Chapter 11 : Chuckles, Squibbles, and a Cat!
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Not everyone was thrilled about my total lack of interest in Anish as anything more than an acquaintance I could someday use in case of legal troubles. And by everyone, I meant Adele and Sam.
“So what if he’s good at a lot of stuff,” Adele said as we walked down to breakfast Wednesday morning. “That should motivate and inspire you!”
“Well why don’t you marry him if you like him so much,” I grumbled.
She shrugged. “I don’t trust lawyers.”
“And,” I said, holding up my pointer finger. I had an important point to make. “He kept checking his mobile. Everyone knows those barely work in Hogsmeade. I mean, who does that?” They had to agree with me on this one.
“He’s been living in London for two years,” Sam said, looking a bit exasperated. “He probably just forgot. Honestly, you’re making excuses.”
“I’m not! Yes, he’s great, and yes, we’ve got everything in common, like every damn thing. But where’s the danger?”
“Danger? Did she just say danger?” Adele asked. She exchanged incredulous glances with Sam. I hated when Sam and Adele did things like that, because they were both so very tall, and I was so very not. And it made me feel rather left out.
“Oh, shut up,” I said, brushing off her mockery. “He’s just too perfect. Eventually, I’ll find out what’s wrong with him, and I bet it’s something really messed up. I bet he’s a cat lady.”
“You know, a cat lady. Her house is just crawling with cats, and her whole life starts revolving around feeding schedules and litter boxes. And pretty soon, you get sucked in her world, and she asks you to take care of Fifi for a weekend, except you don’t know which one that is ‘cos they all look the bloody same. And then come the lawsuits about ‘animal neglect.’”
The two of them stared at me like I’d gone mad. “What did you do?” Adele asked severely. She was big on animal rights. Cats were not high on her favourite animals list, but still. Principles are principles.
“I had this neighbour,” I said, grimacing. “I was found innocent of all charges, no worries. It was a bad weekend. And that’s how every weekend will be with Anish, I just know it.”
“Doubtful,” Adele said, frowning. She was probably assessing my mental health. “But anyway, I thought you were still writing to him?”
“I did after the un-date to tell him that I’d much rather be friends. The letter I wrote yesterday was just for show. For James.” I was hoping that they’d figure out what I meant. That way, I wouldn’t have to say that I was purposely trying to make James feel jealous by writing a fake letter that was actually just a To-Do list. Because when put in those words, it really wasn’t very noble of me.
“See, now that is messed up,” Sam said, shaking his head. Seeing Sam disappointed in me did make me feel kind of guilty, like I was the good girl who had gone astray. Predictably, Adele didn’t feel the same way.
“I shouldn’t approve, but I so approve!” she said, pinching my cheek. “You naughty little samosa!”
I turned to thank her, but stopped short when we got to the Great Hall. It seemed like the entire student body had congregated to a table next to the wall.
Fred Weasley was standing on top of the table, holding up a bag of what looked like jellybeans and a piece of parchment he’d fashioned into a megaphone.
“I’m proud to introduce the latest WWW product. Doesn’t officially come out for another month, but I got them especially for you lovely Hogwarts folks. Introducing, Squibbles!”
He shook the bag, and the crowd went wild. As James had told me, Fred had a flair for business. He could work a crowd, and he wasn’t afraid of taking a risk. He was ready to get to work in the family business, and he didn’t feel the need to waste his time on other things (namely, a proper education).
Adele pushed through the crowd, and I followed. Sam went off to find something to eat.
Fred continued his sales pitch. “Need a foolproof excuse not to go to class? Desperate to take your hot Muggle neighbour out for drinks, but worried you might accidentally hex another bloke after a couple of pints? No need to fear. Just one Squibble will keep you magic-free for a full hour. Take as many as you need, but no more than six in a day. The person with the best reason for getting their magic masked gets a free bag!”
As hands shot up in the air, Adele made it to the front of the crowd. “Pick me, you bastard!” she said, arms folded and anger emanating off of her in waves.
Fred gave a little half-grin. “Let’s hear it, Adele.” I think he knew what was coming.
“This is pure exploitation!” she said, climbing on the table. “This is absolutely disgusting! Do you know what it’s like to be a Squib, to be surrounded by people who look down on you, surrounded by a world you can never be a part of? And now you want to take their life struggle and sell it? In bite-sized pieces?!”
Adele was so close to Fred and so fierce-looking I thought she would bite his nose off. But Fred looked pretty nonplussed. In fact, I think he found it sort of amusing.
“C’mon love, it’s just a joke,” he said, nudging her gently on the shoulder.
“Do not call me love. And don’t touch me either. I will not allow you to sell this product at this school. C.H.A.O.S. will be on your arse till it’s banned, I guarantee it.” She was challenging him, daring him to go against the full force of C.H.A.O.S.
“C.H.A.O.S…” he said thoughtfully. That devious half-smile was back on his face. Turning to the crowd, he said, “Ladies and gents, I have a special announcement to make. My friend Adele here is the leader of Citizens of Hogwarts Assisting Ostracised Squibs. It’s an important organisation, and ten percent of all proceeds of Squibbles sold at this school will go to C.H.A.O.S. so Adele can keep doing her good work. Let’s give her a hand, please!”
The devoted audience willingly obliged. Adele was speechless. Ten percent would be quite a sum, more money than any of her clubs had ever had.
“Why are you doing this?” Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Fred completely ignored her. “Right, so we’ll need to have a meeting to discuss this partnership of sorts. This weekend’s no good for me, but the next is wide open. How does lunch on Saturday at the Three Broomsticks sound?”
Adele must’ve been pretty taken aback, but she did a good job of hiding it. “They don’t have vegetarian options.” Rubbish. They had chips and cheesecake, and that was always enough for her before. Vegetarian options, my arse. She just wanted to see how far he would go.
“Fine then, how about the Enchanted Pineapple?”
Well, now she couldn’t refuse. The Pineapple was Adele’s favourite place to eat. The tables there were made of recycled wood, and all the dishes had ‘edamame’ or ‘bean sprouts’ in the description. It was sort of like The Three Broomsticks, except more organic and less flavourful.
“I guess that’s a satisfactory answer. I’ll pencil you in,” she said, very nonchalant-like. Then she got down from the table and marched off. Fred watched her leave, a twinkle in his eye. Yes, a twinkle.
At our table, I raised my eyebrow and gave her a Look.
“I’d accept money for my causes even from Voldemort himself,” she said.
“Sure, but there aren’t any stipulations saying you have to eat lunch with him. And at the Enchanted Pineapple, no less.”
“Strictly business,” she replied, focusing on her waffle.
Potions started off pretty much as per usual. Marm walked in all flustered. There were spare feathers clinging to her hot pink robes and stuck in her hair. All this could mean only one thing: Marm was having a row with her rooster, Chuckles. Again.
“Wonder what happened this time,” I said out loud. But then I remembered that the only person in listening proximity was James, and we were not talking again. Except this time, the cold shoulder was mutual because of the fake Anish letter which was actually a To-Do list.
After Miss Marm explained what happened between her and her beloved pet (Chuckles wanted the entire bed, Marm didn’t allow it, Chuckles took it out on her hair), she gave us some time to work on our research projects.
“James, I need your notes on the early development of the Draught by Wednesday.”
“Already done,” he said, thrusting the parchment in my face. He tried to sound casual, but I could tell he was pretty damn proud of himself.
“Oh, good.” I put the notes in with my own. “So I’ll be able to get a rough draft done by Wednesday, final draft by Friday, and my weekend will be free. Thanks.” I smiled a genuine thank-you smile. I was trying to be civil, I really was. Being the Bigger Man and all that.
James scoffed. “Right, ‘cos you’ve got such big plans for the weekend. Going on another date mummy set up?”
“Are you talking about Anish?” I said, growing irritated. “He’s a great guy, but no, I’m not going to be seeing him anymore. Didn’t work out.”
“Oh,” he said, voice softening. He genuinely looked surprised. “I thought you really liked him.”
“Yes, well, that’s what I wanted you to think.”
“Did he do something to you?” He came forward in his seat. “‘Cos if he did, I swear I’ll—”
“You’ll what? What will you do, James?”
“I’ll, er, notify the proper authorities?” He shrank back in his chair.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” I shook my head sadly. James was a big, Quidditch-playing pansy.
Miss Marm started lecturing, and we began taking notes. Actually, I began taking notes. James took some notes, and then spent time doodling a picture of Marm lassoing a giant rooster and making a paper pterodactyl that flew around going, ‘caw-caw!’ Lecture finished early, so Marm gave us some chit-chat time. Goody.
“So, the All-House Party is this weekend. Gryffindor’s hosting. You should stop by,” James said while doing some more fine artwork.
This was an olive branch. I could take it if I wanted to, ending this whole dispute that had gone on for too long. Then we could properly work through our differences, get to the root of his spinelessness, and maybe share a laugh or two.
And maybe, Adele would learn to love dragon meat and gumdrops would fall out of the sky like snowflakes. Maybe, but not bloody likely.
“Well James, I wouldn’t want to ruin your delicate image by being in the same area as you. I mean, what would people think?!”
I feigned a look of shock and horror to let my message sink in. He just glared, so I continued.
“To be on the safe side, you should bring a girl to that party, someone who’s the complete opposite of me. Maybe a blond, stupid girl with huge tits. That way, no one will remember that you and I were ever friends! And I already know what it’s gonna be. A bunch of sloshed-beyond-repair witches and wizards, bad music with a lame DJ, vomit clogging the loos, and notes flying everywhere that will most definitely be regretted in the morning. So thanks, but--”
“I get it!” James said, rudely interrupting my spiel. “You’re mad, and you don’t wanna come. And you’re right, it’s probably not your scene anyway, you big fun-sucker.”
“What did you call me?”
“You know, a fun-sucker. You walk in a room, see happy, young faces, and then,” here he made a big slurping sound, “fun’s gone! Sorry kiddies! You’re like a Dementor, except with fun.” He folded his arms in victory, a smug smile on his face.
Think, Shivani, I told myself. Think of something witty and clever that will shut him up.
“Yeah, well… you’re gay,” I spluttered.
“Good one, real convincing. Try again.” He leaned back in his chair. His smug smile got even smugger.
“I did your mum last night?” I said weakly.
He shook his head. “No you didn’t. Work on that, yeah?” He patronizingly patted me on the head before gathering his stuff and leaving. Class had been dismissed already, but I hadn’t even noticed.
Miss Marm was still at her desk, and as I walked by her to leave, she gently tapped me with her wand.
“Darlin’, you two are just the cutest! Reminds me of when Chuckles was just a little cockrell that I found on my front porch back in Texas. We fought a lot back then, heck, we still do! But we always got through it. And so will you, dear!” She flashed a big, shiny smile.
“Er, thanks Miss Marm,” I said, slowly edging away. Marm was either brilliant or a nutter, or possibly both. But I was leaning toward nutter.
As I headed back to the Common Room for a quick study sesh, I made one firm decision. I was so going to that party.
A/N: ridiculously short, i know. and mostly dialogue, i also know. this was mostly an in-between chapter to set stuff up for later. but guess what's coming up?! party, hooray! so stay tuned. and please tell me what you think of this one. parts you liked/didn't like/etc? and of course, the mta is always ready for questions. thanks for reading. :)
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