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Not Normal by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 3 : {Chapter the Third}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 42


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You know your life ain’t normal when you walk into your kitchen to find three practically naked teenage males cheerily eating breakfast.

Can you believe that this was a sight with which I was actually accosted? There are certain things that one expects to find in one’s kitchen so early in the morning – an array of Muggle newspapers (for Dad) and the Daily Prophet (for me), the sound of cereal being munched to death, the smell of slightly burnt toast, you know, the usual.

Chris, Scorpius, and Potter inhaling breakfast in nothing but their boxers was not, however, the usual.

I’d just stumbled into the kitchen after my usual run, feeling incredibly sweaty, and only slightly more awake than I did before Dad practically pushed me out the door to get some exercise.

You see, I didn’t actually enjoy the running – hell, I didn’t enjoy most forms of physical exercise, but a few years back, Dad and I had made a deal. He’d allow me to eat whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to, and wouldn’t stop me (unless he felt that I was in imminent danger of developing diabetes or something equally dire), if I took up a regular form of physical exercise, such as running. Of course, at the time, I’d agreed, deciding to humour the poor bloke. I figured that he wouldn’t actually notice if I left the house or not during the times I was with him, and when I was at Hogwarts… well, Dad isn’t really aware of the classes I take, let alone my exercise regime. Alas, in a rare moment of lucidity, my father showed his devious side, and roped Chris into it, by making him in charge of monitoring my running schedule whilst I was at Hogwarts, and making me sign in and out on an effing roster just inside his office. And I am not even kidding here. I actually had to write the time I left the house, the time I returned, and the distance I covered for each run, and then sign the entire thing. At this point, I was surprised he didn’t make me sign in my blood.

When Dad takes an interest in active parenting, he’s very thorough.

So when I’d returned from the run, tired, grumpy, and sleepy, still wearing my running shoes and listening to The Script on my iPod, naked teenage male chests were not something I wanted to feast upon.

“Have any of you ever heard of a shirt?” I asked, scrunching my nose a little, and switching on the coffee machine. I wasn’t really a breakfast person. I’d have a bowl of Coco Pops in the car to tide me over until lunch.

“Wha? Iff ha!” Chris said around a mouthful of a disgusting mixture of orange juice, marmalade on toast, and cornflakes.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I said automatically.

I pulled out a mug from the cupboard and a moment passed where I assumed he was swallowing, hopefully after chewing, and then, “It’s hot. Can’t sleep with a t-shirt on.”

“Well, you’re not sleeping right now.” I placed my mug under the spout of the coffee machine and hit the double espresso button. The machine made loud angry noises as it ground the coffee beans and heated the water.

“Come on, Ellie!” Scorpius said. “It’s not as if you’re not used to it. We’re always like this.”

This was unfortunately true. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d seen those three without any upper body coverings.

I sighed. “It is rather worrying how comfortable you are with that, though.”

I hit the double espresso button again, and turned around to face the three sitting at the kitchen bench, leaning back on the counter behind me. Scorpius was sitting on the right, slurping some soggy cereal from his bowl, Chris was in the middle, with his array of various breakfast foodstuffs spread around him, and Potter was on the left, spreading Nutella on his third piece of toast, judging by the little mountain of bread crusts piled on his plate.

Scorpius shrugged at my earlier remark. “Why should it be? You’re practically one of the guys.”

“Yes, that’s what worries me.” I picked up my mug of coffee and headed towards the living room, where I hoped I wasn’t too late to catch Batman on the morning cartoons. Oh, how I loved that show.

“No breakfast?” a voice asked from behind me.

I turned around, slightly surprised. These three have been around me long enough to know not to attempt conversation until after my morning cup of coffee. Potter was looking at me, the knife for the Nutella still in his hand. A generous dollop of the stuff was expertly balanced on the blade. I narrowed my eyes at him. I could just turn around and leave, be the better person here, and not engage the enemy. It would be the mature thing to do. Or I could…

Before I’d made up my mind either way, Potter made it up for me. “It’s terribly bad for your health, not eating breakfast.”

I could still do this. I didn’t have to engage in a verbal repartee. It was too early in the morning for that. “I am eating breakfast.” I lifted my mug a little in the air to indicate exactly what I was consuming, just in case his thick brain missed it.

His smile was condescending to the extreme. I felt my usual irritation and frustration, which I’d managed to keep rather reined in up to this point, rise within me like a phoenix.

Next thing you knew, I’d spontaneously combust, too.

“It’s terribly bad for your health, not eating a proper breakfast.”

The git’s face looked too smug.

I took a deep breath, and let it all out in a huff through my nose. There was no need to let Potter of all people rile me up. I was above this now. I didn’t have to like him, but he didn’t have to make me irrationally angry either. I was my own person, in control of my own feelings.

I’d read a few anger management self-help guides over the last week.

“So is not eating the fucking crusts off your toast, Potter.” There. I could do this. So what if I swore? I always swear. That’s my thing, casually dropping the f-bomb into conversation at opportune moments. Adds a certain emphasis to the discourse, in my opinion.

Potter’s smile grew even more condescending, if possible. “Swearing is a sign of a small vocabulary, sunshine.”

My eyes narrowed even more, feeling like I was almost squinting. This was crossing a line. How dare he sit there, looking so smug, with his bare shoulders glinting in the sun? Didn’t he know he was practically blinding people with his bloody glinting shoulders? He has the nerve to insult my language faculties and be a menace to the general populace? Sure, the general populace currently consisted of Chris and Scorpius, who had witnessed far too many arguments between us to be very interested, and myself, but that was hardly the point. “Go fornicate with thyself, heathen,” I said, and with a final glare, I pivoted and exited the room.

Who’s got a small vocabulary, now?


“I’m making Dad drive next time,” James groaned. The eldest of the Potter kids slumped in the driver’s seat in what I assumed was fatigue. It was yet unclear whether this was due to transporting six Hogwarts students, all their luggage and their crazy pets, and one rather frazzled mother, or because he probably had a hangover. I leant over to gingerly pat his shoulder (guess who called shotgun?) whilst everyone else loaded out.

“There, there,” I said awkwardly. My general social ineptitude was compounded by the fact that I still harboured a teeny tiny schoolgirl crush on James Potter, dating back to the time when I was four, and he was five, and he saved my life by offering me a leaf as a bandage for the scrape I got on my elbow.

I conveniently overlook that the leaf came from a poison ivy plant, and tried to believe that the rash probably saved my arm from being amputated.

The two Potter brothers were tall and lanky, surpassing their father in height by the age of fourteen, but that was about where the similarities ended. Where Potter had black, almost tame hair, James was a shade somewhere between auburn and chestnut, and as wild and unruly as the famous Harry Potter’s. His eyes were hazel – something which he’d apparently inherited from his paternal grandfather. He was intelligent, but negligent of his studies, only keeping up the average he needed to stay on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Yet there was still something about James Sirius Potter. Maybe it was his gorgeous smile, or the mischievous twinkle in his eyes… or the fact that I still harboured a crush on the bloke.

It wasn’t as if I actually wanted to date him – the only romantic entanglements I enjoy are the ones I find nestled in the pages of my historical romances, but I didn’t hurt anyone by looking.

James shot me a grin. “Thanks.”

I smiled back, hoping that I didn’t look like I was about to pass gas.
 

Being twins, everyone expects Chris and me to be exactly the same. I think it really shocked people when I informed them that fraternal twins were just as similar to each other as any two siblings who had the good fortune not to share a womb.

You could practically see their hearts break.

The only things that Chris and I really had in common with each other, aside from sharing parents, were probably our appearances. We were both tall (although Chris was taller by a couple of inches), and we both had black hair, but his was straight like Mum’s and clipped fashionably overlong, whereas mine was a mass of waist-length hair, which organised itself into soft curls when I brushed it, and a mangy lion’s mane when I didn’t. Our eyes were the same colour – Mum’s light brown, although Dad preferred calling them amber when he was feeling eloquent and mead when he was tipsy. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my eyes being called an alcoholic beverage. I didn’t want to promote alcoholism.

One of our greatest differences lay, however, in our people skills. If Chris was Gandhi, then I was Moaning Myrtle. Chris made friends like mitochondria metabolised glucose for energy. Everyone liked him – students, teachers, small children on the playground and their mothers. Everyone.

I, on the other hand, was blunt, almost always frowning, and borderline antisocial. The whole dead people thing didn’t help matters – imaginary friends are cute at seven, not at seventeen.

I had literally one friend that I’d made all by myself. The rest of them had absorbed me through a slow process of diffusion, because I used to have a tendency of latching onto a person that I’d somehow managed to befriend. I was kind of parasitic in that way.

As a kid, I’d only hung out with Chris, through whom I’d met and even befriended some Wotter kids including Rose, through whom I’d met Scorpius. Amy was the one and only dorm buddy I would call a friend, and even her I’d met through Rose, because she refused to be my partner in Charms in first year, forcing me to partner up with a stranger with blonde pigtails and a propensity to blush and giggle at the most inane things.

“Ellie! There you are!” Amy called and rushed over as I made my way through the busy platform to where my friends were standing around. Through the steam billowing from the engine, I could make out first years saying goodbye to their families for the first time, some more eagerly than others, and friends hugging and laughing together after two months of separation, scattered amongst the almost-forgotten trolleys with precariously balanced trunks and the cacophony of screeching owls and meowling cats and the chattering of a few ferrets, the newest species of familiar allowed at Hogwarts.

“What kept you so long?” she asked, but without giving me a chance to even think of a reply, she enveloped me in a hug tight enough to give a boa constrictor a run for its money.

“Gah!” I gasped, as all the air in my lungs was pushed out at once. Amy was considerably shorter than me, so I’d been unceremoniously pulled down so that I could have a pair of deceptively strong arms hug me to death. “Amy!”

“Oh, I’ve missed you so much this summer! I wish you could’ve come with us to the house in Switzerland!” Did I mention that Amy’s parents were Muggles and totally loaded? Amy says that they worked in finance, which I take to mean corporate espionage. Why else would they have a summer house in Switzerland?

I may be watching too many James Bond films.

“Amy!” The need to breathe was increasing steadily and the trolley was digging into my liver rather painfully.

“Amy! Let the poor girl go, so she can breathe!” A male voice said.

Amy turned around, thankfully letting go of my neck. I immediately straightened and took a deep breath of relief, and rubbed my side to ease the pain. It felt good to have a regular supply of oxygen for my brain again. “Thanks, Ben,” I said.

“No problem,” the guy grinned. Remember that one friend that I made all by myself? Well, his name is Ben and he happens to be Amy’s older brother and my rescuer.

“It is good to see you, though,” he said, coming over and wrapping me in a hug that didn’t constrict my airflow.

“You too, bro,” I said, hugging him back. Ben used to be in the same year as James, but he decided to take school seriously after failing almost all his OWLs, so he quit the Gryffindor Quidditch team and repeated fifth year with the rest of our gang. I obviously knew who he was before then, since he’s one of my closest friend’s older brother, and was on the same team as my very own sibling, but we didn’t really become friends until he sat down in front of me at my usual table in the library. I was totally ready to tell him to fuck off and find his own table because his vibes were affecting my zone, but at that precise moment, he pulled out his TARDIS pencil box.

And that’s why I can thank a fictional alien for the first and only friend I made all by myself.

“Oi! Anderson! Are you going to stand around hugging all day, or are you going to move so we can get on the bloody train?” Potter yelled from down the platform.

“Language, young man!” Mrs P admonished, whilst patting down Lily’s hair.

As Amy, Ben and I made our way over to the train, I saw James snigger.
 

“Do the first years look smaller than usual this year?” Ben asked.

I glanced further down the table to where the newest Gryffindor recruits were huddled, eyeing everything with wide eyes. I couldn’t blame them – some of the people eating had appalling table manners, although it could have been the grandeur of the Great Hall that had them so arrested.

I shrugged. “Or maybe we’re getting old.”

Ben grinned at me from his usual seat on my left. “Speak for yourself, Ellie. You might be getting old, not me.”

“Discovered the Fountain of Youth, did you?” I asked.

His grin became wider. “Discovered? I own the Fountain of Youth. It’s the centrepiece of the courtyard in our summer chateau.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m surprised you don’t bottle that stuff and sell it on the black market. You’d make a fortune.”

It was his turn to shrug. “I’m already rich. What the hell would I do with more money?”

I acknowledged this with a nod. “That’s true. But didn’t someone once say that money could buy you happiness? And you can never have too much of happiness.”

Ben shook his head a little to flick his sandy brown hair out of his dark eyes. “I’m quite sure they said money couldn’t buy you happiness, Ellie. You haven’t been reading The Wall Street Journal again, have you?”

“Perhaps they said that money could buy you the stuff that brings you happiness,” I grinned.

He returned my grin, “Perhaps they did.”

We lapsed into comfortable silence, content with just sitting there and eating. That was one of the great things about Ben – we were so comfortable with each other that not every moment needed to be filled with sound. It was often just enough to be in each other’s company.

I listened to the conversations flowing around me, a great river of sound. There were people talking about their holidays, complaining about the work that awaited them once term began, crying over summer heartbreaks, and rejoicing over autumn reunions. One particular conversation caught my attention. It was a pair of sixth years, sitting diagonally opposite me, talking in loud voices in order to be heard over the din of clinking cutlery and plate ware and human chatter.

“What did you think about the Sorting Hat’s song this year?” the first of the pair asked around a rather large mouthful of mashed potatoes, his skin flushed pink from the exertion of talking and eating at the same time. Why didn’t he just wait to finish his bloody mouthful?

The other kid took a large swig of his goblet, and thankfully swallowed before replying, “I dunno. It was pretty normal.”

The first kid shuffled in his seat a little. “Didn’t it sound a little… strange to you?”

“Mate, it’s a singing hat. Of course it’s a little strange.”

The first kid shook his head. They hadn’t noticed me eavesdropping yet, so I put my fork down and leant a little in their direction to hear them better. I hadn’t always been a professional eavesdropper, but through trying to get the dead to move on, I’d developed an impressive repertoire of busybody skills. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Then what did you mean?” the second kid asked. He stabbed at his steak, and I could tell that he was quickly losing interest in the topic. Damn, this one sounded half-interesting. I’d thought that the Sorting Hat song had sounded a little more sinister than usual, myself.

The first kid shrugged. “You’re right. It was probably nothing.”

They both returned to their dinners and feeling dejected, I returned to mine. I sighed. I’d really wanted to know what that kid meant. To be honest, the Sorting Hat kind of creeped me out, what with being able to read minds and talk and all that. And things that creeped me out had a strange way of piquing my curiosity.

“What’s wrong?” Ben asked, turning to look at me at the sound of my sigh.

“Nothing,” I replied, only half-focused on my dinner now.

Ben gave me a look. “I know that look. What bee’s in your bonnet now?”

I shook my head. “It’s nothing, really.”

Ben kept looking at me.

I sighed. “Fine. It’s just that… did you find the Sorting Hat song a little… weird this year?”

Ben considered the question for a moment. “No, not really. Why? Did it sound weird to you?”

“I dunno… it sounded a little sinister.”

“Ellie, you think the Hat is a little sinister.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “You think a hat that can read your mind isn’t sinister?”

He shrugged. “I suppose, but it doesn’t mean any harm. Its purpose is to sort first years into houses, not to help a dark wizard take over the world, or something.”

“So the ends justify the means?”

“Ellie, I’m far too tired and just a little too hungry to argue philosophy with you right now,” Ben said with an exasperated look.

“Knew I should’ve sat with Rose on the Ravenclaw table,” I said a little mulishly.

Ben rolled his eyes. “You sit there most meals. You can grace Gryffindor table with your presence for at least the Welcome Feast. But that’s not the point. Why don’t you tell me what’s got you bothered about the Sorting Hat’s song?”

“Well, didn’t you think that bit about ‘ancient land’ and ‘old spirits’ was a little odd?” I got a little edgy at the mention of ‘ancient’ and ‘spirits’.

“I kind of liked it. It was definitely something new, although the Hat’s song has been different every year.”

I considered this. Maybe that was it. Maybe the Hat was just giving a little context to the Founders’ tale. We didn’t really know that much about how the school was founded, just that it was. How on earth did they end up choosing a place like this? I get that we’re pretty isolated here, but I’m thinking that a thousand years ago, quite a few places would’ve been pretty isolated.

“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe I’m just being paranoid,” I said, shaking my head, trying to dislodge the funny feeling of premonition in the pit of my stomach. I shook my head again and tried to concentrate on my food. I didn’t have premonitions – they were a shade too mystical for my taste. No, empirical evidence from which careful inferences could be made was the only way to divine the future, and a few creepy lines from an old hat that was too smart for its own good was definitely not empirical evidence.

 

AN: Finally! A new chapter! Yay! This chapter was rather difficult to write, since I kind of changed my writing style a little about halfway through, then had to go back and fix it. But hopefully, it worked out for the best! So, what do you guys think? How do you like Ben? Where do you reckon the plot’s going? Who’s excited for Regulus next chapter (ME!)? Let me know what you guys thought in the little grey box below! And another thing: The TARDIS belongs to Doctor Who creators Sydney Newman, CE Webber, and Donald Wilson, and James Bond was created by Ian Fleming!

Adios, amigos!

PS – I edited and reposted chapters one and two, so they’re a little different now, and hopefully work a bit better. If you have the time, and the inclination, I’d love to hear what you thought of the rewrites!


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