Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I'm just unoriginal.
I dumped Hank.
Well, I suppose it was more of an implied break-up. There weren’t any words exchanged, I didn’t threaten to kill him, and I certainly didn’t shed any tears. It was like I just walked into our bedroom, noticed that he was shagging Monica, and when he noticed that I was standing there, I just turned – a complete 180 – and left. I didn’t care.
Truthfully, I’d been deliberating on whether to break up with him for about two weeks now. He was dead weight. When I met him, coincidentally at a bar, he had just signed on with Puddlemere as a reserve beater. We met up a few times after that, and eventually, somehow we ended up moving in together. I was actually committed (a feat in itself), and when he was suspended from the team, it didn’t bother me.
Until month four rolled around and he’d just been mooching off of me, no word from Puddlemere on whether they were going to pick him back up or not. Even further, he just lacked the ambition to go out and get another job.
The nagging part of me – my brother, Hollis, begged me to drop him.
And when I walked in on Hank and my best friend, Monica, the problem solved itself.
I went back home to stay with mom and Hollis that same day. This, naturally, stirred up quite a bit of gossip in the small town of Ottery St. Catchpole.
“Audie,” Hollis was saying as he picked up a jar of grape jelly, inspecting it, before he placed it in the cart. “Hank is a twat."
I shrugged in response, nonplussed. We were standing in Milgram’s Market the morning after I’d arrived. At first, I was insistent on staying at home, not wanting to endure the gossipy birds that would no doubt play twenty-one questions on why I was back in town. He made me come anyway. (“No one should stay cooped up with mum for too long,”) was his official argument, but I knew that secretly, Hollis just hated grocery shopping. It made him look girly.
So I showered and slipped into a pair of mum’s sweats: a matching pants and jacket set that she owned in five different colors. I grabbed for the grey pair, the others ranging from blues to yellows, and pulled my knotted hair into a ponytail.
I wasn’t surprised, when I’d arrived at the market, to see that all the birds were watching me, curiously, as though they hadn’t seen me before. Already they were beginning to gossip.
“Oh, Auden, is that you?” they would say. I would exchange pleasantries, all the while watching the rest of them two isles down, whispering.
What I found more disconcerting was that Hollis didn’t seem to be too worried about it.
“They’re leaving someone else alone, Audie.” He told me, now grabbing a jar of peanut butter off the shelves.
“Well, I heard,” one of the birds, Mabel DiAngelo, was whispering as we turned into the frozen foods section, “that she walked in on her fiancé sleeping with her best friend.”
Her friend, an older woman that I didn’t recognize, gasped, “That poor girl.”
It was then that they saw Hollis and me, and I just stared at them, unsure of how to respond to this situation. They blushed and quickly steered their carts out of the isle.
“Well, at least they’re accurate.” Hollis mused, ribbing me as he tossed a bag of frozen peas into the cart. “Yesterday afternoon I heard that you came back because your boss fired you and you couldn’t pay the rent on your flat.”
I was the editor for a muggle newspaper, Mayfield Examiner. Initially, my ambition was to land a job at the Daily Prophet, but they require so many years’ experience. So I applied for a part-time position at the Examiner, one of the best weekly newspapers in London. My promotion was almost immediate. Apparently my editing skills were more welcomed than my feature pieces on weathervanes and scandals.
“So,” Hollis began conversationally, “How did you manage to get off work today?"
“I didn’t,” I responded. I just chose to work from home. “I have a conference call at one with my co-editor and a few stories to edit.”
Hollis sighed and looked pointedly over at me, “What happened to fun Audie? The one that would call off work in a heartbeat?”
I rolled my eyes, “I’m still fun! I’m in charge of getting a newspaper out, it’s a big job.”
Hollis gave me another look. He knew me better than anyone, so whenever I would pour myself into my work this way, something wasn’t right. Choosing not to say anything, he turned into the fresh produce section, slamming right into someone else’s cart.
I snorted, “Nice, Hol.”
The owner of the cart, a pleasant looking woman with vibrant red hair, just blinked. Not at my brother, who had just slammed his cart into hers, but at me.
“Mum, they didn’t have the mayonnaise you wanted, so I got the off-brand –” A girl was saying as she came up to the woman, a jar of mayonnaise in hand. When she glanced up, at me, she blinked, nearly dropping the jar.
Hollis cleared his throat, ribbing me, “Audie, you remember the Weasleys.”
“Auden Penelope Grey,” the woman began in a reminiscent tone, “is that you?”
“Audie!” the girl chirped, setting the jar absently in her mother’s cart before hugging me.
I stood there, frozen. Of all the people I could run into at this market, it had to be the Weasleys.
“I haven’t seen you since you, Hollis and Charlie graduated. What was that, four years ago?” the woman, Molly Weasley, replied; now wrapping me in one of her familiar bear hugs. She pulled away to inspect me, “Have you been eating properly?”
Hollis was leaning against the cart, watching this exchange with an amused look on his face. “Oh, you know Audie, can’t cook to save her life.”
“I can cook!” I protested.
“Oh, dear,” Molly laughed, placing her hand on my shoulder, “microwaves don’t count.”
I couldn’t help but smile at this. Hollis and I had practically grown up at the Weasley’s house. Each summer I would beg Molly to let me help with the cooking, and each year I would burn anything that wasn’t microwaved. She would just laugh, claiming that she’d make a chef out of me yet.
“So what have you been up to?” Molly asked as the younger girl, her daughter, Ginny, waited attentively.
“Just working,” I told her.
“She’s the editor for the Examiner,” Hollis supplied. “She doesn’t even have time for us anymore.”
I smacked the top of Hollis’s head. “That is not true and you know it.”
He just grinned.
“So what are you going in town on a Wednesday?” Ginny asked.
“I’m staying for a little while,” I said.
Ginny suddenly looked ecstatic, “How long? You should come over for dinner before you leave!”
I smiled, mulling over a few excuses.
“Oh, Charlie would love that.” Molly added, “Bill and Charlie are both in for the summer."
I could feel my stomach flop as I heard Charlie’s name. I grimaced, “Actually, I wasn’t planning on staying much longer. I was probably going to leave tomorrow morning.”
“We’re free tonight, though.” Hollis interjected. I not-so-slyly stomped on his foot.
“We’re having a cook-out tonight anyway,” Ginny informed us. “It’s at six.”
Molly was smiling. “So it’s settled, we’ll see you at six?”
I opened my mouth to protest. Hollis cut in before I could say anything, “We’ll be there!”
I waited until they were out of ear-shot before I turned to Hollis. He was smirking.
“What the ruddy hell, Hol?” I growled.
He waved my anger off, “Come on, Audie, I know you miss them.
“I really do not.” I lied. I did miss them. I missed the Weasleys more than I missed my own mother. Molly and Arthur were there when our parents went through a particularly messy divorce. Mum was a mess, often forgetting to pay the electric bills, never fixing food, sometimes forgetting to come home altogether. Molly forced us to stay with her during that summer, and we bunked in with her son, Charlie. The Weasleys were a lively bunch of people, and I loved being there because there was never a dull moment. Even years after the divorce, when mum was home on a more consistent basis, Hol and I would still find ourselves camping out at the burrow with Bill and Charlie.
Hol, Charlie and I were inseparable through Hogwarts. Hollis usually spent his time chasing skirts though, so in later years it was often just Charlie and I. It didn’t bother me. Sometimes I preferred Charlie over my own brother. Mainly because Charlie wasn’t so much interested in chasing after skirts as he was taking care of the magical animals.
Charlie wasn’t interested in girls until our seventh year. And even then I wasn’t sure until he asked Monica to the dance. We’d initially agreed to go together, as friends, but when he told me she said yes, the look on his face was too genuine to say no to.
So I didn’t go to the dance. And after, when Monica came in, all smiles, she told me that she lost her virginity that night.
And I was too polite to say anything. So instead, I stopped talking to Charlie.
“Seriously, Auden, we’re really fine. You can take the day off,” Mabel Greene insisted.
I was sitting in the guest bedroom after Hollis had finished his shopping. For the last five minutes, I’d been practically begging my boss for more work. Not having anything to keep me busy was killing me. I spent a full hour putting away groceries, doing dishes, and mopping when we got back – the muggle way.
“Listen, I really appreciate your dedication,” Greene continued, “but even the editor needs a day off.”
I could tell, just by the tone in her voice that she already knew about my break-up.
“Just take this day off, for me?” She pleaded, “Go get a manicure, or a massage...” her voice dropped a few octaves, “or some great hate sex.”
I burst out laughing.
She sighed, “I know you feel lost, but this break-up could be the best thing for you.”
“Mabel, I don’t miss Hank. I’m glad to be rid of him.”
“I’m just saying,” she protested. “Family and friends are the best people to be around right now.”
Hollis knocked on my door and leaned casually against the doorframe.
“Thanks, Mabel.” I said. “I’ll let you go."
“Okay,” she replied, “Just remember, as your friend I love you, but as your boss, I’ll kick your ass if you try to work today.”
When I hung up the phone with Mabel, Hollis was still watching me.
“Mum isn’t going later.” He said.
I sighed, lucky bird.
He looked hesitant, “Why aren’t you excited? It’s Charlie.”
“Because it is Charlie,” I snapped as I hopped off the bed.
He look incredulous, “After all this time, you’re still mad at him? So he ditched you to go with a girl. A girl, might I remind you, that he liked for years.”
I shook my head, “It’s not that simple, Hol.”
“Then explain it to me,” he returned, agitated. “What is so wrong about Charlie wanting to go with a girl he liked?”
“He ditched me to go with her!”
“You told him it was okay!” Hollis’s laugh was frustrated.
“So what,” I huffed, grabbing the clothes I’d worn here yesterday and stomping to the bathroom to change, “I was supposed to say ‘No, I’d rather you be bored all night with me.’”
“Yes, and he wouldn’t have gone,” Hollis said.
I shut the door in his face. Hollis lived by telling the truth. That was always his thing. He was the truthful twin and I was the introverted one. He could never wrap his head around the fact that I lied to Charlie about not wanting to go together. He knew that Charlie would have turned Monica down in a heartbeat so he wouldn’t hurt me. But the thing was I did to. This was why I told him that I didn’t care.
“Aud,” he said as I emerged in a pair of tweed shorts and one of his Cannons shirts. “Why didn’t you just tell him?”
I quirked a brow at him, “tell him what?”
He gave me his best you-know-what look. I shrugged it off.
I was nervous.
I was always nervous, but this time it felt different. The entire car ride there I was checking my reflection in the mirror, tucking and un-tucking my bangs behind my ear. I wasn’t sure how to react to seeing the family again. It had been over four years now and even seeing little Ginny all grown up was almost too much to bear. I thought about how much older the twins would look; if Percy still had his god complex.
Beside me, Hollis was playing with the mirror of my mustang. Hollis was never nervous.
Charlie was never nervous.
“Quit,” Hollis said. “If you get yourself all riled up now, you won’t be able to eat.”
“I’m not-” I began, but when I glanced over at Hollis, who was smirking, I decided to just leave it. “It’s going to be awkward. We haven’t seen each other in years, and they’re going to yell at me.”
Hollis laughed, “Did you expect anything less than awkward from the Weasleys?”
When we pulled up into the driveway there were already people outside. A few I recognized: Arthur Weasley, who was staring in awe of the car, Bill, who was chatting with Ron and a younger boy with dark hair, and Ginny, who looked as excited to see me as she was at the market.
I slowed to a stop and looked over at Hollis. He was already standing up, leaping over the door, nonchalant, and waving at Bill.
Sighing, I stepped out of the car and slowly followed Hollis up the driveway.
“Hollis,” Arthur called out as we got closer, “is that your car?”
Hollis smirked, “I wish.”
“Auden Penelope Grey,” Bill announced loudly, and everyone turned to look at me. He was smirking, “you don’t call, you don’t write... where the ruddy hell have you been?”
I forced a smile as he wrapped his arms around me in a hug, “Hey, Billy.”
“You remember Gin, don’t you?” Bill asked as Ginny appeared beside him.
“I was with mum when we saw her at the market, twat.” Ginny swatted away Bill’s hand that was rubbing her head.
I felt my eyes widen. Bill grinned, “Pleasant, isn’t she?”
“Gin reminds me of you at thirteen,” Molly said as she emerged from the house. She hugged Hollis, them me, “I’m glad you came.”
Hollis grinned, “Me too, I’m starved.”
“Typical Hollis,” Bill laughed. He turned to the boy he’d been talking to when we pulled into the driveway. Now that I was closer, I noticed that he was a skinny, raven-haired boy with glasses. “This is Harry Potter. Harry, this is Auden and Hollis Grey.”
“Nice meeting you,” Harry smiled.
“Oi,” two voices shouted in unison. Everyone turned to the door, where two identical boys were stumbling out onto the lawn.
“I thought they said you were coming,” one of them continued.
“- but then I told him that it couldn’t be you. You disappeared!” the other finished.
Molly rolled her eyes lovingly, “You remember Fred and George.”
“Hello Audie,” they chorused. They turned to Molly, “Perce said he’s ‘much too busy with work’.”
I arched a brow, “Where’s Perce working?”
Arthur glanced up at his son’s window adoringly, “He’s gotten a job at the ministry, working for Fudge.”
I smiled, “That’s great.”
“Oi,” a familiar voice called from inside the house. “I leave for five minutes to shower and you lot disappear-”
My stomach did a somersault. Standing in the doorway, rubbing his hair dry with a tattered old towel, was Charlie. He looked so much older now, and still, nothing had changed. His hair was still the same unruly length, his face was still splashed with freckles, he was still so skinny, but his facial hair was more prominent, his eyes were dark and tired, his bare chest more toned.
I wondered if I looked the same to him.
“Where the hell have you been?” Hollis hollered as he jogged over to clap Charlie on the back.
Charlie was staring at me, his expression unreadable. As he came closer, I caught a whiff of his soap, fresh and clean.
I tried not to fidget, but it was hard not to with all of the Weasleys out on the lawn, watching our awkward exchange. He was just looking at me, taking in my hair, my skin, my eyes.
Bill coughed loudly.
Charlie smiled again, a small tint appearing on his face. My breath hitched in my throat as he took a step closer to me, closing the distance that I’d kept for so long. He hugged me, his mouth so close to my ear, “Hey, Aud.”
Then, I did the unthinkable. I hugged him back.
“So,” Hollis began loudly, and I could hear Bill and the twins sniggering. “What’s for dinner?”