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Not Normal by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 2 : {Chapter the Second}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 64


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You know life ain’t normal when Regulus Black is standing in the middle of your neighbour’s kitchen.

I’d walked into the Potters’ kitchen to grab a glass of water. For some strange reason, Mrs P had insisted that Chris and I celebrate our birthday over at their place. I didn’t really mind – Mrs P made really nice food, and she always remembered our favourites. Also, this way, Rose and Scorpius would be fed, which could sometimes be a bit of an issue at our house. Two minute noodles are not considered appropriate food for guests.

The kitchen was fairly bright, with the light from the gibbous moon, and street lamps drifting in through the window above the sink. There was enough of a golden glow spilling over from the room next door that I didn’t walk into any sharp objects without the light switch on.

As I stood at the sink, filling my glass from the tap, and staring out at the dark backyard, I felt a familiar tingle at the base of my spine. It’d been twelve years to the day since I first remembered feeling that now familiar tingle. I didn’t even jump anymore, as I felt the presence of a being who didn’t quite belong standing behind me.

Taking my time, I turned off the tap, placed my glass on the counter, took as deep a breath as I could without alerting the presence to this fact (it was poor form to allow spirits to see you in any other frame of mind other than calm. Spirits were particularly susceptible to any vibes you sent out), and turned around.

The spirit smiled. He looked a little younger than me, perhaps fifteen or sixteen. From the dim light coming through the window, I could make out that he had dark hair, light eyes, a pale face, and a certain devil-may-care quirk to his lips.

Regulus Black wasn’t as well known or loved as his charismatic older brother, but I recognised him nonetheless.

And he was standing in my brother’s best friend’s kitchen.

And he was cute.

And dead, but who really cared about such trivial things?

For the first time in a very long while, I lost my cool, and blurted out in surprise, “What are you doing here?” Well, duh. I knew why he was here. They only came to me for one reason.

“Hello, Ellie,” he said, his grin flashing. He had nice teeth, I noticed. I don’t know why I expected otherwise. From what I’d read, he’d never spent any time in Azkaban, or gone through any sort of hardship, which may affect the quality of his teeth. I guess I’d never thought that even Death Eaters cared about their dental hygiene. It wasn’t a side you often saw of them.

“Hello,” I replied, frowning in thought. It was a bad habit of mine, frowning. Dad liked to joke that I’d have permanent frown lines by the time I was twenty. But I couldn’t help it. I was one of those people who worried about stuff. “What are you doing here?” I asked again, after a brief pause where Regulus Black continued to grin at me, and I continued to frown, with not much success in the thinking department.

“What do you think I’m doing here?” he asked, still with that infuriating smile on his face. It was kind of cocky, I noticed, reminding me painfully of Potter’s smile, although Regulus’ smile wasn’t as self-assured as Potter’s, but only by a hair’s breadth. I mentally rolled my eyes. Great. Another cocky, adolescent, male, who was far too comfortable in their own skin to contend with. And here I’d thought one of them was enough to last me a lifetime.

“Aren’t you the bloke who died trying to destroy that Horcrux, but didn’t quite make it?” I asked, seeing if the blunt and admittedly crass approach might illicit an answer. I was trying out different techniques to see which one would let me get a handle on this guy. More than most ghosts, I especially wanted this one out of my life as soon as possible. I could tell he’d be the type to give me a headache, and that was something I just couldn’t afford this year. It was my final year at Hogwarts, and I needed all my focus and attention to do well. I may not know much about what my future had in store for me, but I would guarantee that it contained ten NEWT –level Outstandings.

He shrugged, seemingly unfazed by the nature of my question, as his smile only came down a notch from ‘I’m-the-coolest-dead-guy-ever’ to ‘yeah-I-almost-defeated-the-Dark-Lord-so-I’m-trying-to-be-humble’.

“So what are you doing here?” I asked again, my frown becoming deeper. A thought had just occurred to me. “You do know you’re dead, right?” It had happened before. A lot of people couldn’t move on simply because they just didn’t realise that they were dead. I actually have no idea how they ended up near me, if this was the case, though. Maybe there was some sign pointing my way on the ghost plane or whatever…

He rolled his eyes. “No. I’ve just been roaming around the place for the past forty or so years, walking through walls, never aging, and being ignored by the general population, and I still think I’m alive.” My eyes narrowed at his tone. There was only one person’s sarcasm I appreciated, and it was my own. Not having noticed the danger he was, he continued, “And I’d heard you were good.”

I took a deep breath, trying to keep my temper in check. Whilst ghosts couldn’t be seen or heard by anyone but myself, this courtesy didn’t extend to me whilst I was interacting with them. If I made too much noise, someone was bound to hear next door, and wander in to see why I was talking to myself again.

But was a dead dude actually looking at me like I was stupid? I’d have him know that I’d passed my OWLs with twelve Outstandings – not even Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age, had managed that.

“Then how can I help you?” I asked, coldly, leaning back on the counter and grabbing my glass of water. Some of spilt over the top and onto my hand.

“You can’t,” he replied cheerily. He had a sunny smile in place like this should be the best news I’d ever heard. And it would’ve been if he wasn’t standing in the Potters’ bloody kitchen.

Dead or not, teenage males were annoying as hell.

“Then perhaps you can answer my first question,” I said with false sweetness. I took a sip of water, and continued. “What the hell are you doing here?”

He shrugged, and smiled benignly. “Kitchen designs fascinate me.”

I scowled. This guy was a real piece of work, and I was ashamed to admit, too much for me to handle right now. I prided myself in my capability to tackle any problem the ghost plane threw my way, but this… this was new. And annoying.

“Go away,” I said, trying the blunt approach again.

Still smiling, he replied, “No.”

“Why not?” Through all the anger and frustration, I felt a little baffled. If this dude was dead, stuck in the living plane, and didn’t mind having it that way, what the hell did he want from me?

“Because you need me.”

I scoffed. This really was new. I’ve been doing this shit for twelve years now, and every single ghost I came across, needed me. I never asked for them. They always came looking for me. I didn’t need to get to the other side (really puts that joke about the chicken crossing the road into perspective, doesn’t it?); they did. “Believe me, pal, I most certainly don’t need you.”

He smiled mysteriously, but didn’t say anything.

“So, go away,” I said. His smile and presence had unsettled me in ways that I’d never really experienced before. I’d never been so surprised, and angry, and frustrated, and confused, as I was feeling right now, and Regulus Black had only been standing in front of me for probably a total of five minutes. So I completely expected the defensiveness of my tone, but I still cringed inside. Many of those sorry souls didn’t really appreciate all that I did for them, but I had a reputation to maintain, and some dead, teenage boy wasn’t going to mess with that, famous or not.

“You’re in for quite the year, Ellie Anderson.” Another smile from him, and I tamped down on another spurt of irritation. “I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the near future.”

Before I could snap out an utterly brilliant comeback (which I hadn’t quite thought up yet, but I knew it would be brilliant and snappy) to such an arrogant comment, I saw the doorway leading to the living room beyond, darken.

“Ellie? Who are you talking to?” It was Chris, and at the sound of his voice, I felt the usual mix of guilt and anguish and trepidation I usually did whenever he caught me talking to a ghost, roil in the region of my stomach.

So I did what I always did in such scenarios. I grinned, and said, “Oh, you know, Regulus Black,” hoping that I sounded as flippant and sardonic as humanly possible. I tended to manage this quite well, but thanks to a certain dead person, still standing in the kitchen, looking rather amused by all of this, I’d been thrown off my game, big time.

Thankfully, Chris grinned back, buying it, and playing along like he usually did. “Oh, I thought so.” This little game of ours, where I told the truth whilst pretending not to, had begun when it was still socially acceptable to have imaginary friends. Of course, like so much in my life, I couldn’t have normal imaginary friends. No, my imaginary friends had to be invisible and most decidedly not imaginary in nature. It had actually started out with me telling the truth, and everyone just thinking that I had a lot of imaginary friends, because I had so few real ones.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. I seemed to be asking that question a lot in the past five minutes.

He shrugged. “Came to see what you were up to. Wondered if you’d become lost.” If this had been anywhere else but the Potters’ place, that would’ve been an entirely plausible scenario. I had a notorious sense of direction, or more a complete lack thereof.

I held up my glass of water. “Just came to get a nice, refreshing drink of some dihyrdrogen monoxide!”

Chris gave me a look. It’s the one he gives me when I’m being especially nerdy. “Okay. Just don’t stay here too long, with your hydrogen dioxide.”

“It’s dihydrogen monoxide.”

He gave me another look. It’s the one he gives me when he doesn’t actually care about what I’m saying because he thinks I’m being especially nerdy.

My brother is a dude of few words, and many expressions.

With a final look, he said, “Just finish your water and come back to the living room. You’ve been antisocial long enough.”

I nodded and he headed back the way he came.

I took a deep breath and turned to face the dead dude again.

“Your brother doesn’t know?” he asked, looking curious. It was the first time I’d seen an expression other than one of complete superiority and cockiness, grace his handsome features.

“Know what?” I asked back coldly, taking a few gulps of my water. They felt rather painful on the way down my throat, like I had something lodged in my throat – like a boulder.

I knew what he was talking about. I just didn’t want to acknowledge it.

“That you can see people like me.”

I stayed silent for a long moment, contemplating whether or not I should tell Regulus. I mean, it wasn’t as if he didn’t already know that was the case, he just wanted to hear me say it out loud, the sick bastard.

“No,” I replied in a tight voice. It was just so hard to look him in the eye every day, and lie about talking to myself and acting antisocial. Not that I didn’t talk to myself and act antisocial a lot of the times, but I think it’s important to make a distinction here.

I could feel Regulus looking at me intently, although I was now aggressively trying to drink my water, and avoid all eye contact.

“You should probably tell him,” he said simply.

“And you should probably move on and leave me the hell alone,” I snapped back. I looked up at him again. He didn’t even seem the least bit affected by my jab at his non-moved-on state of existence, or the fact that his presence was unwelcome here. “What are you still doing here, by the way?”

“Well, we were having such a lovely conversation, and I can’t bear leaving this wonderful kitchen just yet. I mean, have you seen the tiles on that splashback?”

I glared at him, waiting for him to get to the point.

Noticing my glare, he grinned again, his expression once again becoming cocky and arrogant. I could see and talk to ghosts, but I can’t actually touch them, so I knew it would be futile to take a swing at his face to wipe that stupid smile off his face.

But that didn’t quite remove the urge, no matter that it wouldn’t have really made a difference. The guy’s dead already. Short of an exorcism, something which I have no idea how to perform, I didn’t think much could hurt the bloke.

“But seriously, you should tell your brother.” His tone was beginning to sound annoyingly superior and condescending. It was another trait that I only liked in myself.

I glared some more. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to tell Chris. He’s a pretty chill guy, and we’re quite close, but I was worried that this was just too weird, even for the sacred and long-term bonds that come with sharing a womb (a fact that I didn’t like to dwell on all that often, anyway). We shared practically everything with each other. But this was just something that I couldn’t share with him, or anyone, for that matter.

They just couldn’t understand.

Regulus and I stared at each other some more.

Finally, I broke the silence. “Seriously, dude. What are you doing here?”

“Like I said, you need me. Or at least, you will.”

“What is that even supposed to mean?” I asked incredulously, my irritation mounting. Does the guy want to help with my Potions homework? Because even Rose isn’t as good at Potions as I am. And I’m pretty sure Rose is at the top of our class in practically everything.

“It means that things are about to get interesting for you, and I’m just really happy that I can tag along for the ride,” he shrugged again and smiled. I bet he thinks that it’s real charming, that smile of his, although I did note that there was a hint of… genuineness… almost.

“Do you know how boring the afterlife can get?” he went on, seemingly unaware of my close regard of his mouth. “I mean, they all tell you that Death’s great. You get to wear those cool white robes, and chill in the clouds with Jesus, and there’s free wifi…”

“Wait. I thought you were a Pureblood. Since when were you into wifi?” I asked, now seriously confused. In my experience, dead people liked to cling to their previous lives like they were… well, lifelines, for lack of a better word. It was often these hang-ups on insisting on having the things the way they were that kept them stuck here. But our friend Regulus here, seemed to be rather progressive.

“I’ve been dead for forty years, Ellie. Death can get pretty boring if I can’t livestream the latest episode of Doctor Who.

“Okay… But that still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here. Clearly, you’re enjoying your current state of limbo, and don’t need me to help you move on, so –”

“Someone’s coming,” Regulus said suddenly, interrupting me. He cocked to his head to the side. “And I have to go. TTYL!”

…TTYL?

Seriously?

 
“Ellie?” I jumped a little in surprise. No tingling at the base of my spine when someone alive walked into the room. No, that would make things far too simple.

“Mrs P! Er… what are you doing here?” I asked, feeling off-balance. Aside from the entire experience that was Regulus Black, there was that TTYL. Who even says that?

Hell, do people even write that anymore?

She smiled at me and cocked her eyebrows. “This is my kitchen, I thought I’d pay a visit.” Her brown eyes sparkled with the sort of amusement that I was used to seeing in Potter’s eyes, although on Ginny Potter, it didn’t seem mocking in the least.

“Er, of course! Come in, come in!” I pushed myself away from the sink and tried to shuffle myself awkwardly out of there. “Not that you need permission to come into your own kitchen, of course! I mean, like you said, it is your kitchen…” I wasn’t usually this bad around people after an encounter with a ghost. Twelve years can teach you to lie and evade like nobody’s business.

“Actually, I was looking for you,” Mrs P said, acting as if she entertained complete weirdos in her kitchen all the time.

Then again, she does have the misfortune of living with Albus Potter.

“Um… okay.” I stopped awkwardly halfway to the door to their living room.

“Come. Sit down.” Her hand flicked out, motioning towards the dining table, before she made her way there herself.

I followed her and sat down awkwardly on the edge of my seat. The edge dug uncomfortably into my butt, but I was too on-edge to really care.

Bloody hell, it was as if I’d never sat down at a dining table before!

I looked at Mrs P, trying to figure out what this was all about. Had I finally hit some sort of weirdness threshold, where you went from being awkwardly eccentric, to time-for-a-strait-jacket-dear insane? I was sure there were a few more steps on the sanity continuum than that.

Before I could open my mouth, and try and save myself (strait-jacket-white really isn’t my colour), Mrs P skipped all preamble and said, “I have something for you.” Oh God, here it was. The strait jacket. I’d finally done it. Mrs P, being the kind person she was, had probably already booked a bed in the Bedlam ward, as the Janus Thickey Ward, home to those suffering long-term mental damage because of funky spells, is so fondly called. She pulled out a box from what seemed like nowhere (and it could have been – you can’t really tell with magic) and put it in front of me on the table. I stared at it. It looked to be too small to hold a strait jacket, but it might have an undetectable extension charm on, although that seemed like a lot of effort to go to, just to gift me with a strait jacket. Perhaps it held my ticket to Bedlam?

It was a little dark blue velvet box and my fingers twitched. Strait jacket or not, I was curious to see what was inside.

“It’s a birthday present,” Mrs P said after I just kept staring at it, my curiosity warring with my mounting worry.

“Oh, um. Mrs P… that really wasn’t necessary. I mean –” I spluttered. I was flattered, even if it was a strait jacket, so being a complete noob when it came to social situations where sarcasm wasn’t functional, my brain shut down and left me alone to flounder through.

Perhaps it would be better if it was a ticket to Bedlam. I think I might finally find a place where I belonged.

“Open it first, and see what it is, before you decide you want it or not.”

I stared at the box some more.

… What if it wasn’t a strait jacket or a bed at St Mungo’s?

I was terrible with surprises.

So I reached for the box and opened it.

My fingers shook a little as I snapped the lid open.

Inside, there was a watch, nestled in a cushion of velvet, the same dark blue as its box.

I felt my lips mouth a silent “Oh”. The watch was a soft, black leather strap attached to a lidded face in burnished gold. In the dim light, it looked old and worn, and well loved. I gently took it out of its box and clicked the lid open. Inside, there were Roman numerals engraved around the rim in the same metal as the lid, with the hands on top of the glass, instead of underneath. Despite the watch’s seemingly old age, the glass transparent, and undistorted, so you could clearly see all the cogs inside making the clock tick away. Inside the cover, I could barely make out that something was engraved there. I brought it close to my face to see what it said. After squinting really hard (the writing was like, really small) I finally made it out:

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased

I sat still for a very long moment. I could feel the second hand whirring around the circumference of the face, marking the time as it slipped away.

“It’s… beautiful,” I finally said, gently returning the watch to its box and snapping the lid closed.

Mrs P looked pleased. “I’m glad you like it. It’s yours.”

“But I can’t!” I looked up to see that Mrs P was watching me. One part of me was super glad that it wasn’t a strait jacket, but another part of me was a little embarrassed by this. Mrs P already did so much for Chris and me, and now this… to be honest, I just didn’t know how to react.

“Why not?” She looked a little surprised at my vehemence.

“Because…” I looked around for a reasonable answer. Since Mum died, Mrs P had become about the closest things I had to a mother. Those first few days without Mum around, she’d made sure that all three of us were still eating. When our first day of Hogwarts came, she took us to King’s Cross and showed us how to cross the magical barrier. When our birthday rolled around, she always insisted on celebrating it at their house.

“You’re seventeen now, Ellie. You should get a watch.”

“But –”

“Chris got one, too,” she went on, ignoring me. “I gave him his a little earlier. I would’ve given you yours then, but you’d disappeared.”

“Just came to get a glass of water,” I smiled weakly. And have a little chat with some hot dead dude who couldn’t stop smirking.

She pushed the box towards me and got up. “Well, it’s your seventeenth birthday, and you like the watch, so I see no reason why you shouldn’t keep it.” She smiled down at me, as I continued to stare at the box.

Didn’t she know what this meant?

This was a pretty intense Potter-Weasley family tradition, and by giving me a watch…

I don’t know!

Did that mean I was family, too?

“Ellie,” she said softly. I looked up into her warm, chocolate brown eyes. I could totally see why someone like Harry Potter would fall in love with Ginny Weasley. Her eyes seemed to completely understand what you were going through, holding only empathy and warmth, rather than pity. “Your mother would have wanted this,” she murmured, and with a gentle, yet reassuring squeeze of my hand, she left me alone at the table with the watch, my fingers nervously fiddling with it.

But not before she hit me right in the feels.

Well played Mrs P, well played.

AN: Hey y’all! Another chapter updated! And so soon, too! Must be some sort of personal record for me. Granted, I’d already written this before and I was only editing. So I first posted this chapter in January, and I’ve received so much wonderful feedback in the months since, for which I am so thankful! I hope I improved, guys – I tried! Also, the quote I used is by John Steinbeck!

You know what I’m about to ask now, right? You guessed it! [Insert plea for review here] The grey box gets lonely, and I love reading what you guys think! Good, bad, ugly – it’s all welcome!


Adios, amigos! :D


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