Chapter 1 : Ginger People
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Greta had really meant to have her rubbish packed two days ago, but several things had interfered with her (very well laid) plans. First, she'd had sixteen reblogs on Thursday. Sixteen. In one day. She couldn't just ignore them. She had to take a look at all the rebloggers' blogs, and it turned out a few of them were actually kind of spiffy. She'd almost made herself late for work.
The second was that she'd been invited to go to some social-gathering-type thing with a couple co-workers and had to randomly make up the excuse that she couldn't because it was her mum's birthday. Then she felt bad and thought buying her mum something might make those pesky guilt monsters pack up camp, but she'd ended up spending three hours on Etsy doing all of pretty much nothing.
Thirdly, Hansel had run out of rabbit food, and leaving the house for something other than work took a lot of effort and planning and things that were taxing. She'd watched a few sci-fi episodes to cool down after her trek and somehow lost track after the fourth.
Of course, when Astrid asked what Greta could have possibly been doing that had taken up all her time from Wednesday to Saturday, her only response was, 'Stuff.'
'Stuff, Greta?' said Astrid shortly. 'Really?'
'I've been busy,' defended Greta.
'Doing what? Clicking about like a madwoman and staring at a screen for twenty hours of the day?'
'As opposed to waving a stick about and making…' Greta's hands twisted together in an odd gesture, 'I don't know, magical toad faeries sing rainbows and dance Swan Lake in magic puffy pink sparkly clouds?'
Astrid scoffed, pulling her arms out of their crossed position. 'You never take what I do seriously, do you?'
'You've never taken me seriously,' responded Greta with a shrug. 'Seriousness breeds… er… hold a tick.'
'That's because you're the most immature little girl on the face of the planet!' said Astrid, tossing her hands up in defeat.
Greta still had a thoughtful look and appeared to be mouthing things to herself. Astrid scowled silently for exactly three seconds, then huffed. She stomped over to her sister and snapped her fingers in her face. Greta swatted them away and with her gangly limbs managed to knock over a plastic orange cup which spilled purple liquid onto the carpet. She watched the stain spread with her nose scrunched.
'That'll cost you, twit.'
'Greta!' shouted Astrid. 'Focus. We're leaving for West Sussex in half an hour, and you haven't even got your trunk out of the cupboard!'
'Have so,' said Greta, suddenly perking up a bit. 'It's at the foot of my bed.' She puffed her chest out all proud-like.
A seething Astrid stared down her sister over a perfectly sloped nose. Greta widened her grin. After a long moment of this, a pout took its place.
'Why are you always so cross with me, Sassy?' she asked as she lifted off the sofa, careful to avoid the puddle of grape juice and the rest of the random objects strewn about the room. 'That can't be healthy.'
'I'm not the old spinster that needs to worry about my health, now am I?'
Greta scrunched her nose. 'I'm hardly a spinster at twenty-six. Just because Mum and Dad married their first year at uni and you're engaged to a magical flying person at twenty-'
'You see? This is exactly what I mean.' Astrid huffed again, but she appeared to be calming down. 'You never take magic seriously. You'll offend the Potters and Weasleys, and all of wizardkind really, within the first ten minutes.'
For a moment, Greta turned back to her sister with her eyes all lit up. 'Perhaps I shouldn't go, then?'
'Yes, Mum,' said Greta with a sigh. 'I've just got to toss some clothes in my trunk and get Hansel ready. It won't take a minute.'
Astrid made a face. 'Oh Greta, must you bring the rabbit?'
'We've discussed this. I'll barely survive two weeks without home wifi at it is, let alone with all these magic people running about with pointy hats and sticks, turning things into toads.' She ignored the look on Astrid's face, disappearing into her bedroom for a moment before emerging with a green trunk and continuing, 'The rabbit is coming.'
'Only if he'll behave, remember.'
'He will. He promises.' Greta tossed the trunk on the sofa and smiled as she went for the wire cage on the kitchen counter. 'Don't you, Hansel? You'll be a good boy for mummy, right?'
A gagging sound came from Astrid's general direction as Greta put her face up to the cage and kissed the rabbit's nose. 'That is sick and disgusting.'
'You can't not kiss fluffy bunnies.' Greta straightened up with a thoughtful look. 'Hold a tick… Does that work?'
'Greta. Trunk. Packed. Now.'
'Oh, don't be so narky,' said Greta as she headed back to her room.
She emerged a minute or two later with her arms full of clothes to find her sitting room and kitchen area completely clean. She promptly dropped everything she was holding and turned to Astrid with her eyes wide.
'You're welcome,' said Astrid quickly, just as Greta opened her mouth.
Greta looked around and shook her head. 'What have you done to the place?'
'Cleaned it, ninny. Magic is useful like that.'
'But how am I supposed to find anything now?' Greta darted over to the kitchen and began poking her head into the cabinets. 'Where did you put my laptop?'
'Calm yourself. It's on the table,' said Astrid with a roll of her eyes.
Greta slid across the linoleum in her socks to the table, where she picked up her laptop and cuddled it to her chest. 'Ssh, it's okay, I promise you'll never be magicked again,' she cooed. Then she turned Astrid with her nose scrunched. 'Do not mess with the laptop. Ever.'
'No, I mean it. If you touch my laptop ever again, I'm going to steal your stick.'
'Whatever you call it, it's still a stick.'
'It is a magical wand.'
'Oh, and that's better?'
It was ten minutes past departure time that Greta at last had everything packed. Of course, she'd have got it done a lot sooner if her sister hadn't tried to magic everything all around the place like a magical faerie-witch-person-whatever-she-was. Nevertheless, the preparations had been finished.
Now the only thing left to do was get through the next two weeks with her sanity intact. It would be difficult, nigh impossible, but Greta was reasonably confident that she'd survive. Perhaps as a ferret for the rest of her miserable life, but then maybe she could talk to Hansel. Did rabbits and ferrets speak the same language?
'Oh Gordon Bennett, please tell me we never have to do that again,' moaned Greta, holding her stomach.
Astrid rolled her eyes. 'Please, Greta, I only do it every day. Come, now. It's at the top of that hill.'
Greta's eyes widened as she glanced up. She turned to her sister and said in exasperation, 'Couldn't we have poofed to the top of the hill? Why'd we have to come out down here?'
'It's cloaked, you can't Apparate inside the barrier,' said Astrid impatiently. 'Now get your trunk.'
A grunt escaped Greta as her sister started for the hill. Adjusting Hansel's cage under her left arm (and making sure he was alright, of course, because it had been a rather nasty trip), Greta heaved her trunk off a patch of suspiciously happy wildflowers and followed.
Greta huffed and puffed to the top, though Astrid seemed to be in peak physical condition. Greta had the thought to ask how that was, but as she was currently trying to conserve air for the purpose of extending her life, she decided against it. She settled for shoving her barely out-of-breath sister in the shoulder when she'd finally reached the top, though it had little effect. Astrid raised an eyebrow, and Greta made a sour face.
Just as Greta was almost somewhat near regaining the ability for speech, a shout of 'Astrid!' came from the front of a small cabin, which Greta barely noticed because her vision was becoming rather spotty.
It took a moment for Greta to realise that Astrid and the other blurry-faced person were hugging. Her feet trampled about uselessly for a moment, carrying her to the side and then in a odd little circle. She was able to steady herself before the considerably less blurry person, as well as the others that were emerging from the cabin, had taken note of her presence.
With a huff, and not bothering to be polite, Greta made for the other side in search of a back door. It was only a moment after she disappeared that she heard her name being called, but Greta only rolled her eyes. She tossed her rubbish onto the ground (excluding Hansel, of course) and wrenched open the back door with rabbit cage in hand to find a gathering of gingers in a room that was decidedly bigger than the cabin had appeared on the outside.
She looked about for a moment, and noting the numbers of eyes on her, gave a sudden belated flinch.
After what seemed like ages, one woman was kind enough to smile and begin with, 'Well, you must be Astrid. Pleasure to meet you at last.'
Greta stared at the hand being offered in front of her for a long moment before shaking herself out of a stupor. She began to rapidly shake her head, then stopped. She cleared her throat. The woman looked politely confused, and Greta did try very hard to make words and things come out of her mouth, but it was to no avail. The most she managed to do was stutter.
'It's… bigger…' She turned herself in a circle. 'Bigger on the… But how… exactly…?'
'Greta!' Never in her life had Greta been so relieved to hear her name shouted across the room.
She turned to Astrid with a short exhale and sagging shoulders. 'Oh thank the heavens.'
'Everybody,' started a tall, dark-haired bloke with his arm around Astrid, 'might I introduce my fiancé Astrid Hamilton and her sister… Greta, isn't that right?'
'Greta Marie,' said Greta with a fierce nod. She held up the rabbit cage and continued at an impressive speed, 'And this is Hansel. He's my rabbit. Sometimes I feed him chicken even though he's a herbivore, but it's not cannibalism because rabbits and chickens are only distantly related. It makes him gassy though, and sometimes he throws it up and it's a pain in the hindquarters to clean.'
Silence. Then Greta turned abruptly to her sister.
'Do you know where I'm staying?' she went on babbling, her words starting to run together a bit. 'I should really put Hansel away, you see, he doesn't like strangers much.'
'You'll be on the third floor,' said a ginger on the left, gesturing off to the right. 'I'll show you, yeah?'
'Fantastic, thank you, pleasure meeting you lot, loads of fun times to come I'm sure,' blathered Greta as she hurriedly made off in the correct direction, nearly colliding with the aforementioned ginger (though it was hard to tell them all apart, really) as they set off.
They climbed the two flights of stairs in silence, and Greta saw several doors that led to impossible rooms that couldn't exist in a cozy-looking one-story cabin. Her head began to feel a bit dizzy again. The ginger led her off to a certain room and opened the door with a smile.
'Here we are,' he said, nodding inside. 'You're rooming with my sister, Rose. Hope that's alright, she's not too bad. Bit snappy, though. I'm Hugo, by the way.'
'Greta. Greta Hamilton. Marie Hamilton. Well, Greta Marie Hamilton. Anyway.' She shook his hand briefly before entering. 'Which one's mine?'
'Er… not sure.' Hugo stepped in more and looked around. 'Rose is too bleeding clean to tell. She hates being near windows, though, so I'd wager she's claimed that one.'
Greta nodded. 'Perfect.' She set the cage down on the bedside table, then turned about to face him. She just stared at him a moment, then let out a huge breath. 'I'm so sorry, I don't do well with crowds.'
'Yeah, I could tell,' said Hugo, grinning a bit, looking down at his feet. 'Me either. That's how I thought to save you. They can be intimidating, the family.'
'Just a bit. Are you… Are you all ginger?'
With a shake of the head, Hugo answered, 'No. The Potters have darker hair, except Lily, and Roxanne's hair's rather brown. All the Delacour cousins are blonde. Lucy's blonde too, like her mum. But… I think that's it. Obviously my mum--she's the one who said hello first--she's not ginger, and Harry isn't either.'
'Oh.' Greta nodded slowly. Then she smiled sheepishly. 'I really didn't get any of that, sorry. You're one of these… Wazz-lees, though, right?'
He chuckled. 'Weasley.' He looked thoughtful, then glanced at her again as he went on, 'I haven't met anyone that didn't know my name before.'
'No, it's not your fault. Not a bad thing, either, I don't think. Just…' He shrugged. 'Different.'
Greta snorted. 'Lot of things are different here. Speaking of, how's this place so big? Looks tiny on the outside.'
'Does it?' asked Hugo. Greta nodded, and he looked thoughtful again for a moment. 'I suppose the cloaking's on for Muggles. The extension charm makes it look the right for wizards, but it wouldn't work on you.'
'I really don't understand what you're saying. S'pose I don't really care though.' Greta sat herself on the bed nearest the window. Hugo looked a bit awkward until she continued, 'I hope that's not rude. I'd just like to survive the fortnight.' Her nose scrunched. 'That is two weeks, isn't it?'
'Think so. I'll… er… I'll leave you to it, then? Or… haven't you got more luggage?'
A sour look returned. 'It's outside the back. Didn't fancy carrying it anymore. Nasty hill, innit?'
'You're telling me,' he said with a snort.
And that was when Greta cocked her head to the side and actually observed the boy. There were freckles on his nose, but just a few. He kept reverting to staring at his feet. His hands were behind his back. Greta smiled just a little.
Perhaps if she stayed clear of large gatherings and took these Wheeze-lees on one at a time, she'd get on alright. She might even have some decent conversations that weren't over the Internet.
Though she wouldn't say she wasn't quite that hopeful just yet.
A/N: Okay. So this is my first HPFF story *hides* and I would love some feedback. Actually, I would really appreciate it, cause I know this story is weird. That is all.
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