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Chapter 4: Limp
There have only been a handful of times when I’ve disappointed my parents; if I could I’d completely eradicate them from my mind. My parents aren’t exactly pushy over achievers but they (like any other parents) want what’s best for me. When the end of year report arrives dad never forgets to crack a cheesy pun about how I must’ve gotten it all from him. Throughout this cringe-y affair mum enjoys reminding anything with a pulse that she was a Ravenclaw.
Although I’ve now come to realise the problem with always achieving what you set out to do; the increasingly often moments I fail it always stings more. After years of setting up my parent’s expectations so high I was now forced to lower them.
The question is, how?
I was thinking about baking a sponge cake and icing the words “Charlotte didn’t get prefect!” all over the buttered top. I would then obviously add some edible silver balls and sparkles- to sweeten the bitter news, of course.
But then, I realised that my cooking skills just about cover making pasta, and even that’s a bit of a stretch. How an earth was I supposed to bake and decorate a cake for the very first time before my parents both returned from work?
Exactly, the chances of that happening are bloody none to minus Kelvin. I could always call Ellie- whose cooking repertoire consists of Victoria sponge, Thai red chicken curry and even bouillabaisse- but she was busy sulking at her mother.
After our eventful trip to Brick Lane, Ellie went back home (half hoping she’d return to a boyfriend-less house) and the boys buggered off to Merlin knows where (Malfoy’s house, I think). So like the rebellious expolorer I am, I decided to shove off home.
The minute I walked in I grabbed a muggle hover and began vacuuming the living room, the hallway, my bedroom, the study, the- you get the picture. It was pure torture and at some moments I felt like chucking the bloody machine down the stairs and pulling out the roots of my hair. I don’t have a single domestic bone in my body! What was I doing putting bleach down the toilet seat and scrubbing kitchen counters down?
The answer: I was attempting to lessen the terrible blow that would soon befall my parents. Since the dawn of time every teenage (hell, even toddlers) know every time you’ve screwed up badly and you know there’ll be hell to pay for when your parents find out you whip out the feather duster and starts spring cleaning.
In this case, six months early.
When your parents eventually return home they’ll gasp and start praising the hell out of your dusting skills and Oh My Merlin did you really polish the banister?
Yes, actually I did. I’m really glad someone finally noticed the glossy, chestnut sheen practically lighting up the room. Forget about energy saving light bulbs, global warming is a thing of the past when you’ve got properly polished banisters. Their miraculous glow will rejuvenate any old country house and provide a light source for at least a month.
I’ve evidently been watching too many muggle documentaries.
But the point is, when you finally tell them the dreaded news the intensity of the blow will be lessened and your parents won’t be able to rant about what a lazy little shit you are (instead they’ll rant about how you screw everything up).
Until the next time you spill a drink on the carpet, because by God your mother will never let you forget that. In fact every time something goes wrong- “What? You didn’t get at least an Acceptable in Charms?”- she will find the most roundabout ways of bringing it back up.
You got an Acceptable in charms because you didn’t study.
You didn’t study because you were spending far too much time with Ellie.
You’re spending far too much time with Ellie because Ms Nott got another boyfriend –yes, again.
Ms Nott got another boyfriend because she’s a lonely, rich woman who has far too much time on her hands.
She has far too much time on her hands because Ellie’s father still pays alimony every month and her family’s bleedin’ loaded.
Ellie’s father is able to pay her that set amount every month because he owns a multi-national furniture company.
You’ll never be as successful as him because you’re lazy.
Because you’re so bloody lazy you couldn’t be bothered to put the glass of butterbeer on the table and instead balanced it on the bed, causing it to fall all over the cream carpet.
Therefore you failed charms because you spilt butterbeer all over the carpet.
And that, my friends, is a real life example of my mother’s scarily warped logic. She’s able connect two completely different events and provide an explanation of how they are related and result in poor grades. I tell you its tough living with a certifiable psycho.
No wonder I’m so screwed up, I’m the child of a mad woman. Although Ellie does assure me that everyone thinks these things about their mum and mines is far saner than hers. I have to agree with her on that one, Mrs Nott is something else altogether.
I really do mean something else. I’m not entirely sure if she’s human half the time….
Back to the matter at hand, I’d just scrubbed (nearly) every surface in my house which seemed to grow larger every time I reached for the bloody feather duster. I had ruled out the possibility of a cake; a banner flashing the words “No prefect’s today!”; a hoard of doves dropping a lengthy essay containing a full explanation of the situation, whilst I take the next plane to Morocco; dazzling fireworks spelling out the words “No Avery Prefects” in the night sky, and even a choir of gospel singers shimmying out from behind the kitchen door singing “Oh praise the lord, Charlotte didn’t get prefect but she does have a round bump nose which I’m sure she inherited from you two”.
There was only one option left: the distraction and avoidance method- my personal favourite.
I spotted Dad apparating directly onto the grounds from the upstairs bay window. He stayed on the Wiz-phone for a few minutes before lumbering in downstairs and making a beeline straight for the kitchen. As I trudged downstairs- prepping myself to keep a cool exterior- I heard the rumbling whoosh signalling my mother’s arrival by floo.
It was time to face the facts.
…Well technically I was twisting the facts and keeping the truth away from everyone for as long as possible. Same thing, really.
“Hello Charlotte, dear,” Mum greeted me as I entered the kitchen. Dad and her were bustling around the kitchen counter, setting out the plates and refrigerated dishes for dinner.
She did look slightly out of place in her crisp suit swamped by billowing grey robes, the usual attire for most Gringotts workers. No, my mother is not a goblin (although that would’ve explained my morning breath) nor is she a curse breaker. My mum’s like a muggle banker, she looks after the accounts in Gringotts alongside the goblins- who’ve considerably softened up to humans in the past few years.
Although they’d still leave us all to die if it meant a bank account full of galleons and goblin made armoury, make no mistake about that.
Her wavy brown hair was twisted into a tight bun, yet loose strands escaped as she fixed dad’s haphazard cutlery settings. Dad’s never been bothered about that sort of thing. Which is ironic since he’s the once with the ancient pureblood family, hence the surname Avery.
But then again, Dad’s always been fairly laidback. So easy going that at one point he was unemployed. Thankfully he’s got his own business now that works closely with the Magical Law enforcement at the ministry.
“How was your day, Lotto? I owled Ian to check up on you in the morning, thought you might be a bit lonely,” Dad said as he boiled vegetables on the stove.
Great. Now my own dad thinks I’m a sad loner too. I was hoping that theory was limited to Ian, Malfoy and Potter (or the Pussy Posse, as they like to now be known).
“It was fine dad. Ian came and dragged me to this place.”
“Oh what place?” Mum questioned, with that creepy interest only mother’s can have in their children’s lives.
“It was this muggle lane and we were trying to find this magical street in it.”
“Did you find it?” She pressed.
“No, we just ended up having a good a laugh though.” It thoroughly pained me to use the words “good laugh” when describing a day out with the posse.
“A good laugh with Ian and his friends? That doesn’t sound very like you.” Mum neatly cut up her chicken into bite size chunks.
“I thought you didn’t like Ian’s friends,” Dad said.
“More like hate,” my dearest mother scoffed.
Merlin’s thongs, my parents know me too well. I suppose these are the after-effects after living with each other for fifteen years and going through the small task of raising me to be the little bundle of joy that I am.
I’m betting I got the sarcasm as well as the slightly crooked nose from my mum.
“Well they are rather annoying. Plus they have a tendency to-,”
Turn your kitchen into a scene of a bomb blast?
Ruin your cutlery and dishes?
Lure in innocent, hot foreigners?
Attract bloodthirsty drug dealers?
Sadly I didn’t say any of these things (although I'm sure the last one would worry my parents immensely), instead I lamely stuffed my mouth with broccoli and chicken in an attempt to buy time. “-annoying, they have a tendency to be annoying,” I lamely finished.
Mum raised her eyebrow. “So you’ve said.”
“Now, now, hate is a very strong word. I’m sure if you gave them a chance they wouldn’t be that bad, Lotto,” Dad advised in his wise man tones.
I really worry for my dad, I do. He can’t go blindly stumbling through life with this cheery outlook on life. One day he’ll be taken terrible advantage because of his puffer mindset, I mean, why does he have to be so damn fair to everybody?
He could be accosted by a pair of muggers and instead of just giving them his galleon pouch and running he’d be like “Let’s give them a fair chance because we live in a democracy!” The next thing you know he’s had his lights hexed out and ends up bedridden at St. Mungo’s.
It could happen any day.
“You never know, you could have misplaced them entirely,” he continued.
Merlin, he’s such a disgrace to the name of Slytherin. The only reason he got in must’ve been his bloodline.
“I was quite a shy little kid myself at Hogwarts always letting others take the lead-,”
“Especially your brothers,” Mother added in dryly.
“-But I did eventually blossom out of my shell when I was finally given the chance by people.”
“Believe me, Dad, they don’t need any chances to blossom from there shell. Anymore blossoming for them and we’ll have bloody beanstalks on our hands.”
Dad’s well worn smile lines crinkled upwards. “Well, if you say so, Lotto.”
“On to more important matters, have you received your Hogwarts letter yet?” Mum asked, jerking me back to the reality at hand: the lying and deceiving I was doing.
Or, as I like to call it, information withholding. Sounds much nicer and family friendly.
“No, Mum,” I wearily answered.
“They’re leaving it quite late this year. Perhaps I should write Professor McGonagall a letter of complaint,” she mused between sips of water.
“No, Mum! There’s really no need to be so over the top!”
“Now, now Charlotte. There’s nothing a good letter can’t sort out. Obviously I won’t use red ink as that’s always off putting and we do want to come across as respectful to McGonagall. However, I do think that just a gentle reminder would be good-,” and so Mum prattled on and on. She charmed the dishes to fly to the sink and immerse themselves in soapy suds and water, whilst she scooped up the leftovers of food into dishes, talking about this letter throughout.
“When we were at school of course it was a different story, McGonagall was quite worn out, since the war had just passed and whatnot. Of course I still managed to pass transfiguration with flying colours- it was my favourite subject. Although I was rather keen on Quidditch as well, what with captaining the Ravenclaw team and all. It’s really a shame you aren’t sportier-,”
“Why don’t you go up to sleep, you look a bit tired,” Dad whispered over Mum’s reminiscing.
“Thanks Dad,” I muttered, scraping of my chair and creeping out of the kitchen. Mission successful: neither of them had found out about my non-prefect position, the dishes Malfoy and Potter had broken this morning or any Trick Lane antics.
As I crept up the stairs- careful to avoid the creaking third step, if Mum heard me know it would be game over and back to discussing NEWT options- I heard a gasp of surprise.
“Artie, is that a broken plate shard underneath that stool?”
“Oh I can’t really see anything, Cal.”
“Charlotte, stop moping in your bloody bedroom and come down this instance!”
Jeez, seems a teenager can’t wallow in her own bedroom these days.
Why exactly was I wallowing?
Haven’t the foggiest.
It was something along the lines of still not being able to find a nice way to break the news to my parents. I know, I know, it’s frustrating. I mean I knew once they’d find out they wouldn’t disown or kill me, it was just a matter of that funny little thing called pride that I seem to have buckets of.
Maybe I could sell my extras? Can you do that now, sell pride? I think I should log onto Wizbay and put an advert in.
Are you feeling pathetically downtrodden?
Do you find yourself constantly giving way to others and generally possessing too many Hufflepuff traits?
Then you’re in need of some PRIDE.
Yes, you heard me right, Pride. The all new (for you, anyway) special trait that makes sure you have trouble with the simplest of things; like asking for help, giving up, losing an argument or (my personal favourite) admitting any feelings or emotions whatsoever.
I, Charlotte Avery, have a Mount Everest load of fairly used pride (a scratch on the side but no long-term damage) ready to sell just to you!
Stop by the Avery country house/Slytherin girls dormitory (bring a protective shield for the latter) and get some P-R-I-D-E today!
Yep, I can see that going down a storm with the masses. I could make millions. This time tomorrow I’ll be a multi-millionaire with a Jacuzzi and a man servant called Fernando. The only problem is, am I really willing to give away any of my pride?
No, I don’t think so, I’m too proud of it.
“Charlotte, if you don’t get down here I will bloody well hex you, understand?” My precious mother once again hollered from downstairs.
I jumped out of my wallowing state and begrudgingly made my way down. The woman’s so impatient I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time I get to the living room she’s combusted into a thousand pieces of Avery-ness and early menopause.
I entered the airy living room only to find it empty. The cream walls and long bay windows gave an impression of great space, as did the Mum-approved furniture.
“Mum?” I asked the empty room. Maybe after all the emotional stress I was going through I had actually lost it and was hallucinating. Oh Merlin this is what I’ve come to, hallucinations! Next thing you know can-can dancers dressed in bunny suits will be sassily dancing across my living room.
“Finally!” Mum exclaimed, poking her ruffled head from behind the sofa. I bet you a galleon she was cleaning behind that dodgy couch. “If I’ve told you a hundred times I’ll say it again, you’ve got to listen once! When I tell you something Charlotte I expect you to come down this instant.”
“Mhhm,” I agreed. My scattered thoughts were preoccupied with this year’s Head Girl position. Maybe I could bribe my way into the prefect squadron…No, I’m not that desperate. I simply refuse to sink to that pathetic level…yet.
“Anyways, we’re running a bit late for Auntie Chrissie’s, so we’ll have to floo immediately.”
“What? Mum you know how much I hate flooing, just go without me,” I pleaded. Hell to the no was I being dragged to Auntie Chrissie’s and enduring more pain than I could possibly take. Especially via floo. The floo network seems to have it in for me as I after every journey I get a terrible stomach ache- worse than period pain. Yes, it’s that bad.
“No, she specifically wanted to see you! You’re going off to Hogwarts in a week’s time and she won’t see you until Christmas. You’re her favourite niece.”
“I’m her only niece,” I muttered, scowling at the wooden floorboards.
“Rubbish. Auntie Chrissie loves you like she loves Ian,” Mum said, re-arranging cushions on the sofa.
“I didn’t know the woman was capable of love.”
Mum’s forehead creased upwards, her lips straightened into a dangerously thin line. “And what’s that supposed to mean? You’re auntie is a very caring woman. She was a lovely big sister when we were growing up, always looking after Uncle Eddie and I!” I could sense Mum’s defensive sibling rant coming.
“I can’t imagine her five years younger let alone as a teenager,” I countered sourly.
Mum’s dark brown eye’s flashed- the first warning signal that she was well and truly on her way to exploding. I decided to restrain any future snarky comments.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Stop being ridiculously bitter Charlotte and act your own age. I’ve had enough of your crap today. Now get inside the fireplace, but for the love of Merlin change your clothes.”
“What’s wrong with them?!” I clutched on to my baggy sweatshirt as if she’d pounce on me and snatch it.
Which, come to think of it, she’s done before.
“You look like a complete idiot whose been living on the streets for the past year,” she answered flatly, gesturing to my slightly faded jeans.
“Well since Auntie Chrissie loves me so very much and I am her absolutely favourite niece, I’m sure she won’t mind.” With that sassy comeback I practically flounced into the marble fireplace.
Snatching a handful of glittering, emerald powder I shouted “54 Waverley road” and disappeared into a whirlwind of fiery flames. The last image I saw was my mum exasperatedly rolling her eyes.
Honestly, that woman has too much sass for her own good.
I arrived splattering, coughing and choking up soot in Ian’s kitchen fireplace. It appears flooing with a bad temper isn’t a good idea as my stomach was churning dangerously.
Flooing for me is like drinking ten shots in one row for the average person (not like I’d know what that feels like). It always results in a whole load of hydrochloric acid churning in my gut, screams of terror piercing the night and someone always ends up with a carpet lathered with generous helpings of puke. Yet I still do it.
What can I say? I live dangerously.
At once Aunt Chrissie marched into the kitchen to greet me, “Charlotte! God, what a mess you’ve made with the soot, you’ll have to clean that later. Where’s your mother? Isn’t she coming?”
Merlin, she always assaults me with questions. There’s no need for nuclear weapons when Aunt Chrissie and her “7 questions in under a second” record are still here.
I pushed myself off the cobbled kitchen floor and dusted myself down. “Hello, aunt Chrissie it’s lovely to see you too,” I droned monotonously, clutching my buzzing stomach.
“Yes that’s all very nice but where are your parents?” She asked, imperiously batting away my greeting like I was some sort of annoying pest.
“Mum’s on her way and my dad’s busy working,” I replied through gritted teeth. The wet, slithering commotion in my stomach was building up. I felt like a bleedin’ fish tank had taken residence in my gut.
“Oh, some working he does. Bloody businessmen,” she swore shaking her head. In case you haven’t caught on, Aunt Chrissie isn’t exactly fond of my dear old dad. She’s honestly not fond of many things in life.
Obviously they tolerate each other at family gatherings and are fairly civil face-to-face, but as soon as Dad’s gone Aunt Chrissie will be heard muttering to my mum about how she shouldn’t have met that “pureblood ponce”. Her words, not mine.
Either way, my dad’s not exactly BFFLs for life with her either. He thinks she’s a bitter woman who takes everything far too seriously. Three guesses who I agree with?
Here’s a clue: it’s not Aunt Chrissie.
The wave of unease seemed to be swaying back and forth, back and forth in my bowels; slowly building up in strength and force every time. I could just imagine little sailors holding onto their handkerchiefs and berets crying “hoist the sails, three points to starboard, stormy weather ahead”. The creeping sensation slowly making its way upwards from my stomach was heavy and leaden and oh so familiar.
I was going to vomit.
“Toilet,” I blurted out, before clutching my mouth and rushing out of the room. Aunt Chrissie merely waved my excuse away and returned to reading healer documents on the kitchen table.
I raced down the hallway, up two flights of stairs, through an empty room and threw myself on the toilet door in an attempt to open it.
It didn’t budge.
One hand covering my mouth (in case of a sudden convulsion), I tried to wriggle the doorknob but it just wouldn’t budge. Perhaps it was Ian’s dad. He is infamous for taking a terribly long time on the toilet and singing a ghastly version of “A Cauldron full of hot love” whilst he’s doing his business.
Now you all know where Ian gets it from.
If I didn’t get in quickly I would end up vomiting all over aunt Chrissie’s precious cream carpet; the familial equivalent to committing suicide.
Furiously banging on the door with one hand, I had my eyes squeezed shut in fear of what was about to unfold. My knuckles sharply rapped on the wood twice but the third time they hit something not quite as hard.
I half opened my eyes in fear to find…Oh no, oh no.
That definitely wasn’t Uncle Eddie.
Unless he’d decided to ruffle his hair into ten thousand different directions, wear slightly baggy denim jeans and roam around in a grey hoodie instead of his usual robes.
Oh, and change his name to Albus Potter.
My narrowed eyes bulged in shock, taking in the boy who just used my aunt’s bathroom who was definitely not Uncle Eddie. His unannounced presence seemed to disagree with my stomach even more than flooing as it gave an almighty lurch.
That’s exactly when my throat convulsed.
Without warning, I pushed past the still frowning Potter and shot into the bathroom. Luckily the toilet seat was already raised (ew, let’s not think about that) and I just leaned over the bidet and let it floo (get it? ‘Cause it’s usually flow but it’s because of the “floo” network I’m in this terribly awkward situation).
The problem with unannounced visits from the vomit fairy is that I’m always terribly unprepared. My hair had fallen forward, along with my bowing head, practically launching itself into the contents of this morning’s breakfast.
“You’re a mess,” Potter offhandedly commented from his cosy position by the door.
Now I don’t usually expect a lot from Potter. We don’t like each other and that’s that. But you’d think he’d have the decency to close the door and leave me alone to wallow in my own woe (or should I say vomit?).
Don’t blame me when I die an early death because I’m too busy trying to look suave- something I can’t manage under normal circumstances- whilst regurgitating my guts and end up choking on vomit instead.
If I died who would Potter have left to insult? Not Ian, Malfoy, Bertrand or Ellie. Maisy Greger, crazy Emily and a few selected others just get mocking looks, as does his cousin. The rest of his Hogwarts pals don’t exactly get the treatment I do either.
I’m like the scratching post he takes out all his sarky insults on. Without me he’d have to resort to cussing his annoying friends and then he wouldn’t be little Miss popular, would he?
Well, he’d never be Miss popular anyways, seeing as he’s not a girl. Although that could be something he’s keeping from us, in fact I wouldn’t put it past him.
So really my existence is doing him a massive favour. I was just hoping that my role as the Potter-Sark-dump would be rewarded with the puny favour of closing the door. You know, out of the kindness of his shrivelled, prune-y heart.
But no. He didn’t close any doors. He just stood there, leaning against the bathroom sink, arms crossed over one another, observing me throw my guts up (slight exaggeration, I’d only puked what looked like a croissant but there was more to come).
I spat the last remnants of vomit out and gave Potter the finger. If he wasn’t going to help me hurl my breakfast up then he might as well stop staring and piss off. We (i.e. the daddy long legs giving me moral supports from the shower and I) all knew he was taking in this enjoyable experience only to remind me later.
He sighed and hesitantly rose off the wall. His cool fingers brushed over my warm neck as he clutched my limp brown hair in his hands, finally allowing me to lean over properly. I tried to ignore his eerie presence but I just couldn’t shake off the strange feeling of Potter practically breathing down my neck.
A girl’s trying to vomit here; couldn’t he exist a little quieter? That’s all I ask, really.
We stood there for a few seconds, me ready to hurl any minute but nothing came. Finally Potter made an irritated sound, “I haven’t got all day.”
I snapped my neck up so I could see a bit more than the strange mark in the clear toilet water. “Sorry if this vomiting session is inconveniencing you.”
“Yeah, it is actually.”
“Well nobody asked you to be here!” I exclaimed (which is rather hard when you could throw up at any minute).
“You flipped me off," Potter dryly commented. "Plus you’re practically yelling to be taken care of. You’re a complete mess, Avery. If you could just speed up…”
“Maybe if you could exist a little quieter I’d be able to go!” I snapped.
“And how the fuck am I meant to exist quieter?” Potter arched his brow inquisitively.
“Just shut your eyes or stop breathing, take your pick...personally I’m hoping for the latter." I moodily turned back to the ominous bidet.
I immediately felt Potter's hold on my hair loosen, causing waves to tumble directly in front of my face and in the way of the incoming spurt of vomit.
After fully throwing up, and feeling a lot more light-headed after, I furiously swung round to face an amused Potter leaning against the bathroom door.
“The actual FUCK, Potter?!” I hysterically yelled, not even bothering to keep my voice low in fear of my aunt.
“I was pretending not to exist. Just like you said,” he defended, a wry smile making way onto his smirking features.
My entire face contorted angrily and my jaw dropped in furious outrage. He... what... really? I didn’t mean it literally!
“By the way, you’ve got a bit of something right over…there,” he gestured to the ends of my damp hair. I quickly spun around to the bathroom mirror to face a teenage girl with a furious snarl and soggy, vomit incurred brown locks.
Before I could even yell at Potter for his incompetence I heard the bathroom door slam shut.
He’d slithered away just like the bloody snake he was.
I remorsefully trudged downstairs, cursing under my breath. After I spotted the bit of vomit in my hair I couldn’t rest until I’d washed the entire thing. Believe me; washing my hair is not fun. It’s the undertaking of the century that can only been done if you’re armed with an array of conditioners and brushes.
I can finally appreciate know what it’s like for Stone Age hunters to bring down woolly mammoths. (My hair being the woolly mammoth, not me).
“Charlotte, where have you been?” Aunt Chrissie asked, fluttering around the dinner table and setting out plates.
“Long story,” I shortly replied.
“Charlotte, is your hair…wet?” Mum questioned from Aunt Chrissie’s cutlery cabinet.
“Not now, Mum.” She’d receive a full blown rant the minute we got home but I wasn’t keen on the idea of explaining my vomit exploits with Aunt Chrissie present.
“Yes, yes, let’s leave that rubbish for later,” Aunt Chrissie agreed, again waving her hands as if batting the air could silence me.
Which it could.
“All sit down for lunch,” she instructed, seating herself at the head of the little table. In a sorry attempt to distance myself from my aunt, I sat next to mum (never a good choice).
“Ian, Ian!” Aunt Chrissie bellowed without warning.
“WHAT MUM?” Ian’s voice echoed from upstairs.
Please don’t do what I think you’re about to do Chrissie, please don’t do what I think you’re about to do.
“COME DOWN FOR LUNCH THIS INSTANT!”
She did it.
She did exactly what I thought she was about to do. Stupid bi-
“WHY?!” Ian roared from upstairs.
“BECAUSE I SAID SO. THAT’S WHY,” Aunt Chrissie screeched, banging her cutlery on the table- stabbing her fork into the porcelain plate. I gripped onto my mother’s hand- who had clung onto me tightly.
Holding onto your mother out of choice; only when in enemy territory.
There was a series of harrumphing and sighing as Ian descended, dragging himself down to ensure we heard his size 10’s collide with every step. With flustered cheeks and narrowed eyes, he appeared in the doorway, slouching childishly.
Pah, some people are so immature.
“Stop scowling like that,” Aunt Chrissie demanded. I sniggered into my sweatshirt sleeve in a poor attempt to restrain myself. “Where exactly do you think you’re going?”
“Me and Al are going out,” Ian mumbled.
“No, you’re not going anywhere until you have lunch with us,” Aunt Chrissie ordered.
Ian’s face crumpled like a paper bag, his stomach seemed to be winded as he grasped it and pouted like a trout. “Mum…you actually can’t…no…Mum!”
Aunt Chrissie didn’t reply but merely sent him a dangerous flash of her beady, sharp eyes. Believe me, Voldermort would’ve been sorted out easily if we’d had aunt Chrissie enough to silence him with one of her looks.
Ian gave off a small choking sound and slinked out of the doorway back upstairs. He returned a few minutes later with a slouching Potter in tow.
“Good afternoon, Ms Whitley,” Potter greeted my aunt politely. Aunt Chrissie smiled in a patronizing way and demanded that Albus simply must take a seat for heaven’s sake as she’s made his favourite dish.
I thought this lunch was meant to be for me? You know, her actual niece.
From an outsider’s perspective I could see why Potter might just seem like an unnaturally polite guest. He had a decent array of polite greetings, knew how to make dreary small talk and regardless of his slouching and swaggering he had a comfortable ease around him.
Potter knew not to overdo it with friends’ parents (like Ellie) or attempt to completely avoid them (like me), instead he just faced them with polite interest and a hand ready to shake. He had officially mastered the art of socialising with other people’s parents; and it sickened me to the core.
“You just make yourself comfy, Ian's going to help me fetch the food,” Aunt Chrissie said before bustling out of the dining room.
It was probably the scenario only nightmares could come up with. Potter and I forced to civilly sit at a dining table with none other than my mum. It felt so mind bogglingly wrong. These were two groups of people who should never mix under any circumstances unless a zombie apocalypse occurs, yet here we were. It makes me cringe to even think about it.
I steadfastly studied my hands. Ooooh interesting, I have a rather long lifeline. I’m pretty sure that means I’m going to suffer a fabulously long torturous death. Perhaps I’ll get caught up in a stampede of hormonal water buffalo or middle aged mothers on coffee morning… same thing really. Or maybe I’ll-
“So, Albus are you looking forward to fifth year?”
No Mum. No. Anything but that.
“Oh yeah, I’m quite excited to be studying astronomy,” he replied slowly. I could detect just a hint of sarcasm lurking underneath the polite surface of his words.
“Oh that’s fabulous, I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy, even as a young child. I asked Charlie to take it up for OWL’s but she refused.”
Before I could interject and viciously defend my side of the story (what was the value of a subject in which you named random combinations of objects in the sky? I do that everyday with Meryl Howard’s acne), Potter beat me to it.
“That’s a shame, Charlie would’ve loved it. It a pretty simple course, I’m sure even she could’ve managed it.”
Ignoring his jab at my IQ, I shuddered at Potter’s use of my nickname. The word sounded so foreign and harsh on his lips.
“Really? Well I actually have better things to be doing than taking up a subject which wastes away my nights staring at the ruddy sky,” I spoke up.
“Hmm yes, like improving your transfiguration grade,” Mum agreed. “Albus, I do hope you don’t mind telling me what your last transfiguration grade was?”
“He was ill on the day of the test,” I nearly yelled. I’d be dammed if my own mother was going to compare my weakest subject with one of Potter’s strongest. Besides, it was the truth. Potter was suddenly taken in ill the day of the transifg test- Malfoy and Ian seemed to have mysteriously caught the bug too.
“Yeah I was,” Potter agreed. His lips lopsidedly rose in amusement, almost questioningly- as if he was surprised I remembered. “But on my general coursework last year I got an O.”
“Gangway, food at the ready,” Aunt Chrissie yelled. She barged into the dining room, two platters in hand, a jug of water and sauces hovering behind her. Ian sullenly followed her, carrying the plates and cutlery.
Aunt Chrissie’s entrance was a blessing but the damage had already been done. Mum gave me that look. The look with raised eyebrows, bulging eyes and pursed lips. The look which, coming from my mum, means “Why, oh why, can’t we re-configure your genetic code?”
I gripped onto my butter knife tightly. I was definitely going to be hearing a lecture about this later.
The meal passed fairly uneventfully. I was staring at my plate throughout most of the ordeal whilst pondering whether melting into the ground would be too conspicuous.
Aunt Chrissie and Mum jabbered away, stopping to occasionally ask Potter or Ian something, the latter would give short, stupid answers whilst the former cordial.
But I knew sooner or later we’d hit a bump, I just didn’t expect it to be my mum who started it.
“Well Chrissie I’m rather shocked by Hogwarts tardiness this year. They’re leaving the school letters rather late, don’t you think?”
“What are you talking about Cal. Ian got his yesterday and of course it came with a warning from Professor McGonagall about his absolutely ridiculous behaviour, which he is going to-
“What? What do you mean it came yesterday? Charlotte hasn’t received it yet?”
There was almost a distinctive whoosh as all eyes whirred towards me.
“This should be interesting,” Potter muttered, so quietly that I’m sure I was the only one who heard it. If I looked at him I bet he’d be inwardly grinning from ear to ear in anticipation for the shit that was surely about to go down.
But the thing is, I couldn’t look at Potter. I was transfixed at my mother’s face. Her sharp brown eyes were narrowed suspiciously, with black eyebrows raised almost derisively upwards.
Translation: she was hella pissed.
What I wanted to do: sound the alarm, take out the parachutes, man the emergency exit and for God’s sake don’t leave a man behind. However in reality I pathetically sunk lower in my chair.
“Charlotte did you or did you not receive the annual Hogwarts letter,” Mum asked. There was an eerie calm in her words.
“…I mean…it all depends on the way you view such a question, right?” I began in a falsely cheery voice. “What is receiving; it’s a rather philosophical concept that can have many interpretations. For that matter, what is a view?! Do you see things or do they perceive you instead, get it? No. Well… Like you know, when you order carrot cake are you ordering cake which contains carrot or does the carrot contain the cake…?” I trailed off hastily after taking in Mum’s hostile glare.
Her eyes contracted even further.
“Yes,” I confessed- all dignity flying out of the window.
Clenching my eyes, I rose my hands up in the universal sign for “I SURRENDER”, as if to protect myself from the barrage of pride bashing that would surely commence.
As if by magic, Mum broke away from her boring gaze and briskly turned to aunt Chrissie. “Well it’s been a lovely visit, Chrysanthemum. We’ll do it again another time, I’ll floo you later.” And with a swift nod of her head she marched out of the dining room, head held high.
“I think you’re meant to follow her,” Ian stage whispered across the table.
Agyt9b9huer[u2380yv was all I could muster.
Let’s just take a moment to analysis the situation which from now onwards shall be known as “ONE OF THE MOST MORTIFYING MOMENTS OF MY EXISTENCE SO FAR/ WHEN MUM EMBARASSED ME IN FRONT OF POTTER.”
My cheeks were flaming red; my hands had clammed up; I could only bare to stare at the ground and dammit I hadn’t even finished my lamb yet!
I could only bear to give Potter a fleeting look to see the sure-fire smirk or grin he’d have. But no. Instead I looked up to find Potter easy as ever, tucking in to the plate of food in front of him and one-handed-ly texting with his other hand.
I don’t think he even registered our own mortifying take of Eastenders.
“The door’s right there,” Potter calmly informed me, without even looking up from his wiz-phone.
I was shocked; how dare he. Who the hell does he think he is? He doesn’t have the right to direct me in my aunt’s house after sitting through my mum planning my future assassination (I have a hint it’ll be death by treacle tart).
I hurriedly walked out of the dining room. Don’t worry though; I was sure to accidentally knock over his glass of water before leaving.
Classy, I know.
an/ sorry. i just can't make any excuses for the amount of wait time so let's just pray it never happens again. thank you for hanging in there if you've been waiting! :)
disclaimer: nothing belongs to me including Eastenders which belongs to the BBC