Chapter 11 : loud as
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I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Oliver was the first non-Puff to arrive, having been given “special permission” from Robert. He said it was because he was “a fellow Quidditch player,” but he didn’t extend the courtesy to anyone else, especially not Davies or Flint. I assumed, then, that Gemma blackmailed him in some way. It didn’t seem to be out of her reach.
With Oliver joining us, the remaining hour went by very quickly. At eight-twenty-five, the entirety of Hufflepuff House spilled into the common room. I let us all be separated, dragging Piper with me from our squishy chair to a corner near the entryway.
“Remember the plan, all right?” I hissed directly in her ear. I wouldn’t have, except with Dexter checking all sorts of equipment and Mike tapping an upbeat, peppy beat on the drums, we couldn’t hear each other otherwise. “Stick to Flint and girl like spellotape.”
“And you get to cover Gemma, I know, I know. Lucky me.”
“You didn’t protest, don’t blame me.”
“Can I bring Cata with me?”
I rolled my eyes. Which she couldn’t see, because Guy, for reasons beyond me, decided to completely dim the lights and put out the fire. Now the only illumination in the thoroughly tricked-out common room came from the great spotlights already levitating nearish the ceiling. There was no indication of any storm cloud up there, either.
“Stick to the–oh, there you went!” Oliver popped up out of nowhere, Gemma in one hand and an umbrella in the other, jabbing his way to us. It had been a gift from Gemma for the very occasion, but he Charmed it red and gold when she went off to fix her smudged eyeliner or something. “Was wondering where you two got off to! Where’s Cata?”
Gemma had the hearing of a bat. Her boyfriend, not so much. “Guy needs help with something, didn’t say what. Ooh, aren’t you excited?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” said Oliver. From what little I could see, he did not look excited at all. He looked bored. Probably he was off in his own little world, strategising instead of socialising. “When’s this thing supposed to start?”
“Nine, they said,” Piper told him. “Probably not happening.”
“But curfew’s s–watch where you’re going, you horrid little–”
I didn’t have time to finish. Apres moi, le deluge.
I mean that quite literally. There was a flood of people.
It was all I could do to hold onto Gemma; Piper, being too physically weak to do so, was swept into the crowd to look for our mark. Instead of House umbrellas like Oliver had, there were band umbrellas: black and white with a great shining knight prancing across it. I even grabbed one for myself, just to have something to jab unsuspecting Ravenclaws with.
“Close your fucking umbrella,” Gemma hissed to me after a particularly nasty altercation with the Head Boy’s girl. “You’re going to hurt someone.”
“No, shit,” said Oliver, surprisingly astute for tonight. He was already regretting his choice to abandon his team in favour of his mad girlfriend and I couldn’t blame him. “They’re raining water and lightning on people, ‘course someone’ll be in the hospital by midnight.”
“Not even. Half past.”
“What time is it now?”
“Why don’t you have a watch?”
“Will you two stop it? Look!”
We stopped and followed Gemma’s hand up. I noticed, much to my relief and trepidation, that they finally got the stage up to size and about six feet below the ceiling. Which was about seven feet above the ground. Which wasn’t very impressive at all. Which threw even more doubt on how wise it was to have a floating concert in a basement with rather low ceilings.
But no one else seemed to be as thoroughly underwhelmed as I was. The crowd started chanting “CHECK! MATE! CHECK! MATE!” which I assumed was the boys’ battle cry or something. The band itself was nowhere to be found, the spotlights highlighting the very empty stage.
I was about to make a clever, snarky comment about how little sense this made, until I noticed something strange about the spotlights.
They were the colour of storm clouds, and about as nebulous.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!”
The chants intensified as a single figure appeared on the stage, of all places. It was a feminine figure, wearing the tightest pants I’ve ever seen in my life, and the lowest-cut blouse besides.
It was Cata.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!” she crowed again, holding up her wand and shooting black and white sparks from it. The crowd took it as a sign to shut up. “Welcome to the best fucking night of your lives.”
“She wasn’t wearing that before!” Gemma squeaked in horror. Oliver, to his credit, wasn’t even looking at Cata in her suddenly super sexy attire: he was staring straight ahead, utterly unimpressed.
“I reckon there’s a storm brewing in Hogwarts tonight!”
Cheers erupted from the crowd, and umbrellas opened up as if they were enchanted flowers. I took cover under Oliver’s, letting him get poked in the eyes for us. The cheering intensified when the smallest trickle of water started to snake down from the sky and onto the umbrellas.
We couldn’t believe it, but more surprises were still to come.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, GIVE A WARM WELCOME TO–KNIGHT TO E4.”
With that, Cata disappeared. It was like she Disapparated, and the boys appeared one by one on the stage when she was gone. First were Michael and his drums, looking like a funeral portrait. Then Guy with the bass, about as animated as a stone. Then Dexter, holding his guitar like a cane. Finally, with much fanfare and much screaming from the audience, was Robert, brandishing his microphone like a wand.
There was a beat of silence, punctuated with only the drizzle.
“We promised you music and awesomeness,” Robert purred to the microphone. Every single female in the common room screamed, including Gemma and myself. It was a compulsive thing. I couldn’t control it. Also, he looked hot as hell, and I am not so stupid as to ignore an artist who looked like that. “And we intend to deliver.”
A drum roll was all it took to open the floodgates.
Excuse the tired water-related platitudes, but there was water, water everywhere. It poured not just from the nebulous spotlights, but from the boys’ instruments: the neck of the guitar and bass, from the drumsticks, even from the microphone. From the edges of the stage. And, perhaps most surprisingly, from the band umbrellas themselves. They spouted water from the tops, and it fell unceremoniously on those who had them. That is to say, on me.
“HOLY SHIT MOTH–”
I tossed my umbrella into the crowd, watching it spit water as it went on its trajectory.
People started shrieking, Gemma loudest of all, it seemed, because they were so fucking wet and also because it was so awesome. The boys were as stoic, and dry, as we were not. After another few minutes Dexter played a power chord, and the storm ceased.
“We hate to say we told you so, but… we told you so.”
Penelope Clearwater was definitely a part of the choir of girls which shrieked, “WE LOVE YOU, ROBBIE!”
“I love you, too,” he crooned. Cue swooning and screaming. Again. “Speaking of love…”
Gemma and I immediately leapt into each other’s arms. I think we were trying to protect ourselves from the coming onslaught of chaos.
“You said you loved me ...”
Once it was clear that there would be no more raining on everyone’s parade, it took two songs–that is to say, about one-fifth of their entire repertoire–for people to start realising that they could dry themselves and the common room with magic. Then, it occurred to them that they didn’t need to keep their umbrellas up; that was in the middle of the third song.
That was when Hufflepuff turned into hell.
It was thoroughly unpleasant, as I imagine most concerts are. Full of shouting, singing, drinking, shoving, snogging, vomiting, and so on and et cetera. It was much more chaotic than any other show the boys had played. The state Cata was in spoke to that fact: when I found her, she was still wearing the slag outfit. Thankfully, it wasn’t wet.
“Isn’t this amazing?” she beamed.
Then she threw up on Oliver’s feet.
That was when, shrieking about hygiene and morality and such, Gemma made her move to separate herself from us. “Gross, gross, gross, gross,” she chanted, and pushed her way into the crowd.
Cata wobbled closer to the portrait hole, but I ignored her for a minute. Oliver was no longer utterly indifferent, although that’s not a surprise. I’d be pissed, too, if my eardrums were being assaulted and my shoes were vomited upon without even being entertained. “Save me,” he pleaded, but I shook my head.
“You’re on your own,” I mouthed (didn’t fancy shouting even more in his ear), and then darted off to find Gemma the possible spy.
Venturing into the great crowd was like walking into an alternate reality of adolescent amorality. It was the single most terrifying thing I’d ever witnessed, and Cata dragged me to a Slytherin victory party in our fifth year. They were listening to the music, sure, but not letting it interrupt them as they sinned their way into Slytherin. It was a rather awful, smelly, damp (with sweat and rain) experience.
But all in all, the show wasn’t a horrible failure. It was little more than an excuse to party, which everyone embraced wholeheartedly. But if the show wouldn’t fail, something else–namely my plan–had to.
It happened like this: Me, jabbing and kicking people out of my way, trying to find Gemma, Flint, or Piper, in any combination. At some point I decided that finding even Verena, Flint’s girl, would be acceptable.
At a slightly later point, I found Piper. She was closer to the dormitories (which were sealed by Cata and Dexter, the prefects), practically–no, no, actually with her back against the wall. And with Cedric Diggory eating her face.
Or, you know, kissing her.
That made sense.
Except for the part where it utterly didn’t.
I edged forward as best I could.
They noticed nothing.
They kept going at it. So the obvious way to end this was, ahem, to end it. I actually pried them apart, and threw Cedric back into the crowd.
“Piper, what the hell are you doing?” I shrieked. She was drunk, which didn’t happen very often, and in a situation that would be intimate if everyone were not drunk and wasting away to awful pretentious rock music. A would-be intimate situation with Cedric Diggory. It was actually really gross. “What happened to the plan?”
“Fuck the plan,” she said, waving her hands wildly as if trying to slap me. But her coordination was so off that she really looked like a confused, drunk bird. “Fuck you, Corinna. You’re fucking insane.”
“All right then, go fuck Cedric, see if I care. But what about Flint? Did you see him? Ever? Gemma’s gone and–”
Instead of answering, she gave me the worst evil eye I’ve ever seen, and wobbled off. Probably to drag Cedric to a dark, dark corner and–
Mental images. The mental images still scar me. They were enough to make me take Piper’s place against the wall, sink to my feet, and listen to Robert crooning I’m sick of your love potion/of feeding me your emotion.
I got up a few seconds later, when I saw my poor Piper vomit on the very same squishy armchair we’d occupied earlier.
My life was sunshine, rainbows, and shit.
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