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Choices by sour_grapes_snape
Chapter 10 : Books and Brothers
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13


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                Louis didn’t stick around for too long, claiming that he should get back to the Burrow. After observing the stony look on my face, he mentioned that everyone felt bad about what had happened, but I waved him off. I’d accepted Louis’ apology, but I didn’t want him to apologize on behalf of everyone else as well. They could do that themselves.

 

                I grabbed the fudge from Mum’s hiding spot before going back upstairs to find Selene. She was in my room, lying on my bed with her hands placed on the bump in her stomach. She’d changed out of the maternity dress my mum had lent her and she was now wearing… my clothes. Again. She also wore a troubled look, her forehead creased with worry. I didn’t say anything to her, I just went to lay down next to her, placing a plate of fudge between us. Selene immediately tossed one of her legs over mine and we both stared up at the ceiling for an immeasurable amount of time.

 

                “I’m sorry,” Selene said eventually, her voice sounding tired and heavy, like she bore a great burden.
 

                I turned my head to stare at her. Apologies from Selene were extremely rare. “What for?”

 

                “I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Everything, I guess. For shutting you out and ignoring you.”

 

                “You already apologized for that. And as I’ve said before, it wasn’t completely your fault.” 

 

                “Maybe,” she said. “But it is my fault I’m pregnant in the first place.”

 

                I frowned. “How do you figure that?”

 

                “I’m the one that tackled you in the first place. That’s what started it all. If I hadn’t done that we wouldn’t be in this mess. We’d be gallivanting about Hogwarts, blowing up greenhouses and gluing Slytherins to the wall.”

 

                “Gallivanting. That’s a big word.”

 

                An elbow jabbed me sharply in the side. “Fine, maybe you tackled me. But I’m the one that kissed you. Therefore, it’s my fault.”

 

                “I took my shirt off.”

 

                “That’s true. You dirty slag.”

 

                “Shut up.” Selene elbowed me again, but I could detect the smile in her voice.

 

                From downstairs floated up the sound of voices. I could distinctly hear hints of anger in them. Mu mum’s, especially. Uh oh. This can’t be good.

 

                I glanced out of the corner of my eye to find Selene looking at me. Wordlessly, we both got up and headed downstairs to see what the commotion was about. Selene shoved a couple of pieces of fudge in her mouth first. She loves food, all of it. Fudge is a particular weakness, though. That and bacon.
   

                Down in the sitting room, Mum was pacing back and forth, muttering under her breath. Dad had sat down in his chair, eyebrows furrowed, his gaze following the travel of Mum’s feet. Lily was also sitting down, her arms crossed and face stony while Al watched them all nervously. I was going to go out on a limb here and say that they weren’t happy.

 

                “Er…” I said, announcing my presence. “Problems?”

 

                “Problems?” Mum echoed, fixing me with a stare that would put a basilisk to shame. “Oh, I’ll bloody well give you problems! That pompous, pig-headed prat I call my brother and his bint of a wife! Think they can tell me how to raise my family…”

 

                Mum’s voice trailed away as she began to mutter under her breath. I was a bit surprised that she wasn’t breathing flames and that smoke wasn’t coming out of her ears. Her face was redder than I’d ever seen before. Heck, it wasn’t even red anymore, it was practically purple.

 

                “Ginny, you know they mean well –“ Dad started, though he backed down easily under the glare Mum gave him. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the man who killed Voldemort. Frightened of his own wife. This doesn’t bode well for the future of humanity.

 

                Not that I’m one to talk. I’m terrified of my own grandmother, mother, best friend, and little sister. I guess Lily got all the scary Weasley genes and I got the wimpy Potter genes. Life’s a bitch.

 

               “What’s going on?” I asked. See? I can be brave.

 

                Mum stopped pacing and gave me a steady look. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start to sweat a little bit. I’ve been so on edge lately, I’m not even going to have to be murdered. I’ll probably just die from heart failure because of endless nervous tension.

 

                As if sensing my thoughts and deciding that giving me a heart attack would be fun, my mum took a few quick steps towards and her arms flew out to attack me… in a hug.

 

                Hmm. Can’t say I was expecting that.
  

                “Uh…”

 

                Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love my mother very much. And her hugs are cuddly and cozy and make the world seem like a happy, shiny place. However, at the moment, I was at a bit of a loss as to why, exactly, I was being hugged. I’m pretty sure I told her that as a man, I should not be hugging my mother. It’s just not done. No matter how special and magical the hug may or may not be.

 

                “Mum… what’s going on?” I asked. Everyone was staring at us, looking as bemused as I felt. Trust me, no one saw this coming. From behind me, I could hear Selene suppressing sniggers. She’s never going to let me live this one down. She’ll be taking the mickey for ages. And yet, I willing subject myself to her presence.

 

                Mum didn’t answer me though. Instead she let go of me, only to throw herself on Selene next. I couldn’t help but smirk at the startled look that crossed Selene’s face. Ha. Who’s laughing now?
   

                “You two,” Mum said, pulling away from Selene to glance back and forth between the two of us, “have my full support in whatever it is you do. My idiot brother and his bimbo wife think they can tell me how to raise my children? Well, ha! I’ll show him.”

 

                I looked at Mum carefully, a sneaking suspicion in the back of my head. I looked over at Dad, opening my mouth to ask him a question, but Mum cut me off before I could. “Just so you know, you two can do whatever you want, because I love you and I’m not a stupid, controlling parent. So you can go and have all the sex you want! I don’t care! Selene’s already pregnant, so what’s the worst that can happen.” 

 

                It was at about that point that I think I started choking on absolutely nothing. Apparently my body decided that it no longer needed my lungs, so it decided to forcefully eject them by forcing them up my esophagus and out of my mouth. Maybe if I stopped breathing I’d be able to forget that my mother just encouraged me to have lots of sex.

 

                I think I’d prefer her attempting to murder me. 
  

                “I think I may vomit,” Lily said, a nauseated look crossing her face, which actually did look faintly green. It’d look nice with Selene’s face, which had gone a spectacular shade of scarlet. Those two would look very festive if they stood next to each other. ‘Tis the season, after all.

 

                Once my respiratory system sorted itself out, I turned away from my mum – I don’t think I’ll ever look at her the same again – and addressed Dad. “By chance, did Mum do any drinking tonight?”
  

                “After you left, Percy may have made some… disparaging comments on your mother’s parenting skills. Needless to say, he left the Burrow pretty quickly once he started getting attacked by giant, flapping bogeys. Then Uncle George decided to distract your mum with Firewhiskey shots,” Dad muttered, looking absolutely appalled. Whether this was due to Uncle Percy being a git of the highest caliber, what was apparently copious amounts of alcohol consumption on Mum’s part, or the fact that she just told me to have sex with Selene, I can’t be sure. I’d bet it’s probably all three.
  

                I nodded, feeling rather lightheaded. I swear to Merlin my life was not this awkward and complicated last year. “I kind of thought so.”
  

                Alcohol has a very interesting effect on my mother. She functions just fine – no slurring of words or stumbling when she walks – but the filter that’s supposed to go in between your brain and your mouth just completely disappears. Not that I’m one to talk, of course, because I never think before I speak. However, at least when I do it, I’m usually saying things I actually mean. Some of the things Mum says would never ever cross her mind if she was sober.

 

                “I thought we had a family meeting to decide not to give Mum alcohol again,” I said, watching with horror as Mum began telling Selene stories about me when I was a kid – specifically the ones from when I had an odd aversion to clothes and was prone to stripping down and running about the neighborhood starkers.

 

                “It was the only thing that stopped her from running after Percy and Audrey and cursing them even more once,” Al interjected. “Mum was not pleased with them at all.”

 

               “She wanted to come home right away, but we thought that it would, er, be best to let you… handle the situation alone,” Lily said.

 

                I seem to recall a conversation with my parents several years ago about the ingestion of mood-altering substances. It was just before I left for my fourth year at Hogwarts. Mum and Dad sat me down and warned me about the use of drugs and alcohol. In fact, I specifically remember Mum mentioning something about alcohol never being the answer when things in life get tough. Clearly she needs to take her own advice.
  

                “I, er, think it may be best if I just get your mother to bed,” Dad said, looking torn between laughing as my expense and being concerned about Mum. I feel as though this should offend me.

 

                Dad clapped a hand on my shoulder and met my gaze briefly. “There are some things I want to talk to you about, but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Just… I want you to know that I’m proud of you, James.”

 

                “Thanks, Dad,” I said quietly. He tightened his grip for a moment before letting go to gently take Mum by the elbow and lead her upstairs.

 

                Huh. Proud of me. How about that?

 

***

 

                The next morning I woke up to a body dropping down on top of me. I’ve got to say, that really wasn’t the most orthodox way of waking someone up, but I will admit that it was effective. I was instantly jerked out of dreamland – in which I was swimming in a pool of jello – and I groaned at the additional weight.

 

                Despite having been asleep moments ago, I was lucid enough to recognize my attacker without having to open my eyes. “Leena, why do you feel the need to hurt me so?”

 

                “I enjoy your pain,” Selene quipped, rolling off me. “Now get up, you lazy bum. You’re wasting the day away. And you’re ignoring me, which is hurtful, and you’re not a sadist like me, so you’re going to feel guilty instead of amused.” 
  

                I flipped myself over, pushing my face deep into my pillow. “You make a valid point. But sleep wins over you and my conscious. In the list of my priorities, it’s sleep first, then you. And then food.”
  

               “I rank above food?” Selene asked, her voice vibrating in my ear as she moved her head next to mine, hair tickling my jaw. “I’m touched. You definitely don’t rank above food for me.”

 

                “Gee, thanks. That’s really sweet of you. Now leave and let me sleep. 
  

                “You’ve forgotten what day it is, haven’t you?” My bed creaked and I felt Selene shift away, likely into a sitting position.

 

                “It’s too early to know what day it is,” I groaned. “My brain doesn’t function at this early hour.”

 

                “First of all, it’s nearly ten so it’s not early. Your slightly hung-over mother has already been up for hours and is doing just fine. And second, I wasn’t aware your brain even functioned at all,” Selene replied. I could practically hear her smirk.
   

                “Cheers,” I mumbled. “It’s Thursday, innit?”
  

                “Friday,” Selene corrected, “but that’s not what I was referring to. It’s Boxing Day, James, the day after Christmas. We’re going to Diagon Alley.”

 

                I quickly rolled over and sat up, blinking sleep out of my eyes. “Oh, shit. Why didn’t you wake me sooner?”

 

                Ever since our second year, Selene and I have had our own Christmas tradition. We never get each other gifts, because Selene doesn’t really have money to be anything other than necessities and she doesn’t feel comfortable receiving gifts from anyone. If you give her a chance, she can wax eloquently about the evils of consumerism and how “the nearly reverent regard in which society holds material goods is detrimental and abhorrent and allows people to hide behind a mast of wealth and falsely genuine sentiments” or something like that. So yeah, I don’t buy her things. Ever. Even if I want to.

 

                The day after Christmas, though, Selene and I like to walk around Diagon Alley together – with my parents that first year and with Al and Lily in our fifth year – and just visit all the shops, occasionally causing mischief. It’s also the only day in which I buy anything for Selene. She says it’s technically not a Christmas present because it’s not on Christmas day, and she always is the one to pick out the gift. 
  

                “I wanted to let you sleep,” Selene told me, shrugging. I smiled. That was unexpectedly sweet of her. “When you’re sleep deprived, you say even more stupid things than usual and I just don’t want to deal with that.”

 

                Or not. 
  

                “Now get up,” Selene said.  “We’ve all been waiting for you to eat breakfast, and Al is getting impatient. Also, your mum mentioned something about wanting to talk to the two of us.”

 

                “Probably to tell more embarrassing stories about me,” I muttered. I don’t know why she decided to break those out now, after all these years. Stupid firewhiskey, impairing my mother’s judgement.

 

                “Got to say, I’m glad you got over that naked phase,” Selene grinned. “No one wants to see that.”

 

                I groaned, feeling my face turn red. “So I had a phase where I didn’t like wearing clothes. It’s not a big deal. There’s no need to mock me for something past James did."

 

                Stupid past James. He’s always causing trouble for me. He has absolutely no regard for future James. What a git. Past James, I mean, not future James. Although future James is probably a git, too. I know present James is.
  

                Why am I talking about myself like this?

 

                “Everything you do warrants mocking, no matter what the age. Now just get dressed, loser,” Selene said, pulling herself up off my bed and heading towards the door. I stared at her retreating back for a moment, then blinked.

 

                “Are you wearing my clothes again?” I asked, taking in the familiar sight of my worn t-shirt of this old Muggle band called Pink Floyd and a pair of sweatpants. Selene should not be allowed to look that good in my clothes.
  

                “Er, yeah,” Selene said, turning around, but not meeting my eyes. She shuffled her feet uncomfortably. “My own clothes don’t really fit me that well anymore… that not that I have them.”

 

                “What?”

 

                Selene idly twirled a lock of waxy hair around her thumb. “Well, when I left my parent’s house I didn’t really get the chance to grab any of my things. They told me to get out, I said I would do it happily, we shouted a few insults, and I walked out. All I had was the clothes on my back and my wand.”

 

                I stared at her, more than a little shocked. “Jesus Christ, Lee. Why didn’t you say anything? You don’t have any of your things? What about your school books and that? It’s all at your folks’ place?”

 

                She shrugged. “Didn’t seem worth mentioning. And yeah, it’s all there. But I’ll figure something out.”

 

                “Figure something out?” I repeated, dazed. “No, you won’t. We’ll help you, get you new things, and –“

 

                Selene cut me off. “Just leave it alone, James. I’m not going to be another one of those people who increase the general suckiness of the world by taking advantage of the few good people there are left. Your family has done enough for me throughout the years, I don’t need to become a bigger burden.”
   

                “You’re not a burden,” I told her incredulously. “When are you going to get it through your angry little head that we’re not doing anything out of kindness. My family and I have you around here all the time because we’re selfish and want to monopolize your company. Not out of some desire to self-sacrificially kind to you.”

 

                “I know that. But it still doesn’t change how I feel about it. About myself,” Selene said quietly. “But thank you.”

 

                “You don’t always have to be so stubborn,” I told her, though I knew it was futile effort. The day Selene Liddell loses even a small bit of her stubbornness is the day I learn to think before I speak.

 

                Selene smiled slightly, but it didn’t reach her eyes. It rarely did. “Yeah, I do. Now get dressed and I’ll see you at breakfast.”

 

                She turned to leave once more, but I called out to stop her yet again, something occurring to me. “Wait. So if you’ve only been wearing my clothes since you got here… then what are you doing for, like, underwear?”

 

                I was actually kind of afraid of the answer I’d get, convinced it wasn’t something I’d want to know. My morbid curiosity got the better of me though, and I felt nervous at the knowing smirk that crossed Selene’s face. “Well, my bra is actually kind of small now, so I’m not wearing it. As for my knickers, I’ve washed them and when they weren’t clean, I wore a pair of your boxer shorts. I have a pair of them on now, actually.”

 

                Uh. 
  

                Oh.

 

                When did all of the air in the room decide to leave? There’s no oxygen reaching my lungs. Breathing is no longer an option.

 

                She’s what? She’s wearing what? No bra and my boxers underneath my clothes? What the hell? I mean really. What the actual fuck, here? Is she trying to kill me?

 

                I figured my eventual murder at her hands – if my mum didn’t get to it first – would be by a much more violent and bloody means. Not… not this. Though I have to admit, it is sort of brilliant. No one would have seen it coming. I know I certainly didn’t. Good Lord.
  

                Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve always found girls who don’t try to be beautiful to be more attractive than those who do. The vast majority of the blokes at Hogwarts consider Maddy Goldsworthy to be the most attractive girl in the school, despite the fact that her personality leaves a lot to be desired. To be perfectly honest, I’ve really never seen the draw. I find girls that don’t wear a lot of makeup or eye-catching clothing to be far more appealing, even if they are, objectively speaking, less physically beautiful.

 

                So, I think you’ll understand why I found Selene to be pretty damn sexy right now, with messy sleep hair and my too-big-for-her shirt. Plus, there is something universally appealing about the girl you like wearing your clothes. And not wearing a bra. That’s always nice, too. 
   

                Selene was looking at me, all to amused, as I choked on the air I wasn’t breathing, and an uncomfortable heat started to creep up my neck. “Do I have permission to leave now, or do you have any other questions for me about my clothing choices?”

 

                “No, you can go,” I said, my voice cracking like I was thirteen again. I cleared my throat. “And I could do without the sass!”

 

                “I could do without your incessant talking, but you don’t hear me complaining!” Selene retorted, backing out and closing my door with a sharp snap.

 

                “You complain all the time!” I shouted back at her.

 

                Just a few minutes later, I was downstairs in the kitchen where Mum and Dad were making the Full English breakfast and Selene was pouring some hot water for tea. Al and Lily were already seated at the table, discussing Slytherin and Gryffindor’s respective chances of winning the Quidditch Cup, though they were quick to end the discussion once I walked in.

 

                I wrinkled my nose at Selene. “Tea?”
  

                “There’s a cup of hot chocolate for you,” Selene said, nodding at a mug that was set aside from the rest.

 

                “Cheers,” I said, grabbing it.

 

                I don’t understand why tea is always associated with England and the U.K. in general. We’re not a bunch of tea-obsessed nutters like other countries – I’m looking at you, America – see to think, thank you very much. Although, when I meet new people, they all seem to find it odd that I don’t like tea. And everyone always tries to get me to try it again, see if I’ve changed my mind. They also like to tell me all these different facts about tea and why I should drink it. For some reason, no seems to be able to accept the simple fact that I think tea tastes like rubbish.

 

                Okay, never mind. We are a bunch of tea obsessed nutters. Does this mean I’m bad at being British? 

 

                Selene and I carried over everyone’s tea and my hot chocolate to the table as Mum and Dad finished up their cooking. I handed Lily a cup and ruffled her hair as I moved to take the seat next to her. “Did you just say that your Quidditch captain wants the team to run around the entire Black Lake for warm up exercises? Isn’t that a little extreme?”

 

                Lily rolled her eyes. “Oh, she tried to make us do it. But we managed to talk her out of it. She’s off her rocker, that one.”

 

                She had a point there. Danielle Peaks was the fourth member of the Gryffindor Seventh Year girls and lived only for Quidditch. I’ve never seen anyone so obsessed with something before. Other than the Quidditch mania, though, Danielle was all right. She and Selene got on well enough, I suppose, though you definitely couldn’t consider them friends. Danielle’s best friends were her broomstick and her Quaffle. And a group of girls in Hufflepuff, when Gryffindor wasn’t about to play a match against them.
  

                Conversation floated around on some vague, unimportant details that didn’t particularly register in my mind. One of the players for the Harpies just found out she was pregnant and Mum was figuring out the best time to start playing a reserve instead. Dad has been filling out an endless supply of paperwork due to the instigation of new procedures at the Ministry.

 

                After we cleared away our dishes, I caught my parents exchanging significant looks. Uh oh. This can’t be good.
   

                “Al, Lily,” Dad said, “why don’t the two of you go up to your rooms?”

 

                “What your father’s trying to say diplomatically,” Mum cut in, “is get out. We need to talk to James and Selene.”

 

                Hmm. Maybe that’s where I got my lack of tact. I always thought maybe it was Dad who gave it me, but this may be proving me wrong. Actually, it’s actually probably from Uncle Ron. That man doesn’t have a sensitive bone in his entire body.

 

                Al and Lily left promptly and without a word, although they both shot me sympathetic looks. I can’t say I’d blame. A double parental talk whammy – I’d be shooting them sympathetic looks if they were in my position.

 

                “Right then,” Mum said, as we all took seats back at the freshly cleaned table, “we have been talking these past few days. Despite the allegations of my… more intolerable brother, we aren’t taking this pregnancy lightly. However, unlike Percy, Harry and I actually have hearts and souls, so we decided to wait until after Christmas to have this talk with you two.”

 

                “What have I told you about letting this go?” Dad asked under his breath. Mum shot his a glare so intense, if she’d used that on Voldemort, Dad wouldn’t have had to bothered hunting down horcruxes. That glare would have shattered them all simultaneously and killed Voldemort.

 

                “Don’t sass me, Harry Potter.” 

 

                Ooh, she just brought out the last name. Shit is going to go down.

 

                “Anyway,” Dad said hastily, quailing under Mum’s stare – I get my fear of women from him, that’s for sure – “Ginny and I have been discussing punishments. Nothing too serious, because we appreciate the steps you are currently taking to better the situation, but you two were irresponsible before.”

 

                “I know you two usually like to go to Diagon Alley today, but James, you’ll have to stay home. Selene, you’ll go,” Mum said.

 

                I’m not going to lie – I felt something deflate inside of me at that. Things had been undeniably off between Selene and me for quite some time and I’d been hoping that this trip would help return us to a semblance of normalcy. But now that, frankly, was all shot to hell.

 

                “That’s not fair.”

 

                Surprisingly, it wasn’t me who said that, but Selene. We all turned to look at her in mild surprise. Although she’s generally known for being unpleasant, Selene has never offered any complaint to my parents. Just another reason why people shouldn’t be so quick to judge her. Her loyalty may be hard-won, but once you have it, Selene remains steadfast.

 

                “You can’t tell James he can’t go, but still allow me to,” Selene continued.  “You like to tell me that I’m just like a part of the family, but you don’t treat me like it. If I’m family, I shouldn’t get the extra privileges you’d give a guest. I was just as irresponsible as James was and I deserve punishment just as much as he does.”

 

                See? What did I tell you; Selene is unwavering in her loyalty and she’s outspoken in what she believes. If more people would give her a chance instead of writing her off as a cynical bitch, they’d get to know a really amazing person.

 

                “That’s why you’re punishment is going to Diagon Alley and Muggle London with me to buy maternity clothes,” Mum replied, a wicked smile gracing her face.
  

                “That’s a punishment?” Selene asked. 
  

                “Oh, it will be.”
  

                “As for you James,” Dad said, looking amused at the confusion in Selene’s eyes and the evil mirth in Mum’s, “you’ll be staying here, as we said before, and you have to read this book.”
  

               Mum pulled out her wand and flicked it, and seconds later a book came zooming into the room, which she caught. She pushed across the table towards me. I picked it up and read the title aloud. “The Reproductive Systems of Women: From Menstruation to Birth.”

 

                What. The. Hell.

 

                Selene burst out laughing, so hard that she actually snorted several times. It was not very attractive laughter.
 

                “James – you – should - have – seen – your – FACE!” she said through her giggles, falling into a fresh peal of laughter at the end, clutching her sides.

 

                “You’ll read that book so that you can understand exactly what it is that Selene’s going through,” Mum said with a smirk so evil, Lucifer would have been proud.

 

               “Right,” I said faintly. This was going to be interesting.

 

                “That should wrap things up,” Dad said then, the corners of his mouth twitching. Everyone was enjoying my punishment far too much. “Ginny, why don’t you and Selene head out?”

 

                Once Mum and Selene walked out, Dad and I were left sitting alone at the table. I figured now was good a time as any to bring up something that had been nagging at my mind.

 

                “Say, Dad?” 
  

                “Mmm?” Dad said, his head lifting as he peered at me through his round glasses. You know, I always wondered why he always kept those glasses. He never changed from those same circular frames that he’d worn for all his life.
  

                “All of Selene’s things… they’re still at her parents’ house,” I said. “Her clothes, her books, everything she owns is there. And she’s not allowed to go back. It’s not right.”

 

                “Has she considered going back to get them?” Dad asked, though I could see in his eyes that he already knew my answer. 

 

                I gave a dry laugh, completely devoid of any humor. “She’s never going to set foot in that house again if she can help it. And if I can help it, too. I’ve never liked her going back there, and I know you haven’t either.”

 

                “It’s practically abuse, how her parents treated her,” Dad agreed, an angry expression crossing his face. “So what do you plan to do about it?”

 

                I shook my head slowly. “We’ve got to do something, Dad. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before. She can’t just go back to Hogwarts with nothing but her wand and the clothes Mum gets her today. And you know she won’t accept getting all new things from us. No, we need to go to her house and get them.”
   

                Dad gave me a probing look, like he was searching my face for something. For what, I’m not sure, but I guess he approved of what he saw, because he gave me a small smile. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this, James, but… I’m proud of you. You and Selene may not have made the wisest decision, but you’ve owned up to what’s happened and you’re handling things remarkably well. You were always a bit flighty when you were younger, but you’ve really grown up. Whatever happens with that child, he or she should be proud to have you as a father.”
  

                One of the biggest worries I’ve had throughout my life has been trying to live up to my Dad. No, not the saving the world thing. Just… how innately good he is. Every kid wants to make their parents proud, I know, but making my Dad proud may be one of the highest goals I’ve ever set for myself. I can be a bit of a screw up sometimes and I guess, in the back of my head, I’ve always had this worry that I’d never be quite good enough in Dad’s eyes.

 

                “Thanks,” I muttered. “Really, Dad, just… thank you.” 
 

                Dad nodded and then we both just kind of sat there in silence, not quite meeting the other’s eyes. Neither of us are really very good at discussing… feelings and that rubbish, I guess. Now things just felt kind of awkward, which I hadn’t expected. It really shouldn’t surprise me when things get awkward in my life, but somehow I still never see it coming.

 

                “So, ah, about Selene’s things then?” I asked, after both of us had spent a sufficient amount of time scratching the backs of our necks and shifting our gaze around the room.

 

                “Right,” Dad said, and he scraped his chair back and stood. “I’ll go get them then.”

 

                “Do you want me to come with you?”
 

                Dad raised an eyebrow. “You remember how you said there was no way you were letting Selene set another foot inside that house?” I nodded. “I’m applying the same thing to you. That’s not the kind of environment I want you to be around. Ever. Understand?” 

 

                I nodded again. I could definitely understand that desire. “Okay then.”

 

                “Besides,” Dad added, staring to smirk. “You have some reading to do.”

 

                Merlin help me. 

 

***
   

                Some side effects of the menstrual cycle may include abdominal pains – known as cramps – bloating, mood swings, indigestion, breast swelling/tenderness, acne, diarrhea, and many more. These effects are normal and –

 

                I snapped the book shut quickly. I hate this. I hate this so much. This is the worst punishment in the history of punishments. This book is horrifying. I did not need to know this stuff.

 

                How do girls even live? Good Merlin, menstruation sounds terrible. And I haven't even gotten to the pregnancy part yet.

 

                I can’t believe Mum actually bought me a book about the… er, reproductive systems of women. And that I have to read the whole thing. I mean, honestly, I’m only on chapter two of this… Terrible Book of Horrors and I already want to burn my face off.

 

                I was spared from my further contemplation of all sorts of things I never wanted to know by a knock on my open door. I glanced up from where I was half lying on my bed and saw Al standing in my doorway, looking oddly nervous. “Al, you are my hero and the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen in my life.”

 

                Al blinked. “Right. That’s not strange, then. Should I come back at a better time?”

 

                “NO!” I practically shouted. “No, do not leave me alone with the Terrible Book of Horrors! I think my eyes may start bleeding if I have to read any more!”

 

                “I’m not even going to ask,” Al said, giving a look that quite clearly meant he was questioning my sanity. You’re not the only one, Al. You’re not the only one.

 

                “What can I do for you, little bro?” I asked, sitting up fully and swinging my legs over to hang down the side of my bed.
  

                “I… was wondering if you could give me advice on how to talk to girls.”

 

“You want what now?” I asked, slightly incredulously. I was an idiot. A very large idiot. No one ever comes to me for advice. Ever. It’s just not done.

 

Al gritted his teeth, his ears turning red. “I said, I want you to teach me how to talk to girls.”

 

I raised an eyebrow. “You talk to girls all the time. Remember Unnamed Broom Closet Girl?”
  

“That’s different.” 
  

“Is it?”
  

Al gave a sigh of irritation. “You’re the worst.”

 

“It’s what I’m best at.”

 

“I thought that was saying stupid things.”
  

“I’m multi-talented.”

 

“I just need you to show me how to talk to girls I actually like!” Al burst out. “I’m tired of snogging girls who I don’t like and who don’t like me.”

 

Well, that’s awfully enlightened of him. My little brother is growing up, the little sod. I sad up, shoving the Terrible Book of Horrors of my bed - stupid, awful book - and patted the spot next to me. “Come sit, Albus m’boy. Let me educate you in the ways of women. Though to be honest, I’m not sure why you’re coming to me.”
  

Al shrugged, giving me a sly look. Bloody Slytherin. “I need to learn how to talk to girls I fancy and since you talk to Selene all the time, I figured you’d be an expert in that field.”
  

Oh, look at that. I’m choking on air again. How lovely.

 

“What – what are you – who – I – what?” I spluttered, coughing slightly. I’m not that obvious am I? Am I obvious? “What… what makes you say that? That I fancy – that Selene – what?”

 

Al smirked at me. “I’ve got eyes, James. I kind of suspected that you liked her and I conned Lily into confirming it.”
  

He tricked Lily? That wily little Slytherin. “Cunning little bastard,” I muttered.
  

He shrugged. “If the glove fits.”

 

“You’re not wearing gloves.”

 

Al groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “Why do I feel like I lose brain cells when I have conversations with you?”

 

“It’s because your brain cells can’t handle all of my awesome so they have to die,” I explained.

 

“You should have that checked out by a Healer. It’s probably not healthy.”

 

I tapped my nose knowingly. “It’s incurable, unfortunately. I’ll just have to deal with being this awesome for the rest of my life.”

 

“I’m not sure ‘awesome’ is really the word you want in this situ – hey! You can’t distract me that easily,” Al said indignantly.

 

Damn. I was hoping he’d forget about the… Selene… thing… he just mentioned. Yeah. 
  

“So you fancy Selene,” Al said. “Big deal. Just ask her out.”

 

Just ask her out? Seriously? Oh, this boy has much to learn. “Sure, of course, I’ll just do that,” I scoffed. “Poor, foolish, simple little Albus. It’s not that easy. Not at all. The relationship between myself and the illustrious Miss Liddell is a complex, convoluted thing that is neither easily navigated nor understood. In fact, one might say it’s like a separate living, breathing organism with its own life force and sentience. I can’t ‘just ask her out,’ as you say, because there is much more to it than that.”

 

“This coming from the guy who doesn’t know the figure of speech ‘If the glove fits,’” Al mused. “I swear, you’re the most intelligent idiot in the world.”

 

“It’s my niche,” I replied, not even bothering to try and figure out if I should feel offended or complimented. I’ll just go with a little bit of both. Both is good. It simultaneously deflates and inflates my ego, two things I think that it needs. If that makes sense.

 

It doesn’t make sense. Most things I say – or think – don’t. C’est la vie.

 

“Seriously, though,” Al said. “Why haven’t you asked Selene out? After everything you’ve done for her, do you really think she’d say no?”

 

I frowned. “What do you mean? What, because we’ve been friends for so long and because I… I dunno, do nice things for her, she should feel obligated to go out with me? That’s messed up, Al. I have absolutely no romantic expectations from Selene and nor should I.”

 

“Wha – no, shit James, that’s not what I meant,” Al said, looking alarmed. “I just meant… after all this time, I’m sure she fancies you, too. Not what… no, I didn’t meant that at all.”

 

I looked down at the floor. “I don’t really want to talk about this Al. Aren’t you supposed to be the one getting relationship advice from me, not the other way around?”

 

Al stared at me for a bit, his expression almost… disappointed? “Yeah, right. So I just… yeah, there’s this girl that I like a lot, but every time I try to talk to her, I put my foot into my mouth worse than you did back at that Ministry event Mum forced us to go to two years ago.”

 

Ooh. That was bad. Really bad. In my defense, if I had known that Jewish people apparently don’t eat pork or something, I would not have extensively described the many glories of bacon to the extremely horrified visiting Israeli Minister. How was I supposed to know he was a zealot?

 

“Well, my dear brother,” I said, “you have come to the right place. Actually, you probably haven’t come to the right place, but that’s your mistake to deal with, not mine.”

 

I threw one arm around Al’s shoulder and used the other to sweep my arm expansively in front of me. “Welcome, Al, to the James Potter School of Tips to Talk to Girls.”
   

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  

AN

 

*Crawls out from the rock I’ve been hiding under*

 

Heeeey, guys. Long time no update, eh? In my (very feeble) defense, my life has been insanely busy. I’m taking five classes at college this semester and for some reason, people have decided that they actually want to spend time in my company, so I have a fairly demanding social life. It’s weird. I think I liked it better when I was a recluse.


Also, this is entirely unedited and has been written in pieces over for about two months, so if it's rougher than usual, that's why.
 

Anyways, so here’s the next chapter. I hope y’all like it and I sincerely hope that the next one will not take this long.

 

Also, if there are people who are Jewish that are reading this, I hope that last bit wasn’t offensive to you in any way. It was actually based upon a fairly awkward experience of my own in which I talked about how much I loved bacon to a girl who I didn’t know was very enthusiastic about Jewish traditions. It was not a fun time for either of us.

 

Anyways, perhaps you could leave me a review and stop me from feeling like such a loser? That would be nice.
   

Also, on the chance some readers didn't know, "C'est la vie" means "That's life" in French.


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