Chapter 21 : There Are Less Complicated Things, and More Complicated Things
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In addition, and I'm so sorry for this, some people might need to reread the end of the last chapter when it gets updated. I accidentally didn't submit the end of it, so in the future, there may seem to be a bit of a jump.
- Michael Burke
I couldn't believe this. It was the Christmas Holiday. I almost felt as if I would never reach this point. I could smell the turkey, feel the glow of the holidays, hear Lula's voice drifting through the halls – as she was the only songstress Mum listened to at this time of year, and was only a few days away from getting gifts. I should be going out with friends, laughing about boys, and wondering if Mum got the 'I want a broom' vibes – though I was starting to take those back.
But no. I was studying.
Divinity had to be one of the most boring subjects I had ever encountered. What was Amy thinking when she insisted that we take this subject? I suppose it was one of the easiest subjects, since, unless you were actually a Seer, nobody could practically do the tricky stuff. So most of it was just staring blindly into teacups or crystal balls. Besides, according to Professor Trewalny, everything meant that we were going to die anyway.
Grateful for an excuse to procrastinate, I jumped to the door when I heard it knock. Of course, I did a double take for a moment when I saw that it was Leslie waiting for me. As per usual, she was done up to the nines for no good reason, making me feel bad for still being in pyjamas at noon, which I believe to be a natural human right.
“I brought you one of these. Got it from an old friend, but I can't finish it off.”
I stared at the box. “What are they?”
“Miniature Heroes.” I blinked. “Chocolate.”
“It's not going to start fighting crime. It's Muggle.”
I took the chocolate with some hesitation and put it in my mouth. Damn, it actually tasted pretty good. “What's in this?”
It was sweet, but it felt like Honeydukes' was throwing a party in my mouth. “It's nice.”
“Well I know you like sweet things. Especially when you're nothing feeling that... great...” I followed Leslie's glance towards the pile of fresh wrappers in the corner of my room.
Turning back to her, I shrugged my shoulders. “Tis the season.”
“You know, if you want to talk about -”
“No.” I had tried my best to put recent events in the back of my mind, and rehashing things wasn’t going to help. So once again, Leslie knew how to ruin an only slightly uncomfortable moment. Well done, Leslie.
“Of course.” Leslie sighed. “We don't bond.”
“Nope. And I've actually got to revise, so if you don't mind…”
I tried to close the door, but her foot wedged in there. Strong feet for what seems like such a feeble person. Her eyes narrowed slightly and she said, “Have you written to George?”
“Brilliant.” My sarcasm was instinctive sometimes. “Perfect thing to say.” Of course I had written to George. Like every time he's away, I constantly write and get no reply. Shrouded in mystery. Though honestly, I don't think he cares that much about me outside of school. Why else didn't Ron immediately know who I was? And I bet you anything that Angelina gets plenty of owls. She probably has a whole shelf. Next to her George shrine and Anne voodoo doll.
“Not going well?”
“He likes someone else.” I stormed over to my own cupboard and immediately began throwing away all my letters from Seamus. Shelves should be used for better things. Like awards I should be winning, or mementoes from happier times. Then again, by the looks of things, it might just be dedicated to sweets.
Her eyes widened. “Oh? Did he say who?”
“He hasn't said anything.” No bonding, Anne. We just said this! “But it's obvious. He adores Angelina, and I'm just always in the way.”
“But he hasn't said it?”
“No. Would you?”
Leslie came into my room, sitting on the edge of my bed, laughing to herself. Glad to know she's finding all of this so amusing. “No. Then again, I really don't think you can claim yourself to be an expert on men.”
“You know, people your age are really fickle about their emotions. One minute you can like someone, and then someone else. You can even like more than one person at once. It’s OK.”
“Apparently not. You can't cheat -”
“No, that's true.” Leslie patted the edge of my bed. I was feeling tired anyway, so I came over to her as she continued, “But hardly anyone settles down at your age. You're fifteen. Your hormones are all over the place.” It's really not socially acceptable for her to be talking about hormones, but I'll let her off. “George is giving a bit more attention to this girl -”
Another pause for laughter on Leslie’s part. “This harpy. But don't tell me that you've never given your attention to another boy at some point in the relationship.”
“Everyone loves Harry, Leslie.” Like I'd even give her the satisfaction.
“George sounds like a good guy. I mean, he is, right?”
Rather reluctantly, I replied, “Yeah, he is.”
“Right. If he really wanted to be with this harpy so much, he'd left you by now. Just remind him of what he's been missing.”
“But I don't want to be with him.”
There was a slight pause. “What?”
“It's weird. I just doesn't feel right anymore.”
“Oh. I see.” Leslie nodded slowly, her eyes brows slightly raised. “So new situation: the evil harpy is trying to steal the man you don't want anymore?”
“She's such a harpy!” I exclaimed. “She's always hovering around him. Oh, I'm Angelina. I play Quidditch. Look at my hair as it swishes.” I moved my head from side to side. I couldn’t believe that I defended that hair. It was so obviously trying too hard to be cool. “I see right through this whole best friend act.”
“So, perhaps I'm older than I think, but if you don't want to be with George anymore, then why don't you just end things?”
“I'm trying to.”
“I think you can try harder.”
Try harder? I don't think Leslie understands just how hard this is. “George is a good guy!”
“And you're a good girl,” she said significantly.
Shit. I knew where this was going. Shoulders slightly hunched, I drawled, “If I really wanted to not be with him anymore, I'd left him by now. That's what good guys do.”
“Maybe I'm not that good?” I suggested.
Leslie stood up, straightening her skirt. “The only time the bad guys say that is in fiction. You're not perfect, Anne, but I know you’re not a bad person. I can see that by the amazing person who raised you. You'll get it right in the end.” With that, she left.
“You have guests downstairs,” chided my Mother. “Family. If you were revising something useful, then it would be something else –“
“Mum,” I began in disbelief. “It was you who suggested I got into this whole Mermish thing.” Well, the truth was that I just really didn’t want to go downstairs. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my family or anything, they’ve been around a while, but I just couldn’t help but… want to kill them at times. It wasn’t so bad before the divorce, since I could go off with my sister or Dad, but now I just looks of pity. The only plus side was that I looked reasonably normal.
“Oh, and your friends are here.”
“Who?” How the hell did any of them know about this? I kept this event a complete secret to anyone involved. It’s one of those simple facts of life that I had been constantly running away from – families are embarrassing to people who are not part of it. I bet Amy did some snooping, or –
“I don’t mind, dear. I mean, everyone’s pretty fascinated by them. It’s nice to know you don’t just hang around with the same three people all the time, if you don’t mind me saying. Though,” Mum’s mouth turned in the disapproving manner that only mothers could do, “perhaps a little old?”
What I didn’t want to tell her was that I did just hang around with the same three friends if I could help it. Closing up my things, I obediently went out of the room, though my palms were sweating a little on my journey over. My brain was trying to wrack who on Earth it could be. Seamus would be daft to; so would Drew, but then again, I couldn’t see that stopping him. But they, that meant a group. So that ruled out anyone like Drew, or even Oliver, the most unlikely of all.
I forgot they did that. I tried to inform my relatives that I preferred a nickname, but it just ended up turning into ‘Annie’, and ‘Pamela’ by my Uncle Roger – for reasons only he and Merlin would know – so I pretended it was just a phase and comfortable with taking on my full identity.
My Aunt Clarissa was, in some ways, a very fun woman. She was far more fun when I was twelve, but who could really complain? Regardless, she was fun enough for me not to question her presence, despite the fact that she was from my Dad’s side of the family.
Strolling up to me, she took me into an embrace, which felt more like a light encirclement, given her slender frame, and said, “Marianne, I almost didn’t recognise you. You’re so pretty!”
“Thanks,” I said dryly. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m pretty sure I get something when she dies, I probably would have pointed out that I do not have her genes to thank for that.
“This is really astounding. I don’t know how your Mother does it.”
“Comes with practice, I suppose.” Through my peripheral vision, I was trying to spot my mysterious friends, but to no avail.
“And she’s looking quite well, considering the divorce.” I almost forgot how open these events truly were. My family had a deep rooted belief in knowing everybody’s business, so it was apparently completely normal to just discuss it, no matter how loud the volume or how sensitive the subject matter. The only exception would be when it was an insult to one of the other family members; in which case, you could only whisper and use your facial expression to very obviously show when you’d been caught out.
Ah, my family.
“Well, she’s happy with Leslie.”
“Surprise to us all, really.”
“But your mother’s getting on, and these mid life crises are bound to happen.”
I was slightly mystified at it. “Well, I know Leslie’s a bit young, but –“
“Not the age. The whole ‘lesbian’ thing.” Now we had entered whispers. “I mean, obviously Leslie may have taken advantage of the situation –“
“I don’t think my Mother’s being gay is a phase,” I pointed out.
“Your mother’s from good stock.”
“That has nothing to do from it.”
“Oh darling, I know your generation have some very romantic ideas.”
“Not romantic.” Growing a bit red, I immediately regretted ever considering her fun. “I get that you’re on Dad’s side, but that’s my Mum you’re talking about. If she wants to be gay then… that’s her own business. And you know what,” and I really didn’t know where this came from, “don’t blame Leslie. Yes, she seems a bit evil at times,” I knew where that came from, “but she didn’t ‘corrupt’ Mum. They fell in love and Mum had decided herself to make Leslie her part- her wife.”
I hadn’t realised how loud I had been speaking at this stage. I was only aware when I glanced around the room, finding out just how many people had been staring at me. The one absent person from the room, for which I was quite grateful, was Leslie. Mum stared at me in complete disbelief, but a smile was still forming regardless. It seemed to support it.
After a moment’s hesitation, the party returned to normal, though I saw that Aunt Clarissa had decided to vacate the conversation and move to the other side of the room. Mum had managed to find me and whisper in my ear, “I knew you’d warm up to her.”
“No,” I said defensively. “I did that for your benefit.”
“Yes. Now if you excuse me, I have friends to meet.” Apparently.
I tried searching around for a familiar face, but they were all family. Finally I heard someone call out, “Anne,” signalling to me, but when I turned around, I suddenly realised why it would be such a mystery to me. I didn’t know who the Hell they were.
“Anne.” There were three of them, two boys and a girl. One of the boys was blond with quite a strong jaw. The other two looked very alike, I would have almost guessed that they were related. But none of this was ringing any bells for me. They were complete strangers.
The blond man, put an arm around my waist and said, “Told you we’d find the place. Where have you been?”
“I… just talking with…”
“Oh, we heard that,” said the girl. “Good on you.”
“Thanks?” The other boy was just laughing at me. This was making absolutely no sense whatsoever.
“I can’t breathe in here, can you?”
“I’m fine,” I stammered.
“Nah, it’s too stuffy, let’s go outside.”
What was happening here?
I was hurried outside, and they all began to laugh. I sort of chuckled for a second, but it was blatantly clear that I wasn’t part of the joke. “I’m really sorry, I’ve got to be honest –“
“It’s OK, you’ve never met us,” replied the girl. “I’m Norma.”
The blond laughed. “I’m Jeremy. You were very cooperative.”
“That’s why I thought I was being dumb – who are you then?”
“Charlie, Charles, whatever,” replied the final one. He then turned his attention from me. “Told you we’d find her.”
“We know your sister,” continued Norma. “I work with her.”
“Is she here?” I asked, my hope obvious.
“No. She doesn’t know we’re here. But she’s told us a lot about you.” Well, that was only slightly creepy. “How’ve the dreams been?” And that was creepier.
“Val’s been talking to your Dad, and he said that your Mum wrote him. Quite concerned about these odd dreams you seem to be having.”
“They’re just nightmares.”
“What do you see?” Jeremy’s voice was far sterner. “How close do they seem to be?”
“I’m going back in,” I demanded, but Jeremy gripped onto my wrist and then continued to tug me further from the house and down the street, Norma and Charlie following me. “Let go.”
“Don’t be mean.”
“They’re just dreams, they’re nothing.”
“But you seem pretty scared right now.”
“That’s because it seems a lot like I’m about to be kidnapped here.”
“Don’t be stupid,” assured Jeremy. “If we were going to kidnap you, we would’ve Apparated or something.” He then grinned. “Like this.”
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