Chapter 8 : serious as
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I stumbled into Transfiguration the morning after the baking explosion still smelling like powdered, not granulated, sugar and lemon zest. Gemma and Oliver, by mercy of every miracle Hogwarts could offer, had escaped with nary a stray egg yolk on them. Plus they didn’t have actual class first period; Gemma was free on Mondays and Oliver had Charms, which didn’t count.
Cata was the only one of us besides me who took Transfiguration. She was also the only one in the entirety of Hufflepuff House (or those who knew us that well) to side with Gemma about the baking fiasco. She didn’t approve of us staying up so late just to be tortured by her lack of culinary talent. Also, she didn’t approve of Gemma and Oliver spending any more time together, even if I was there too.
“I’m going to assume that last night was a disaster.”
I admitted that that was an accurate assumption.
She pulled out her textbook and a sheet of parchment. “Although I’m not sure how you thought it would ever end up otherwise.”
“It was punishment, Cata. It was supposed to be a disaster.”
“Is that what you told yourself all night with just those two for company?”
“What those two?” I was the teensiest bit offended. For Gemma’s sake. Because for all of her culinary savvy–I mean lack thereof–she was not stupid, and honestly, Cata constantly being on her case was getting… boring. “She was in the background mostly, so it was really only Oliver I was talking to. And besides, they’re not that bad together.”
“Fine, let’s not go down this road,” I said. I hadn’t forgot what she’d told me that night at two-something in the morning, and she hadn’t brought it up since. I was grateful for that, if only because I didn’t know how to begin to approach that particular problem. “Let’s just…”
“Sit in awkward silence?”
“But that’s so…”
“A little bit.”
She rolled her eyes. “So what do you want to talk about?”
I cast around frantically for a safe topic of conversation. “Er… Oliver is delusional?”
“I thought that was an established fact.”
I appreciated the fact that she could at least acknowledge that she fancied an idiot. That was the first step, after all. Or something. “Can I ask why you think that? Although if it has anything to do with–oh, it does. Okay. I was going to say that he wants to be a professional Quidditch player after having been traumatised at a game when he was little, but, er, there’s that too.”
She was mildly interested in that last bit. I wondered what she’d say.
What she eventually did say was numbingly neutral. Perfect, delusional Cata. “He’s got the talent, hasn’t he, to play professionally?”
“I guess so.”
“And other things, too, I imagine.”
I asked, with all the trepidation of prior occasions, what those other things were.
She sighed at my stupidity, and with something of a mischievous glint in her eye said, “He’s famous for more than his Quidditch skills, Corinna.”
I shut my eyes, mouthing silent curses at Cata. Merlin, the mental images she conjured up! And so dexterously, too! While I mentally berated myself for walking into this trap every single time, I hid my eyes with my hands to avoid Cata’s dangerously naughty smirk. Then removed my hands from my face, because they still smelled like lemon zest.
“I hate you,” I muttered.
She smiled at the statement. “I know.”
“You are so conceited.”
“You’re an awful human being. What else is new?”
“At least I’m not ogling my best friend’s boyfriend.”
I don’t usually put my foot in my mouth. I wait and let someone else do so, and then snicker as that someone else extricates said foot from said mouth. Then again, when faced with something as horrifying as Cata’s apparent crush on Gemma’s boyfriend, it was amazing that I hadn’t done this earlier.
“Is that your new trump card?”
“Now that you mention it, yeah, I think it will be.”
Cata remained completely impassive, because that seemed to be her thing, but once Professor McGonagall swept into the classroom, I saw her smile to her inkpot. And I felt oddly vindicated.
I expected the rest of the day to go on in class-related tedium. Transfiguration was tedious. Walking Cata to Divination (“It’s an easy grade, I don’t get why you wouldn’t take it!”) was tedious. Being interrupted on my walk back to the Hufflepuff basements was… not tedious.
“Corinna! Oi, Corinna!”
I stopped and let Robert catch up to me. “Oh, hello there.” He was vaguely out of breath, but in an excited way instead of an exhausted one. “You all right?”
“Ecstatic, thanks for asking.”
“Huh. You don’t say.” Robert was not like me, using big words when simpler ones would do. If he said ecstatic, it didn’t mean that he was really happy. It meant that he was fucking ecstatic. “You’re not going to share with me the reason for your ecstasy, are you?”
“If you insist!” He even said that in a singsong-y way while he plunged his hand into his bag. While I mentally shuddered, he managed to wrangle what looked to be some sort of notice from some textbook or other. When it was free, he handed it to me with the hugest grin I’ve ever seen on his face.
“I haven’t even unrolled it yet,” I reminded him. To placate him, I did so (at an agonising pace, of course). And this is what it said:
KNIGHT TO E4
*the best student band Hogwarts ever spawned
ROCKED YOUR SCHOOL.
ROB, DEX, MIKE & GUY ARE BACK.
AND READY TO
ROCK YOUR WORLD.
KNIGHT TO E4
SATURDAY 8 JANUARY
HUFFLEPUFF COMMON ROOM
*bring an umbrella.
it’s going to rain music
You’ll be happy to know that I resisted the urge to make another you’re not serious blunder. Robert wasn’t any better than Oliver when it came to easy jokes about dangerous wizards.
What I said instead was quite reasonable, which Cata would be happy to know if she still deserved the title of “somewhat reasonable,” which she sort of didn’t. “A reunion show? Really?” As he nodded, I said, “Couldn’t you let the rock star version of you rest in peace?”
Rock star Robert was soulful and nappy-haired and so artificially moody, he could give Gemma a run for her sickles. It was disgusting, put-upon, and hot.
“Rock star Robert was never dead.”
“I’ve grown, Corinna. As a person, as a musician. So have the other guys.”
I scoffed. “I’m pretty sure no one’s been praying for a Knights reunion concert.”
Of course, this was a blatant lie. Cata had for months after they went on indefinite hiatus for O.W.L. season. So had Piper, and Gemma, and most every Hufflepuff female, including those select few from other Houses who’d snuck into their concerts before. Robert’s voice was too sexy to resist.
“I’m not going to dispute that right now,” he said, with all of the unnerving unflappability of a modern-day rock star. “All I’m saying is that I genuinely want you to be there, if for no other purpose than to point out grammatical errors in the lyrics.”
I grinned at the reference–because that’s what Piper and I had done at their first show, in a shifty bar off of Hogsmeade’s High Street–but didn’t say anything.
“Oh, come on, now. What else will you be doing on Saturday night anyway? Baking again?”
“As it happens, I think the house-elves have had enough of me for a few weeks,” I admitted, “so… yeah, I’ll probably be there.”
Robert gave me the widest, happiest grin I’d ever seen him give for the second time in as many minutes. It was quite attractive, I’m not going to lie. But not enough to actually attract me to him. Again.
He even gave me a quick little hug, in a completely not-awkward, utterly attraction-less, friendly way. I returned it. And in that moment where we were actually hugging–the first time since Spencer and Imogen’s wedding (not that I cared)–he actually whispered something in my ear. “I’m really quite serious about the umbrella, though.”
I tried not to chuckle into his neck. “Oh, are you, now?”
“Mm hmm.” That was when we pulled away from each other, and he gave me another grin. This one was more mischievous than elated. I wasn’t sure what it meant.
I made to give him back the flyer, but he gestured that I should keep it. And as he started backing away, he said, as cool as you please, “We’re going to cause a storm.”
It wasn’t until he’d gone down a flight of stairs at the end of the corridor that I realised that he was speaking quite literally.
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