Chapter 2 : No Place Like Home
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“Teddy!” came a booming voice from somewhere in the house. “Are you getting up?”
I groaned, rolling over in bed. No, I was not getting up, nor was I planning on doing so for some time, and if Gran expected me to behave any differently then she obviously didn’t know me very well.
“It’s half past nine!” Gran shouted, as though this somehow made a difference.
I was fully aware of the time, but as it was half past nine on a Sunday I was under no obligations to surface just yet. There was no way I could be expected to present myself in a suitable state until ten thirty at the very least, and the sooner Gran got used to the idea, the better.
Regrettably, she clearly hadn’t caught on yet. “Teddy, I want you up!” she yelled. “NOW!”
“In a minute,” I grunted, having no intention of getting up for the next hour at least.
“No, now! You have exactly thirty seconds before I come up there.”
I rolled over in bed again, pulling the duvet up above my head, not at all worried by her warning. She always threatened to do stuff like that, and it never happened. Bless Gran, she was such a pushover. Well, most of the time.
I gave another low groan, and then shot up in bed as the sound of the door opening reached my ears. I was greeted by the sight of Gran glaring at me from her position in the doorway, her hands on her hips in a stance that simply radiated fury.
“Gran, you can’t just barge in here!” I protested. “I could’ve been getting dressed or something.”
She snorted. “Oh yes, because I’ve never seen that before,” she said.
Not recently, I hoped, feeling a little disturbed. Pushing such thoughts out of my mind, I continued, “Anyway, why do I need to get up? What’s so urgent?”
“We’re going to church,” she told me, as though it was obvious.
Quite where she had got this idea from, I wasn’t entirely sure. Yes, we used to go all the time as my poor younger self had been given less than no choice in the matter, but while at Hogwarts I was mercifully spared the necessity of attending. Gran, however, went to the services every week, and was always eager for me to do the same. I thought that by now, at least, she would have realised how I felt about it, but apparently not.
“I’m not,” I said firmly. “You go ahead.”
She pursed her lips. “Teddy…”
“Look, I’m agnostic, ok?”
“I see,” she said, looking most disapproving. “Well, coming with me will help to rectify that, won’t it?”
“Gran, look, I’ll come to church when they move the services from a Sunday morning,” I informed her grumpily. In my opinion, forcing people out of their beds at such an obscene hour of the day was close to blasphemous, frankly. I toyed with voicing this opinion, and then decided against it, thinking that she would probably say I was being cheeky.
As it was, I had it coming anyway.
“Don’t be cheeky,” she snapped.
“Please don’t make me go, Gran,” I practically begged. “If I don’t have to come, I’ll wash up? And clean out the owl cages? Please?”
“It would really mean a lot to me if you came,” she persisted. “And anyway, I’m having lunch with Malcolm after the service.”
Oh Merlin, not Malcolm. Ever since Alex introduced me to the board game Cluedo last year, I hadn’t been able to talk to our vicar, Malcolm Green, with a straight face. This was, for many reasons, rather inconvenient, as he and Gran were, for want of a better phrase, best friends. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear there was something going on between them. Unlikely as this was, it was a nice thought all the same, because Gran definitely deserved somebody – even, I supposed grudgingly, if it was deathly dull Malcolm.
“Gran, you know Reverend Green and I don’t – er – really get along,” I said, which was the understatement of the century. Not to detest the man who had ruined my Sundays for eleven years would have taken a Herculean effort on my part. “And besides, I’m sure he’d prefer just to have lunch with you,” I added somewhat slyly.
She looked rather flustered all of a sudden. “No, he invited you specifically,” she said, though I was sure this wasn’t true at all.
“Please, Gran?” I beseeched, attempting to look innocent and endearing. “Seriously, I’ll do anything.”
She gave in, apparently more eager than she was letting on about going to see the Malcolm on her own. “You can sort out the garden,” she said, and finally left me in peace.
I lay back down, feeling smug. Offering to do the chores had been something of a long shot (Gran had this amazing knack for household spells) so I was really surprised I’d pulled it off. Teddy, one: Reverend Green, nil.
Just as I was on the verge of falling asleep again, however, Gran reappeared in the doorway. “Ted?”
I poked my head out from beneath the bedcovers. “Yes?”
“I meant to tell you – your friend called about quarter of an hour ago.”
My interest was sparked at once. “Called?” I repeated. “As in, on the phone?”
“Who was it?” I asked eagerly, though I was fully aware of the answer. Only one of my friends could be trusted to use a telephone without it ending in disaster.
“Alex, I believe,” she said, looking distinctly flustered now, as she always did whenever the subject of Alex was broached. “Anyway, I – I’m off. Bye, Teddy.”
“See you,” I replied and once the door had closed behind her, I leapt out of bed and threw the curtains open, suddenly filled with excitement about the day ahead. Sure, I was awake before noon, Gran was in a mood with me, and I still had to do my Charms homework, write that essay on Flobberworms for Hagrid, and attempt to salvage our scarily overgrown garden, but Alex had called, which clearly meant he didn’t hate me. And that was enough to make my morning any day, no matter what other traumas I had to endure.
I gazed out happily over our jungle of a garden, and even went so far as to open a window, allowing the light breeze to ruffle my currently purple hair. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, there were birds singing in the treetops, and my boyfriend had braved my grandmother’s wrath just to call me. Life was good.
Still up on cloud nine, I showered as quickly as possible, brushed my teeth, got dressed and leapt down the stairs, heading straight for the kitchen and our one telephone. I had just begun dialling Alex’s home number – which, naturally, I knew off by heart – when an owl swooped through the open window, crashing into me and knocking the phone out of my hands. Swearing, I picked the owl up off the floor, brushed a few leaves out of its feathers, and removed the scroll from its leg.
Teddy, the letter read, in that hideous scrawl of Harry's
Me, Ginny and the kids are inviting you around for Sunday lunch. Be there or else – Gin’s making summer pudding, and it’s going to be ‘fantastic’ apparently. See you 12-ish?
Darn. There went my plans of spending a nice, relaxing day with Alex. Then again, lunch with the Potters’ was always fun – amusing the kids with various metamorphing tricks, discussing the latest Quidditch results with Harry, and avoiding Ginny’s attempts at forcing me to eat third helpings of everything, apparently under the impression that Gran didn’t feed me. As Mrs Weasley often came around, cheerfully taking control of the kitchen and equally under that mistaken impression, I was in no hurry to tell her otherwise, because Merlin, that woman could cook. Therefore, knowing that today Ginny was in the kitchen, I couldn’t help but be more than a little apprehensive about this summer pudding she was apparently making – without extensive practice, the woman was able to turn the simplest of dishes into an utter catastrophe.
Trying to forget the winter she gave us all food poisoning with her homemade Christmas cake, a feat I couldn't even begin to comprehend, I reached for the phone again, only to be interrupted by a ring at the doorbell. I slammed the receiver back against the wall and stomped impatiently through the house. Honestly, all I needed was to make one simple phone call – was it really too much to ask? Apparently so, and the entire world – well, from Gran to Harry to the guy at the door – seemed set on preventing me from doing so.
I shoved the door open, and was just about to come out with an irritable “What d’you want?” or some variation thereof, when I was greeted by an utterly wonderful sight: Alex standing on the doorstep, his red hair being gently ruffled by the wind and a broad grin on his face. As if to complete the magical picture, he was clutching a pile of DVDs to his chest.
“Hey,” he grinned.
“Alex!” I said happily, changing my hair to match his cheery shade of red. “I was just about to call you.”
“Oooh, creepy,” he said. “Serendipity.”
“Totally,” I agreed, before looking pointedly at the DVDs in his hand.
“Oh, yeah, well these are yours,” he said, handing them over. “I borrowed them ages ago, remember?”
“Nope,” I said truthfully. “But thanks, anyway. Is this what you called about?”
“Oh, yeah, kind of. I got the fright of my life when your gran answered the phone. I didn’t think she knew how to use it.”
“Yeah, well, I gave her a crash course.” I grinned.
“So, are you – er – doing anything today?” he asked, looking rather eager to get out of there as soon as possible, clearly fearing Gran’s wrath. “’Cause I was thinking that later, maybe we could…”
Damn Harry and his generosity. “Sorry, I can’t,” I said reluctantly. “I’ve got to have lunch with Harry and family around twelve, and these things always run on for hours…” This was certainly true. Having taken one step inside the Potter house, it was impossible to leave without playing at least three games of Quidditch, consuming around five thousand calories in one form of snack or another, and watching one or more feature length cartoons with Albus and Lily (James, apparently, now being too old and dignified for such childish activities).
Alex looked slightly crushed. “Oh, yeah, sure. Well, some other time, maybe?”
“We could do something now, if you’re free,” I said quickly. “You can come in, if you like.”
He grimaced. “Can’t, sorry,” he said, gesturing vaguely behind him. “Family.”
I looked over his shoulder, and saw the family car parked across the street. As Muggles, Alex’s parents both found all of his wizarding friends hugely fascinating. His older sister Megan, on the other hand, was another story altogether, but I tried not to think about her too much.
The car window was rolled down, and Mrs Walker’s head poked out of it. “Hi, Teddy!” she called, causing Mr-Next-Door, aka Gerald Hopkins (out in the garden, as always, pruning his beloved azaleas) to look up in alarm, and then glare at me as though I was somehow to blame for disturbing the peace.
Alex rolled his eyes, exasperated by his mother’s behaviour, but I waved quite cheerily, causing her to reciprocate.
“Mum, for God’s sake,” came Megan’s voice, “can you please just be normal?”
“Oh, you know you’d hate it if I was,” was the reply.
Alex raised his eyebrows at me. “Better return to the madhouse,” he said. “See you later, Ted. Have fun at Harry’s.”
I grinned. “I’ll try. Hope you enjoy the… er…” I trailed away expectantly.
“Supermarket,” he supplied.
“Oh. Well, in that case, try to survive it.”
“Alex, are you coming?” Mrs Walker shouted, sticking her head out of the window again and ignoring her daughter’s hisses of protest.
“Mum, one second –”
“Come on, or we’re going without you.”
“Seriously, just wait –”
“Ask if you can stay,” I prompted.
“Er…” He wavered.
“My Gran’s out.”
“Oh, ok then,” he said, much more enthusiastic now. “Mum, I’m staying here, all right?” he called across the road.
“The entire street doesn’t need to hear,” Megan grumbled.
“Ok,” Mrs Walker said obligingly, something Gran would never have done. “But I’ll have to be back in half an hour to pick you up, all right?”
“And don’t be late.”
“You’ve got to see the orthodontist, remember?”
“Yes, thank you, Mum.”
The Walkers drove off, and I stepped back to allow Alex entrance.
“So, going to the orthodontist, are you?” I asked conversationally, as he closed the door behind him.
“Er, yeah.” He grinned sheepishly. “I’m getting braces.”
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “That’s so cool!”
“Ted, there is nothing cool about braces.”
“Oh, there is. They’re so adorably Muggle.”
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Dad completely flipped when I dared to suggest I got it done by magic. He didn’t care how quick and painless it was, he still wants it done the good old fashioned way.”
I grinned. “That’s what you get for having a dentist for a father.”
“Yep. And apparently, a dentist having a son with crooked teeth is bad for business, so he’s being super insistent about it.”
I took a step towards him. “Trust me, there’s nothing wrong with your teeth.”
“I like to think so.”
Our faces were now mere inches apart. He leant in even closer and, butterflies whizzing gleefully around my stomach, he kissed me.
“I’ve missed you, you know,” he told me.
“Alex, school finished three days ago,” I pointed out.
“Still missed you.”
I kissed him again. “Missed you too.”
He pulled me closer, kissed me harder, and things were really just starting to look rather promising, when he broke away from me very suddenly.
Feeling slightly put out, I asked, ‘What?’
“Does it kind of freak you out to know that the last time we were doing this, your Gran caught us at it?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it really does.”
I let go of him and took a step back, flattening my hair down and straightening my shirt somewhat self-consciously. “Seriously, Al, why’d you have to say that? I think you’ve just put me off kissing you ever again.”
He grinned. “Shame. I was rather enjoying it.”
“Tough. You’ve ruined it for me.”
He still wider, I whacked him on the arm, and we silently but unanimously agreed to go and get a drink. Stopping off at the living room in order to return the DVDs to their home beside the TV (which I had only recently persuaded Gran into buying), we headed for the kitchen, and upon our arrival, I instantly made for the fridge. I pulled out a jug of pumpkin juice and poured two glasses, and then we both sat down at the kitchen table, breaking into amiable conversation.
“So where is your Gran, then?” he asked, glancing around as though worried she was going to leap out at him from behind the rubbish bin.
“Church. She won’t be back for a few hours, so we’re safe.”
“How’s she’s been?” he ventured a little tentatively. “Since… you know.”
“She’s been all right,” I said, not entirely truthfully. In actuality, relations between us over the few days since term had ended had been… frosty, to say the least. I saw no reason to share this with Alex, however, as he was only bound to blame himself. He was sweet that way.
He looked worried now. “For the record, I feel really bad about that. I mean, if I’d known, I would never have –”
“Bloody hell, I wouldn’t’ve either.” I gazed down into the orange liquid in my glass, swishing the pumpkin juice around. “And anyway, it wasn’t your fault – she’s not your wacko relative, is she?” I sighed. “But she had to find out sometime, I suppose.”
He looked rather surprised by this. “She didn’t know?”
“Nope. Didn’t even suspect, apparently.”
He seemed to sense that I wasn’t keen on discussing this, and so promptly dropped the subject. “Want to watch some TV or something?” he suggested, setting down his glass. “We’ve still got twenty five minutes until I have to go.”
“Ok.” I grinned.
With a sudden enthusiasm, I began to make for the door, but, despite the fact it had been his proposal, he wavered for a second. “Your gran really isn’t coming back though, right?” he asked nervously.
I rolled my eyes. “Would I lie to you? Now come on.” I took his hand and dragged him into the living room.
All in all, it was a hugely pleasant morning. We didn’t do anything in particular, but I’ve often found that the best times are spent not doing an awful lot. These are certainly the ones that pass the quickest, and it seemed literally five minutes before the blue car was pulling up outside the house again and Mrs Walker was honking the horn most enthusiastically.
So, with the greatest regret, Alex and I made our goodbyes, and with a quick peck on the cheek (grumpy Mr Hopkins was still in his garden, now tending to his rosebushes) Alex headed off home, and I returned inside. For the next hour or so, I laboured away fruitlessly in the garden, attempting to salvage our jungle, and in contrast to my time with Alex, this period passed with agonising slowness. What felt like an eternity later, the clock on the mantelpiece finally sprung into action, shrieking at me to leave or I’d be late to the Potters’.
However, upon reaching the fireplace and groping around in the pot in which we kept the floo powder, I was in for a surprise. Once inside, my hand curled around not the grainy substance I was expecting, but a rolled up piece of parchment.
You can walk! was the message written in Gran’s handwriting.
I glanced at the clock; it was almost five to noon, and as it took a good fifteen minutes to walk to the nearest Muggle bus stop (this being means of transport to which I would now have to resort), I was never going to make it in time. Stupid, vindictive grandmother – this was presumably a punishment for not going to church with her this morning. And in addition to this, I still had to finish the gardening. Great.
I considered just sending them an owl explaining that I would be late, but then I remembered that Bernard was out hunting, and I didn’t want to risk even attempting to use Gran’s bird, Hortensia, pure evil disguised as an elderly owl. I then contemplated the consequences of simply showing up late, but eventually decided against it. Harry was reasonably laid-back, but Ginny ran a very tight ship and didn’t approve of tardiness in any shape or form.
I sighed, knowing it was no good. As I could see it, there was only one option: I would have to run.
Grabbing my coat and a set of house keys, I sprinted through the house, locked the front door, and set off at a jog down the street. When Gran returned from her lunch with Malcolm, I was going to kill her, and him too for that matter – I didn’t care how much she fancied him.
Unfortunately, I’d never been much of a runner, and therefore felt extremely self-conscious as I made my way down the street. Having made it around the block, I slowed to a halt, feeling utterly foolish, and also contemplating the ridiculousness of the situation.It was the twenty-first century, for Merlin’s sake, and even in a place that strained to qualify as a village and housed more pigs than people, there should be more than one bus stop.
Our current living situation was the kind of thing that caused me to seriously question Gran’s judgement, though admittedly that was something I would happily do with little encouragement. I also had to concede it was convenient with regards to visiting Harry, who lived merely a bus ride away in the nearest town.
Assuming, of course, that I was actually able to catch a bus.
Mystified by the eccentricities of both village life and my elderly relatives, I continued on my way, only to jump in surprise as the beeping of a car horn shattered the peace. I turned around to see a familiar blue vehicle pulling up a few metres ahead, and my face broke into a grin as Alex poked his head out of the window.
“In a bit of a rush, are we?” he asked, as I came level with the car.
“Yeah, kind of,” I answered. “Hey, Mrs Walker,” I added, as the front window too slid down to reveal Alex’s mum. “How was the supermarket? And the dentist?”
“Orthodontist,” she corrected amiably. “Well, someone put up a huge fuss, but it all turned out ok.”
“Mum, seriously,” Alex complained, as I grinned, “you don’t have to tell absolutely everyone, you know.”
“Oh, it’s only Teddy, he doesn’t mind.”
“Well I know you do, darling, that’s rather the point.”
“He really was terrible,” Megan chimed in snidely. “Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone make such a fuss.”
“What about the last time you waxed your legs? They could hear your screams down the street.”
“Shut it, Alex! And you have no idea how much that hurts.”
“Anyway, need a lift?” Mrs Walker asked, blatantly interrupting her bickering offspring, apparently deciding that she’d had enough fun at their expense.
“Oh, that’d be great, if you wouldn’t mind,” I said gratefully.
She beamed at me. “Hop in, then.”
I loved Alex’s family. They were, genuinely, just brilliant. Well, except for Megan, who was, to put it plainly, a bitch of the first order. If I ever had an enemy, it would be her, though in practice I liked to keep my life as adversary free as possible, having learned from Harry that things were much easier that way.
“Hello again, Teddy,” she said airily from her position in the passenger seat, actually deigning to look at me for the first time and flashing pearly teeth in more of a sneer than a smile.
“Hi, Megan,” I replied politely for Mrs Walker’s benefit, as I climbed into the backseat beside Alex.
“Where’re you off to, then?” Mrs Walker asked, clearly oblivious to the animosity between me and her daughter. “If it’s not on our way, we’re chucking you out.”
“Blackwell Road,” I informed her. “Need to catch a bus to my godfather's. I’ll just save you the effort and get out now, shall I?”
“Nah, we’ll make an exception, seeing as it’s you.”
Alex looked embarrassed at his mum’s attempted humour, but I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but grin. Elaine Walker was, to put it plainly, completely adorable, my favourite mother-of-a-boyfriend ever.
“And I’d be more than happy to take you straight to his house,” Mrs Walker continued, her adorableness growing by the second.
“Oh, no, seriously, it’s fine,” I said quickly, not wanting to be difficult.
“Oh, don’t be silly, it’s no trouble. Now, where does he live?”
I continued to resist and she continued to insist for approximately two more minutes until I finally gave in, at which point I told her Harry’s address and we began on our way.
“So how’s Andromeda?” Mrs Walker asked conversationally, as the engine spluttered into life again and we set off in the direction of the Potters’. “We haven’t spoken in a while.”
This was true enough, as it was fair to say that Gran had been avoiding them to a certain extent, which was actually quite hard considering we lived less than three roads apart and occasionally bumped into each other in the street, the newsagents, etc.
“Er, yeah,” I said lamely, exchanging a glance with Alex. “She’s been – uh – pretty busy.”
Mrs Walker continued to blabber on about Gran for the next few minutes, and even managed to slip Reverend Green into the conversation – if I hadn’t known better I would have sworn she was doing it for the sole purpose of making my day. This was the problem with living in such a miniscule village: everyone knew each other and was constantly sticking their nose into their neighbours’ business (despite the fact that the Walker family had moved here less than four months previously, this was a tradition that Mrs Walker had taken to like a duck to water). She wasn’t to know just how uncomfortable this was making me, of course, but Alex clearly sensed it and quickly changed the subject, and so a cheerful discussion of wizarding music then ensued. Megan, who apparently did not care for The Blasted Skrewts, was pointedly listening to her iPod throughout.
With such enthusiastic discussion to entertain us, time just seemed to fly by, and we soon found ourselves pulling up outside number eight Nightingale Grove, with its green front door, assortment of flora flanking the garden path, and the carefully arranged garden gnomes (Muggle ones, that it – the magical buggers inhabited only the wilderness towards the back of the house). This was, without a doubt, one of my favourite places on earth, second only to Hogwarts. While I liked my own home and everything, it didn’t exactly hold the delights for me that either of the aforementioned places did, merely an owl who was never there when I needed him and a grandmother whose sole intention seemed to make my life as awkward as humanely possible.
Thanking the Walkers for the ride and promising to have dinner with them soon (Mrs Walker was adamant it had been far too long) I clambered out of the car and started up the drive. A moment later, Alex jumped out onto the pavement beside me, telling his mum, “I’ll just be a minute,” and closing the car door behind him.
Without a word, he pulled me into a tight hug. “Your Gran’ll come round, you know,” he murmured into my hair.
I swallowed. Had I really been that obvious back there? “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, ’course she will. Thanks, Alex.”
He released me. “My pleasure. Now, I am going to see you these holidays, right?” He grinned. “Assuming Mrs Tonks doesn’t keep you locked away doing the gardening, of course.”
I grimaced. “Bloody hell, I hope not, but I can’t make any promises. Unless I’m being forced into slave labour, see you Tuesday?”
“Sure. See you, Ted.”
“Bye, Al. Oh, and thanks for the lift, as well.”
“Seriously, it was a pleasure. And you’d better come for dinner, you know. Mum considers a verbal promise to be lawfully binding.”
I told him I would, and with another quick hug, he climbed back into the car and I began my way up the garden path.
A/N: So, here's chapter two! I hope you liked it, but whether you loved/liked/hated it, please review and let me know what you thought :)
Oh, and credit for The Blasted Skrewts goes to RonsGirlFriday, who apparently has a talent for inventing random wizarding bands ;)
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