If there is one thing that I hate—truly, truly hate with every red hot, blazing nerve of my body—it is alarm clocks.
They are, in my opinion, the world’s most evil invention. Forget the atomic bomb, forget nuclear weapons... I am entirely convinced that alarm clocks are where all the universe’s problems lie.
I mean, imagine a planet Earth free of alarm clocks. Imagine! People would be happier, crime rates would go down, relationships would flourish, and most importantly—
BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP.
I would get some damn sleep, for once.
BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP.
It was like my hand had a life of its own. Without even the slightest signal from my brain, my arm flew up and slammed down on my bedside table, fumbling hopelessly for that stupid, rattling little Contraption Of Hell before, after quite a bit of desperate searching, my fingers finally found the (glorious, oh so magnificent) snooze button and pressed down. Hard.
I rolled over in my bed, burying my face deeper into the covers in a (vain) attempt to shield my eyes from the prying rays of the sun. But of course, I was already wide awake and unable to fall asleep again. Typical.
My name is Agatha Bennett, and besides being an avid alarm-clock hater, I’m also a fifteen year old Hogwarts student. Right now, during the summer, I live with my mother and my stepfather, Arnold, who is, incidentally, the winner of The World’s Dullest Man Award and the record holder for ‘fastest time it takes to bore someone to sleep’.
Seriously. I made him a certificate and everything... When I gave it to him though, he just chuckled, said something about ‘the youth of today and their whimsical notions’ and then went back to finishing his Sudoku puzzle.
Arnold’s strange like that.
I also have a twin brother, Aidan. Except I usually just refer to him as ‘the annoying tosser (who I bear no genetic resemblance to) that likes to stay at our house’.
We’re quite close, my brother and I.
It’s not that we hate each other—we used to be inseparable, actually, and even now I spend most of my time looking out for the stupid ninny. It’s just that...well, we’re complete opposites.
I’m quite academic-minded. I like to read ahead in my text-books. Aidan’s more...mischievous. He likes to turn people (a.k.a. the Slytherin Quidditch team) into farm animals and then pretend he’s “lost the antidote”. I’m not exaggerating. Aidan has been inside Professor McGonagall’s office so many times, he might as well just move his bed in there.
What’s worse is that about 99.9% of the female population at Hogwarts find my brother’s antics...charming.
Seriously. He’s like some sort of demigod to them. Don’t ask me why, I personally can’t find anything appealing about someone with the brain capacity of an eggplant, but...whatever. Usually I just try to ignore all of it.
It’s more than slightly uncomfortable, though, when you walk in on your brother snogging your best friend. On your bed. During your thirteenth birthday party.
Yeah. Not the best of days.
I think Aidan takes after my mother. She’s a bit of a free spirit, if you know what I mean. There was this one time where she had tried to sign up for Tai-Chi Classes at the local community centre. This, through a series of rather unfortunate events, led to our entire family being banned from the centre for the rest of eternity. My mother still maintains the defense that it wasn't her fault. After all, how was she supposed to know that Tai Chi isn't done naked--they should have specified on the form, for Merlin's sake!
That's what she keeps saying, any
Anyway, I’m more like my dad, I guess. I have his red hair and everything. Unfortunately enough, though, I did inherit one thing from my mother—her perpetual lack of grace.
Take last year, for example. During my fourth year at Hogwarts, I had single-handedly exploded nineteen cauldrons (a personal best, I might add), gotten locked out of the Slytherin Common Room thirty-two times (bloody password... I'm always forgetting it), broken three bones (my arm, my leg, and James Potter's nose), and set my bed on fire...twice.
…Keep in mind that all these things were accidental.
Well, maybe not Potter’s nose, but let’s face it, he had it coming.
That leads me to another thing: James Sirius Potter is the bane of my existence. He’s arrogant, infuriating, ignominious, vile, and just an all around scumbag.
People say hate is a strong word but they don’t know, really. They don’t get it. Coffee is strong. Weightlifters are strong. Hate...is different. It’s not this giant wave that immediately crashes over you or something. No. It’s subtler than that. It creeps up on you, slow and hot, and everything around you becomes so muddled and sticky that you can’t breathe. Your head pounds and your teeth grind...and...and...
Have you ever gotten a really bad pimple that, no matter how hard you push and prod, will just never go away? Like, you’ll squeeze and squeeze but it’ll always be there, lurking on the tip of your nose, and it’s so noticeable that Evelyn Stanford, this really terrible girl in your year, has got everyone calling you Rudolph (after the Red-Nosed Reindeer, of course) for a whole month?
Yeah, well, that’s Potter.
He’s always parading around like some sort of king. And what’s worse is that everyone at Hogwarts practically worships the ground he walks on, which inflates his overly large head even more. It’s so irritating, watching him walk around with that smug, holier-than-thou smirk on his irritatingly perfect face, his stupid cavalcade of morons trailing after him like zombie-clones.
The worst part is that Potter and Aidan are buddies. Best friends, in fact! It’s terrible!
I mean, Aidan invites Potter to our house (well, during summer vacation at least). Our house. IT’S WHERE I LIVE! How am I supposed to sleep at night knowing that Potter has violated and contaminated my own home?
What’s more is that my best friend, Dominique Weasley, is Potter’s cousin. Seriously, it’s like Six Degrees of Potter. Everything I do, every person I meet... Without fail, it always leads back to His Pratness. It’s...it's worse than alarm clocks, for Neptune's sake! And that's saying something!
But the cherry on top of the Sundae of Suck that is my life? Yeah, I’ve just been made a Prefect. And this would be dandy and all, really... Except for one, not-so-tiny, not-so-insignificant detail:
Potter’s a Prefect too.
I groaned to myself, rolling over in bed as the thought of my Prefect’s badge—which was currently glimmering, untouched, on top of my wardrobe dresser—pushed itself stubbornly to the front of my mind. Ever since I found out—via Aidan—that Potter was going to be a Prefect as well, I had refused to even go near the stupid badge, no matter how much it taunted me from its permanent spot on the dresser. It was soiled now. Tainted. Never again could I look at it and not think about...him.
Mouth twisting itself into a grimace, I reluctantly heaved myself out of bed and furiously rubbed at my bleary eyes, as if the very action would erase the thought of Potter from my mind. It was proving to be easier said than done.
I shuffled to the other side of my room, sliding my gauzy, light blue curtains open and peering dumbly at the outside world. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. Mr. Emerson from down the street was chasing the children off his property again with his rifle. Ah, I could hear their screams of terror from all the way over here. What a wonderful start to a wonderful day.
Sighing to myself, I left my room and went downstairs, ready for breakfast. I could hear that someone was already in the kitchen, banging pots and pans around. It was probably Mum, making (or burning) waffles for breakfast.
I pushed our swinging kitchen door open and started when I realized that the noise I had heard was not, in fact, my mother cooking breakfast, but rather none other than James Sirius Potter.
...In my kitchen.
He was sitting at the table, his dark hair ruffled and unruly, and his legs, clad in plaid pyjama pants, stretched out languidly before him. Just seeing him—all annoying and...there
—made me grit my teeth together.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I blurted out without thinking. Hey, there's a complete stranger (okay, well not a stranger...but still an unwelcomed guest, nevertheless) in my kitchen! So sue me if I'm a little alarmed.
Potter looked up from his cereal, startled. When he saw it was me, his eyes narrowed into sharp, hazel slits. “Good morning to you too, sunshine.”
Did I mention that this whole hate thing I have going on for Potter...? Yeah, it’s sort of mutual.
Our kitchen was spacious and open, with old-fashioned looking white furniture, pretty crystal windows, and perpetually sun-stained walls. Normally, it was one of my favourite places in the house. But now, I wanted nothing more to leave.
Unfortunately though, I was hungry.
I stalked past Potter to the cupboards and grabbed a box of Captain Charms cereal ("They're deliciously magical!”). Breathing heavily, I slammed a bowl onto the counter (perhaps a bit too forcefully, I think I heard a crack), poured in the cereal and some milk before walking back to the wooden table Potter was seated at.
I plunked myself down next to him and dug into my cereal viciously, ready to finish my breakfast as soon as possible. “Seriously though, what in the name of Merlin’s pink knee socks are you doing here?”
Potter finished the last of his cereal—taking his time to do so, I might add—and then pushed the bowl away from him.
“Aidan invited me to sleep over,” he said and I felt a sudden, inexplicable surge of anger wash over my body. I mean, honestly, I haven’t been awake for more than thirty minutes and he was already ruining my day!
“Oooh. Sounds like fun,” I said. “Did you paint each other’s nails and talk until the wee hours of the morning?” Ah, sarcasm, my native language.
“Tell me, Bennett. Are you this hostile to everyone you know, or is it just me?”
I gritted my teeth together at Potter’s retort, almost biting off my tongue in the process. You see, the most annoying thing about Potter was that he was so...unflappable. No matter how much I insulted him, no matter how hard I pushed his buttons... He never got angry. I mean, truly
angry. Sure, he got annoyed, but he always managed to shoot back one of his own remarks, never blanching from that cool, apathetic mask he always wore on his face. Just once, I wanted to see a flash of raw... feeling
. Something to prove that Potter was, indeed, a human being, and not just some genetically programmed alien robot sent down to earth in order to destroy my life (and my sanity along with it).
“Don’t be silly,” I said, voice sickly sweet. “You know I always save the special treatment for you.”
Potter was saved from replying by the kitchen door, which had swung open forcefully as, suddenly, my brother pushed his way into the kitchen. He looked tired. His toffee-colored hair was completely smooth except for one part in the back, which was sticking straight up in a ridiculous fashion. It would have been comical if I wasn't so angry.
“Good morning,” he mumbled, his voice muffling slightly as he yawned. The kitchen door was still swinging back and forth frantically behind him, but he paid it no attention.
“Wrong, Aidan,” I snapped, and my brother jolted, the lines in his body tensing as he turned to look at me for the first time. “It is not
a good morning. Not at all. Would you like to know why?”
Aidan’s face, already weary from lack of sleep, melted into an expression of dread. “Why?” he asked, rather unenthusiastically.
“Because Potter’s here,” I said, crossing my arms and leaning backwards. Across from me, the prat in question displayed no emotion except for mild interest and maybe a little amusement. “Eating breakfast.”
“I know that,” Aidan replied, speaking slowly. “I invited him.”
“Why?” I exclaimed, slamming my hands down on the table and making the silverware rattle. “You know I can’t stand him! Seriously, Aidan. We might as well just invite...oh, I dunno, Hitler over instead. Or Voldemort! Or maybe a ravaging cannibal! Oh, I know! We can have a little tea party, all of us together—Hitler, Voldemort, the cannibals...hell, let's throw in a couple of serial killers while we're at it! Doesn't that just sound like a dandy time?"
Before Aidan could reply to my hysterical ranting, however, Potter interrupted in classic Potter fashion, “Um, a) Both Hitler and Voldemort are dead. So it would be impossible to invite them over for tea, seeing as none of their bodily organs would be functioning and they would therefore be unable to eat. And b), you do realize I’m sitting next to you, right? I mean, I can hear everything you’re saying about me.”
“Shut up, Potter! This isn’t about you!”
“Actually, I believe it is...”
I growled in frustration, my eyes flashing dangerously. “You lot are so unbelievable. I just...just...argh
Right as I was about to stand up and leave, however, a tall, caramel-skinned bloke by the name of Fred Weasley waltzed in through the kitchen door.
“Morning, all,” he greeted, pratically singing the words. Fred was one of the most laidback, easygoing blokes I've ever met. Whenever he walked into a room, you could bet your bottom dollar that he'd be smiling. I've never seen him angry, or even remotely
upset. He was pratically a walking musical—I half-expected a group of woodland creatures to pop their furry heads through the windows and start singing at the sight of him, a la
Of course, Freddy's 'morning person-ness' only served to annoy me even more.
“You invited Fred, too?” My mouth dropped open, and I wheeled around to face Aidan. “Why? Isn’t one idiot enough, without having to make it two? I mean, seriously, Aidan. Was there some sort of 'Buy one get the other free!' special at Moron-mart?"
If you haven't guessed already, Freddy is another one of my brother’s idiotic mates. He’s also Potter’s cousin (I know, it seems like everyone these days is related to Potter, but bear with me). Fred's by far the more tolerable of the two, but he still possesses the ability to irritate someone—specifically, me—to the ends of the earth.
"Gee, Aggy, if I didn’t know better, it would almost sound like you didn’t want me here,” Fred said cheerfully as he strolled over to the table and sat on the other side of Potter, giving my hair a playful ruffle as he passed me.
“Piss off, Fred,” I growled, crossing my arms and glowering at the three of them.
He chuckled, the sound so deep and rich that it sounded foreign in our wispy-light kitchen. I screwed up my face in outrage—how dare he be laughing right now!—but Aidan interrupted me before I could say anything.
“Agatha,” he said suddenly, his voice falsely polite. “May I please have a word with you? Alone?”
There was a slight pause where I briefly considered refusing him and just walking away. But after a moment of contemplation, I relented.
“Whatever,” I mumbled sulkily, standing up from my seat.
Aidan pulled me aside to the corner of the kitchen so we were out of hearing range from Potter and Fred. “Agatha,” he whispered harshly. “I can invite over whoever I want and you know that, so stop acting like a stroppy cow.”
“Well can’t you invite people besides Tweedledee and Tweedledum?” I hissed back just as callously. “They’re bloody annoying.”
"Aw, come on, Aggy,” Aidan said, running a hand through his hair. “Fred and James aren’t that bad.”
“Are you kidding me? Look at them! They’re imbeciles!”
I turned around to face where Fred and Potter were sitting next to each other at the table. Fred currently had his finger stuck up his nose and was digging for gold, and Potter was gazing off into space, his mouth wide open and a stupid expression on his face.
"Okay, so maybe they’re a little slow in the morning,” Aidan admitted, shrugging his shoulders in a “so-sue-me” way as we watched Fred and Potter, “but they’re good mates.”
Freddy had now pulled out a titanic-sized bogey from the mysterious, dark caverns of his nostrils, and was staring at it confusedly, as if he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. After examining it for a bit, he then turned around and wiped it on Potter’s shirt. Potter yelped, and then punched Fred in the shoulder, who, in a display of undeniable grace, fell off his chair.
I turned back to my brother, a fake smile on my face, “Gee, Aidan. You’re right. I wish I
had friends who were half-troll.”
My statement was punctuated by a tap-tap-tap
noise that seemed to come from outside, and we both turned around mid-argument to see a tawny brown owl at the kitchen window, its claws clicking against the glass.
I hurried over to the window and opened the hatch, making sure to step back as the owl flew into the room, landed on the marble counter, and shook off its feathers. A pink envelope was caught in between its beak.
I made a disgusted face. “Gross,” I muttered. Aidan snickered.
See, here’s the thing: I hate owls. They’re disgusting, unhygienic, savage...And I may or may not have had a bad childhood experience with one when I was younger. I don’t want to talk about it (it’s quite a painful memory to relive), but let’s just say that owls are very attracted to bright colours. Especially red hair.
"Er...You can get the letter, Aidan," I said.
Aidan shot me a grin, the expression of annoyance that had previously tightened his face completely dissolving away into nothing (see, that’s the thing with my brother...he can never stay mad at anyone for too long). “Whatever you say, Aggy.”
He eased the letter out of the owl’s beak. It squawked indignantly but flew out of the kitchen nevertheless. I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realized I had been holding and closed the window shut.
“Who’s it for?” Fred asked, suddenly interested.
Aidan’s blue eyes (only a shade darker than my own), flitted over the front of the envelope. “Agatha.”
I grinned triumphantly as my brother tossed me the letter, catching it and opening the flap smoothly with my finger.
As you know, it’s my birthday next week. My parents are having a small little get-together at the Burrow as a celebration. It’s going to be friends and family only. You’re invited, of course, but I was wondering if you could come early to help decorate and set up and such.
I’m excited to see you there!
Lots of love,
PS. Aidan can come too, if he wants.
ake mushrooms!” I exclaimed, eyes wide with panic. “I totally forgot it was Dom’s birthday next week!” I sank down on a seat next to Freddy, clutching the letter. “What am I going to get her?”
Fred grabbed the letter from me and read it over, eyebrows furroed in thought.
“How come James and I aren’t invited to this little shindig?” Fred asked, passing the letter to Potter.
"You probably are,” I said. “She just hasn’t sent out the invitations yet, that’s all.”
Fred shrugged and, without another word, went back to inhaling his cereal.
Potter’s hazel eyes scanned over the letter quickly, his hand reaching up to unconsciously ruffle his hair as he read. Just that small, insignificant gesture was enough to make me ball my fists in irritation.
“Looks like Dom wants you to come along, Aidan,” Potter said, referring to the P.S. portion of the letter.
“What? Lemme see.” Aidan hurried over to where we were sitting and leaned forward, reading over Potter’s shoulder. When he got to the last part, his cheeks flushed red and he straightened stiffly. Everyone else in the room grinned knowingly.
“Shut up,” Aidan muttered, even though none of us had said anything. “That doesn’t mean anything...”
“Riiiiiight.” I smirked, getting up from my chair and snatching the letter from Potter as I breezed past him. “Now as much as I would love to spend my Sunday morning with you three nitwits, I’ve got some work to do. Sayonara, guys.” I started to saunter out of the kitchen, head held high and rather proud at myself for such a cool, dignified exit.
“Wait, Bennett! One thing before you go...” Potter said, stood up from his chair and made his way towards me, lips pulled into a devilish grin that I did not
like at all.
“Yeah?” I inquired, arching an unimpressed eyebrow as I turned around.
Potter didn't say anything. He just planted his hands on my shoulders, leaning towards me until we were inches apart and I could see the countless golden flecks that were sprinkled throughout his gleaming hazel eyes.
There was a long, tense, moment where we just stared at each other. And then…
“Nice pyjamas, Bennett.” Potter grinned, winked, and then was pushing past me and out the kitchen door.
“What on earth are you talking ab—?”
My mouth abruptly shut closed when I looked down to see that I was wearing my Hello Kitty pajamas. The ones I had owned since the ripe age of thirteen. They consisted of a tank top proclaiming “Viva La Kitty!”
in glittery cursive, and matching pants. Matching pants, I tell you. Matching. Pants.
As Aidan and Fred roared with laughter, all I could do was stand there, blushing furiously and feverishly praying for Merlin to have mercy on me and just hurl a meteorite at our house... or create a human-swallowing abyss in the middle of the kitchen floor. Something nice like that.