Chapter 7 : Questionable Lifestyle Choices
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Hugo is a dish, and this chapter image is by prospero (formerly arushi) at TDA.
Oh, the pain.
Once upon a time, I was stupid enough to take Care of Magical Creatures at Hogwarts. A bowtruckle stabbed me in the eye during one class – I don’t care what Professor Zeller said about them being peaceful creatures, they always seemed unnecessarily vicious to me.
Roxy is a bit like a bowtruckle. Only she has five daggers on each hand, whereas a bowtruckle only has two.
Anyway, when I woke up the morning following the epic discussion of sweetheart pants, it felt like there was an angry bowtruckle dancing around in my head, stabbing away at my brain. I mean a really angry bowtruckle. A bowtruckle who’s lost his job, been chucked by his girlfriend, and stubbed his toe whilst being told he was actually adopted, all in the same day.
It also felt like someone had been slamming my head against a wall for five hours straight. Considering the group I’d been out with, I couldn’t actually rule out that option out.
I could only imagine what Albus must feel like. But imagining that only made my head hurt worse, so I stopped immediately. Empathy can be a bitch sometimes.
A large thunderclap sounded in my ear, and I almost fell out of bed from the pain of it. It made no sense, as it didn’t appear to be storming outside. I began the very delicate process of sitting upright, when the blanket next to me moved.
I froze. I had no recollection of bringing somebody home with me…but clearly I had. Who was this, and how was it possible for any girl to snore that loudly? More importantly, why was I still fully clothed? Very smooth, Freddie Weasley. Would Hugo have had this problem?
No, Hugo would have had eighty percent less clothing and twice as many girls.
Oh, God, it made my head hurt. Must stop thinking about cousins’ conquests – not least of all because it’s disturbing.
I scanned the room, figuring my guest’s purse must be lying around somewhere, and it would probably contain something bearing her name. That would be one less awkward issue to deal with. A drop in the cauldron, but still a start. Then, just as I was attempting to get out of bed without falling on my face, my new friend shifted again with a groan that was far too deep for my liking.
Now I was truly terrified. It was like I’d brought home a woman who’d done hard time in Azkaban.
She had the blanket drawn up all the way over her head. I was going to have to face this eventually, so very gingerly, I pulled back the covers to peek.
My cousin yanked the covers back over his head. “Shuddup, Fred, and turn the light out.”
I yanked the covers away from him and was relieved to see that, although he had apparently lost his shirt, he was wearing his trousers from the night before. And his shoes! His dirty just-been-walking-around-in-the-men’s-bathroom-at-the-pub-last-night shoes! I was going to kill him. I could already feel the bacteria crawling around on me.
“James, get the eff out of my bed. What the hell are you doing here?”
I could barely make out his response, as his head was now stuffed underneath the pillow. “Ialweetayofrr.” I interpreted this as, “I always stay over.”
“On the sofa, you idiot.”
“I ate hat ofa.” Translation: I hate that sofa. “En durna moozigoff.” In English: And turn the music off.
“What? I’m not playing any music.”
I gave him a shove, and he propped himself up on his elbows, rubbing his eyes groggily. He looked terribly disoriented. Good God, how much did we drink? It just goes to show you, you’re never too old to be a total idiot.
James was staring at my wardrobe in a very odd manner, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Why’s that dragon wearing an eye patch?” he slurred, rubbing his eyes again.
I looked at the wardrobe. I looked at James. Wardrobe. James. Wardrobe. James.
“What are you on about? Are you being funny, or – ”
I leaned in and examined his eyes. Then I rolled my own. “Were you smoking mallowsweet last night?”
He grinned at me. “You were, too.”
“Yeah? How’s your head feel?”
Now that I thought about it, it felt like the bowtruckle in my head was throwing around handfuls of sparkly glitter.
“But…where’d we get it?”
“Hugo brought it.”
“Stupid git.” Hugo was our designated Obliviator – we couldn’t have him all strung out on mallowsweet too.
Slowly, James placed his feet on the floor. “Wish the room would stop moving. S’like you live on a boat.”
He yawned, appeared deep in thought for a moment, then said, “So what’s for breakfast?”
The profound musings of James Sirius Potter.
“Well, I’m not cooking, so search me.”
“Hugo makes a good breakfast.”
Sudden flashback to earlier train of thought: Eighty percent less clothing and twice as many girls.
“Yeah, I don’t think we should bother Hugo, know what I mean?”
“Oh, yeah…” James snorted. “Slick git. I hate him.”
“Poor Jamesy. Need some more cuddling?”
“Eurgh! Get away from me, you plonker.”
We passed another moment in deep reflection, pondering which of our culinarily gifted relatives we could take advantage of in this our hour of need.
I snickered. “Roxy actually cooks well, when she’s on her game. Finnegan’s an even better cook.”
“Yeah, but I don’t like being assaulted while eating. I’d rather take my chances at Hugo’s.” He cocked his head to the side, then grinned the kind of grin that normally preceded one of his dubiously brilliant ideas. “Hey…who’s the best cook in the family, after Gran?”
“Aunt Audrey, no question.”
He looked at me, I looked at him, and we both snickered at the idea of showing up on Uncle Percy’s doorstep on Sunday morning, nursing wicked hangovers and reminding him that he was actually related to good-for-nothing losers like us.
“Alright, come on,” said James. “Let’s go wake up Al.”
“What? Why?” Albus was a decent cook, but I doubted he’d be able to tell an egg from an Erumpet this particular morning.
My cousin stared at me as if I had lost my senses. “Because he’s as hungover as Uncle Charlie on Boxing Day and it’s his day off. You need a better reason to bother him?”
What we didn’t expect to see when we stepped out of the fireplace was Albus, more or less awake, sitting at his dining table in the fetal position with a pillow clutched to his chest, and Hugo setting a cup of coffee in front of him. It was about time Hugo became as pathetic as the rest of us, spending his morning with relatives after a wild night out.
“Alright, mate?” James clapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Stop yelling,” moaned Albus, cringing into his pillow.
“I always wondered what happens when a Healer gets sick,” I said. “I see you called in a real professional.” I nodded to Hugo, who had opened the kitchen window and was lighting up a cigarette while summoning various breakfast ingredients from the refrigerator.
Hugo always managed to look offensively debonair the morning after a night of excess. His hair was sticking up all over the place, but it looked like it had been styled that way on purpose; his shirt was artfully rumpled; and, most importantly, his face lacked the standard I-want-to-crawl-under-a-rock-and-die expression. He was also a bit of a chain-smoker whenever alcohol and its aftereffects were involved, and he even made that look glamorous.
“That stuff’ll kill you,” muttered Albus, pressing the heels of his hands against his forehead.
“So will working around contagious diseases all day, but you don’t see me complaining about your lifestyle choices.”
Albus muttered something about working in Spell Damage and then placed his head gingerly against the table, whimpering to himself. There was a conspicuous lack of color in his face.
James pulled up a chair for himself, taking great care to scrape it noisily across the floor. Albus placed his pillow over his head.
“What did you do, crash here last night?” I asked Hugo, pouring coffee for myself and James.
“No, who the hell does that?” he asked.
I fought back a smile and looked around at James, who displayed a couple of well-chosen fingers.
“No,” continued Hugo, “Miss Potter here called me this morning crying about feeling like his head was being separated from his body, so I came over.” He took a long drag off his cigarette – it was the kind formulated with peppermint, which he used to suppress nausea on mornings like this, but which also had the added advantage of smelling much less offensive than the normal kind.
“We thought you’d be…otherwise engaged.”
“What, with Elsa?” he laughed, pulling out a frying pan. “I could barely find the right Floo gate to my own flat last night, much less try to figure out someone else’s. Besides, you think I want to have her over when I’m likely to spend most of the day with my head in a toilet?”
“You’ve got more willpower than I have,” said James.
“Just less stupidity, I think,” mumbled Albus, pondering his coffee.
“So you went out and got completely pissed last night, didn’t call her then, didn’t call her this morning…and she hasn’t called you raving like a lunatic yet?” I watched as several sausages and eggs threw themselves into their respective pans and started crackling away.
Hugo shrugged, blowing a cloud of smoke toward the open window. “I don’t get in her business, she doesn’t get in mine.”
“So that’s the trick, is it?” mused James. “Because whenever I do that, girls just think I’m an arse.”
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” answered Hugo, who was now moving on to the preparation of toast. “But it also helps to be ginger, since it apparently makes me look sincere and adorable.” He flashed the kind of smile that always made old ladies want to pinch his cheeks.
The rest of us, who were decidedly not ginger, had several choice phrases to share with him.
“Damn it,” he muttered as his mobile started ringing. “Please don’t be work, please don’t be work…” He checked the display on his phone, then stuffed it back in his pocket. “Mum,” he said by way of explanation.
“When this whole Snapper mess is over,” he continued, “I’m throwing this damn phone away. They make me keep it on twenty-four hours a day! You know, my dad keeps saying if he’s the one who gets to the Snapper first, there won’t be much left of that idiot by the time the other Aurors get there.”
“Probably because your dad’s hacked off that he’s had to work so much lately,” laughed James.
“Yeah, and what of it? I’m hacked off about it, too. I hope he calls me when he finds him. I know the perfect place to stick this phone.”
“Let me have a go as well,” added Albus, who seemed to be regaining his fortitude. “I’ve seen things I don’t ever want to see again in my life. The last patient that came in had had his skin turned inside out. His skin!”
James stared at the plate of food that had just been placed in front of him, then threw a purposefully glance in his brother’s direction. “Thanks, mate. Appetizing.”
“Ugh, I can’t eat this anyway,” said Albus, pushing his own plate towards Hugo, who accepted it happily. Albus began nibbling at a plain, untoasted piece of bread.
“No wonder you drink the way you do,” I said to Albus.
I reckon people with inside-out skin would drive anyone to drink.
He grinned at me. “You drink that way, too, I should remind you.”
“I wasn’t the one chatting up two girls at the Muggle pub and explaining to them how I eventually came to terms with the fact that the rest of my family are better at Quidditch than I am. I thought we’d have to start modifying memories, but luckily they just assumed you were a lunatic drunk.”
“Yes, but I wasn’t the one who delighted the Leaky Cauldron with a spectacular impression of Uncle Percy as a pirate.”
Hugo choked on his toast and nodded in emphatic approval.
“We went to the Leaky last night?” I asked.
“Yeah,” replied Albus. “That’s when you all went back in the courtyard with certain illicit plant substances, and I – ”
“Stayed inside and tried to convince Hannah to ditch Neville and run off to a tropical island with you?” I guessed. Both Potter brothers were very taken with Professor Longbottom’s wife.
“I might have done.” Albus flushed. “But it gets me free drinks, doesn’t it?”
“We all get free drinks by virtue of my dad and your dad being such good friends with Neville,” said Hugo. “You making an idiot of yourself is an added bonus for the rest of us.”
Albus, still looking very pale, wrinkled his nose and reconsidered the piece of bread he was holding in his hand.
“Sod it,” he said, reaching for Hugo’s cigarettes.
Hugo’s mobile rang again.
“For Godric’s sake, Mum!” He yanked the phone out of his pocket, checked the display, then swore in a way that told me it was not, in fact, Aunt Hermione calling.
He flipped the phone open and held it to his ear. “Weasley.” He was silent for a moment. “Right. Give me fifteen.” He snapped the phone shut. “Look alive, Al,” he said, punching Albus in the arm as he rose from the table, “it’s not over yet.”
He glanced down and appraised his overall appearance. “How do I look?” he asked us.
“Like the back end of a broom,” said James through a mouthful of sausage and eggs.
Hugo seemed satisfied. He grabbed a piece of toast and assessed the remaining contents of his cigarette pack. Then he snatched away the cigarette that Al was just about to light up.
“This stuff’ll kill you,” he said cheerfully, before stepping into the fireplace and Flooing out of sight.
A/N: Nothing like a good old filler chapter, right? The way I see it, life is approximately 98% filler anyway. :-)
I am so sorry it's taken me so long to update. Life is busier than I'd like lately, but I'll do my best to keep the updates rolling along smoothly!
As always, your reviews are what keep me motivated, inspired, and downright happy.
Minor edits 3/26/10
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