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Such & Such: A Story About Love (Among Other Things) by llyralen
Chapter 5: V: Funeral Rights
Author's Note: How awesome is this! IT'S ALIVE! Sorry for taking so long you guys, but I needed the rest so I could continue with this story. Needed to find my Bitchy Penny voice again :D Thanks for the support! I love you guys!
Michael Fassbender as Oliver Wood
Aidan Turner as Baby Bob Kerrigan
Again, so sorry for my ickily unedited/unbeta'd chapters!
Standard Disclaimer: If I own any part of this, I would be rich right now and bribing some publishing company to publish my sad excuse for work XD Sadly the only part of this I do own is the sad limerick you are about to read and my patheticly underachieving characters. Try bribing a publisher with that and you'll get dumped in a well :)
Never again would I fight Mr. Bartie when he calls me, ‘the most impulsive lass since Pandora opened that damn box and branded herself as the blue ribbon prize winning idiot that she was’. I deserve it. I see that now. I talk out of my arse as if I were trying to bullshit a man into selling me a skyscraper for fifteen quid. I do. I do. I DO! Lord God in heaven why do I do the things I do. I smoke myself into cancer, I practically drink and vomit myself to alcohol poisoning and I never pay Flopsy any of the money I owe her. I am a horrible person. I am the most fucked up person since...
I’m drawing a blank!
I can’t fucking believe I drew a blank. In thinking of a person more fucked up than I am, I draw a fucking blank.
There I was, wearing the ugliest black dress known to man kind, smoking my fifth cigarette of the day and drinking a Guinness with Bob at the Daft’s. And it was barely even noon. Already I could feel the world crumbling around me like the ashes falling into my assorted desert platter.
“I don’t understand it Bob. I talk out of my fucking arse!” I banged my head on the table. One. Two. Three. Thirty-five. Sixty-eight. There wasn’t a number in existence that could call itself sufficient in this instance.
“I think we established that quite early on Penny. I get it. Your arse has gigantic lips and it makes very bold statements before you can get the chance to clinch. Got it.”
“I don’t think you get the magnitude of the situation Bob. I really talk out of my arse,” I put the cigarette out and lit a fresh one, shakily bringing it to my lips. “I said I would go to Nan’s funeral. NAN’S FUNERAL BOB! And I’m wearing this! The only black dress I own, whose sole purpose is to attend funerals in.” I punctuated my point with another head bang. “I cannot believe I am actually going to do this.”
“Doesn’t look that horrible. Maybe looks like something my Gran would have worn in her coffin, but my Gran was a very classy lady.”
“I can’t believe you even said that! This dress is an exact replica of my Nunu’s funeral dress. THE ONE SHE GOT BURRIED IN! Clarissa gave it to me to remember her by. I’m wearing a dead woman’s dress, Bob. A dead woman’s dress to a dead woman’s funeral. This is officially the worst day of my life.”
Bob changed seats and held me by the ponytail. Little did I know that such hostility lead to a hug. Oh our terms of affection. “There, there Mother Pen. One old lady dress doesn’t make you hideous.”
“It makes me look eighty. And it makes my bum look huge.”
“Huge is very in, nowadays.”
How did it come to this?
I was going to the funeral of a woman I that made me shit my cracks when I was a child. I was going to see her dead body! Heavens knew that they were going to have an open casket and that I would have to see that crazy coot and her glass eye staring at me, giving me nightmares all over again!
“Me and my daft pride!” I kept banging my head. “Why did I have to say it in front of everyone. Why did I have to say I would even go! Why do I even talk? Every time I open my fat gob to say something, I get buried in shit! I should stop talking Bob! I should never talk again! Make sure I never talk again Bob!”
“Awww you thick melter. You’re still talking.” He gave me a quick peck on the forehead and we both gave a little laugh.
Only Bob would be good enough to spend his lunch with a cow in a middle of a crisis. I could always count on Bob. He didn’t like people knowing this but he was actually kind of sweet if you needed him to be. He’s as big a caffler as could be, but in those rare moments when what little sensitivity he had kicked in, he came through better than you could imagine.
“Now,” Bob said, taking a deep drink of his Guiness without letting go of me. “Do you think I’m thick as a brick? And before you answer that, you might as well know that the Penny we have working at Such & Such wouldn’t be this wound up about meeting an old haunt. She’s a ball of fire that one. This little melt down of yours has nothing to do with Ba-Nanny or the funeral does it?”
Somehow, I felt that Bob knew things without really knowing. A version of talking out of his arse, but most of the time, he ends up being as right as can be. He was the ultimate bullshit artist. The one that all bullshit artists would be measured against.
I hit him on the arm. “If you’re that smart, figure it out yourself. You’re too much of a Nosey Nancy for your own good.”
“I could ask Flopsy you know. There must be a reason why you went to me and not to her. I hate the cow, but I’d bet my own Gran that her gob is easier to pry open that yours. And I love my Gran.” That smirk of Baby Bob’s said multitudes! It said that all he needed to do was give Flopsy a shot of whiskey and a pint of Guinness and she’d be singing like a church choir on Sunday high mass.
I buried my face on the crook of his neck and screamed. “Can’t you just say, ‘don’t be scared Penns! Why don’t you just hide out in my flat for a while, have a cup of tea and forget about the whole thing! Help yourself to some cookies if you want to!’”
“First of all, I have absolutely nothing edible in my flat, much less tea. Second of all…” His voice trailed when a familiar set of legs passed by. Letty.
Couldn’t I just have one self-obsessive moment without that trollop barging in with her jabs hanging out for all of the fellas to gawk at! For heaven’s sake!
I pushed Bob away and sulked in my chair. All he could do was laugh.
“Alright,” he put his arms up, as if being cornered. “Sorry. I am back. Eyes forward. Pity back in place and comforting shoulder ready for more breakdowns. Come on Penns! Give it a go! Tell me what this is all really about.”
If he thought I was going to tell him all about it now, well he had another thing coming! I stood up, finished my Guinness and his and walked away. “I’m late for a funeral,” I said in a way that I must say was close up worthy. Good luck, Bob! Try paying the bill without leaching money from me.
The last funeral I’d been to was my Nunu’s, and that had been eight years ago. I was still at school then and got a few days off to go to the wake and service. Personally, I hadn’t been very close to Nunu. She was Clarissa’s mother and almost as much of a pill as my old lady was. Both of them could drink any sailor under the table, smoked like chimneys and went through men like they were nothing but wet tissues.
(Of course you can guess that I only inherited two out of the magic three golden traits of the O’Shea women. After all, I was my dad’s daughter and he had to make a contribution sometime to my genetic make-up.)
I hadn’t known half of the bleedin’ guests at the wake but Clarissa had forced me to talk to everyone at least once. Ba-Nanny was there. She’d been Nunu’s friend, which in my mind made absolute sense. Imagine. Two asinine hags making a pact with the devil to live forever, torturing the innocent and lighthearted, sucking the youth from the young, grinding bones to make bread. That sort of thing. It was a friendship made in the dark pits of hell and it served them well over the years. But with Nunu in a coffin and on her way back to the old country, all the evil in the world joined together and materialized in the only agent of the Devil left standing. Ba-Nanny.
Naturally, the hag in training that was my mother forced me to talk to the very epicenter of all my nightmares. I was fifteen then but I still kept a crucifix under my pillow to ward her off. The thought of her - the bad eye that never blinked and the cackle that made milk curdle on command - made me want to go back to Hogwarts where things of pure evil could never threaten you.
She was worse than the urban legends. Up close, when her hot brimstone breath and her onion-garlic perfume clung heavily to your skin, all other thoughts evaporated from your head. All that’s left is the involuntary reaction of clattering knees and a strange surge of religion.
Vishnu, Buddha, Jesus, Allah and Johnny Rotten protect my soul from being sucked out of my body.
Ba-Nanny kept forgetting my name. She referred to me as “the girl” instead. She spoke loud enough to shake the earwax out of a giant. When she didn’t smell like a no-star restaurant’s back kitchen, she smelled like dead cats in old cans at the back alley. What was worse, she poked me with the pointy end of her cane whenever I corrected her about something. Oh, and she spat while she talked. That was perhaps the worst of all.
That was the first and last time I ever went up to her.
More than ten years down the road, I was still afraid of her. Afraid of the very thought of seeing her. Even though she wouldn’t be able to spit on me, or shout at me or even poke me, I was still afraid of her. Maybe it was the thought of her ghost coming to haunt me for being a mouthy bitch behind her back. Or maybe it was simply the fact the very thought of her made me want to swallow my pride and just go back to work after announcing so dramatically and so publicly that I would be going to the funeral.
Or maybe it was because I had never seen a dead body before. Not even Nunu’s.
Would Nan’s body be as disgusting and withered as my gran’s?
Would they even be able to close the bad eye?
Get a grip of yourself Pens! I told myself. You can handle an old bat. Even if it’s a dead old bat!
If only Bob hadn’t been such a wankering prick, I would have asked him to come to the funeral with me. God knew he was the only one I could ask. Flopsy would see through everything as if I’d hidden it inside a clear plastic bag. Wood wouldn’t miss a day’s work for my fucked up problems. And Mr. Bartie, as he’d so kindly put it, wouldn’t be welcome to the jilted woman’s wake.
I got out of the cab and straightened myself out – which was admittedly hard to do on the count of all the bleedin’ ruffles on this hideous dress. I took a deep breath, told myself I wouldn’t turn into stone when I looked inside the casket and walked right inside the crooked house before I could talk myself out of it.
It wasn’t the most pleasant party in the world, mind you. It was like a reunion of Limerick’s most decaying. Seemed like a small bit of wind could scatter their bodies like ashes through the wind. The house oddly smelled of prunes and fish oil. Everything screamed, ‘turn back ye faint hearted’.
But I came here with a purpose, and that purpose was the only thing putting one foot in front of the other.
I recognized Old Nan’s grandniece. Like the indistinguishable brood, she was in traditional mourner’s black (quite the fashion sensation of the day) and she carried with her Nan’s hideous dog, Kolpy. Mangled little mongrel, it was. An affront to dogs in general. God’s gigantic mistake. The ugliest bleedin’ terrier you’d ever seen in your life.
She came up to me with the brightest smile she could muster, all happy to see a familiar (younger) face in the mix. But all I was trying to do was remember what the bloody hell her name was.
It had to be something ridiculous like that because she was the very epitome of a flouncing puff ball with her hair all frizzy and rolled up in a ball (hints of peroxide still clinging to it). For all intents and purposes, I couldn’t remember her. The only thing I could remember was how much I hated her.
“PENELOPE! I’M SO GLAD YOU COULD COME!” she shrilled, fake tears running down her eyes. Kolpy the dog groaned in agony, but her grip on him couldn’t be loosened by mere pity. Peroxide Barbie draped her stick thin arms over me and cried on my shoulder, which was totally for show because there was no hint of moisture hitting my clothes.
I tried to pat her back, say “there there”, but how do you comfort someone you detest? God stop me from pushing her away and starting a scene!
“I am…so sorry for… you’re loss?” I said, trying to find the oxygen to speak. Blondie was killing me with her “sincerity”, the dog suffocating in the middle. What a picture we were!
WHAT THE BLEEDIN’ HELL WAS HER NAME?!
Thank god someone tapped my shoulder when they did. “Thought you wouldn’t show,” he said.
Truffles the Platinum Wonder let go of me and instead of tears, all I saw in her face was a Drag-Me-To-Bed smirk that would have scared off any man unfortunate enough to look at it.
I turned around.
It was Wood.
Dressed in a clean black suit, beard trimmed and hair combed back to submission. He didn’t even look like my boss. He looked like a bloke. A half-decent bloke who you’d meet in a London bar, flirt with, and perhaps even get lucky with. I managed a faint wave, trying my best to hide my You’re-Not-Wood look. But that’s all my mind could scream.
“OLLIE! I AM SO GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT!” Rocks-for-boobs squealed, throwing her poor dog down the floor. She ran at Wood like a bleedin’ dog for a piece of steak and threw her arms around Wood. Did she have no shame, the cow!
Ollie? Who the bloody hell was Ollie? What was Wood, a dog? Ollie was ridiculous. You didn’t call Wood, Ollie. You called him Wood. Stupid cow!
But Wood was good at this. You could tell. Anyone could tell. Instead of patting her on the back, making her stay longer than necessary, he immediately pulled away. It didn’t even look like he was disgusted either, though I am pretty sure he was. He gave her his pocket square and a bunch of flowers. “So sorry for your loss, Cate. The family sends their condolences.”
Cate! That was her name!? She didn’t even look like a bloody Cate! She looked like a poodle and deserved a poodle name! Not a nice one like Cate!
Not-Cate tried to put another word in, but by that time, Wood had made his way to me. An expert rescue that would put any superhero to shame.
Still I couldn’t say anything. I just looked. The lad cleaned up nice, if I do say so myself. He even smelled nicer. “Are you wearing after shave?” I sniffed his collar.
“Don’t be daft.” He hit the back of my head. “And why the bloody hell are you dressed like a dead mushroom? It’s a funeral. Not fucked up fancy dress.” And just like that the mystique was gone. Identity confirmed. It was Pain-In-The-Ass Wood. I hit him back in the arm, and dragged him to the nearest secluded corner.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here? I thought you weren’t going to the funeral!”
“The family needed representation,” Wood straightened his suit and dusted the lint my dress have him. “And since Uncle wouldn’t come, I suppose I’m the only Such available. ‘Sides, Bob said you needed a ride home.”
If he wasn’t such a prick, I would have called him sweet. But he had just hit me on the head and it still stung. I was budging up, however, working my way into thanking him, when a porky little boy ran up to us and grabbed Wood by the leg.
“You said there’d be a dead body, Da!” And he looked so cute too when he said it.
It was my turn to hit Wood’s head. “You brought Will! To a funeral!”
Who brought a small, impressionable child to a scary old lady’s funeral? What the bloody hell was he thinking? Whoever gave Wood the right to have babies should revoke it. Didn’t Wood care about he emotional development of his only son? Didn’t he care about what his ex-wife would say once she learned that he brought a five year old child to the Limerick Convention of Decaying Hags?
I pinched Wood’s arm until he yelped and swatted me off.
“There, there you bleedin’ nutter. Alright, so I may not have been as forthcoming as I should have. When Will found out about the funeral, he begged me to take him so he could see a dead body.”
“Dead body! Dead body! Dead body!” Will giggled happily before Wood picked up and covered his mouth.
“So all of that, ‘I’m the only Such available’, ‘Bob said you needed a ride’ twattle was just what?”
I hit Wood again, this time a punch in the arm that was less than friendly. It sent Will into hysterics, bless him.
“What could I do?! He was making a huge ruckus at the store and I couldn’t dump him back at his mother’s because she’s off to London for the week. I didn’t have a bleedin’ choice now did I? Besides, what about you, you little hypocrite. Why’d you come to the funeral, aye? I doubt it’s to pay your respects.”
“Nosey Parker, you are. It’s none of your business.”
“I’ll stop asking questions if you take Will to see Ba-Nanny’s body.”
“My arse! I’m not looking at her corpse!”
“Then what’s the point? Come here for the free cakes, did you? Pluck up the courage and stare your demons in the eye. And you might as well take Will with you. I’ll give you a ride home for a week if you do.”
“Walking is good exercise.”
“I’ll buy you a meal.”
“Who do you think I am? Baby Bob? I can get my own meals.”
“Fine, then I’ll pay what Bob owes you.”
“That settles him, not me.”
“Jeezus, Penny. You drive a hard bargain don’t you? Why don’t you just tell me what you want, and we’ll call it a deal. Come on, Will’s straining my arms here.”
I groaned. As fun as it was, seeing Wood squirm like an early bird special, I really didn’t want to see what was inside the casket. I’d avoided that for the better part of my adulthood. I wasn’t about to throw a good ten years worth of hiding just so Will could have his morbid moments.
But Wood was right. If I wasn’t going to face my demons, then what was I doing her. Nobody knew, exactly. Nobody but me.
Looking at Ba-Nanny, lying there in her coffin, would be just like looking into my own deepest fears. Truth was, I was Ba-Nanny. Or rather, I would become her, sooner or later.
Once smart, fairly attractive with a sparkling personality only to be wasted, morphing into the official town coot. I had no trouble imagining myself old, gray and creepy. Children running away from me. I’d probably be stuck in a house with Flopsy all of my life. Wait. No. Flopsy had a life. She had a boyfriend, a business, personality. She had a future. What did I have? A couch/bed beside a refrigerator. Crushed dreams and a dead-end job.
Budge up Ba-Nanny! I might as well be in there with you.
I mentally slapped myself.
Will’s huge baby blues were staring at me, full of hope and adventure. Even without seeing his face, I could see the wide grin already set on his face. How cute, and incredibly disturbing, to see a child so excited to see a dead boy. Boy after my own heart.
“And you’re gone as soon as he sees her?”
I sighed. Man up, Penny! Show some spine, why don’t you? The sooner you see the old cow, the sooner you can leave.
I took a deep breath and glared at Wood. “Keep your blood money Wood. Doing this pro bono. But you are definitely giving me a ride after this. I want to leave before my mother decides to show up.”
With a stifled yelp of excitement, Will wriggled out of his dad’s grip and ran straight for me. The little porker took my hand faster than he would the last chip in the plate and tugged on it as hard as he could, telling me to get a move on. “Hurry up Penny! Da said the old lady looked like a skinned cat. I say he’s a big, fat, fibber.”
I ruffled up his hair and gave him a quick peck on the kiss. “Well you’re about to find out, Willie my boy. Come on now. Down the rabbit hole we go.”
Flashing a nervous smile at Wood, who gave me a thumbs-up for encouragement, I braved the sea of crones, my trusty little sidekick at hand.
Saints preserve us!