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Not Normal by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 1 : {Chapter the First}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 89


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You know your life ain’t normal when you can see dead people.

No, I’m not kidding.

Yes, I am sane.

For the most part.

I think it all started back when I was five – my fifth birthday to be exact.

I was in our back garden lying in the grass, looking up at the endless blue sky and thinking about five-year-old things, when I felt a slight shiver run through me. You know the kind – when it’s all warm outside, but for some reason the nerves down your spine get all tingly. I sat up and, looking around, spotted an old woman standing a few feet away under the dappled shade of a tree.

Somehow, I knew she was dead. Or at least, I comprehended she wasn’t quite like me.

I also knew that I was the only one who could see her because a split second later, my twin brother had come sprinting through the back door, grabbed my hand, and dragged me inside – without even sparing a glance in the direction of the old woman.

“Come on, Ellie!” Chris had said. “Mum and Dad are waiting inside!”

I’d looked back at her; she was still standing there, smiling serenely at me.

“But –” I’d tried to stop, digging my heels into the grass and pulling back on my arms.

“Hurry up! The candles will have melted all over the cake by now!” ThankFlamel Chris has grown out of the melodrama.

“But can’t you –?” I turned around again to look at the lady. She placed a finger to her lips and smiled.


I didn’t see the old lady again until that night, when she appeared out of nowhere at the foot of my bed, just after I’d been tucked in for bedtime.

“Hello, Isabella,” she’d said, smiling.

“It’s Ellie, actually,” I’d informed her, with about as much haughtiness a five-year-old in her nightie could muster.

Her smile had widened. “Well then, Ellie. Do you know who I am?”

I’d shaken my head no.

“I’m your great-grandmother.”

I’d blinked at her in surprise. “What are you doing in my bedroom, great-gran?”

“I’ve come to have a talk with you.”

“Really?” I could barely contain the excitement. I bounced a little in the bed. It appeared, even at the tender young age of five, not many people talked to me. That is the only reason I can think of that would explain why I was so excited at the prospect. “About what?”

“Your gift.”

“What gift? I got a few today, but –”

“Not those gifts!” she’d said, laughing. She had a nice laugh, my great-gran.

I’d cocked my head to the side, my two plaits swinging. “Then what gift?”

“The same gift as mine. You, Ellie darling, can see ghosts.”

I’d laughed then. “Everyone can see ghosts, though! Mum said so! She said Hogwarts is full of ghosts!”

“Not those kinds of ghosts.”

I waited for her to continue. This was turning out to be even better than one of Dad’s stories, and if you’d ever heard my dad tell a story, you’d understand how tough an act he was to top. No one could make the adventures of Perseus, slayer of Medusa, sound as exciting as him.

“After death, one must make a choice. To either stay amongst the living, spending the rest of eternity as a silver spectre of your former self, or to go on. But there are some in this world who cannot make the choice.”

“Why can’t they?” I’d whispered.

“Because they’re stuck. For some reason the poor souls can’t move on. Something’s keeping them tied to Life.” Something about the way she’d said the word had made me think that she meant it with a capital letter, and as Dad had taught me, a capital letter means that a word is very important. “Some unfinished business, some unknown fear.” She stopped and looked at me. “Do you understand?”

I looked back at my great-grandmother, sitting at the foot of my bed in what appeared to be her nightgown, and I did what only a child could do after such a revelation.

I nodded.

It wasn’t as if I actually did understand. I mean, I didn’t even really know what dying was. It wasn’t until the year after that I even began to grasp the concept. I think I’d just learnt that the lamb chops I loved so much to chomp on were actually the same animals that were so soft and cuddly and cute on the telly.

I went vegetarian for six months after that.

But I’d still nodded, because she was my great-grandmother and she was talking to me like I was an adult – or at the very least – like I wasn’t stupid, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

She smiled at me. “And these people, these who can’t move on, are invisible, which makes it all the worse for them. But people like you can see them, Ellie.”

I stared at her for a long moment. “But… other people can’t?”

She shook her head.

“Not even… Chris?” For the first time in my very short life, I began realising that there might be something that my twin brother and I didn’t share. Couldn’t share.

And that scared me.

She shook her head sadly, seeing my fear.

I wasn’t bouncing with excitement anymore.

 
That was twelve years ago.

Life had changed, as one would expect. It was no longer my fifth, but my seventeenth birthday, and Chris and I were visiting Mum’s memorial, like we did every year on our birthday.

We stood side by side, looking at the list of names inscribed on the large stone in front of us. Her name was close to the top, chiselled in capital letters:

Amélie Rhian Anderson

“I miss her,” Chris murmured.

He twined his fingers with mine, and I gave them a light squeeze in empathy. “So do I,” I murmured back.

Eight years ago, a year before we began at Hogwarts, the Great Magical Flu Epidemic happened. Unimaginative names aside, the little virus was damn deadly, mutating within hours of infecting a person meaning that the Healers had barely designed a cure for one strain that another popped up. Mum worked at St Mungo’s, and like every Healer at the time she was quarantined inside the building until the Ministry declared it safe.

Many people died of the Flu, and unfortunately my mother was one of them.

We didn’t even get to see her until her final hours, and even then it was from behind the safety of a glass window, spelled with protective charms to keep the sickness inside. I have no idea how Dad got into that room – aside from being a Muggle, and not usually being able to even see St Mungo’s – I’m quite sure the quarantine rule extended to include him. I know that young children are more susceptible to disease, but so are extremely stressed husbands and fathers who suddenly have to face the reality of losing their life partner and raising two young children, alone.

Dad was a wreck for a while after that. He tried not to let it show, but it was hard. I don’t think he ever really recovered, becoming even more scatter-brained and forgetful. It was almost as if when Mum died, what little contact his feet had to the ground was lost, so that maybe he could be closer to her, wherever she was.

My only consolation was that I didn’t see her after she died. It meant that she’d left at peace with the world.

“We should probably head back,” Chris said after a while, his voice still soft and far-away.

I felt a familiar pang of panic at his tone. It was one of my greatest fears; that I’d lose Chris the way I’d lost Dad – that one day the reality of life would just be too much and he’d just… float away. So I did what I always did: I forced a grin and a note of cheer into my voice. “Yeah. It would be very poor form if we were late for our own cake!”

We grinned at each other and headed towards home.


I lived in Oxford with my Dad and twin brother Christian in a comfortable, but not really small, home. Dad was a professor at the University, but he mostly worked from home, researching some ancient text or another.

“We’re home!” I called as we walked through the front door. Dad never came with us on our visits to the memorial. I wasn’t even sure if he visited it at all. I knocked on the door to the study as I walked past it on my way to the kitchen.

Dad poked his head out from the doorway and smiled absently at us. “Quand avez-vous quittés?” he asked. When did you leave?

I rolled my eyes. He must be working on a French text again. I should be glad that he at least remembered to speak modern French, instead of Ye Olde French, or whatever their equivalent was. Dad was one of those people who lived with his head constantly in the clouds.

En anglais, Dad,” I reminded. It wasn’t as if we didn’t know French – our mother was half-French herself, but I’d made a deal with Dad to not speak the language he was working on at the moment, so he didn’t become too fixated on his work. We didn’t want a repeat of the Finnish Fiasco of three years ago.

“Did you remember the cake?” Chris asked.

“What for?” he said, reverting back to English as he followed us into the kitchen.

“Are you kidding me?” Chris asked as he opened the fridge and grabbed the carton of orange juice. He unscrewed the lid and drank straight from the bottle.

I scrunched my nose in disgust. “You know, they invented glasses a while back.”

The little git smirked at me. He may be only eighty-seven seconds younger than me, but sometimes he tended to act like it was eighty-seven months.

“Yes, I was kidding. Of course I remembered the cake! When have I ever forgotten?”

Chris and I exchanged a glance, not wanting to mention the three other times that he had forgotten. Like I said, head in the clouds.

“Hey, Chris! You up for a quick game of Quidditch? Scorpius just came over, so we’ll have even teams!” Albus Potter said as he sauntered into our kitchen.

“Potter! You can’t just barge into people’s homes like this!” I cried.

“And like you’re going to stop me, Anderson?” he smirked.

“I bloody well will –”

“Like you have for the past seventeen years.”

Did I mention that we were next door neighbours to the Potters?

And yes, that would be the famous ones.

And yes, Albus was my brother’s best friend.

And yes, we didn’t like each other.

It was a long story, but the saga began when we were four, and involved a Bludger, James’ new racing broom, a large oak tree, and the first and only time I’d ever been grounded.

I narrowed my eyes at him.

He ignored me, his stupid green eyes twinkling with triumph as he turned back to Chris. “So. Whaddaya say?”

Chris shrugged. “Let me get my broom.”

“I’ve got to get back to work, chérie,” Dad said, dropping a kiss on my forehead. “I’ll see you at lunch.”

So that left Potter and me in the kitchen.

He sauntered over to the fridge and pulled out the orange juice carton and chugged some of it down, once again straight from the bottle. I scrunched my nose, making a mental note not to drink the orange juice.Brahe only knew what kinds of infectious diseases lay hiding in my brother’s and Potter’s saliva.

“Are males physically incapable of getting a bloody glass?” I muttered in disgust.

“You said something, sunshine?” Potter asked innocently.

I glared at him. “Are you in the habit of drinking juice straight from the carton from other people’s fridges?”

He grinned. “Only yours. For some reason, it tastes better.” He winked at me.

I glared at him some more.

He had the nerve to lean on the bench and grin at me.

Albus Potter looked a lot like his father. They shared the same emerald green eyes, and the same black hair, although Albus’ was a lot more tame, obeying the laws of gravity and growing down instead of up. He had a tall, lanky build, but his muscles were toned to the kind of level that made the females of our student body drool with longing whenever he took off his shirt at Quidditch practices, which from what I’d heard was quite often. I had no idea what the entirety of the female student body was doing attending Gryffindor Quidditch practices, or why Potter took his shirt off so often. From my experience, the Quidditch pitch was a cold and windy place. Didn’t his nipples or something freeze off?

I guess it would be worse this year (his lack of shirt, I mean, not his lack of nipples), now that his elder brother James had graduated and the great Quidditch legacy, complete with the captaincy of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, had passed on to Albus.

I eyed his chest suspiciously, wondering if he was still in possession of both his nipples. Perhaps they’d fallen off early on in his career and it was not an issue anymore?

“Liking what you see, love?” he drawled.

I snapped my gaze to his face. “You wish,” I said with an eye roll.

“You keep doing that and one day, they’ll get stuck.”

I rolled my eyes again, just to piss him off.

“So… any plans for the day?” he asked casually.

“What do you care?” I snapped. Whilst it might’ve been a little childish of me not to try and let bygones be bygones, I couldn’t make myself be cordial to Potter, even for Chris and the rest of our friends’ sake. There was something about the guy that just… irked me. Was it because he was famous? It wasn’t really his fault that his dad had saved the wizarding world. Was it because he was a bit of a dick at times? But everyone was a bit of a dick at times. Was it because he was insanely popular and loved by everyone without even really trying, whilst it killed me inside to open up and attempt to even make one friend? That was probably it.

Now I felt slightly justified in my dislike.

“Just trying to be friendly.” See what I mean? There is literally no effort on his part! It’s not bloody fair!

“Don’t. At least, not with me.”

“Now, now, Anderson. Don’t you think it was time we moved past our differences?”

“No.”

“Why not? Scared you’ll fall for me?” His smirk was sarcastic, yet his eyes belied the intensity of the statement. They practically sparked with challenge.

I lifted my chin a fraction in defiance. “In your dreams, if you’re lucky.”

“Then why?” I was surprised to hear a note of genuine curiosity hidden beneath all that imagined suave and charm.

“Because I don’t like you. And you don’t like me.”

He was about to say something, but at that moment Chris came into the kitchen, his broom slung over one shoulder. “Let’s go!”

Potter straightened and headed over to the kitchen door, which led out into our garden and a cleverly hidden Quidditch field beyond. “See you later, Anderson.”

“I’d rather not,” I replied.

Chris rolled his eyes at our familiar exchange. “Wanna come, Ellie?”

I shook my head. “You know I don’t do Quidditch.”

“You don’t have to play you know,” Potter called, sticking his head back inside to voice his unwanted opinion. “You can just watch,” he added, with a wink and a grin.

I scrunched my nose in disgust again and physically recoiled. “Ugh. No way!”

Chris rolled his eyes and shrugged. He was well used to the way we both were around each other. “Suit yourself. If you’ve got time, could you have a look at my new piece, then? It’s lying on top of the piano.”

I nodded and headed for our music room.

 
The music room was supposed to be the formal lounge, I think, but various instruments had commandeered the space over the years. There was a drum kit in the far corner, a double bass and cello near the floor-length window, at least three guitars scattered around. An open violin case was lying on top of a hall table that Chris had “acquired” from the actual hallway where it belonged. A haphazard stack of music theory books was resting against a leg of the table, and what might have been a flute was hanging precariously off a single timpani. Amongst this, music-related paraphernalia like reeds, bows, various types of drumsticks, a broken keyboard, a very old amplifier, electrically unsafe wires, a music stand or four, and sheets and sheets of music covered with Chris’ large, cursive handwriting in purple, and my much neater and smaller handwriting in green, was scattered at random.

Whilst I had a gift for seeing dead people, Christian had the gift of music.

Guess which one of us got the better end of the stick?

But I didn’t hate him for it. He was damn good at what he did, and what kind of horrible twin would I be for being jealous of something which obviously gave him so much happiness and enjoyment?

I had ninety-nine bitchy problems, but being jealous of my brother wasn’t one of them.

I moved the tuning fork that was acting as a paper weight next to the metronome and picked up the sheet music, along with a green pen. After returning the picks that had been left on the seat to their rightful place in a box inside the piano stool, I plonked down and rested the sheaf of papers on the ledge on top of the keys. I had only managed to play the first few bars of Chris’ new piece (titled: Ellie! What should I call this? I was thinking Anderson’s Symphony No 3, but it seemed a little presumptive, because this isn’t a symphony) before a voice spoke up, “What the hell are you doing in here on such a beautiful day like this?”

“Why does everyone keep on barging into my house like it’s theirs?” I asked, as I turned to face my best friend, Rose Weasley.

She grinned at me from the doorway, her pale oval face flushed slightly from the summer heat, framed by a thicket of auburn frizz and curls. “It’s because you always leave the back door open.”

“Actually, it’s Chris who never locks the door, but that explains it,” I grinned back. “When did you get here?”

“About half an hour ago. I was just talking to Aunt Ginny, before I remembered that there was a sale on at the shopping centre today and –”

“Are you seriously dragging me to the shopping centre on my birthday? You know air conditioned commercialism makes me feel funny.” I get this sudden urge to buy all the things!

“There’s thirty per cent off all stores, including the book shop where that cute guy who changes is hair colour every week works.”

I perked up a little at that. It was probably worse that there was a sale on, but you can’t just let opportunities like thirty per cent off books just slip past you. How would you ever get ahead in life? And I wanted to see what colour the dude’s hair was. I had a bet with Lily that it was purple.

“Let me grab my keys.”


Twenty minutes later we sauntered into the book shop. Whilst Rose’s cousins fought over broomsticks and who would be on what Quidditch team, she’d sat up in the boughs of the tree at the back of the Potters’ backyard. As my definition of Quidditch was “stick and balls”, I too ended up at the tree at the back of the Potters’ backyard, although I chose to sit in its shade rather than just in it, due to my completely rational, yet irrationally intense, fear of heights. Rose says it must’ve been fate that she dropped Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them on my head that unusually warm March day. I say it’s because a magpie swooped down through the leaves and Rose, thinking it was a flesh-eating flying horse, dropped the book in fright.

“Oh my Merlin! His new book’s out!” She picked up a book from the New Releases stand and waved it under my nose.

“How the hell can you stomach all that doom and gloom?” I asked, pulling my head back before I sustained a deadly paper cut.

“The same way you stomach all those corny historical romances.” She was still waving the book around, almost brandishing it like it was a pirate’s cutlass.

“That’s completely different,” I said, taking cautionary step out of the way. A paper cut from a thousand-page tome detailing the demise and despair of some epically tragic hero was no joke.

“No, it isn’t. Anyway, I heard that a new store just opened.”

“If you’re about to drag me bra shopping again, I don’t want to hear about it. After what happened last time… take Amy with you,” I said, shuddering at the memory and turning my attention to the Best Selling shelf. It was completely full of teenage vampire romances. Must be the new book fad.

“It’s a mystic shop,” Rose continued, completely ignoring my previous statement about not wanting to hear about it. “And shop’s spelt with two P’s and an E.”

“That’s nice.” Obviously we were returning to the days before the advent of the printing press and standardised English. Must’ve missed the memo.

“It is nice. It’s said that Madame Cassandra can see all!”

“The poor thing.”

“I’m being serious! We should go check her out! She can tell you your future!”

“I don’t want to know it. I’ll find out soon enough.”

“But it’ll be fun!”

“No, it won’t. Rose, you know she’s a fraud!”

“I know no such thing!”

“She’s set up shop in a shopping centre. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“Only that she has good business sense! Even those with the Sight have to make a living!”

“That’s true, but she doesn’t have to turn perfectly sane people psychotic at the sight of her shoppe, spelt with two P’s and an E.”

“I’m not psychotic!”

“I didn’t say you were, just that you become a little psychotic at the mere mention of Divination.”

“That means the exact same thing!”

“It does not!”

Rose glared at me, her arms folded across her chest, the deadly paper cut tome from before squashed flat into her bosom. I’d given the first book a go, and from what I’d read, that was about the extent of action the hero was getting, getting squashed into Rose’s bosom.

… Maybe I did read too many historical romances.

“If you didn’t mean that, come with me to the shop, then,” Rose said. Never argue with a Ravenclaw. You tend to lose. Their arguments don’t even need to make sense.

I sighed. “Fine. Whatever. But only for five minutes.”

Rose’s anger evaporated instantly as she grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the store.

 
“I’ll never understand your belief in all of this, Rose. I mean, you’re one of the smartest people I know, but how can you buy into all of this Divination crap?” I asked as I scrutinised the spines of the books propped on a rickety bookshelf. They all looked rather old and – well – mystic, with their leather-bound spines, and suspicious stains. The place was too dark to see anything clearly, and the smoke from the incense sticks burning next to the cash register didn’t really help matters. I was impressed. The place felt pretty authentic. I would totally spend money here if I ever felt like paying a phoney to interpret my dream about Harry Potter and Voldemort reconciling over tea.

“You sound just like Mum when you talk like that, you know,” Rose answered.

“Well, your mother is right about some things sometimes, Rose. She isn’t the brightest witch of her age for nothing.”

Rose glared at me and opened her mouth to retort, but before she could get a word out, a voice came out from the dark. “You do not believe, child?”

Rose turned with a little yelp. “I believe!” she squeaked.

“Not you, dear.” A middle-aged lady stepped out of the shadows and into the dusty lighting of the lamps. Perhaps the place was so dim because she could “see everything” and the sensory overload gave her terrible migraines, although I doubt the flickering helped. The woman was short, her painfully thin body swathed in shawls of differing shades of green. She wore big dangly earrings and bangles almost up to her elbows, but for some reason she didn’t make a sound as she moved towards us. “I meant the other one.” She looked right at me.

“Um…” How did you tell someone politely that you thought that they and their entire profession were complete and utter bogus?

“That is alright dear. I have met many like you. Those who do not believe in what they cannot see.”

I huffed in indignation. I believed in loads of things I couldn’t see. Hell, I dealt with things that most people couldn’t see on a daily basis!

And then there was my Cake Sense.

I was legit not kidding. On top of the whole dead people thing, I always knew when there was a cake in the room, or if there was one arriving shortly, without the use of my mundane senses. I could tell when someone was about to bake a cake, right down to what type, and had a ninety-nine per cent success rate at knowing a person’s favourite cake. The skill extended to a certain degree to include cupcakes and muffins as well. On a good day, I could even sense tarts.

“But there is something about you… something…” She took hold of my hand and closed her eyes.

I rolled my eyes in exasperation. If she was going to make a prediction about my impending death, I was going to scream. I didn’t have to come to a shop spelt with two P’s and an E to be told that. I just visited Professor Trelawney in the North Tower.

“You are… different from the rest,” she murmured. Well, duh. I could make things go bang by waving around a wooden stick, of course I was different.

“Different from even your own kind.” Now that was just plain mean. She made the wizarding race sound like another species!

“You see things that others cannot see.” That was creepy. She couldn’t know about the whole dead people thing. I’d never told anyone. Not even Chris.

“I’m more perceptive than most,” I said dryly, as I tried to surreptitiously pull my hand from her grasp. But for a small woman, she had a strong hold.

 “There is an aura of destiny around you.” Probably just dust motes, actually. The place needed a good dusting.

“Your future is… confusing…”

“There’s a surprise.” I looked significantly over at Rose, but she was completely engrossed in what the crazy woman was saying.

“I see… trials…” No surprises there: it was NEWTs year.

“Danger…” Life was pretty dangerous in that castle on top of the cliff in the middle of nowhere. It was part and parcel of the Hogwarts experience.

“Suffering…” With Albus Severus Potter in my life, of course there would be suffering.

“And love…” Now, that was stretching things a little too far.

“Love?” Rose breathed excitedly. She might have been a nerdy little Ravenclaw, but she was a teenage girl, first and foremost.

“Oh, for the love of Golgi,” I sighed exasperatedly, rolling my eyes yet again.

“Yes.” Madame Cassandra opened her eyes and finally let go of my hand. “And they’ve already met. Two souls who have known each other for a very long time.”

Rose was practically bursting from her skin. Her face was flushed pink and her brown eyes were about ready to pop out of their sockets. And let’s not mention that she was jumping from foot to foot like she needed to go pee.

The last one might’ve been true, though. Rose had an improbably small bladder.

I rubbed my wrist and rolled my eyes again for good measure. You could never roll your eyes too much.

“That all sounds wonderful, but we really must be going now,” I said trying to keep a handle on the sarcasm.

Madame Cassandra smiled knowingly at me. “Yes.”

I frowned at her in bemusement, before turning away and heading towards the door, Rose in tow.

“Oh, and happy birthday to you and your brother,” she called.

My eyes widened in surprise and I abruptly turned back around. “How did you –? I never said –” I sputtered.

She smiled mysteriously. “It’s a gift. Just like yours.”

I turned around just as abruptly and hurried away from the store.

Now that was creepy.


AN: Hey y’all! This isn’t a new chapter, but I edited chapter one, just to get back into the groove of things, and ended up adding a good 1500 words to the original! Thanks to everyone who’s left a review on this – your feedback was super helpful, and I hope I improved on the first try. I made an attempt at taking your help on board! If you’re a first-time reader – welcome! Hope you liked it! Let me know in a review! If you didn’t, again, let me know in a review!

Adios, amigos! :D
 
PS: I edited this AGAIN, but this time with the help of my wonderful beta, josette_phoenix, Queen of Commas!


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