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The Art of Breathing. by AC_rules
Chapter 2: Average.
“We’ll have less of that attitude,” My dad said sitting down opposite me, pulling out the newspaper and beginning to read it while munching on his toast. How bloody muggle, then again he was shockingly muggle so after all these years that was hardly a surprise.
“I haven’t got an attitude father,” I said folding my arms over my chest and offering him an exaggerated frown, “I just don’t see why she has to experiment with my breakfast,” I protested giving a pointed look to where Karen sat in all her evil-step-mother glory. She looked down to the floor sheepishly before meeting my gaze again.
“Look, I’m sorry...” Karen began with her stupid red hair hanging round her shoulders (red hair may be pretty, but it’s mutation – so screw you Karen).
“You could have just told me that my breakfast was ready, instead of waiting till it was cold, so you could try out some stupid new re-heating setting out on your toaster which doesn’t even work!”
“Does it really matter if your pancakes are a bit burnt?” Dad said sighing.
“A bit burnt?” I said, holding up the offending article. I understand that in the past I have been prone to melodramatics, and this may have been considered as one of these occasions – but I honestly didn’t even realise scotch pancakes were capable of turning that colour until coming downstairs and watching Karen anxiously trying to butter the ‘pancake’. I was tempted to start trying to sketch with it, it looked so akin to bloody charcoal, “It’s darker than the flaming Black family.”
“Who?” Johnny asked. I scowled at him. What's the point of having a nice conversation filled with extraordinarily witty comments (Lily would have laughed) when none of them even understood what I was talking about? This was one of the many reasons why I detested the summer holidays and any point when I had to be here, in my ‘home’ – yeah, right.
“Well, why don’t you just ask Karen to make you some more pancakes?” Dad suggested, forever trying, and failing, to be the peace maker. To be brutally honest, I didn't want peace with the bunch of loons around the breakfast table. Otherwise known as... My family.
Well, Karen is not my family. We're not related. I share none of her mutated ginger or the ‘burning pancake’ genes. Thank Merlin.
“Well, I would, but there’s none left,” I said moodily. Mostly, I just liked making arguments.
“Well why don’t you have some toast?” Dad suggested, looking up over his newspaper and giving me the classic warning signs. We all knew that this argument wasn’t about pancakes or toasters, this was about the fact that I hated Karen’s guts, the new baby and everything about being forced into this ‘household’ when all I wanted to do was run off back to Hogwarts and pretend I had a nice normal conventional family. Which I was fully planning on doing, in a couple of hours' time.
“BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE TOAST!” I exclaimed angrily standing up from the dinner table. “Guess I’ll just have to starve!”
“Stop being a drama queen!” Dad yelled after me as I stormed up the stairs and sat down angrily on my bed. Karen couldn’t stand mess and therefore I could barely avoid the mess to throw myself on my bed and sulk like the fantastically mature sixteen year old that I am.
Today I was leaving this mess until Christmas; I was free from this house for a whole four months. Naturally I was only trading in messes as my whole life was a great big frustrating mess that nobody could fix.
“Hey sis,” Johnny’s voice came from the door and I grinned at him automatically, “Do you have to be such a pain?”
“I’ll miss you,” I said pulling him into a hug and messing up his hair, “and I know you’ll miss me too,” I said as he tried to push me off him.
“Yeah,” He admitted looking up at me. “I guess I will, nutter,” He said giving me a proper hug, “but I won’t miss the stupid yelling!” Johnny said, his face screwing up for a moment. It was strange to think that this eleven year old was the same kid who used to eat chess pieces and even stranger to come back after each term and find that he’d grown up a little more. I would miss Johnny, especially as I’d been hoping he’d be coming to Hogwarts this year – even if that hope had been gloriously unfounded.
“How’s the girlfriend?” I asked grinning.
“Shut up! She’s not my girlfriend!” He said defensively.
“Awww, why not? Doesn’t she fancy you?” I asked and he scowled.
“I hate you.” He said and I laughed.
“You love me really little bro!”
“I’m not little!” He objected, and I snorted, “Just because you’re jealous that I don’t have to go back to school for another week!”
“Yeah, but I get to do magic, and you get to do science, so...” I began but then I heard voices in my dad’s bedroom, and I quickly pulled him over to the door and we both put our ears to it. I turned to look at him – I know he didn’t remember the days when we used to do this all the time (albeit listening to a different pair of voices) but I most definitely did.
"It can't have been easier for her, with Becky and..."
“I swear most teenagers aren’t this difficult!” I heard dad say and Johnny smirked. We both knew he was talking about me. “Why does she have to still make things so hard!?”
“Yeah sis...” Johnny said and I punched him lightly to shut him up. “OW!” He said loudly.
“Shush!” I said and listened more intently.
“She’s going through a difficult age,” Karen said and I clenched my fists. How dare she insinuate that I'm the one with the problem? Pfft! It's all her fault, storming into my life and expecting me to deal with it like nothing had changed!
“But is she ever going to grow out of it?” Dad asked, “I swear I’ll almost be glad when she’s gone,” He said and I took a sharp breath, “Till Christmas I mean,” he explained hurriedly but the damage had been done.
“See, no one wants you here!” Johnny said clutching his side where I’d punched him. “We all can’t wait till you’re gone!”
“Shut up!” I said angrily.
“No,” He said, “you punched me,”
“And I’ll do it again!” I said demonstrating my point.
“OWW!” He said angrily. “DAD!” He said and I jumped on him, in an attempt to shut him up.
“Mary! Leave your brother alone!” Dad’s voice said sounding angry.
“That’s right, blame me!” I said angrily. “Precious Johnny could never do anything wrong obviously!”
“Your brother is only ten!” He reprimanded me.
“I KNOW!” I pointed out (loudly), “and I’m sixteen!” I said and he winced at hearing my age, “and we all know you can’t wait till I clear off, so why don’t you take stupid Karen and ickle Johnny and beautiful baby Ria and get lost!” I said angrily turning around and storming into my room, slamming the door shut.
“GO TO YOUR ROOM!” Dad screamed – reflex. I opened the door and stuck my head out.
“I’M IN MY ROOM!”
“We need to go,” Karen pointed out and dad sighed angrily.
“Get your stuff Mary, we need to go.”
God, those words couldn’t have come soon enough.
“Bye dad,” I said stiffly giving him an awkward hug. “Bye Johnny,” I said giving him a warmer one; I would miss him even if he was as annoying as hell. Siblings continually brought out the worst in you, it was a fact of life, but sometimes it was nice.
“And?” Dad prompted.
“Bye Becky, bye Ria – the members of my family who don’t love me enough to be here,” I added with an eye roll.
“Give Karen a hug,” Dad ordered stiffly, and I grimaced and hugged her briefly before escaping is quickly as I possibly could, turning my back on them and walking towards the train lugging my trunk behind me.
The feeling of leaving your excuse of a family behind for a whole year is surprisingly not as liberating as you'd expect - a small spasm of sadness went through me but I didn't look back (I wouldn’t give dad the satisfaction – he wanted me gone, after all).
“MARY! Where have you been?” I heard Lily shriek and I grimaced at the sound of my name. It was so average, so boring, so easily slipped into the background. So typical of my mother, of course. Karen’s baby had naturally been blessed with an exciting, exotic pretty name (of my own choosing, actually) but no... My darling mother had named her children Mary and John.
For a second I was surprised that Lily hadn’t commented on my hair (because Merlin knows dad had...) before I realised I had donned a hat to prevent a scene. But after my rubbishy morning, I wanted nothing more than a big scene now. God, all I wanted was to generate a bit of shock for once.
“I missed you!” Lily said, throwing her arms around me. I doubted it very much.
She was very much supposed to be my best friend and for most intents and purposes she was, except it is hard to maintain a close friendship when there is one very large and important lie wedging itself between you. Being a lie, Lily wasn’t entirely aware of the fact that it existed – but as long as it remained that way I was safe from just blurting it out a random moment when she tried to coerce me into the big reveal.
I winced as she squeezed just a little too tight and the fear of my whole body just shutting down came over me but it didn’t, not yet, the doctors said I should have a fair bit of time left unless I was unlucky. And I had been lucky so far. Well as ‘lucky’ as someone who’d been slowly dying since they were three can be.
“So what’s new?” Lily asked after releasing me. I smiled ready to unleash my hair. In my head this had been a scene of great drama and exclamations, and Lily was usually good with that sort of thing (mostly when James Potter was involved). I pulled off my hat and my hair fell around my shoulders in all its purple glory.
There is nothing that a packet of punk hair dye cannot achieve, as long as you disregard that added side effect (or advantage, if you’re trying to piss off your evil step mother) of turning all the white towels a rather lovely shade of lilac.
Lily blinked at me for a very long few seconds, as if not entirely sure what she should say. “It’s very... purple,” She eventually settled on, staring at my hairline looking slightly alarmed.
“Nice observation Lily, it’s good to know your eyeballs are still functioning,”
“Why did you dye your hair purple?!”
“Because it’s unusual,” I said placing my hand on my hip and fighting the desire to go run away. As my supposed best friend I had expected something a little more similar to support and if this was the reaction from her, I could only imagine how –say- the Marauders would react...
“You can say that again!” James Potter said, appearing on the scene with one of his hands already fluffing up his own stupid hair (and his was an ‘unusual’ style if ever I saw one – so he could hardly talk). He glanced at Lily for a second, before turning back to me.
“Because it’s unusual,” I repeated, my gaze passing over all the Marauders, who had come to point at my hair and laugh. Mentally, I’d expected less of the smirking and more of the ‘oh Mary you’re so gutsy for dying your hair bright purple!’ but if I’d been a little more realistic this did seem about right.
“You can say that again!” Remus Lupin put in smirking, and the other’s lips all twisted upwards in the same manner. I crossed my arms again and bit my lip. How much of this was I going to have to endure this year?
“I could, but I’m not a parrot,” I said stubbornly.
“Well, you look like one!” Sirius Black commented and they all laughed. I ignored him and his bunch of loons, what idiots (what beautiful, annoying, arrogant idiots).
“Isn’t that against the school rules?” Lily asked carefully, still staring at the point where my forehead turned to hair, “like... against uniform rules or... something,”
“Probably, but who cares?” I asked defensively. My great big plan, my last chance, was quickly proving itself to be another terrible idea.
“Mary, Mary, quite contrary where does your garden grow?” Sirius sung, smirking. I decided not to ponder over how he could know a muggle rhyme, because Sirius Black had this habit of doing surprising things just so he could stun people. He liked the attention.
“If I had any choice in the matter, it would be growing up your arse, and I would only be growing thistles, nettles and holly,”
“All bark and no bite,” Sirius said, chuckling as he threw his arm around me. I raised my eyebrows at his arm and pushed it off me when he didn’t get the hint, “Awww, Mary don’t you love me?” He said in a mock baby voice. I narrowed my eyes at him to show him to back off. I wasn’t in the mood with him to try out his stupid flirting act this early in the morning (but hey, it seemed like he’d actually learnt my name now).
“No, but I’d love to hurt you right now,” I said picking up my trunk and lugging it on to the train, with the other’s trailing after me. Well, at least that was one positive change. They were following me.
“Oh, come on Mary, we all know you couldn’t do anything remotely violent,” He said following me into a compartment. I dumped my trunk and turned around; there was something in his voice that was challenging me.
"Why not?" I asked surveying them all.
“You’re too nice,” Pete said.
“Too anti-violent,” James added.
“Too Mary...” Remus finished and I snorted.
“Too Mary? Which means?” I asked and Sirius pondered this for a moment.
“You’re sort of average,” He said after a few seconds, and the sentence enraged me, even though I was sure it wasn’t meant to be an insult. Still, the irony of him picking that one word was so frustrating that I wanted to scream (and maybe I just would).
“I’m not average,” I said slowly, my eyes narrowing dangerously. Sirius watched my expression darken and gave off every impression of enjoying it immensely. Git.
“Oh come on, admit it, you’re totally average, I mean you’ve picked up a few good comebacks over the summer, and dyed your hair, but your still average,”
“No. I’m not.”
“Sure,” Sirius said shrugging in a whatever-you-say way which made me even angrier.
“I am not,” I said darkly. His lips curved up into a smirk that Lucius Malfoy would have been proud of.
“Prove it,” Sirius grinned, taking a step into my person space – much too close for my liking – and raising his eyebrows.
That was just so Sirius. He was always looking for something to make things more interesting. In fact, that was the Marauders all over. And by dragging me in to provide me entertainment they were both flattering me with the notion that I could be entertaining to them and annoying me to the point that I wanted to blow their heads off with my wand.
He was still standing that little bit too close and the triumphant smile curving onto his lips was just a little bit too much. So I did the first thing I could think of.
Even though it was really, really stupid.
(I really shouldn’t act on impulse).
I kissed him and then, before he had a chance to push me off him, question my sanity and laugh at me (all things that Sirius Black would just love to do, believe me), I aimed with my knee... and then he was sprawled out on the seat of the compartment clutching his parts.
Then I sat down feeling mildly pleased with myself.
Until I looked out of the window and realised we’d just pulled out of the station and I’d lost my chance to drink in the image of my dad waving goodbye, despite everything, and Johnny straining his neck to see which compartment I was. I deflated and bawled my hands up into fists.
“Was that really necessary?” Remus asked looking at Sirius’s pathetic form still splayed out on the floor, “his whimpering is distracting me from my reading,”
“He was asking for it,” I said glaring at him, “and shouldn’t you be at the prefect’s meeting?” I asked glancing down at the badge pinned onto his robes.
He swore loudly before running out of the compartment. I stood up after he had left and grabbed my trunk which still sat in the middle of the compartment.
“So this was nice, we should do it again sometime,” I said sarcastically pulling my trunk out the compartment, “but for now...places to be, people to see...” I said flicking my purple hair with a wonderful air of drama. Average? Pfft.
I pulled my trunk into the toilet and locked the door. I turned around and took a moment to breath with my back against the door. Average. The people here thought I was average (not even just people, the Marauders – my classmates). Average means boring. Average means easily forgotten. Nothing extraordinary.
I was just Mary; quite quiet, reasonably smart, average looks, average everything. Average.
Everything about my time at Hogwarts had been average. Average grades, average friends, I’d even dated a Marauder for an average amount of time – the only thing extraordinary thing would be that I would die before my time here was over.
I would die and no one would care, they’d forget about me and when they looked back at the photo’s they wouldn’t know who I was. I’d always just be me; too Mary, too average.
Angry tears burst from my eyes and fell down my face. I hated myself for the fact that I was crying, but there’d already been far too much going on today and we’d only just pulled out of the station. I allowed myself five minutes of pathetic weeping before making use of the train’s plentiful supply of toilet roll to mop up my mess of a face.
I pushed my hand through my purple hair and looked at my reflection. My skin looked even paler with the purple hanging around my face in a shiny curtain.
Unavoidably average. But that was the old me. She’s dead now, like the new me will soon be. I’m sixteen; today I had four arguments with my family; I kicked my schools most wanted guy where it hurts; I headed off to my wizarding boarding school; revealed my new purple hair and I’m going to die before I’m out of my teens.
That’s not average. And if it is, then Merlin help the world.
Edit – this chapter has now undergone the 2012 edit! This chapter was beta’d by the lovely mangagirl :)
Also, I'm answering all reviews now we're in 2012 and it has become possible again. So I'd LOVE a couple of things to answer :)