t handle this by myself, and Gemma’s off with Oliver and Cata’s just constantly moody so neither of them can do it do it, so please, Corinna? Please?”

“What? Yeah, sure, fine. Whatever you need.”

Piper beamed, and I could feel the quilt shifting as she released herself from the fetal position.

But then, another question started gnawing at me, triggered by that last desperate speech of hers. It wasn’t about Cedric and the development of their relationship practically overnight. It wasn’t about any lingering frustration about Gemma and Oliver.

It was about Cata being moody for far longer than she needed to be.

Which was a very curious coincidence, if you ask me.


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