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Not Normal by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 2 : {Chapter the Second}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 66


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You know your life ain’t normal when a Muggle throws a prophecy at your head.

Not literally, of course. It would’ve been better if she’d actually thrown it, though. Then I could’ve just ducked out of the way, and carried on with my life, sans faux-prophecy.

…I should probably backtrack a bit.

When Chris and I reached home from the cemetery, we were greeted with the exuberance that is Rose Granger-Weasley. There’s really no other way to describe the eldest child of Hermione Granger, Minister of Magic, and Ron Weasley, dedicated Chudley Cannons fan. Her black hair was crackling around her face in a barely contained halo, the tight curls quivering at the ends with her excitement.

“Happy birthday, Ellie and Chris!” she squealed, throwing open our front door before I could unlock it. She jumped a little to swing an arm each around our necks to pull us down into a hug. “Isn’t it great? You’re finally going to be able to do magic outside of school!”

She released us just as quickly as she’d grabbed us, and we both stumbled back. Chris rubbed his neck, whilst I gently twisted mine. “Dishes are definitely going to be easier,” Chris said, grinning easily. “Is Al here?” Yeah, we were neighbours with those Potters. Don’t ask me why the most famous man in recent British Wizarding history chose to make Muggle suburbia his home. And how he managed to buy a house next to one where other Wizarding folk lived. Maybe it was pheromones, acting as unconscious signals, pulling us toward each other. That would be super gross – but it would explain a lot.

“No, he’s home next door. Said he’d drop by later.” Rose replied, beaming. And still standing in our doorway. Whilst we stood outside.

“Um… Rose?” I ventured. “Can we come inside?”

She started, as if just realising where she was. Sometimes Rose’s excitement got the best of her. “Come in, come in!” she beamed, moving out of the way and waving us inside.

I stepped into the wide hallway after Chris, instinctively looking left first to make sure the door to the music room remained closed. I’d almost been flattened by an errant bass drum one time. Trauma like that changed you, made you wary of doors, and how they liked to be open a lot of the times without your knowledge.

“You’re home!” Dad cried, sticking his head out the open door of his study and into the hallway, heedless of the possible danger the music room posed directly opposite him. Now that I could do magic outside of Hogwarts, I might put some sort of repelling charm around that doorway…

“Indeed, we are,” I muttered, heading down the hallway. I heard Chris and Rose follow.

“Did you bring cake?” he asked, stepping in beside me as we headed towards the living room and kitchen.

I glanced over at him, and raised an eyebrow. An errant tuft of hair was sticking out the side of his usually neat ‘do. “You were in charge of the cake,” I replied. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’d forgotten, though. Ever since Mum had died, Dad had… lost a part of himself. He was a Muggle, a professor of ancient languages at the local university, so the absentminded professor stereotype was almost expected. Things had been really tough those first couple of years – for all of us. I’m sure it didn’t help that Chris and I weren’t even here for most of the year.

He flashed me a grin, all shiny white teeth and twinkling grey eyes. “I was kidding Bella,” he laughed. “I remembered the cake. You put it on the list. And I bought everything on the list.”

“Hmph,” I said, crossing my arms and leaning back against the kitchen counter.

“Can confirm,” Chris said, swinging open the door of the fridge. “I have visual on a white cardboard cake box with ‘Anderson’ written in black marker. Ooh, and a fresh carton of orange juice!” He grabbed the box out of the fridge, unscrewed the lid, and took a large gulp, straight from the source.

I wrinkled my nose in disgust. “Humans invented drinking glasses a while back,” I said.

“As well as food safety and sanitation laws,” Rose chimed in, in agreement. “Hugo and Dad do the same thing.”

“Do you think it’s genetic?” I asked. “Grossness? Like, it’s just coded into the Y chromosome.”

Dad laughed. “Probably. You have to train them out of it. I suggest aversion therapy.”

“Oh, like with dogs!” Rose said, clapping her hands once in glee. “You use a spray bottle and squirt water in their face when they do something naughty!”

All three of us laughed. In response, Chris made a face at us, and took an even bigger gulp out of the juice carton.

“I’ve got to get back to work. I’ll see you kids later,” Dad said. I nodded, and Rose gave a cheery goodbye wave. With an answering wave of his own, he headed back to his office.

“Hey, Chris! Want to play a bit of Quidditch?” I turned around to watch Albus Potter –  and the bane of my existence – barge through our sliding door, and into our living room.

“Haven’t you heard of knocking before entering a person’s residence?” I sneered at him.

Potter, with his racing broom swung over his shoulder, turned to grin at me. It had a distinctly evil edge. “If by person you mean yourself, Anderson, then most certainly not – since you’re not a person.”

As far as comebacks went, I was unimpressed, but Chris snickered. I glanced over at him and narrowed my eyes.

He stuck up his hands in apology, but kept on smiling. Chris had long ago made peace with the fact that his twin sister and his best friend simply did not get along. “Did your mum renew the charms on the boundary? I don’t know how often you can Obliviate a person without causing permanent damage, but Mrs Benedict must be nearing her quota.” Chris said mildly, choosing to ignore our less-than-civil greeting of each other – although he had snickered with Potter, the traitor.

“Mrs Benedict deserves a little memory loss,” Potter replied, unrepentant. “You reckon that woman has such a long neck because of all that stretching she does over our fence?”

“Al!” Rose admonished. “That’s not very nice!”

Potter shrugged. “Neither is she.”

I rolled my eyes, but refrained myself from commenting that he wasn’t very nice either, the ass.

“So,” Potter turned back to Chris. “Quidditch. Yes, or yes?”

Chris grinned. “I’ll just grab my broom.” He put the orange juice back into the fridge, and sauntered away towards the stairs. Just before reaching them, he turned around, an innocent look on his face. “Wanna play, Ellie?” he asked.

Potter snickered as he came towards the kitchen, and made a beeline for the fridge.

I narrowed my eyes at Potter, hoping I looked sufficiently threatening to shut him up. He quickly turned the snicker into a cough. I turned that same gaze on my brother. People always thought that he was the nice twin, but I knew the truth – it was all just a ploy to fool the outsiders. “I hate you,” I said.

Chris just laughed, immune to my vehemence after living with me all these years. “Love you, sis!” he said sunnily, and headed upstairs.

“You could still come and watch,” Potter said casually. I turned around to face him, and watched as he opened my fridge, and took out my orange juice, unscrewing the lid and drinking straight from the carton, without using one of my cups!

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rose hide her face in her hands, already tired of the argument that was about to come. Because all of my interactions with Potter were arguments – or those that involved words, at least. I tried very hard otherwise to avoid him, which was nigh impossible since he was such a goddamn fixture of our friendship group.

“Were you too stupid to learn to use a flipping glass?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest, hoping that he’d drop the whole Quidditch thing. Everyone knew that I was deathly afraid of heights – my dramatic faint in first year had guaranteed that. The fear was so deep, that I hadn’t even made it halfway to the flying lesson. Even watching people fly made me extremely nervous. I rarely attended Quidditch matches for this reason, much to the disappointment of my brother, who was a Chaser on the Gryffindor team.

Potter grinned, shrugged, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “Oh, I learnt how to use a glass. But would I have had the pleasure of pissing you off if I’d used one?” he fluttered his eyelashes at me.

Rose groaned, “Al, please. You could lay off for today at least.”

I smiled triumphantly. At least someone was on my side.

“You, too, Ellie,” Rose continued.

My smile immediately fell, and I scowled.

Potter grinned again. He looked a little like an angry chimpanzee. “So?” he asked, running a hand through his hair, causing the short, dark strands to stand every which way. The middle Potter kid looked a lot like his father – same green eyes, same black hair, same unnaturally pimple-resistant skin – but usually, Junior’s hair was significantly tamer than Senior’s infamous unruly mop. Unless he ran his hands through it, deliberately ruffling it. Maybe he thought it made him look cool and sexy or something. Rather, it added to the whole angry chimpanzee vibe.

“So, what?” I asked, sneering like he was an idiot, although I knew perfectly well to what he referred. Fucking asshole. My skin prickled just thinking about all that air that would be between them and the ground, just a flimsy stick of wood between them and certain death… I suppressed a shiver, lest it give Potter more fuel for the fire.

“Want to come watch some Quidditch? You’d be on the ground, so it would be perfectly safe. I know the stands freak you out –”

“The stands do not freak me out!” I snapped. The stands totally freaked me out. As if it wasn’t bad enough to watch your friends – and your twin – zipping and zooming around hundreds of feet above solid ground. No, you had to do it also from hundreds of feet above solid ground.

“Okay, okay!” Potter said, his green eyes widening in alarm. “Keep your knickers on!”

I was about to snap out another retort – I didn’t know which, since there were so many to choose from – but Rose chose that moment to interject.

“I’m sure Ellie would love to watch!” she said. Lies. I’d hate to watch. “But,” she shot me a warning glance, as if she sensed just how much I didn’t want to watch them all play Quidditch. “We’re going to the shopping centre.”

“We are?” I asked, as this was news to me. Since we lived in a Muggle neighbourhood, we honoured the generations-old tradition of teenagers haunting the local shopping centre.

“Yes,” Rose ground out. “We are.”

And if Rose Granger-Weasley said it, so mote it be.

 

***

 

We were browsing through the book shop, when Rose hit me with the real reason she wanted to come to the shopping centre.

“Do you know about the new store that’s just opened?” she asked casually, as we perused the new releases book display.

“Hmm?” I said, absorbed in all the pretty cover designs. I wouldn’t count myself as a fan of the mermaids and vampires genre (all the latest craze, launched of course by a series featuring vampire mermaids), but I had to admit that they just looked so pretty. All those blues and greens. That surprising flash of red, every now and then. If nothing else, the aesthetic was strong with this latest sensation.

Rose bobbed her head enthusiastically! “Yeah! A new store! Thought we could check it out.”

I paused, a paperback in one hand and a hardcover in the other, and looked up at Rose. Something was definitely up. She hardly ever suggested that we do things. Our friendship didn’t work that way. Most of the time, she’d just say that we were doing it, and either I’d placidly follow along, or be dragged kicking and screaming (figuratively, of course… except for that one time).

“What’s the store?” I asked cautiously. Either Rose was giving me a choice because she was trying to be nice to me, on account of it being my birthday and all, or she was certain that I’d vehemently refuse. She may be the Ravenclaw to my Gryffindor, but after several years of friendship, I was an expert in the ways of the singular creature that was Rose Granger-Weasley.  With my vast knowledge of her nuances, I guessed that it was probably the latter reason. Whatever place she was about to say, I wasn’t going to like it one bit.

She looked vaguely guilty, turning away from me a little, as if already preparing for my inevitable wrath. “It’s called Arbor Vitae,” she replied, in a small voice.

I frowned, puzzled. Perhaps I had been wrong. That didn’t seem too bad. “Oh. Why do you want to go to a health food store?” Because that’s what the place sounded like – a hippie health food store. And whilst I didn’t really understand the whole craze around kale and chia seeds, I didn’t screech “burn it!” every time I saw words like “macro” and “organic” and “vegan”.

“Um…” Rose looked even more uncomfortable, which made me even more confused. Something was definitely up.

“Are we about to rendezvous with your secret Muggle boyfriend, Rose?” I asked. “Because that’s totally cool. Although I don’t think you really want me there for that. You know I’m not very good with new people.” This was an understatement. I wasn’t very good with people, period.

“No! It’s not that!” Rose yelped, her eyes widening in surprise.

I nodded, still trying to be understanding about it all. “Of course. I shouldn’t have assumed that you were ready to label it. You know I don’t really get the whole dating thing, so if this is still all very new and hush-hush, I understand. Your secret is safe with me! Although, why on earth are you having a secret rendezvous at a health food store of all places –?”

“There’s no secret Muggle boyfriend!” Rose screeched.

I snapped my mouth shut in surprise.

“Or we’re-not-ready-to-label-it-person!” she continued, still screeching.

I was glad that we were currently the only two customers in the shop, because it was already awkward enough with the wildly obvious way the dude behind the counter was staring at us. I swivelled around and glared at him until he hastily turned away and pretended to frantically search the inventory on the computer.

“Okay… because I thought you and Scorpius were –”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake where do you get all these ideas?” Rose spluttered, her cheeks heating to a deep shade of – well, rose. “There’s no one! Least of all Scorpius Malfoy! We’re just friends!”

I hid a smile at that. Rose and Scorpius had been dancing around each other since third year. There was simply no need for me to get any ideas from anywhere – I’m pretty sure even the Bloody Baron shipped them. And since they were both Head Girl and Boy this year… I didn’t want to say “bow chicka wow wow” but what choice did I have, really?

“It’s a Divination shop,” Rose continued, sounding far more composed, even though a slight hint of red remained on her face.

I rolled my eyes. That explained why she was being weird about all of it. “For fuck’s sake, Rose!” I sighed. I had no fucking idea why Rose Granger-Weasley, the smartest kid at Hogwarts, was such a die-hard believer in Divination of all things.

“I heard that the lady who owns the place is psychic!” Rose continued gamely, ignoring my rather lacklustre response.

“Where did you hear that? The bottom of your teacup?” I asked, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “Was she having coffee with the Grim?”

Rose gave me a withering glare, all narrowed eyes and thinned lips. “We’re going,” she said flatly.

I sighed, knowing that there was no point in arguing. “I hate you,” I said.

“Love you, Ellie,” she replied.

Why did people keep on saying that to me today, thinking that it makes it all okay?

 

***

 

“For the record, I just want to say that this place is super creepy,” I whispered. We were standing in the heart of the small store, which was tucked away into a forgotten corner of the shopping centre, just before the entrance to the perpetually-closed public toilets and the emergency exit. The place couldn’t have been all that big, but it felt a lot bigger, thanks to all the dark shadows that lurked everywhere. The mood lighting was provided by dim antique lamps dotted around the place, standing on rickety cast iron tables that almost groaned with all the psycho – sorry, psychic – paraphernalia. The still air was heavy with the scent of incense, making my nose itch.

“It’s not creepy, Ellie,” Rose admonished, also, notably, in hushed tones. “It’s… atmospheric.”

I raised an incredulous eyebrow at her.

She shrugged, and moved deeper into the store.

I hurried along behind her, lest the shadows came alive and detected a non-believer in their midst. I shuddered at what they’d do to me – a life spent playing snap with tarot cards sounded a lot like eternal damnation.

“Welcome, children,” a disembodied voice came out towards us from what I assumed was the back of the shop. It was difficult to tell, since the darkness was particularly thick around that area.

I jumped at the sudden sound. Rose gave a little scream.

A laugh tinkled, reminding me of the small wind chimes Dad has hanging from the ceiling fan in his office, even though it sounded nothing like wind chimes. Spooky.

And then a woman stepped out of the shadows, and into the dusty light of the nearest table lamp. She was middle-aged, her pale skin painted a rather flattering shade of butter yellow thanks to the lampshade, with her dark hair piled on top of her head into a hairstyle that could only be described as ‘Angkor Wat’. She was wearing flowing clothes in shades of deep green, that swished gently as she moved towards us, upsetting dust motes into whorls and eddies that just added to her halo of not-quite-of-this-plane mystique. (She was wholly alive, though, since my ghost senses weren’t tingling.) Her forearms clacked with a dozen wooden bangles, also in varying shades of green. The overall effect was very Merlin-and-Morgana, but with a modern twist. At least she got full marks for aesthetic.

“Madame Cassandra,” Rose breathed. I looked over at Rose in surprise, wondering how she knew the woman’s name – and why it seemed as if she was almost about to bow over the lady’s hand – but her attention was ensnared by the woman in front of us. I had to admit that I was a little jealous by the way she was able to capture the attention of the entire room. Even the crystal balls seemed to glint a little brighter in her presence.

“What do you seek in Arbor Vitae?” she asked, her voice a touch deeper than I expected from a woman of her height.

“Oh, we’re just browsing,” I replied, my voice taking on that veneer of cheery false politeness you get every time you’re approached by a salesperson.

By the slight frown that marred Madame Cassandra’s forehead, and the look of mild annoyance that Rose gave me, this was apparently the wrong answer.

“Aren’t we?” I asked Rose, a little uncertainly.

Rose’s frown deepened, as if I kept on saying the wrong thing, but she turned back to Madame Cassandra with a smile and replied, “Yes. We were curious about your new shop.”

I tried to keep my face as neutral as possible at this blatant lie. I wasn’t even a tiny bit curious about this shop. Quite frankly, the entire place was freaking me out a little, which was really saying something. My frequent and often unpleasant interactions with ghosts had made me immune to quite a lot of out-of-the-ordinary experiences.

“… But I think we’ll be heading off now!” I said with more of that false cheer, a little too loudly. I grabbed Rose by the arm, and started dragging her towards the front door. She offered a little resistance, but I used my superior height to good use.

“What? We are?” she yelped, digging her heels into the hardwood-patterned linoleum. As if that would stop me. I had at least six inches on her. And even though Rose was a Seeker on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, she was no match for my determination.

“Yes, we are,” I ground out. “Bye!” I said over my shoulder, giving the creepy woman all dressed in green a wave with the hand that didn’t have a vice-like grip on Rose’s arm. “Have a nice day!”

“You do not believe, child?” she called out. Rose and I both stopped. Damnit. We’d almost made it out of there.

“I believe!” Rose squeaked.

I sighed and let go of her, turning around to face the woman. I took a half-step back in surprise to see how close she’d come to us. I hadn’t even heard her move. How could she keep her wooden bangles so silent?

She gave a warm smile to Rose. “I know you believe, young one,” the approval in her voice was apparent. “But you,” she said, looking at me, her voice becoming considerably cooler. “It is clear from your aura that you are dismissive of the mystical arts.”

If by mystical arts she meant hogwash, then yeah. I guess I was dismissive.

“Look –” I began, not sure why I was about to defend myself against a complete stranger.

She waved an elegant hand in my direction, already swatting away my argument. Who was being dismissive, now?

“There’s no need, child,” she said. “Not everyone can be open to the whispers of the universe.”

I opened my mouth to retort once more, but was again stopped. “I have some advice for you, though,” she continued.

“Um, I don’t really need –” I started. (See what I mean about not being able to avoid the faux-prophecy?)

“You have a trying year ahead of you, child,” she said. I swallowed my frustrated sigh. The whole “child” thing was getting real annoying. I didn’t react well to condescension. “Many twists and turns await you.” I refrained from rolling my eyes. Even though the woman had put on that completely false, slightly breathy, yet totally doom-laden voice of prophecy, she wasn’t saying anything particularly earth-shattering – or concrete. I learnt more about my future from reading my horoscope in Witch Weekly.

“Keep your friends close – especially those you don’t consider friends,” she continued. I looked over at Rose to see if she was buying any of this. Of course, she was wholly enraptured, more than making up for my distinct lack of enthusiasm. “Secrets can eat through your soul.” Well that was particularly morbid. And what did she know about my secrets? Not telling a living soul about seeing dead people had nothing on committing psychic fraud.

There were a few heartbeats of silence before Rose and I realised that Madame Cassandra was finally done with her crazy-ass prophecy – or whatever that unsolicited advice had been.

“Oh, thank you so much!” Rose gushed, almost rushing over to engulf the spindly woman in a trademark Rose hug, but controlled herself at the last moment. “We’ll be sure to heed your words!”

“We will?” I asked dubiously.

Rose’s elbow dug into my waist, quick and vicious.

“Ow!” I yelped. God, that woman had bony elbows!

“We most certainly will!” she emphasised, glaring at me, just to make sure I got the point.

“Okay, fine! Whatever,” I muttered.

Madame Cassandra simply smiled at us indulgently.

With one final incredulous look at her (which I fear was more spooked than I wanted it to be), I turned to leave the shop.

Once again, just before reaching its threshold, Madame Cassandra called out. “Oh, one more thing, child.”

I turned my head over my shoulder, trying to reign in my frustration (and unease).

“Happy birthday.” And with one last cool, knowing smile, she melted back into the shadows.

Spookier, and spookier.

AN: Hey y’all! Welcome readers, old and new! Once again, this is a serious edit of the previous version of the chapter. For returning readers: first of all, thanks for coming back. That means a lot. You guys are the best. Second, this chapter is most of the second part of the original first chapter, if you were wondering. Let me know what you guys think! I love hearing your thoughts. Until next time!

Adios, amigos! :D


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