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Chapter 2 : The one with the polyjuice potion.
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“He’s just so... I don’t know,” Jan said as we walked in the general direction of the grounds to enjoy at least some of the summer sun before the year ended. “I couldn’t have gone out with him for any longer – I had to spend far too much time with James, anyway, I missed you.” She said, linking her arm through mine and tossing her hair out of her face. “Sorry, you probably don’t want to listen to it.”
“Its fine,” I answered and it was. I was genuinely curious as to why she’d seen fit to dump Wood (according to Rose he was supposed to be quite attractive. Personally I thought he was a self obsessed jerk who needed to get a life and stop living through Quidditch but, hey, what did I know about these things?), but really I was thankful more than anything else. Anything that took up more of Jan’s time than necessary was a pesky nuisance that I wanted rid of. Like one of those annoying flies. Or James.
“Can you believe forth years nearly over?” Jan asked.
“No,” I answered quite truthfully. The last couple of weeks had been so full of lessons and James being an absolute prat (no changes there then) that I’d barely felt the time slipping by.
And that’s when the ball landed in front of me.
It was red, big and very suspicious-looking. Or maybe that was just me. When you’re related to James Potter and George Weasley you become slightly suspicious about anything seemingly innocent that falls from the sky. This wariness immediately kicked in and had me edging away from it nervously.
Jan, however, had no such danger instinct and instead stepped forward and picked it up in her hands. Nothing happened for a second, but I didn’t let go of my breath, and I watched for a split second. The ball was too plain. Far too unremarkable for it not to have disastrous consequences. “Jan, I wouldn’t touch that,” I said warily eyeing it suspiciously. I probably should have warned her first. Chivalry isn't my thing, apparently.
“It’s just a ball Al,” She laughed, spinning it through her fingers with surprising skill.
“But why is it here,”
“Someone must have been playing with it,”
“Then why aren’t they coming to collect it?” I asked, “Please, just drop it.”
“Don’t be such a wimp,” Jan said. “Oh, my shoelace, can you just hold this whist I -” But before I had time to reject her request the big red ball and been pressed into my hands. It reminded me of a huge bomb but surely... if nothing had happened now, surely it never would? Still, I lifted it cautiously up to my face and examined it.
“You don’t scare me,” I muttered, thinking of Jan calling me a wimp (which I wasn’t! I was very brave and stuff. I had to be given my unfortunate brotherhood with the infamous James Potter). Then, naturally, the whole thing blew up.
I blinked stupidly sensing something was not quite right, but being unsure what it was. The explosion had been relatively mild – the force of which hadn’t even made me trip or fall over (as was normally the case) but there was something slightly off. I felt strangely cool, or...
My hair was lying on the floor.
It had fallen onto the grass like a strange wig. Jan turned slowly in her crouching position, where she’d been tying up her shoe laces and gaped at me. I stared at my hair. She stared at me.
I was bald.
She bit her lip, desperately not trying to laugh, and picked up my hair from the floor. I stared at it in a state of shock and then, of course, she burst out laughing.
“Jan, this isn’t funny! Someone’s blown my hair off, I told you not to touch it,” I muttered, letting the remains of the ball – a little bit of red dust – slip through my fingers and onto the grass.
It took Jan a good ten minutes to finally catch her breath and stop with the hysterical laughing – still from her crouching position on the floor, although it seemed she’d laughed so hard she’d fallen back on her arse, and was now sat there with tears streaming down her face. “You’re bald!” She exclaimed, struggling to breath. So sympathetic...
“Hilarious.” I muttered, taking my hair out of her hands. Then I realised how ridiculous the whole thing was and found my own lips twitching. I lifted my hands up to my head and felt my bald scalp – it was strange to suddenly not have hair, and even stranger that the skin on my skull was completely smooth and very rounded. “Am I one of those people with the hideously misshapen heads?” I asked, running the hand down to the back of my neck in curiosity.
“Just a little round at the back,” She answered when she could finally breathe again. “Can I touch it?” She asked, still giggling. I obliged and crouched down to her level. She reached up and ran her hands over my skull, and then burst out laughing all over again. I laughed too this time and sat down on the floor too.
I put my hair on top of her hair and examined her. “Suits you,” I commented. “Although... not as much as your own hair.”
“Maybe we’ll finally be able to flatten in,” Jan said, taking it off the top of her head and trying to make it lie straight.
“Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?” I asked, and then we were laughing all over again. “I should probably go get it fixed,” I said after a good thirty minutes of laughter. “Otherwise it might never go back on,”
“But you’re such a good skinhead,” She laughed. I stood up and offered her my hand but she’d stopped and was pulling something up out of the grass. “There’s a note,” She said grimly.
I took it. I grimaced.
I need your help!
I scrunched it up and threw it back on the floor. “Let’s go get my hair stuck back on,” I said joylessly. Knowing James, it would be permanent. “To the hospital wing,”
“To the hospital wing,” She repeated and we set off together, her holding my hair in between her fingers.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Rose said as we approached the hospital wing. She was coming out looking thoroughly irritated and for once not carrying a book under her arm. “James is in there,” She said. “Wanted me to help him.”
“What did you say?” Jan asked. I already knew. Rose was smart.
“I told him to piss off.” Rose muttered. “Don’t let him drag you into anything, Al, you’ll regret it more than you’re going to regret that ridiculous haircut when Aunt Ginny sees it,” She said darkly, and then she slipped past us and disappeared down the corridor.
“So, James is in the hospital wing?” Jan questioned. “Sly bastard.” She added before walking in, throwing my hair from one hand to another as she went. My hair was sort of flying about haphazardly during the ‘in air’ time, and flopping back down stupidly when it was in her hands... I’d honestly never realised what a mess it was until I actually saw Jan playing with it.
And that, right there, was the weirdest thing I’ve ever thought.
I followed Jan in, watching my hair in a bemused this-is-so-weird sort of way, before looking upwards and staring at James. In the hospital bed. With a black eye.
“What happened?” I demanded.
“Lily’s got a boyfriend.”
“What?” I asked, fists clenching.
“She’s twelve, she probably won’t even touch the bloke,” Jan said trying to be reasonable as she stared unsympathetically in James’s direction.
“She’s too young to have a boyfriend!” I exclaimed.
“And he’s older.”
“By three days!” Jan exclaimed.
“You knew about this?” I demanded.
“Of course I did! She asked me what she should wear for a study date on Monday,”
“You didn’t tell me?”
“She’s going behind our backs!” James exclaimed. “Apparently they’ve had a bit of a thing for almost a week – it has got to be stopped. Next thing we know she’ll be walking around in just her underwear charging for -”
“- Don’t you think you’re being slightly melodramatic?”
“It was almost better when she had that crush on Malfoy,” I interjected.
“She still has that crush on Malfoy,” Jan said in a bored voice. “She’s twelve, look, it doesn’t matter they’re hardly going to do anything more than hold hands.”
“No one holds my sister’s hand!” James exclaimed, rising up menacingly in the bed covers. I stepped back in alarm. Jan dropped my hair. “No physical contact until marriage!”
Even I thought that was a bit far. Kisses on the cheek were perfectly acceptable (in the correct social situations).
“Why don’t you just write to Dad?” I questioned, sitting myself down on the opposite bed and picking up my hair as I did so. I brushed the dust off it lazily. It looked like some deformed yet very hairy puppy. Creepy.
“Erm... Lily threatened to write to Mum about this other thing and er... well, it’s not possible, all right.”
“Then I’ll write to Dad, she hasn’t got anything on me.”
“But then she’ll tell Mum anyway!”
“That’s not my problem,”
“Gosh,” Jan said, sitting beside me and staring at her (currently red) nails. “You guys are so mature.” We ignored her. She wouldn’t understand. She didn’t have a little sister.
Well... she did. But that was different. She was her estranged twin. Like... five minutes younger.
“No, think about it Al – if she ever does have anything on you she’ll never keep it quite if you rat her out this time. No, Jan’s right – we’ve got to be mature about this. So, anyway, I decided to sort him out myself...”
“- You’re not saying that Lily’s boyfriend gave you that black eye...” I said slowly. The idea that a thirteen year old did that to James was half amusing and half terrifying. I mean, seriously, how huge was this guy? And if he could beat up James, how there hell were we supposed to blind him (so he could never look at our sister again), and remove all that made him a man (so he wouldn’t have any hormones left to think about our sister again) and then humiliate him to the extent that Lily would be ashamed to associate with him – which was the agreed and approved way of dealing with these code red situations.
“No,” James said. “That’s Lily’s boyfriend,” He said jerking a thumb in the direction of a lump in a bed three to the left. “This was from Lily.”
“Oh,” I said. Made sense. “So what do you need me for?”
“You’ve got to agree to it first.” I swore at him. “It’s for the good of our family? What if Lily got knocked up? Dad would almost certainly die of heart break, how could his precious Lily could do such a thing!?! Mum would, most likely, get so mad at her that she’d probably implode or blow up like Great Aunt Marge. You’d blame me for being orphaned because I should have sorted the whole thing out sooner and we’ll probably never talk again. Then Lily would be left alone to bring up her bastard child which inevitably she’d be rubbish at because her role model in life ruined her faith in humanity.”
“Her role model?”
“Me,” James grinned. “And then -”
“Just agree,” Jan groaned. “Before this story gets anymore ridiculous.”
“Fine, I’ll help you.” I muttered. “But only if you stick my hair back on,”
“Done,” James said with a wand flourish. My hair flew out of my hands and then reattached itself to my head with a weird sensation of my skin being sucked to my hair. Then it was reattached. Sorted. “Jan, I’m sorry – you’ve got to leave. This information is strictly confidential.”
Jan called James something that her mother wouldn’t like and attempted to pull my hair off again when I made no attempt to protest that Jan stayed. Then she rolled her eyes and stalked out of the hospital wing with her arms folded. Damn. I’d pay for that later.
“She is feisty.” James commented. I elbowed him. “Okay, so... the thing is, I got a detention for fighting Lily’s boyfriend. And I have an OWL exam tomorrow and I haven’t exactly started revision yet so...”
“So?” I asked slowly.
“You need to pretend to be me at the detention so I can revise.”
“How the hell does that help the family?”
“I don’t get murdered for failing defence OWL?” James suggested. “I don’t become a laughing stock for failing the one subject that our father happens to famous for worldwide? I won’t become the joke of a relative who actually fails at the one thing our parents really care about? Can you imagine Dad’s face if -” There was genuine anxiety in his voice. The kind of anxiety I hadn’t heard since the night before his first day at Hogwarts where he crept into my bedroom and confessed that he was terrified everyone would be disappointed in him. It made me slightly uncomfortable.
This is possible the closest we’d ever gotten to a conversation about feelings. Awkward.
“Okay,” I said quickly. “Okay, but... how exactly am I going to pretend to be you?”
“Polyjuice potion.” The grin in his eye was slightly manic. “I know,” James said. “I’m a genius.” I stared at him. “I tried to get Rosie to make some but she wasn’t having any of it, but that’s all right. If all else fails, I’ll make some.”
“James you do know it takes at least a month to brew?”
His face fell and I almost felt bad for breaking his happiness. Still, save me some seriously trouble. I made a note to buy Rose some flowers or some high heels (because she was sensitive about her lack of height) or something.
“It’s okay, I’ll get some somewhere.” He said waving this away. Damn it. “So you’ll do it?” He questioned.
“Sure,” I said half heartedly. “Of course.”
“I love you man, best brother in the world – seriously.” He declared clapping me on the back and squinting at me through his black eye.
“I love you too,” I sighed. “But seriously, this is the last time. Next time – you’re on your own.”
“Why doesn’t he just skip the detention?” Jan questioned as we waited in the boys toilets for James to arrive with the vial of potion. He had suggested venturing into Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom so that it was more authentic to dad's and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s famed experience with the stuff (I was beginning to think that James just wanted an excuse to attempt to ‘out do’ them), but this had been shot down when Jan reminded us what had happened last time we’d tried to socialise with Myrtle. It had not been pretty.
“Don’t ask me about how his mind works,”
“You share his genes.”
“Not by choice,” I muttered just as one of the seventh year Ravenclaws' came out one of the toilets and gave Jan the dirtiest look I could have imagined. She called him something her mother probably wouldn’t like and made a rude hand gesture that her mother definitely wouldn’t like.
“What is with people?” She asked sighing deliberately.
“I honestly have no idea,” I replied, humouring her.
“Don’t worry guys!” James yelled from the doorway nearly dropping and spilling the potion all over the floor which would have almost been a relief. Except knowing James he would have expected me to lick it off the floor so it was probably for the best. Still. “I’ve added the hair.” He grinned, pressing the bottle into my hand.
Jan and I unanimously leaned over it and looked at in ominously. It was a muddy green colour that did not look edible. In fact it looked like someone had bottled their own vomit and added food colouring for that extra delicious look. I sniffed it. It smelt even worse. I shuddered back from it feeling repulsed.
“You expect me to drink that?”
“Seriously Al,” Jan said – her hand on my shoulder – “do not drink that.”
“You promised,” James said, “Come on Albie,”
Jan shook her head. James used the world famous Wesley/Potter begging eyes that I was complete immune too. Out of the two Jan was definitely the most persuasive, still... I had agreed to help James and...
“I can’t fail Defence,” He practically begged that time. “Can you image what a joke I’d be?”
“I have to,” I told Jan. She shrugged knowing that I was right. I had no choice. James was right – he could not fail Defence. It would be the singular most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to him. “Just... who brewed it?” I asked James, swirling the liquid round the bottle and swallowing. What would it taste like?
“I went to Uncle George’s premises – he always has some and that assistant girl, the one who fancies me, gave me some for three sickles.”
“Three sickles and an autograph...” James said. He waved it away in mock modesty. His smugness was impossible. “Anyway it’s George’s private stash, so honestly – it will work.” I brought it to my lips and looked to Jan for support.
“It’s your grave,” She muttered. So I brought it to my lips and forced myself to swallow the whole thing. About half way through I was sure that I was going to throw it up but by some amazing feat I managed to keep all of it down and carry on swallowing. I am luck that thanks to James being involved in my childhood, I have an extraordinary gag reflex.
I took a deep breath the second I’d finished. I choked for a few seconds and grimaced. God that was vile.
“That is some disgusting shit.” I muttered. “Water.” I said and Jan quickly obliged by washing out the bottle and refilling it. I downed it and shuddered.
“I’ve got you some larger robes and some glasses.” James grinned.
“Oh sod off, my robes will fit fine. You’re not that much bigger than me.”
“Now Al, it’s going to be strange to actually have some muscles, you won’t know your own strength.” I swore at him. He laughed at me.
“Shouldn’t it have started working by now?” Jan pointed out with her bored flat expression that I was so used to seeing.
“Yeah, that’s a point,” I said reaching up to feel my face to find that it was exactly the same as normal. I felt for my hair too just because I’d been ever so slightly more self-conscious about if falling off since the earlier incident. “Maybe the books just don’t mention the antagonising long wait before it kicks in.” I said. “And dad skipped it out the story to make the whole thing more exciting,” I said with a laugh as I looked up at James.
His face had fallen.
“James,” I said quietly. “What did you do?”
“I... I just, it only lasts for an hour, so I thought if I added a bit more hair and a little bit more, erm...Knotgrass .”
I stared at him, forcing myself into a state of false calm as I stared at my complete idiot of a brother. I would not yell. I would not kill him because –
Jan definitely would.
“YOU ABSOLUTE...!” Jan yelled, grabbing him by the collar and pushing him fiercely against the sink. “You better be glad we’re not in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, because if we were I’d have thrown you down the chamber of secrets already. How could you do that? You could have killed him! HELL, you still could!?” Then she said a load more things that neither of her parents would even imagine were in their little princess’s vocabulary, which I heard daily and which James probably heard even more regularly. It reminded me just how much I loved her.
Then I suddenly felt very sick and I dived for the boys toilets and groaned. “That’s some nasty knotgrass.” I muttered. Then I heaved but found myself unable to throw up.
“You’re a douche James!” I yelled. Jan bent down next to me patting on my shoulder consolingly. Always good at emotional support, Jan.
“Oh shit, Al, I feel terrible.” James said edging towards the door. “Honestly – I feel really bad, but... I’ve got to go to this detention. So erm... good luck!” And then the door shut behind him. I slumped down on the floor. Jan sat next to me. I heaved again, still nothing.
“What’s going to happen, do you reckon?” I questioned. “Because I still haven’t changed into James so... I’m not really sure what’s...?”
“I know what’s going to happen,” Jan said, resting her head on my shoulder. “You’re going to be here throwing up all night, possibly having some wacky and weird side effects, and James is going to go to his detention and still ace is Defence exam tomorrow morning which renders the whole thing pointless and then after all this, James is going to screw something else up and get you to fix it. And you’ll agree.” She said.
I threw up.
“I suspect it’s going to be a long night.”
“Toast Al?” Mum asked, placing the plate down in front of me without waiting for my response. It was too early in the morning for me to respond anyway. The most effort I would have made was a strange grunting noise. “James?” She asked, placing another plate in front of his half dead figure at the breakfast table.
“Mum!” Lily called, skipping down the stairs two at a time (why? Why was she so freaking awake? It was like seven in the bladdy morning!). “Hogwarts letters!” She said pointing out the window where three Owls were approaching at a fast pace. I vaguely stared at their ever sharpening silhouettes.
I missed Jan.
“Hogwarts letters or more letters for dad about some Auror thing.” James muttered with his face half full of toast. “Like the past three mornings.” He added. The idiot was right. I dropped my gaze and stared at my toast. Was it worth the energy of picking it up..?
“James,” Mum reprimanded rolling her eyes and getting Lily some toast of her own. “It won’t be from the office, it’s a Saturday.”
“Like that makes a difference,” I added blearily. I blamed Jam for this. If she hadn’t written to me at half one then the three hour long letter marathon wouldn’t have happened. I’d tell her that. When she replied to my last letter.
“Speaking of which,” She continued – ignore my interjection as if it never happened – “Where is your father? It’s the summer holidays and he promised that this weekend he’d...”
“He’s in bed,” Lily said. “He was muttering something about a veil,”
“Ah,” Mum said, “Well,” And then she disappeared up the stairs. We exchanged glances; none of us really understanding the significance of the veil but assuming it was one of those dreams that he never wished to talk about and we weren’t allowed to make fun of.
“It’s definitely the letters this time,” Lily said with far too much excitement. “Look,” And we did look, just to appease her and she was almost definitely right. “Aren’t you excited James? You’re going to get your results!”
“Oh yeah,” James said his face fell slightly. He almost looked worried “Hey, Al, you remember that Defence exam thing?” I nodded. How could I forget? After half an hour of retching into a toilet I’d got stuck in transit between being me and being James, and had to spend the entire night locked in the boys toilets waiting to be right again. Jan had sat there complaining for five hours straight, painted my nails when I fell into a feverish sleep, then refused to tell me how the hell you got nail varnish off. And it was bloody pink.
“Well, funny thing is when I got to the detention Professor Whatzit was like ‘As you’ve got a potions exam in the morning I’ll let you off detention’ turned out my Defence exam wasn’t till the following week! Didn’t want to tell you though, I figured you’d be pissed – it’s all in the past now though, right?”
“Did you at least revise for the exam?” Lily asked her face creased into disapproval and confusion (considering she was completely ignorant of our polyjuice adventures). She wasn’t the only one who bleeding disapproved. I’d had to walk around with pink nails for four days when my begging had finally paid off and Dom had given me some weird potion that smelt of paint stripper. Jan had then convinced me that I had to drink it. There were some advantages to having some many bloody cousins, and one of those was that Rose stopped me before I started drinking (although Jan still claims she wouldn’t have actually let me) and told me that apparently you use it to rub the varnish off. You learn something new every day.
“No,” James laughed, standing up to let the owls through the window. They were Hogwarts letters. James casually opened his envelope and laughed. “Hey, look – I got an O!”
A/N - reviews reviews reviews? What do you think of Al, James and Jan? :)
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by Eavan Shea