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Chapter 11 : The one with the great big mess
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“It’s what I said in fifth year,” I admitted feeling slightly gloomy about the whole prospect of leaving Hogwarts and suddenly having to grow up. Although, if it was any consolation looking at my other relatives who’d already left it was no guarantee of growing up anymore than they had already (James was a prime example of this: he was earning far too much money to permit him to be sensible), “and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I’m not like Jan who’s wanted to be a Healer since forever,”
“Hmm,” Rory said, leaning back in his chair and staring at the ceiling for a long moment. Then he smiled slightly and said “I wonder what Rich is going to do?”
“Probably the same sort of thing as he does now: indecent exposure to girls a little too young, annoying inappropriate jokes and generally being a tosser,”
“Probably,” Rich agreed and then glanced up as he heard footsteps on the stairs – although normally, being in the common room, this wouldn’t have been that abnormal but as it was nearly two in the morning and everyone else had gone to bed hours ago. Rory and I had spent the past hour vaguely talking about exam results and the future – the Jan issues was brought up a few times, and then swiftly dropped when I could come up with no decent solution to the fact that we’d both be graduating and due to our parents, would probably never see each other.
It was Jan coming down the stairs in her Tornado’s Pyjamas and the big fluffy dressing gown I’d brought her for Christmas.
“I reckon he’ll end up as some rich banker git, I’m going to stay in touch just in case he does end up loaded. He’s never going to be overflowing with friends to donate it to, is he?” Rory snorted, “he told Ruby that she had ‘decent size boobage’ yesterday, I wished she’d slapped -” Then Rory stopped talking because Jan had reached the bottom of the stairs and was quite obviously crying.
God, I hated it when Jan was upset.
She sat down on the sofa and wrapped her arms around me, pressing her face into my neck. I could feel the tears smudge against my skin and I pulled her closer and kissed her forehead.
“What’s wrong?” I muttered into her forehead, feeling incredibly inadequate as her eyes frosted over with tears again.
“Dad,” Jan said with her face still buried in the crook of my neck, “Cancer’s back,”
“I’m heading up,” Rory said softly, nodding to me over Jan’s head as he headed for the stairs.
“We’ll be up in a bit,” I returned in the same hushed voice as if Jan wouldn’t hear us if we were quiet, “tell Rich if he wakes us up in the morning he’s dragon feed,”
“Sure,” Rory said, “night,”
Jan pulled herself out of my neck for a second with her lip wobbling, “make it better, Al,” she said, wrapping her legs around me too and staring at me tearfully.
“I can’t make everything better,”
“Yes you can, you’re Albus Potter – that’s what you do,”
“I can tell you what James told me in his last letter?” I offered, Jan nodded, “he’s brought a Smart car,” Jan sniffed in a way that I contrived to show slight amusement, “With a personalised number plate,”
“Early midlife crisis?” Jan suggested, burying herself in my shoulder again.
“No,” I contradicted, “just James, did your mum write to you then?”
“Yeah,” Jan nodded, “said he’s going in for more chemo next week,” I hugged her into my chest and kissed her again, “distract me,” she muttered –louder now Rory was hanging about – “I don’t want to think about it just yet,”
“My pleasure,” I said, with a small smile. Jan smiled weakly, her fingers pressing into the back of my neck. God, why was she so perfect? I kissed her, threading my fingers around her hand and making sure she was as close to me as possible.
I had a sudden flash of inspiration and was fully preparing myself for a full frontal attack on her ticklish spot, just above the smallest part of her waist...
“No,” Jan muttered, jamming her hands to her sides and flushing, “I need to shave,”
“Your arms?” I questioned, fully ready to have my mind blown by the weirdness of girl’s lives all over again. Jan smiled, a weak smile, but it was there nevertheless.
“No, my armpits – they’re fuzzy,”
“Yes, fuzzy!” Jan said flushing red but grinning, I kissed her, “just make sure I keep my arms at my sides,”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, trying to get past her hands so I could abuse her ticklish spot a little more, “you can be as fuzzy as you like,”
“But you’ll be disgusted!” Jan said, resolutely holding her arms flat against her body as she looked up at me – adorably nestled in the curve of the sofa with her hair framing her face, “you’ll be horrified by how unsexy I am,”
“Jan, it’s hair growth – there are worse things in life. You can shave or not shave wherever and whenever you want. You’re a girl, so the rest doesn’t really matter,”
“So you’re saying that if I didn’t shave my legs for a month you wouldn’t care?” Jan asked with an eyebrow raised.
“I’m saying I’d rather you didn’t shave your legs for a month than forbid me from touching your legs. Who cares if you’re a little furry?” Jan giggled and wrapped her arms around my neck again. I kissed her, she kissed me, Jan laughed and I grinned at her. I ran my hands up her arm, forcing her to expose former mentioned fuzzy armpit, “please do shave your legs though,” I added as an afterthought.
She slapped my hand away with a half laugh, “you’re so idiotic,”
“Love you,” I added hopefully.
“Let’s go to bed,” she said, threading her fingers through mine and leaning against my side with a wistful sigh. If only I could really make things better.
“Bloody fecking Rich,” Jan was muttering, squashed next to me on the bench as we ate breakfast on Saturday morning, “I pity the woman who ends up with him, actually, you know what – with him in the world I just pity women,”
“Jan, come on, it’s not like it’s a surprise – every single time you’ve slept in our dorm we’ve been woken up by him doing something inappropriate, scaring and worrying,”
“But really!” Jan hissed, angrily staring at her toast. She took a moment out from her anger to turn, kiss me on the corner of the mouth and lean heavily on my shoulder, “I didn’t want to be hit round the face with a wet towel this morning – and he could have put on some clothes first!”
“Should you go talk to Eleanor and make sure she’s okay?” I asked softly.
“She’s in a mood with me,” Jan huffed. I took a moment to find Eleanor at the Hufflepuff table – her hair was currently tipped with blood red and she’d gained another piercing since I’d last seen her. It was hard work to figure out when Eleanor wasn’t in a mood.
“It’s complicated,” Jan said stiffly.
“It’s James’s fault! Even not being here he still managed to do my head in,” she pouted at my questioning look and frowned, “Eleanor slept with James,” I knocked my pumpkin juice over the table and hastily picked it up again, “I know right,” Jan said, “and then Eleanor was convinced she was pregnant –”
“I need some more pumpkin just to knock over in shock,” I said, blinking, “so Eleanor is, was...?”
“No, false alarm – thank god,” Jan said tiredly, “anyway after the summer... when we slept together, she was all ‘aww, I’m jealous – well, not really because I had James. Ho, isn’t that funny! We’re twins and we had a brother each!’ and she was really pissing me off, comparing her stupid one night stand to us and then I said... I said that I’d had James too,”
“Jan,” I said warningly.
“Then Eleanor got all prissy and said a couple of things, she probably thought she was special because she had a pregnancy scare due to James Potter or something and then, and well, we haven’t been on the best terms,”
“You were boasting about kissing James?” I asked incredulously.
“I haven’t talked to my twin for five freaking months and that’s what you pick up on?” Jan demanded.
“And it’s not like you ‘had James’ – you kissed him for like a second,”
“Well it was a bit more than a second,” Jan said.
“And now you’re defending yourself?”
“So, let me get this straight – you had an argument with your twin over my brother, because you were boasting about how you’d snogged James too. Why don’t you go throw yourself on Lily, then you’ve got the whole freaking set! I’m sure getting through most of my cousins will take you awhile – but I’m sure you’d manage it if you really tried!”
“Now you’re being ridiculous!” Jan snapped, trying to grab my hand and make me look at her properly, “you know what I’m like with Eleanor – I’ll say anything to wind her up, that’s what we do...”
“Forget it, Jan,” I said angrily, “you’ve always got an excuse for everything,”
“Al! For fucks sake! I found out like a few hours ago that my dad’s cancer’s come back, can you save being a tosser for another time, yeah?” Then she threw me one last wounded look, oh god – worse than that, she was starting to cry – and then she was up and heading out of the hall much too fast for my liking.
“Oh sodding hell,” I muttered, pressing a hand to my forehead.
“Al,” Lily said, appearing from nowhere looking concerned, “Al, James is in St Mungo’s – Neville just told me, he... he wants you and Jan to visit him. If she wants too, obviously,”
“St Mungos?” I gaped, blinking stupidly at her for a few seconds, “I’ll just... find Jan then – shall I?” I said weakly, glancing at the doorway and feeling a lump rise in my throat.
“The nearest girls toilets are just on the left in the corridor,” Lily added helpfully.
Bloody self satisfied siblings. And bloody hospitalised siblings. I just blame siblings.
“What the hell did you do, James?” Jan asked, but her voice seemed sort of hollow. We’d made a semi-truce (AkA, I’d sort of grovelled, Jan had cried and said ‘whatever, it doesn’t even matter’ and now we weren’t talking).
“This random guy just started on me,” James shrugged, the bandage over his arm wobbling slightly comically. I raised an eyebrow, “...cause I was shagging his girlfriend,”
“I detest your guts,” I muttered, sitting down on the counter and resigning myself to it, “was she hot?” I added, because Jan sent me a predictable wounded look which I grinned at. She almost smiled for a second, before settled back into glaring at James as if he was the worst person alive. I think making Jan go to a St Mungo’s hours after she’d found out about her dad’s returning cancer was possibly going to put James in the doghouse for the rest of his life.
“Yeah,” James said, “so worth it,”
“You’re such a prat,” Jan said with an eye roll.
“So what’s new with you guys?”
“Jan was just telling me about Eleanor,” I said pleasantly, shrugging my shoulders at him. James glanced between us for a few seconds, grimacing at Jan’s expression.
“In her defence, she was really drunk,” James said helpfully.
“Whatever,” Jan said, “she told me about it ages ago, I don’t care who or what she does. What do you want from us James?”
“Funny you should ask that,” James said, “because, well... turns out that even though I’m of age they still told mum that I’m in St Mungo’s... so she’s going to go round my apartment and clean it for me to make me feel better,”
“Yeah,” Jan said, “and why are we involved?”
“Because my apartment is so horrifically mess it, that if mum see’s it she’ll make me move back home. I’m serious, it’s unsanitary – and she said that the first time she found anything growing from between the floorboards I had to move back home immediately. There are entire forests growing from the floor, damnit. And I don’t want to go live at home!”
“You want us to clean your house,”
“Yeah,” James said, “thanks guys – I love you both,”
“What’s in it for us?” Jan demanded.
“Free house, do with it what you will. Anyway, seventh year is shit – it’ll get you out of Hogwarts for awhile,”
“I love you too James,” I muttered, “but next time you’re on your own,” before Jan could declare that the only thing she wanted to do in a free house with me was kill me and burry my mutilated corpse in the garden. Well, maybe not the far. But she was definitely looking like she was going to make some comment that James would inevitably use on me for the rest of my life.
“Let’s go,” I muttered, taking Jan’s hand (she pulled it away pretty quickly) and leaving James to his bruised face (and ego).
“I don’t really care about the whole Eleanor thing,” I said eventually, after a good solid hour of cleaning James’s flat (do we call it a flat? I’d more go for rubbish tip but I don’t think it would cover the levels of mess. I’m entirely sure some of the fungus growing is actually toxic) “I know how siblings make everyone act like complete douchebags. Information overload, I think,”
“Forget it,” Jan said, “Maybe you should be mad, but she seemed to think she’d got the better brother and... and, well, I was trying to put her straight. It didn’t exactly turn out that way, but that was my original intention,”
“I like you,”
“I like you too, Al,” Jan said, throwing me a bemused look, “even when you’re a prat,”
“I come with so much baggage,” I said, looking around James’s apartment with a sad smile, “so much James-related-baggage,” The thing about Jan was she understood the whole sibling issues unlike most people I’d ever met. Maybe Eleanor just had pregnancy scares and James had a hundred different varieties of mould growing in his flat – either way, they were bloody hard work and having someone who understood that was sort of invaluable.
“Meh, we were best friends anyway. Now we just sleep together too,”
“That’s not the only difference,” I returned, my forehead creasing slightly.
“Sure, we make out too,” Jan said, “and I suppose we hold hands more,”
“We argue more,” I suggested, turning to gauge her reaction to my comment. I was vaguely aware that now wasn’t really the time to bring that sort of thing up, but it had been bugging me for a couple of weeks and it was going to burst out at some point.
“Do we?” Jan asked, slumping down on the side of James’s bed and glancing up at the ceiling, “that’s very much not a good thing,
“Bugger it all to hell, Al. I don’t want to argue with you. Can’t we just kiss and make up?”
“Yes,” I said, bending down and letting her kiss me before slumping down next to her. I looked around James’s apartment with a grimace, “can you believe him? The only place there isn’t mould is his bed – and that’s probably only because I’m scared of looking,” Even after magic, all our hard work and some extra-strong cleaning potions we’d picked up in Diagon alley James’s place still looked like it had been reposed and then left to rot for several years. The fact that he’d achieved all of this in the space of about five months was actually bloody impressive.
“He can’t genuinely take girls back here,” Jan said, kissing my check and resting her head on my shoulder. I draped around her shoulders and for a moment we just sat and looked at the atrocious sate of my brother’s room – and this, mind you, was after twenty minutes of solid cleaning smells in this room alone, “Merlin, what a great big mess,”
“The room or our relationship? Wait, Jan – don’t hit me, I was only making a joke!”
“It wasn’t funny,” Jan said fiercely, standing up and pulling out her wand again – angry streams of light flashing form her wand, “why are you so determined to think that something’s wrong?” I stood up wearily and pulled my own wand out, miserably muttering cleaning spells at the floor. I could think of entirely better ways to spend my day but as always James had to step right in and ruin everything (after I’d successfully ruined everything myself by upsetting Jan).
“Because we always argue,” I muttered quietly, “and, well, in a few months we leave school and then what happens?”
“We stay together forever. You signed the contract, Al. Don’t go flaking out on me now,”
“I love you,”
“Well stop whining then! Honestly, I can deal with you acting like a first class idiot most of the time. I actually quite like it when you’re an arse, what I don’t like is you acting as if there’s a possibility we might break up or something,”
“Unless you’re planning on dumping me, no,” Jan said tightly, “I don’t care if you have to move to Australia I’m not losing you, so just stop -”
“-stopping,” I said, stepping forwards and wrapping my arms around her, “I’ll just do whatever you say from now on,” I added, pressing my lips into her neck as she performed one last cleaning spell with a flourish.
“Finally,” Jan grinned, wrapping her arms around my neck and turning to face me with a grin, “and look?” She added, whispering in my era, “everything already looks that little bit cleaner,”
“You know when you’re a Healer you won’t be able to be so patronising,” I said.
“And all it took was a bit of work,” Jan continued, raising her eyebrows before grinning at me.
“You’re so annoying,” I said, pressing my forehead against hers and frowning, “why are you so annoying?”
“Natural talent,” Jan said, “now, I say we clean for another half an hour then we just ship. Your mum will be confused if it’s too clean,”
“True,” I said, not letting go o her, “but... you know what we should do first?”
“I you’re suggesting finding out first hand if there’s any mould in James’s bed – I’d really rather not,”
“No,” I said, digging my hand into the pocket of my robes and pulling out James’s car keys, “my least favourite brother has a smart car with a personalised number plate, if you remember rightly?”
“Oh,” Jan said, her eyes sparkling, “and can you drive, Mr Potter,”
“No,” I grinned in returned.
“All the better,” Jan said, “we could drive it into a lamp post, or a bush... or a scrap yard!”
“How do you turn it on?” I muttered distractedly, trying repeated to re-insert the keys to see if that made any difference to the fact that the engine wasn’t working.
“Twist the key,” Jan said with an eye roll, leaning over me and twisting it, “maybe I should be driving,” Jan suggested lightly, leaning back in her seat and watching me with a brighter smile than I’d seen from her for days. I grinned at her. James may be a fantastic shit, but doing anything to piss him off was automatically a bonding session. Every time Jan and I argued we should just sent James a dungbomb in the post or put something poisonous and scaly in his bed.
“I’ve got it Jan, don’t try to reign in my manliness,” Jan laughed at that and shook her head, reaching over the space between our car seats to kiss me on the cheek.
“Never, Al,” She whispered seriously, “now, next you put your foot on the clutch and the accelerator... and then you pull up the handbreak, got that?”
“Stop being patronising, and which is the clutch?”
“Merlin, we’re both going to die,”
“Wait, I got it!” I said, reaching down to lift up the parking brake and smash James’s car up within an inch of its life-
The engine roared into life, the windscreen wipers came on and the entire car steamed up instantaneously – leaving us utterly blind to everything that wasn’t in the car.
“What the hell did you do?” Jan demanded, leaning over and desperately pressing buttons.
“You obviously did something,” Jan said, putting on the windscreen cleaners to de-mist all the windows.
“No I... James,” I said, swallowing as the mist disappeared and the message now scrawled across the windscreen was now visible ‘nice try, you hooligan.’
Sooo... this was a very long wait. Sorry, but if it helps... I'm being an updating fiend here (sorry, validators) and have updated amost everything so... plenty of things to read? Thanks for sticking with me :)
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by Eavan Shea