Chapter 3 : Mad People
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But, the point. The point is that Greta heard lots of things she wasn't supposed to, like the fact that someone called Teddy had cheated on Vic with some Lacie. Greta caught this little tidbit as she was attempting to manoeuvre her way through the bottom level of the cabin until she could find a place she recognised (without success for far).
She tried to ignore it, really she did, but that little thing got stuck in her mind. She didn't know who any of the people were, but it sounded serious, and now Greta's silly brain wouldn't let it go. She cursed her brain and tried to get it to focus on finding the stairs.
It didn't really matter though, because the people had finished talking and ran into her outside the door. One of them gave her a suspicious look and the other put on a smile that could've been really fake or really not, but Greta couldn't tell.
'There she is!' said the second woman. 'We were so worried last night. What happened?'
Their apparent gossipyness made Greta really reluctant to say anything, but she flushed bright red either way. 'I... just... anxiety attack. New places and all that.' They still looked really interested. Greta hugged her laptop closer and stared at her feet. 'I don't really want to talk about it.'
Not to anyone but her sister's fiancé, apparently. Greta almost slapped herself on the head. She wasn't supposed to be thinking about that. Something might slip out to people with really big mouths, and then everyone would think something happened. Which it didn't. Just almost. But completely not.
'Well, I'm glad Albus took care of you.'
The first woman chuckled and added, 'Boy always thinks he has to be a hero.'
Greta twisted her fingers behind her back and swayed shamefully on the spot. Chivalrous Albus. He just likes to help people. Astrid had said something like that. She should've known it was him the whole time.
'Well...' said the second girl after an awkward pause. 'I'm Roxanne.'
Greta just nodded along, not really sure what to do, not really listening. The other girl said her name was Lucy. Then Lucy asked about her laptop, and Greta stuttered and went silent and awkwardified everything times ten. Then Roxanne said they should all get to breakfast, and Greta found herself being roped in again. She cringed for the whole lovely journey. This was why she didn't like people.
Breakfast was very smelly, but not a bad smelly. It just smelled like a lot of smells. Good ones. Egg and bacon sandwiches. Greta sneaked some maple syrup (okay, a lot of maple syrup) on hers and bit into sugar, fat, and sugar. It was heaven.
'I saw that, you,' said somebody when they sat down next to her, and it made Greta jump. But it was just Hugo. Greta still turned pink.
'I like maple things,' said Greta in defence. 'Well... I like maple syrup, anyway. I don't know if there's anything else that's maple, but I would probably like it.'
Hugo smiled a bit. 'Cause it'd be loaded with sugar, yeah? You an addict?'
Greta scrunched her nose and replied, 'Well, it sounds a bit naughty when you say it like that.'
It was nice to talk to Hugo because he was nice. Greta even talked to Lily a bit, who seemed not very much but still slightly less obnoxiously cheery than Greta had thought at first. Maybe it was just because she was ginger.
Someone mentioned something about going into town to shop around for accessories for the bridesmaid dresses, and of course Greta slunk along with it. She was the maid of honour, after all. She didn't see why, though. It should've been somebody who actually cared about the wedding.
Greta did care a little bit. It was sort of a big deal, your sister getting married. But it didn't really feel real, and it was even sort of sad. Astrid was her younger sister. Greta felt a little shameful whenever she thought about it, so she tried not to think about it. At all. Preferably ever. Really, she would just be glad when all of this was over.
Two weeks, minus one day. It couldn't be all that bad.
Except that, well, it completely could.
First, there were some funny things about transportation. So apparently it was normal in magic-land to use fireplaces and 'Flu-powder,' but only magical bodies could travel that way, and Greta was something called a Muggle body. Actually, she kind of felt like nobody. Wished she were nobody, because then she wouldn't have to be here pretending to be interested in all the trilling about the wedding.
Greta would be the first to admit, she didn't like girls all that much. Well really, people in general weren't her favourite, but girls were the worst. They always wanted you to clean up everything, and they gossiped, and they talked about hair and makeup and other things that made Greta turn beet red and try to hide in her shirt because they couldn't not be thinking about how she obviously didn't care because she was so... well. She was just so Greta.
Boys were different, Greta thought. Sometimes they would actually talk about things besides how pretty and ugly everything was. Most of them talked about sports a lot, and Greta didn't really like sports, but she didn't mind hearing people talk about it. What she minded was a never-ending discussion of how to pick the right shade for lipstick and eyeshadow and a bunch of other girly things she'd never even heard of.
But that was the conversation for almost the whole walk into town. Some other people had side conversations, like Roxanne and Lucy, or Lily and anybody who would listen to her; but this one girl Greta hadn't met (or maybe she had, but there were a lot of people, and she could never be sure) was really loud. And she just really had the hankering to blather on and on about makeup, Greta supposed.
Well, town wasn't that bad. Mostly just a lot of walking. Greta's feet were really sore. She wished that Hugo fellow were there because he wouldn't care about this either. Unless he swung in an entire different magical arena, but Greta hadn't really gotten that vibe. She wasn't so good with perceiving those sort of things, though. As perceiving went, she was pretty shoddy as a whole.
The internal monologue Greta had been running through her head for most of the trip was interrupted when the group seemed to suddenly care about her opinion.
'Er...' She blinked, then looked at the colour swatches some ginger was holding up. 'They're both nice.'
Astrid, being Astrid, heaved a long-suffering sigh. 'But which do you think complements the dresses better?' When Greta began to mumble and dither, Astrid just decided to cut her off. 'You're my sister, Greta, you're supposed to care.'
'I care,' defended Greta, guilt creeping up her spine. 'I'm just... not really colour coordinated?'
A quick glance down at her outfit sent a wave of relief through Greta. She'd chosen a pair of pink-and-white-striped tights under raggedy green shorts, paired with an overlarge T-shirt depicting a prancing horse, and had on some really scuffy (but really, really comfy) yellowish trainers. It was an average outfit for her, but it would be just Greta's luck to dress normally on the rare occasion in her life that she felt the need to prove her oddity. She supposed she'd had enough bad luck today already, though, and was being given a break.
At this quite legitimate excuse, Astrid pulled a thoughtful look for about a second, then rolled her eyes and returned to the other girls. Greta leaned back against the wall, closing her eyes for a minute before opening them again to the horror of the world.
She was feeling pretty sorry for herself by the time they returned to the not-so-little cabin on the not-so-advantageous-for-general-health hill. Once they got to the top, Lily turned herself about, took in a deep breath and with a wide smile asked, 'Breathtaking view, isn't it?' Panting heavily, nodding more like a demented seal than a human, Greta managed to croak out a hoarse answer in the affirmative.
So Greta wasn't really in the mood to put up with anybody (not that she ever was), and was completely and one-hundred-percent committed to locking herself in the bedroom for the rest of the night. Except she was on the second floor, and there were so many damn gingers in the way.
The worst, though? There was a ginger in the bedroom.
Greta had only sort of met Rose. At least, she vaguely recalled being introduced to this particular ginger. Greta gave an awkward wave after she had slammed the bedroom door shut. From her position curled up under her bedcovers, Rose gave a slight nod.
With a sigh of relief, Greta flopped down on her own bed. Least this Rose wasn't talkative.
But then there was something like 'Was it like sticking thumbtacks under your fingernails?' that came from her general direction.
Greta looked up. Yep, that was definitely directed at her. She stared, though. Then finally nodded.
'Knew it,' said Rose with a smirk, eyes returning to the pages of her tome. 'These affairs always are. And I don't see why on earth we have to spend two weeks here.'
'Right?' spurted out Greta unexpectedly.
Rose either didn't notice Greta's embarrassment with this, or she ignored it. 'It's my entire holiday for the year and then some. Had to convince my boss to give me more time.'
And here Rose made an offensive motion with her hand and mouth. Greta's eyes widened. Then Rose glanced at her and chuckled.
'Merlin's saggy left foot if I was ever innocent as you,' she laughed. Then, noting Greta's effort to hide her reddening face, Rose tipped her book down. 'Oi, don't shit yourself. I'll be polite if your virgin ears can't handle it.'
So by this point, Greta was redder than something absurdly red, like a tomato, or oxygenated blood. She was clenching fistfuls of duvet trying to keep herself from bolting straight out of the room, perhaps by means of the window. It was a little bit more than discomfort. Greta felt like the biggest awkward pumpkin at the awkward farm, being gawked at by awkward children until they took her home and split her open, and all the awkward oozed out until she was pretty much just a big puddle of awkward pumpkin gunk.
And then Rose snorted. Not chuckled or laughed or giggled or anything, just plain snorted like she had something stuck up her nose and couldn't get it out. Except it was really stubborn and she just could not get it out. It kept going on and on and on and Greta realised this was probably Rose's version of laughter.
It was a bit scary.
Greta did what Greta did best, which was flush awkwardly, then hide her face. With a blanket. And a pillow. And she put her hands over her ears too, for good measure.
Slowly, the snorts died down, and Greta vaguely heard the rustling of sheets. 'Come then, love, I didn't mean to bodge it that bad.' Greta felt the weight of Rose sitting down next to her. It was quiet for a bit before she added thoughtfully, 'I've never been very good with introductions. Or even decent, really.'
Well alright, maybe they had that in common. But that didn't mean Greta was just going to go hugging gingers. She really preferred not to have any interactions with them. Well, Hugo was okay. She didn't mind him all that much—and if she squinted, from really far away, he didn't even look that ginger.
But Rose? Well, if there was anybody madder than Greta here, she was about ninety-something percent sure it was Rose. And mad people were mad. And why should Greta be nice to a mad person? It might encourage the madness.
Clearly, what she should've done was high-tail it back to Chulmleigh with Hansel and live out the rest of her days as a hermit. Clearly, that would've been the normal person solution. But when Rose asked if she'd like some ice cream, instead of making a quick distraction and racing both her rabbit and her sanity to safety, Greta said 'Hmpffuh,' which Rose interpreted as 'Yes.'
They snuck out. Pretty literally, actually. Rose waved her stick of divine magical magic-ness and made a rope ladder appear so they could climb out the window. Greta really didn't want to argue with Rose, so she settled for fearing for her life whilst descending a wonky mess of threads that really did not look so very reliable.
Okay, so it wasn't really a good decision, but Greta didn't really make good decisions. In fact, she was practically allergic to good decisions. They ran flailing in the other direction when they saw her coming. Greta made so few good decisions that even if she had run out of the room before Rose could magic a rope ladder, it was pretty likely she would've ended up sneaking out a window with a ginger eventually. It was just the way life went.
It wasn't a lot like sneaking out because it was still light outside, but Greta didn't say anything. Partly because she was grateful to not have to navigate the impossible cabin, though mostly because she was pretty sure Rose was a mad sock, and it's not a good idea to question the decisions of a mad sock. Especially one you had to share a bedroom with for two weeks.
Rose was really pretty giggly once they stumbled about halfway down the hill and it got lots steeper. And okay, Greta was a little giggly too. For one, they were practically running, and it was kind of fun to sneak out. Even if it was only about four o'clock in the afternoon. Or... evening?
'So,' said Rose to Greta once the giggles had calmed down and they'd caught their breath a bit, 'Greta. It's Greta, right?'
Feeling strangely confident, Greta groaned and said, 'God, I wish everyone would stop saying that. Should I post a sign on my forehead? Greta Hamilton, Awkward Muggle.'
Rose gave her an odd look. Kind of an appreciative assessment, if Greta were to describe it. And it actually chuffed her up nice and good. Greta, of course, really didn't even understand how she'd managed to get all that out without even one stutter or awkward pause, but she wasn't about to question a good thing. Or at least... what she thought was probably, most likely a good thing.
'Well, think about it like this, I suppose,' said Rose reasonably. 'You're the only person here that none of us know. The rest of this lot, well, we've grown up together.'
'Not all of you,' protested Greta.
A ginger eyebrow raised on Rose's face. 'No, I mean that. All of us. We've known each other since we were up our mothers' arses.'
Greta spluttered a bit at the terminology, but came back with, 'But there have to be some of Astrid's friends that you don't know.'
'Not a one,' affirmed Rose, kicking a pebble off the path as they walked.
Greta shook her head a lot and tried to form a couple words, but it didn't happen. Rose rolled her eyes.
'Think about it like this. Even the people I'm not related to, which is most of them, are all the brats of my parents' old war friends and that rubbish. So everybody's parents have known each other since before they were our age.'
'War friends?' Greta scrunched her nose. 'What war were they in?'
It wasn't amazement, the look on Rose's face; more like a hint of disbelief breaded in curiosity and deep-fried in derision. 'The second wizarding war.'
Greta, feeling she should obviously know a lot more about this, peeped 'Oh' and began to watch her feet intently.
But Rose just let it go. She asked Greta where she lived and where she worked, then told her a bit about a magic place called Diagon Alley, where Rose sold potions. Then when Greta asked more about magic potions, everything got way too confusing, so they stopped talking about that. It was okay though, 'cause they got to the ice cream parlour about the same time. Well, nearly.
'You fancy chocolate?' asked Rose as they entered.
Greta, who'd been a bit caught up staring at every picture of absurdly delicious ice cream around the place, turned to Rose with an incredulous, 'God Rose, I'm a Muggle, not some new freak subspecies of human.'
There was another lovely round of snorting. Greta tried to bite back her smile, but it widened in seconds. It wasn't long before she was giggling too, then doubled over in laughter, then just about hyperventilating. It didn't help when Rose slapped her on the shoulder.
'You're like an extra batty, occasionally rude version of my brother,' snorted Rose. 'And I never thought that would make me like you.'
'Which one's your brother, again?'
'Hugo, twit. He showed you the room.' Rose linked her arm through Greta's and pulled her through the pastel-coloured tables. 'Now, you simply must try the Double Chocolate Chunky Fudge Sundae. You will die a slow, divine death.'
A/N: I'm so excited to write Rose in here. She's got her own fic, Spoonful of Sugar (yes, it is named after that song in Mary Poppins, but don't let that put you off it), so it's fun to let her loose and see what Rose-ish things she does. I've decided there will be some rather large Rose spoilers later on in this, once we (finally) get to the wedding-y bit, so I'll add that to the beginning note. In truth, it's not really spoiling the nature of Spoonful of Sugar, it just details what happens after the fic concludes. So... you decide, I guess. The Fluttery Whimsy will be finished before Spoonful of Sugar either way. I'll put a note in the beginning of the spoiler chapters as well.