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Chapter 5 : Oliver
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“What’s the matter?” I gasped.
“Nothing, nothing,” she said quickly. “I’m fine.”
Brynne shoved her hands forcefully onto her hips. “Now that has got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Tulip gave a grin that looked more like a grimace. “Nothing important,” she amended. “It’s just… Oliver…” Her voice broke and she clenched her fists together, squeezing her eyes shut again to try to calm herself down.
Brynne and I stared at each other, at a loss for what to do. It was always Tulip who knew what to do in a bad situation, always Tulip who was the calm voice of comfort and reason, not us. It was almost physically painful to see her upset like this. Glancing around the room in desperation, I noticed many eyes eyeing us curiously.
“Come on. Let’s go outside,” I suggested. Brynne and I steered Tulip out of the pub and sat her down on a bench. She smiled gratefully at us.
“Are you OK?” I asked gently. She gave a shaky nod.
Brynne snorted incredulously. “Honestly, you two! What a stupid thing to ask! Of course she’s not OK. I mean, look at her. No offense, or anything, Tulip,” she added, while Tulip grinned half heartedly.
“Do you want to tell us what happened?” I asked her, not wanting to seem like I was being pushy but at the same time eager to know what was going on so that I might be able to help in some way.
“It was something about Oliver, wasn’t it?” Brynne said in anger, and when Tulip nodded tightly, “What happened? What did he do? What did he say? Because if he made you like this… Well, when I get hold of him he’s gonna wish he’d never been born.” She cracked her knuckles threateningly, causing Tulip to smirk.
“Thanks, but I’d rather you didn’t do anything too drastic. It’s not that much of a big deal, really. I’m just making a fuss over nothing.”
“I’ll decide exactly what I’m gonna do when you’ve told me exactly what happened,” Brynne said sternly.
Tulip sighed. “It was all going so well at first. We sort of wandered around for a bit, and at the beginning it all just felt… I dunno, so nice, you know? Like… we were good together.” She looked down, embarrassed. For once, Brynne was sensitive enough not to snigger. “Then, well, I didn’t really think it was anything at the time, but he started acting all shifty. He wasn’t paying much attention to anything I was saying. Now I know…” Her voice quivered. “Anyway, we went into Madame Puddifoot’s, and we were talking and stuff, and he was fine then. He was being really sweet. But then – but then…” I could have sworn I saw real tears gathering at the corners of her eyes and desperately squeezed her hand. She took a deep breath.
“Then we heard some tapping at the window. It was Oliver’s friends, Hector and Stewart. They came inside the teashop and up to our table. I thought Oliver would tell them to go away, but he didn’t say anything. They started asking him where he’d been and why he was in there with me. I was really confused ‘cause surely they would’ve known he was spending the day with me. They said something about wondering why it was taking him so long. I was really annoyed with them for thinking that Oliver was gonna just abandon me after a bit and meet up with them. But he didn’t look irritated. He wasn’t looking at me. He was fidgeting loads. Th-that was when I realised something was wrong.” Her hands tightened into balls.
“And then… and then Stewart said, ‘How long can it take to dump a girl?’”
Brynne and I looked at each other in shock. We hadn’t seen that coming. Tulip gave no indication of any more emotion except in her eyes. They looked down in pain and humiliation. It would have been different if neither Tulip nor Oliver had been committed to each other. But they had been. Or at least, that’s what we’d thought. I hugged Tulip tight, wanting her to know that I understood how she was feeling, but she hadn’t finished.
“That’s not all. Hector and Stewart just laughed at me, and then Hector was like to Oliver, ‘You haven’t told her, have you? Look, Tulip, he’s been trying to build up the courage to dump you for ages now, but he’s always chickened out. So we said that if he didn’t tell you in Hogsmeade we’d tell you ourselves.’”
My mouth fell open in angry indignation. Clearly, the whole Hogsmeade trip had been a ruse to tell Tulip she was dumped. I had more than enough imagination to feel my chest swell with empathy for Tulip. How could Oliver be so horrible? He could at least have told her earlier, instead of leading her on throughout the whole date.
“The whole time Oliver just sat there,” she continued forcefully, “not even denying it. When I asked why he wanted to dump me Stewart told me that – he said that Oliver thought it looked bad to be going out with someone for so long.” Her words wavered again, but this time with anger. “So that’s it! All that time we were going out together – it was pointless. I obviously mean nothing to him if he wants to get rid of me just ‘cause I make him look too – too sensible! Hector said it made Oliver look like an old man – like he’d settled down. So his reputation was more important to him than me. Well, that made me look stupid. I thought it was actually going quite well today, but the whole time he’d been trying to dump me!”
My blood was boiling in rage. Brynne gave a cry of fury.
“Well, he’s… he’s…” she began furiously, apparently, for once, lost for words. “He’s just a complete and utter prat who doesn’t deserve you at all!”
I nodded avidly. “Exactly. Trust me, Tulip, you’re a lot better off without him.” It was unbearable to think of what she must be going through over him.
She gave a small smile, already loosing the tenseness in her body and looking slightly lifted. “Thanks, guys. I’m sorry for making a fuss -”
“- You’re not! -”
“- but it’s just I thought it might have meant something… Well, obviously not.” Now her smile was wry.
I reached out to grasp her shoulders. “Please don’t be upset! He’s nothing to get worked up about! Like Brynne said, there’s no way he deserves you. You should be rejoicing that you’re free of him.”
Brynne suddenly leapt up, clapping her hands. “Yes! That’s it!” She pulled Tulip to her feet and began jumping around, waving her arms about. “Come on, let’s celebrate. You’ve broken up with Oliver! Yessss!”
As Tulip began to laugh, I jumped up too. Soon we had both joined Brynne in prancing around like idiots, whooping and cheering madly while laughing almost hysterically. Not the most common method for dealing with a break up, but it was certainly effective. After a few minutes Tulip was as bright and happy as if nothing had ever happened, or at least, this was how she appeared on the outside. But I knew she wouldn’t dwell on Oliver for very long. She was far too reasonable for that. I was relying on her to realise that Brynne and I were completely right – she was far too good for someone as shallow as Oliver.
“You wouldn’t’ve thought that would cheer me up,” Tulip grinned as we collapsed, exhausted, onto the bench, “but it really did!”
I stopped midway through forming a response. My mouth hung open. Rounding the corner at the bottom of the road. . . was Oliver.
“Merlin’s beard,” muttered Tulip in annoyance, her eyes resting on him.
Brynne instantly grabbed both of our arms and started whispering, but before we could decide on a plan of action Oliver had seen us, and began running over. I caught sight of Hector and Stewart hiding round the corner, sniggering.
“Tulip!” Oliver cried breathlessly, skidding to a halt in front of our bench. He shrunk slightly under Brynne’s amazingly ferocious glare.
“Yes?” Tulip replied coldly. I flashed her a glance of admiration.
He swallowed, running his tongue through his mouth nervously as he searched for the right words, throwing darting glances to Hector and Stewart. “Look, I’m sorry. I really am!” he added, when Brynne snorted sceptically at his unconvincing display of wide-eyed earnestness. “It’s just, the thing is… well, the thing is…”
“You know what, Oliver?” Tulip interrupted viciously, standing up, “I don’t want any of your made-up excuses. If I meant so little to you that you would dump me ‘cause we’d been going out too long, then I’m glad you dumped me.”
“T-Tulip,” Oliver stuttered in disbelief, cowering under her stony gaze.
“Do you know what we’ve been doing?” she asked, growing taller as she got into her stride. “We’ve been celebrating. Yes, celebrating. Because I don’t deserve a self-centred, shallow, boyfriend like you.” She paused pointedly, eyeing him with disdain. “Goodbye Oliver.”
And with that, she swept haughtily past him, up the road to Hogwarts.
Cheers and clapping erupted from next to us. I had been too intent on watching Tulip to notice when Fred, James, Caitlin, Sophia and the Ravenclaws – Peter and Thomas, had come out of the pub.
“Told you she wouldn’t stand for it, mate!” Peter roared, amid his laughter.
“You just got told!” Caitlin and Sophia said in unison, before collapsing into giggles.
Brynne and I couldn’t resist giving Oliver scathing looks before hurrying after Tulip. She grinned when she saw us, and held up her hands, which we triumphantly high-fived.
It was very satisfying to see how Oliver tried to avoid Tulip the next day. Whenever we bumped into him in the corridors he would, very comically, turn around and instantly start walking the other way. Brynne never failed to guffaw loudly when we saw him. I had to admit that, seeing all the jeers and scornful glances he was getting – it was surprising how many people knew and cared about him and Tulip – and how embarrassed he looked, I sometimes couldn’t stop myself feeling slightly sorry for him. But then I reminded myself of Tulip’s hurt, strained face, and any sympathetic feelings instantly vanished. In fact, from the way he shot angry glances at us during meals, I guessed he didn’t even feel guilty. He probably blamed Tulip for making everyone view him in disgust. I felt he could have at least felt some remorse for deceiving her like that.
It was fairly easy for Oliver to avoid Tulip on Sunday, when we had no lessons, but on Monday he encountered some problems. Our first class of the day was transfiguration, which we took with the Ravenclaws. Corner had let us choose our own seats, provided we sat in the same place for the rest of the year. Taking full advantage of this, Tulip and Oliver had chosen to sit together. But now they were both regretting this. Or at least, Oliver was. He skulked sulkily at the end of the line outside the classroom, trying to delay the moment when he would have to go in.
“Do you want one of us to swap places with you?” Brynne whispered to Tulip as we filed inside.
“Thanks, but no,” she said, “It’ll be fine. I think he’s dreading it a lot more than me!” She grinned as she made her way to her desk. I couldn’t help marvelling at her strength, however much I had expected it. Even if she still felt a little hurt on the inside, she wasn’t going to show it.
I was distracted as I got to my desk by a hurried conversation going on behind me.
“But I can’t,” Oliver was saying aggressively. “That bitch’s made everyone think I’m some kind of lying, cheating monster!”
“And the only way you can stop them thinking that is by pretending you feel bad, and that you didn’t mean it,” Hector said impatiently.
“Look, just be nice to her,” Stewart said. “Say you’re sorry. Make out like you feel like a really bad guy.”
I don’t know what I would have done if Corner hadn’t shouted for everyone to stop nattering and sit down at that moment, but it was probably good he did. My hands were shaking so much that it was hard to get my things out of my bag. I turned to Brynne, my mouth hanging open in outrage. Oliver’s plan could not have disgusted me more. What if Tulip fell for it? I had to warn her as soon as the lesson ended.
“You’ll never guess what I just heard,” I told Brynne, my voice boiling over in fury. “Oliver’s made this absolutely horrendous plan to try and-”
“I thought I had made it clear that there was to be no more talking,” Corner’s voice rang out firmly, and the low hum died away. His eyes rested on me and I flushed, embarrassed. I didn’t have a chance to tell Brynne any more because he had began to lecture us.
It did not seem as though the lesson was going to be a very interesting one. Professor Corner was simply talking to us, giving a few demonstrations, while we made notes. I reflected in annoyance that he appeared to be taking tips from Professor Binns. With all my other thoughts buzzing through my head, it was very difficult to concentrate. I was pleased to see that Tulip wasn’t acting any differently around Oliver than she would around someone she didn’t know very well. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t paying attention, because I could hear Caitlin and Sophia whispering behind me. When Corner turned his back on us for a few seconds, Sophia reached forwards and tapped Brynne on the back.
“Is she OK, sitting next to him?” We didn’t need to ask who she meant, and nodded. I was grateful at how kind and concerned they were being around Tulip after what had happened. It probably didn’t help when they kept saying what a shame it was and that her and Oliver had been such a good couple, but they were just showing sympathy. In their own way.
Realising I’d missed about five minutes of information, I set about making careful notes. It didn’t last long. A few seats behind me, James and Fred were sniggering and messing around. It was very off-putting. Whenever the pair of them got bored in a lesson, they completely gave up on paying attention, and started to show off.
“I bet I could get this to land in that ink pot, on Corner’s desk,” I heard James say in a carrying whisper.
“No way,” said Fred disbelievingly. “That’s not a big enough target.”
“Huh, really? You think? Watch this.”
Corner seemed oblivious to this conversation, not pausing in his lecture. I couldn’t help watching with interest as a tiny ball of rolled up parchment sailed over my head and landed, with a small plop, in the ink pot. Corner’s desk was splattered spectacularly in blue. The class tried unsuccessfully to smother giggles. Corner sighed and glared around stonily. We held our breath, waiting for him to speak.
“Mr Potter,” he began, in an exasperated tone, “I assume you are responsible for this.”
“Professor!” exclaimed James, his injured voice made completely unconvincing by his inability to keep a straight face. “How could you? It was nothing to do with me.”
“If you thought that I didn’t hear the conversation between you and Mr Weasley, you would be wrong.” He eyed them reprovingly. “You two are constantly disrupting my lessons, and it has to stop. I’m afraid, boys, that you will have to be separated…” He paused, scanning the room.
James’ expression of horror made me grin. I could almost see his brain casting round wildly for a way to get out of this. “No, Professor! It was an accident, really. I – um… I was aiming for the bin.” He gestured to the bin on the opposite side of the room to the desk.
“Miss Finnegan,” Corner continued, ignoring James, “would you mind swapping places with Potter so I can keep an eye on him, closer to the front?”
Of course, Brynne’s honest answer was “yes”, but there was nothing she could do except gather her stuff together and take her new seat. I watched reluctantly as James sat down next to me. Transfiguration lessons were going to be a lot less fun and a lot more awkward from now on.
“He didn’t even listen to me!” James grumbled.
I was unable to stop myself raising my eyebrows at how stupid he sounded.
“What?” he said defensively.
“Well, obviously it was you that threw it. It’s not like you were falsely accused. You can’t be angry with him for ignoring your made up excuse. Which, by the way, was rubbish. No one could have that bad aim. Well… except me, maybe.”
The moment the words were out of my mouth I regretted them. Why on earth had I just said that? Why hadn’t I just nodded and agreed with him from the start? I’d practically just told him off! Oh, and embarrassed myself by letting him know what a bad thrower I was.
“Your aim’s not good, then?” he queried, grinning.
Well, I had already started this, so I may as well carry on. “Not good? Rubbish.”
“Meh, I’m sure you’re not that bad.”
“Oh, I am.”
He shot a calculating glance round the room before smirking at me. “OK then. Prove it. See if you can get this to hit-”
“Oh no. No way.” My tone was final. “I’m not getting into one of your stupid games.” My face burned as I realised I’d just insulted him again. He didn’t seem to mind, though.
“Stupid games which’re a lot better than listening to this crap.” He gave a theatrical yawn.
“Maybe it’s boring, but it’s probably important for our end of year exams,” I countered, not completely sure why I was continuing with this argument when every word I spoke made me seem more and more like a boffin. I didn’t need James’ snort to tell me that.
But the odd thing was – I didn’t feel that embarrassed. My brain was telling me I should feel mortified right now – the most popular guy in the school thought I was a nerd as well as a wimp. But the flush in my cheeks was so faint I could barely feel it.
James took the hint and left me to make notes after that. He even took a couple of his own. But over at his desk, Oliver’s mind was not on Transfiguration. He kept attempting to talk to Tulip, not being put off when she told him she was listening to Corner. A long stream of completely false apologies and explanations fell from his mouth, making me want to slap him. But Tulip was just as stubborn. She ignored every word he said. But surely he must’ve been getting to her at least a little. I would never have been able to resist it for so long – I’d want to forgive him just in case he was telling the truth. Thank goodness Tulip was stronger than me. She probably saw right through him. I shook my head in disgust.
“You really don’t think much of him, do you?” asked James, amused.
“Well, why would I, after what he did to Tulip?” I said indignantly, not adding that James didn’t know half of it.
“Yeah, that was low,” he agreed. “Dumping a girl ‘cause you’ve been with her too long, and getting your mates to do it… But Tulip’s coping really well.” I beamed as he glanced at her in admiration. “I know loads of girls who’d just mope and weep for days.”
“Isn’t that a bit harsh on us girls?”
“Hey, I’m not sexist, or anything!” He held up his hands defiantly. “I’m just stating fact. And anyway, boys react just as stupidly as girls do to a break-up.”
I tilted my head thoughtfully at the way he referred to those boys as if he wasn’t one of them. “You wouldn’t make a fool of yourself, at all, if you were dumped, then?” I asked.
He flashed me an arrogant grin. “Don’t be thick, Jones. I’d never get dumped.”
“Oh, of course you wouldn’t,” I responded sarcastically, rolling my eyes, at precisely the moment Corner looked our way.
“Miss Jones,” he said sternly, “the purpose of moving Mr Potter was to stop him disrupting the class. I’d appreciate it if the two of you didn’t ruin this by having a conversation while I’m talking.”
I turned crimson, inwardly cursing myself for being so pathetic. I hated being told off by teachers. I hated having everyone’s eyes on me, and I was absolutely terrified of getting a detention. I’d never had one, of course. No one got detentions for silly things like talking in class, but that didn’t make me any less worried.
“Scared of Corner as well, then?” James whispered teasingly. I avoided his gaze. I had hoped he would have forgotten how much of a scaredy-cat I’d seemed in Hogsmeade. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d forgotten we’d even talked in Hogsmeade, actually. But since he clearly hadn’t, I was going to have to live with my embarrassment.
I didn’t reply. Party because I felt like ignoring that remark, but also because I didn’t want to be told off again.
James smirked. “And now you’re not gonna answer ‘cause you’re scared of him having a go at you again.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, purely because I couldn’t think of a better response. He gave a snort – “mature” as he sniggered.
The grin I’d been unable to suppress suddenly froze on my face. Oliver had charmed the word “sorry” to appear on Tulip’s parchment every time she tried to write. That was the end of the line for me.
“Do you know what that scumbag Oliver’s planning to do?” I hissed angrily at James, ignoring his look of alarm. “He doesn’t feel sorry about what he did at all! He hates Tulip, even though he was the one that hurt her. But now he’s going to pretend to be nice to her just so that he can get back into everyone else’s good books. He doesn’t care about Tulip at all! All he cares about is his stupid reputation!” I stopped, breathing heavily.
I instantly regretted telling James. It wasn’t so fierce, but I distinctly saw the same look in his eyes as in Hogsmeade when he’d shouted at Caitlin. He glared at me.
“Are you serious?” he shouted.
“Mr Potter, will you please-” But Professor Corner got no further.
“What’s your problem, Oliver?” James roared, twisting round in his seat to glare at a frightened-looking Oliver. “You’ve already done enough damage. Just leave Towler alone now! There’s no point pretending you’re sorry ‘cause we all know you’re not. Nothing you do is gonna stop people from thinking you’re a lying, cheating arsehole!”
Corner’s cries for silence were completely drowned in the talking that broke out. Oliver went bright red and stood up, yelling in fury and shoving his hand deep into his robes, searching for his wand. James leapt up too, his chair skittering across the floor. His hand mirrored Oliver’s.
I wasn’t sure what made me do it. I didn’t want a fight to break out because of what I’d said. I didn’t want James to get into a fight. So, instinctively, I reached out and grasped his wrist.
He stopped. Oliver’s hex sailed past is shoulder, missing by half an inch. He looked down in surprise to see me holding onto him.
I let go as quickly as I’d grabbed on, my cheeks scorching. What was wrong with me? Could I possibly have looked any weirder? You don’t go grabbing onto random people’s hands, Eliana! I began scribbling furiously on my parchment, writing anything that came into my head. My eyes didn’t waver from the paper until the end of the lesson. I didn’t notice Corner restoring order but he must have done, because soon he was talking away again. When he dismissed us I instantly hurried over to Tulip.
“Why won’t you just listen to me?” Oliver was shouting at her. He gestured wildly in frustration as she completely ignored him.
“Oh, stop being such an idiot,” said Brynne scornfully. “Honestly, I knew you were evil but I didn’t know you were stupid as well. Can’t you work it out for yourself? She doesn’t want to listen to you because she knows that everything you say is a bunch of lies. Or a bunch of baloney, as the American’s say.”
Oliver was only stumped for a moment. His swears and insults following the three of us down the corridor.
“Now do you see why I’m so against boyfriends?” Brynne said. “They’re way more trouble than they’re worth.”
I had to agree.
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