Chapter 2 : The clue is to mentally distance yourself
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"Mum!" Albus calls out to me from the backseat where he's squished between James and Minnie. "James has got his foot on my side again!"
I try my best to ignore it. Just like I ignored Min and Will's fight about which of them that would sit beside James. How he could be their favourite, I will never know.
"It's not my fault I've got these long dancer's legs," James says back and stretches his arm above his head like a gender confused ballerina.
"Wha-? James! Don't bloody take off your shoes!" I suddenly hear Al roar at his brother, and I react instantly by rolling down the windows. Technology is awesome. With just a few clicks I have opened every window in the car.
Al, Lily and Min are pinching their noses and making choked sounds. Will pretends that he doesn't care about the odour, but I can see him retching a bit. I lean in closer to the window for some fresh, non-toxic air and plan on soaking James' feet in some kind of disinfectant when he's asleep.
"My feet stink," James says matter-of-factly. "I'm like seriously getting tired from the smell."
"Then please do us all a favour, and put your shoes back on," I say, speaking for the first time since we left King's Cross.
James does, in fact, put his shoes back on, but the smell doesn't go away. It never really goes away. Harry and I had to throw away an entire closet after the kids played hide and seek with their cousin, Fred.
It needs to be said that Fred doesn't smell like a garden of roses either, and the two of them teamed up. In our closet.
Angelina and George apologized for a week after that, until James and Fred found it to be a good idea to play inside-Quidditch in their living room.
"Mum, what do you think of tongue studs?" James asks me, and I sigh.
"I think they're ugly, disgusting and unhygienic."
"Good, cause I want a tattoo."
I laugh. It's either that or crying, and it's too early in the day for crying. Crying is something one does after nine p.m. with a bottle of wine and Celestina Warbeck in the background. I finally realised why Mum had a thing for her; it takes the focus off murdering my children and instead channels that rage toward the singing banshee.
"No," I say after a few minutes of laughing.
"Why?" James demands. "Why can't I get a tattoo? Dad has one!"
"No, he doesn't," I snort. But I know that's not true. To make a long story short, Ron challenged Harry(when they'd both had enough firewhiskey to put an ogre to sleep) to get one. And Harry - who makes it a point to never back away from a challenge - accepted. And now he has a Pygmy Puff on his left buttcheek.
"Yes, he does," James argues. "So why can't I?"
"Because I said so, that's why."
Ah, because I said so - the argument of every self-respecting parent.
"Please, Mum!" he whines.
I count to five in my head before answering. "They cost a fortune, they hurt and once you got one you're stuck with it for life."
"It's only a tattoo..." James mumbles sourly.
"I was talking about children," I groan. "Subject closed, okay?"
"But my best mate has got one, and I have to-"
"Fred does not have a tattoo," I laugh.
"Damn, I forgot you knew who my best mate was," James mutters under his breath. I roll my eyes at his stupidity.
Okay, I know it's not correct for a mother to refer to his son as 'the stupid one', but saying anything else would be a lie. James is not the bright one of the family, and I know I'll be reminded of that throughout this summer. Having him away at Hogwarts gives me a chance to forget exactly how fowl-sized his intellect is, and I delude myself into believing he's better there than here.
"I've had an ant for a best friend," Will shares with us. "But it died."
"Oh, no. What happened?" Al asks.
"I squished it."
It takes at least twenty minutes for me to get the kids out of the car, make them carry their own trunks(James said he'd pulled a muscle during the car ride) and herded them into the house. I had just about sat my arse down when the front door opens abruptly.
"Oh, bollocking hell!" my dear husband, the wizarding world's saviour, shouts as the door is opened. "The next door sodding dog has crapped on the doorstep again!"
"Oh, dear," I say with feigned interest. "At least you didn't step in it."
Harry hops over the threshold on one leg, and shows me his excrement-covered shoe. I stifle a laugh as I sit up straight on the chair I'd flopped down on.
"Why can't people control their animals, huh?" Harry vents angrily, jumping about on the one leg while trying to get off his shoe without touching the brown stuff. "How would Mr Livingston like it if I had James over to crap on his doorstep?"
"I'd do it for cash!" James adds quickly while coming out from the kitchen with a sandwich.
"I'll bear that in mind," Harry mutters, and points his wand at the dirty shoe. It's off, and cleaned up in a jiff, but Harry's still grumpy. Now that the shoe situation is under control, Harry finally seems to realise that his oldest son is standing in front of him.
"Hi, Dad," James says, mouth full of food. "'Ow's ith gong?" (I'll translate that for you: How's it going?)
Harry sighs, and we share a look. It's the oh-that's-right-it's-summer-again look.
"James," Harry puts on a brave face as he walks over to his son and gives him a man-hug(you know, the ones with excessive back-patting and awkward coughs), "good to have you back."
"Aw, you missed me that bad, eh?" James asks and grins with pieces of salami between his teeth.
It takes a moment for Harry to respond, but at least he's smiling. Having James back home always means a great loss of galleons, an endless array of wrecked personal items, and a load of general grief. The rest of the clan are all right, but James... Well, let's just say he has a knack for causing trouble. So there are legitimate reasons as to why Harry is hesitant.
"Yes," he finally says, and gives James another pat, only on the shoulder this time.
"That's sweet," James observes. "Now, you know what'll make this moment even sweeter, Dad? A tattoo."
And we're off.
Ooh, saved by the bell now, Jamie.
The twins are running to their father, dragging Lily and Al with them. When the older ones notice that their father is home, they speed up as well, and greet him with a group hug. I can hear Harry chuckling from the center, and I reckon he has forgotten all about the shoe episode. James actually joins in, and squeezes them all with his abnormally long arms(Harry and I used to joke about him looking like an ape when he was younger - it stopped being funny when he grew older, and seemed to adopt their mannerism as well).
I guess having them all back for a few months wouldn't be so-
"Hey, guys, I just farted," James informs, and the huddle explodes.
Lily scurries off, screaming bloody murder, along with shrieking "It burns! It burns!" over and over again; Al calmly exits through the main door, swiftly jumping over the next-door dog's droppings; Harry is tackled by Minnie, who's urging him to take her away, and little Will is still standing there laughing along with James.
I can see him turning into a tiny version of James by each passing day, and there is nothing I can do about it - and believe me, I've tried.
The smell hit me like a bag of overweight cats. Like Crookshanks, only less dead. (If Hermione had heard that joke, she would've run out of here sobbing. The bloody cat died two years ago, but it's still a sore subject.)
"Oi, mate!" Harry exclaims - his glasses all askew - with his thumb and forefinger pinching his nose. Min is pinching hers as well. "Not cool!"
James just keeps laughing, and high fives Will's small hand.
I just lean back in my seat and try to ignore the sound of Min retching, Harry coughing, the distant cry of my thirteen-year old daughter, and the two buffoons who are snickering devilishly.
And with the mental image of being completely alone and stranded on a beach(much like that show... Oh, what's it called? It ended years ago... Bugger, this'll drive me crazy), all the noise fades into the background, and I enjoy the feel of the imaginary sand between my toes.
I think I'll just stay here for the rest of the day.
I grin. I remembered. So I guess I won't be going grazy. Not yet, anyways.
I absolutely love writing this story! Please tell me how you find the different characters. I hope they are relatable, and seem real to you.
I know the chapters are short, but I just want the story to be like that for now: short and sweet :) (More drama will ensue, but not yet.)
Thanks for reading, you gorgeous people!
'Lost' is not mine! But I do recommend watching it.
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