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Chapter 8: Oompa-Loompa Orange
“Who the hell are you?”
The spoon I was washing clattered into the sink, and my head snapped up, my eyes wide as they latched onto James’ equally terrified expression.
Simultaneously, the two of us turned around and sprinted out of the kitchen, skidding to a halt in front of the main door, where stood a very pissed-looking Eva Grace, clad in one of her usual outfits from Whores ‘R’ Us.
“Eva!” I cried out, pushing my offended-looking aunt out of the way. I enveloped her in the most awkward embrace of my life – she literally froze up into an immovable statue of grossness – and she squawked in surprise.
“What the hell are you –” she started.
“Washing dishes, I’m sorry! I forgot about our walk today. Let’s go James, we’ll see you later Aunt Lucy,” I said in one really fast breath, seizing James with one hand, Eva with the other, and closing the door with my foot on the way out.
“Not a word,” I hissed under my breath as Eva opened her mouth, no doubt to spew something stupid and shrilly. I frog-marched the two of them as fast as I could go, straight up to Fred and Charlotte’s door. I then proceeded to bang on it loudly and obnoxiously.
“Where are we?” Eva asked stupidly.
“Your sister’s house,” I explained shortly.
Her face morphed into one of utter disgust. “Ew, no way –”
“Trust me, Char doesn’t exactly want you there either,” I said through gritted teeth. “In fact, I would have been really grateful if you’d just kept your stupid face out of my life and my business, but you seem to be unable to do so.”
“You’re living with my boyfriend,” she said.
I glanced at James. He looked like he was about to piss himself.
“It’s not something I particularly enjoy, either,” I said, and he sent me a grateful look.
“Oi!” I screamed, pounding on the door again. “Let me in now, Char, otherwise I’ll –”
“Jesus, keep your panties on,” Charlotte’s voice said as she swung open the door mid-pound. I grinned at her dry expression upon meeting my fist in midair.
“Is that my newest bud?” Fred yelled from the depths of the house.
“Weasley, remember our discussion to never have another discussion again?”
“Not really,” Fred said, grinning as he scooped me up into a brotherly hug. “Though I do remember you looked particularly beautiful all worked up.”
I raised my eyebrow at him and he winked at me. Char fumed.
“He’s been doing this nonstop lately,” she muttered in my ear, “it’s freaking me out.”
I laughed. Typical Charlotte.
“As heartwarming as this all is, what the fuck is going on?”
“WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING IN MY HOUSE –”
“Just – calm!” I said loudly, pushing Charlotte into Fred so that he could restrain her from lunging at Eva. Eva crossed her arms protectively over her chest and inched behind James. I looked solemnly at Fred and Charlotte. She was glaring at me as she struggled in Fred’s embrace, and he looked thrilled beyond words.
“I need your help,” I said.
“I don’t see why I should help you,” Eva said after I was done explaining. I shot her an irritated look, but everyone else ignored her.
“This would happen to you, of all people,” Charlotte moaned despondently.
I gave her a tight-lipped smile of thanks for all of her wonderful support and optimism. What an absolutely spiffing best mate I have.
“I’m sure we can work around this,” Fred piped up.
“Fred’s my favorite,” I announced, after shooting him a brilliant smile.
“Bitch,” muttered Charlotte.
James remained curiously silent.
“It’s just for this project,” I said to them, “I didn’t know that my bloody family was going to show up. Just for this project, and then we can just Obliviate them and go on pretending all this never even happened.”
“Well of course I’ll help you,” Charlotte said, almost indignantly, “you’re my best friend.”
“I second that,” Fred said, raising his hand, “minus the best friend part. But I do rather like you.”
“Well thanks, Freddie!” I said, pleased. Charlotte shot him an evil look.
“I already promised,” James said in a distinctly disinterested voice.
“What?!” Eva cried. She stepped away from James to glare at him, “what the hell, James? You told her you’d help her? You don’t even know her! She’s the lowlife creep, remember?”
“Hey, now,” Fred intervened in a hard voice, “that’s taking it too far –”
“ – you can’t just go around pretending like you’re someone random girl’s husband for three bloody months and just expect me to be okay with it!”
“Oh calm down, Grace,” I shot in, my voice taking a rather nasty edge that I hope to never have again, “It’s not like either of us are having the time of our lives or something here. He’s only there for the title, and nothing else. As far as real life is concerned, we still can’t stand each other.”
Eva pursed her lips.
“Trust me?” James asked in a voice of honey.
She glanced at him and sighed, her expression softening. For a moment I was thrown into a state of shock – James managed to tame the she-beast?!
Then again, I’m sure even Minnie would cave under those eyes. He looks like Bambi in human form or something.
“Learned it from Lily,” Fred muttered, sensing that Charlotte and I were both surprised beyond belief.
“Merlin, I need to get Lily to teach me that,” Char said hollowly, “My life would be so much easier…”
I’ll say. Imagine having to grow up with someone like Eva. I personally think it’s a major accomplishment that Char turned out even partially normal.
Er…kind of normal.
“Fine,” Eva said reluctantly, finally, after holding an intense stare-down with James for the duration of our conversation, “you can do it. But just one toe out of line, Reese –”
I laughed. “What are you going to do?”
Charlotte grasped my arm dramatically, “Aurora, she might…she might…take away your conditioner so your hair doesn’t retain its natural shine!”
At this, I mimed fainting dead away against Freddie, who was chuckling at our antics. Eva was not as amused.
“I’ll make your life hell, Reese,” she promised in a low voice.
“Oh, love, you already do that just by existing!” I said cheerfully. James coughed to hide a snicker, and Eva’s mouth turned into a flat line.
“I’m serious,” Eva said in a deadly voice, “James might be your pretend husband for the time being, but he is, and always will be, mine.”
There was a silence while James shuffled around nervously and Fred let out an awkward cough.
“So,” he said hesitantly, “this might not be the best time, but do any of you know how to drive?”
I snorted. Of course Fred would.
“Aurora knows how,” James said before I could open my mouth.
Eva shot me an evil look. “I need groceries,” she said in a dark voice.
“Us too,” Charlotte said. “Do you mind taking us? I’ll go get Olga.”
My eyes shot wide open. “Logan!” I said hysterically, remembering that I’d left our son with my crazy loon of a cousin.
“You left him with Jasmine?!” James yelled after me as I wrenched open the door and sprinted down the street. “Why don’t you just throw our kid out the window and be done with it, woman?”
I held up a middle finger without turning to look at him. Asshole.
Just as a future reference for all of you folks out there: driving in a magically enlarged car with two infants, a bickering couple, and your pretend husband’s real girlfriend is not the most ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
You know, in case you ever found yourself in such a predicament. Which you wouldn’t, obviously, because it is only in my life that something like this can happen.
I used to be normal once.
“Everyone shut up!” I barked as the noise level in the car reached a deafening level and the colors clouded so heavily in front of me that I couldn’t think past them, let alone drive coherently.
“Eva,” I continued, “please unravel your arms from James’ neck. It looks like you’re trying to kill him and if we get pulled over –” I turned around to glare at the backseat, “ – there will be consequences.”
Fred gulped. “Is she always this scary?” he whispered to Char.
She shook her head, eyes wide. “She used to be really sweet. I’m blaming Potter for this sudden change in character.”
“Well I’m blaming her insane cousin,” James piped up from next to me.
“Her insane cousin –?”
“You’re right, Jasmine is insane…”
“What are you talking about?”
“This is so cool, I thought only we had insane cousins that we couldn’t –”
“…tried stabbing me with her toothbrush! I’ll never be the same again –”
“Jamie, I don’t understand –”
“OI!” I screamed, slamming on the brakes. Everyone jolted forward, and Logan started wailing. I turned around, sure my face was as red as my hair. I must have looked pretty terrifying, because everyone shrunk back at the sight of me.
“Shut. Up. Now,” I hissed, my eyes flashing.
“Eva,” James said, “hand over Logan.”
Eva, for once, didn’t have anything to say as she silently gave James the baby. Logan immediately quieted at the sight of his dad, cooing loudly as he grabbed at his face.
“Next person who talks will be forcibly kicked out of this car,” I said. Fred locked his mouth and mimed throwing the key out of the window, and I turned back around with a grim smile on my face.
As of right now, I can’t think of which is worse – just staying at home or going out. And that’s sad, really, because under any other circumstance, I’d gladly leave my family to go out with my friends without a second thought. Face it: my family is insane and I have to deal with them. I chose my friends. The choice is a no-brainer.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” James asked hesitantly, eyeing the way I drove with just one hand on the wheel.
I glared at him. “Where you temporarily deaf during the part when I said I’d throw the next person who talked out of the car?”
He shrugged. “I’m holding your son,” Logan took that as his cue to claw at James’ shirt, “you’d never throw me out of your car.”
I growled under my breath as I swung into the parking lot.
“I really can’t stand you,” I said to James. He grinned at that, looking quite pleased with himself.
Not even two seconds after I took the key out of the ignition, Eva and Fred scrambled desperately out of the car, Fred panting as though he’d run a marathon (the effort of not speaking must have really killed him), and Eva glaring at everything around her just to make sure that everyone was aware of her displeasure. Charlotte sat calmly in the back seat, undoing Olga’s seatbelt as she stared at me and James in the front seat.
“What?” I asked warily, growing quite nervous at her penetrating stare.
“There’s something going on between you two,” Char said thoughtfully. James and I exchanged a glance.
“Er…tentative friendship?” I guessed.
Char’s eyes narrowed. “You’re putting on an act for Eva.”
James scoffed. “Well of course we are. Do you really think she’d be alright with this? As far as she’s concerned, I should hate every single girl who’s not related to me.”
I stared at him in surprise. “Seriously, she sounds like a horrible girlfriend.”
He didn’t answer, but got out of the car.
Charlotte and I exchanged a glance.
“Stop being so amazing, Rory,” she whispered to me,” James might fall in love with you. And then Eva would destroy you.”
I laughed at her joke. “Love you, Char.”
“Not joking.” Was her ominous response as she slid out of the car and slammed the door behind her.
I sighed gustily. You know, a simple “love you too” would have also sufficed.
“Alright,” I said loudly, closing the car door and locking the car, “Listen up, people. There will be no talking about magic. Please, for the love of Merlin, don’t jump into the shopping carts and push each other around –” at this I stared very pointedly at James and Fred, both of whom developed a sudden interest in the pavement – “and if you need help finding something, look at the labels hanging from the ceiling or ask me. Don’t draw attention to yourselves.”
Olga blubbered out a shriek and clapped her hands. Well, at least someone appreciates my efforts to save everyone’s asses.
“Can we get on with this?” Eva piped up, “I left Lola with Jeremy and I really don’t trust him around infants. Or anything.”
I covered up an amused chuckle with a cough. “Right. Let’s go.”
As we traipsed towards the automatic sliding doors, James turned to me and mouthed “Lola?!” with a slightly disgusted expression on his face.
I rolled my eyes at him, but inside I was started to feel a strong sense of dread.
I hated the name, too. It was a very unpleasant color, sort of like the tone a person might get when they’ve overdone artificial tanning. It was way passed sun-kissed and bordering on Oompa-Loompa.
…having something in common with James Sirius Potter never has positive results.
“You look worried,” Fred said as he fell into pace with me.
I shrugged and smiled faintly at him, “I’m not that worried.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I won’t get into a cart and make James push me around the store,” Fred said hopefully.
I laughed. “Well in that case, I’m feeling much better.”
We walked around aimlessly for a bit.
“Look,” Fred finally said hesitantly, “I need to talk to you. About James.”
I sighed. Looks like today is going to be full of cryptic warnings. What an exciting life I lead. “What about James?”
“He’s…” Fred struggled for words as he looked around the store, “he’s a different kind of guy.”
“Super special,” I conceded dryly.
“No, I mean…he has this…complex.” Fred scratched the back of his neck after seemingly forcing those words out of his mouth.
“What kind of complex?” I asked, completely amused by how awkward Fred was being.
“The kind of complex where…well, he has this way of wanting things he can’t ever have.” Fred glanced furtively at me, and seemed to look slightly appalled that I was smirking.
“You mean he’s a spoiled brat?”
He exhaled sharply. “No, Aurora, I don’t mean it in that sense. I mean it in like…”
There was a short silence while he tried to find the right words, staring up at the ceiling of the store as if they would somehow drop out of it and into his mouth.
“Girls,” he finally said.
I raised an eyebrow; it took that long to come up with “girls”?
“Girls.” I repeated flatly. “Freddie, I really don’t know what you’re talking about –”
“Don’t string him along, alright?” He finally rushed out.
I blinked, totally shocked. “I’m…not…”
“I know you don’t mean to,” He corrected hastily, “It’s just that James kind of has this thing for green eyes – and by that I mean in girls because his dad and his brother have green eyes – and he’s always kind of been attracted to that unknown. Forbidden, you know?”
I did not comprehend a word coming out of his mouth. “No, I don’t know.”
“I mean he likes you, you daft chit,” Fred said impatiently. “At least, he’s on his way to liking you. I bet he’s already kissed you, hasn’t he?”
My face bloomed red. Fred took that as confirmation, and I once again cursed my ginger genes.
“James couldn’t possibly like me,” I muttered feebly, “we’ve got nothing in common. Besides, he’s never liked me before –”
“I know it’s crazy,” He said gently, “Honestly, that’s just James. But I’ve known him for my entire life. I know what he’s like. Just…don’t…don’t fall for him, yeah?”
My eyebrows scrunched together. “Fred, I –”
“Don’t,” he said forcefully, “because no matter how much he might end up liking you, he’ll go back to Eva. That’s how he is. He’s not good with emotions or love, it kind of freaks him out.”
I sighed and rubbed my forehead absentmindedly. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Fred laughed, a short bark. “Yeah. But you don’t actually think he likes Eva, do you? He’s with her because he knows he should be with her, because being with her makes sense. James isn’t too good with handling himself around girls like you.”
“Because you make no sense to him,” Fred grinned.
“And he likes me – or is apparently going to like me – because…?”
“He can’t really help himself, can he?” Fred was flat-out beaming at this point, looking entirely too pleased about this situation.
I sighed, frustrated. “That doesn’t make any bloody sense!”
This earned me a patronizing chuckle and a friendly pat on the shoulder. And then he left, leaving me staring at a shelf consisting entirely of marinara sauce and wishing desperately for my old life back.
Long story short: stay away from James because he’ll break my heart. And I’ll break his heart, too, apparently, because he’s an emotionally screwed-up person.
Goddamn, when did this become so complicated?
gaahhh, i'm still trying to get my bearings with this story. i'm so incredibly sorry for the appalling wait, i've had the worst writer's block known to hpff-writer's kind.