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Not Normal by 800 words of heaven
Chapter 4 : {Chapter the Fourth}
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 26


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You know your life ain’t normal when you spend most of your free time in the library.

I sighed, leaning back into the uncomfortable wooden backrest. One would think that after a millennium of use, the chairs in the Hogwarts library would have been changed. They were still in great condition, though. You couldn’t say that about a lot of stuff made today, no matter how comfortable it is. Furniture just isn’t made like it used to be in the dark ages.

My neck was stiff after a solid evening spent leaning over my books and parchment. Sometimes I thought about what my crazy old ballet teacher would say about my posture, but most of the time I was too busy repressing memories of my crazy old ballet teacher. She made Xenophilius Lovegood, editor-in-chief of The Quibbler seem like your average Joe Blow.

I rubbed the muscles at the back of my neck, trying to get some of the blood flowing to help loosen them up. Unfortunately, amongst my many gifts, massaging wasn’t included, so all I managed to do was give myself a friction burn. Understandably, this did nothing to improve my mood. Two weeks into my final school year, and I was sitting at a table made in the Dark Ages, with nothing but my adorable lion pencil case for company.

My customary table was hidden behind the stacks that held the books pertaining to magical agriculture. It did not bode well for the future of the magical agricultural industry because it was a little-used area.

The library was quiet at this time of the evening, with curfew for the younger students long past, and the curfew for the fifth- and sixth-years fast approaching. I hadn’t bothered to find out when the seventh years’ curfew was. I assumed that Madam Pince, the grumpy immortal librarian would kick me out when it was time.

I sat for a few moments doing absolutely nothing but enjoying the quiet. I don’t know why I was this way; comfortable with being alone amongst a millennium of accumulated knowledge and dust, than I was amongst my friends working and laughing merrily around the Common Room fire. At least, I assumed that was what they were doing. I hadn’t really seen much of anyone since term had started. Chris and Potter were busy preparing for the Gryffindor Quidditch trials tomorrow morning; Rose and Scorpius were busy with their new responsibilities as Head Boy and Girl, as well trying to furiously deny the sexual tension between them; Ben was busy wooing another girl; and Amy was busy hanging out with the more social and outgoing of her friends, since the one remaining member of her usual gang was too socially awkward to even think about making new friends.

I frowned at that thought. When was the last time I’d had a proper conversation with someone outside of class? This was pretty anti-social behaviour, even coming from me. I usually waited until after Christmas to isolate myself. Ben fondly called it my “winter blues”. He could be a real sweetheart about things, sometimes.

As I tried to remember my social interactions over the last two weeks, my frown deepened. Even the restless dead had been scarce. Usually, there weren’t too many of the doubly non-corporeal around Hogwarts – I’d probably average a dead person ‘incident’ about once a month. It turns out, schools aren’t that popular with dead people. It was still strange that I hadn’t even seen anyone dead yet, though. They flocked at the beginning of the school year, giving me the rather creepy impression that they could sense my presence.

I sighed again. Not even dead people, who had nothing better to do with their time, wanted to spend time around me.

At that depressing thought, I stood up from my chair, thinking that perhaps a quick walk to stretch my legs and clear my head might be just the thing. A quick glance at my new watch told me there was still half an hour until the library closed for the night – longer, if the librarian couldn’t find me.

I stretched my arms over my head, and twisted my torso from side to side. I felt some of my vertebrae crack back into place, loosening the muscles around them. I shook my legs to rid myself of pins and needles, and half-meandered half- hobbled (pins and needles could be so debilitating) over to my favourite section of the library: the restricted section. I’d had a free pass since fifth year, when I’d asked my Astronomy professor, Professor Anu, for access to it in order to find a translation for an old Mesopotamian text on the phases of the moon. I’d timed my request rather well – she’d been so impressed with my previous essay on the modern zodiac that she hadn’t even looked at what she was signing. I’d left the slip blank, which meant that I had unlimited access for the rest of my natural life. When I wasn’t occupied with other projects, I hoped to find the secret to Madam Pince’s immortality amongst the forbidden stacks, so that perhaps my natural life may be just as extended as hers.

When the books weren’t severely disturbing, they had proven quite interesting in my quest for answers about my ‘gift’. There was practically nothing about death, or ghosts, or necromancy on the ordinary shelves – even in this modern day and age, death remained such a taboo subject.

Reaching the dingy metal plaque, I stepped over the low chain from which it hung. The air in the restricted section was still. The natural hush that pervaded a holy place of knowledge and learning was amplified here, with its tall stacks shrouded in clouds of darkness, and the dim torches casting more shadows than light. The place broke at least three laws of physics with its ambience alone. If I couldn’t find answers to my questions here, I did not wish to think about the kind of questions I was asking.

I took a deep breath of the still air and smiled, feeling better than I had in a while. There was something thrilling about being allowed in a forbidden place. All this wisdom and knowledge, kept from the masses for their own protection, and here I was, one of the chosen few, standing before it all, the secrets of the universe a mere cracked spine and blood-stained page away.

I walked to the stack farthest away from me. The restricted section was organised the same way as the main library, so I knew that the middle stacks, where I spent most of my time, housed the books on two of my favourite school subjects: Potions and Astronomy. My other favourite subject was Arithmancy, but there wasn’t anything really secretive or taboo about maths, so most of the books were out in the main area, conveniently only two stacks down from magical agriculture.

The books and scrolls about death and death magic, however, were almost exclusively hidden away in the restricted section, near the back, where not even the most ardent of couples after a moment or two of private smooch-time would dare venture. There was something in the air near those shelves that made you remember other, more important things you had to do or depending on its mood that day, warned you that if you came any further, the dust motes that seemed so happy and carefree in the sunlight shining through the single stained-glass window on the far side of the room would become far more sinister than any dust mote had a right to be.

For me, the only thing that was mildly deterring about the place was the scarcity of torches. What did I have to fear from arcane writings on death and the afterlife, when the answers to the very questions some of these authors were asking literally haunted me?

The two bookshelves were silent sentries on both sides. Most of the leather-bound spines had no names; if they did, time had long ago peeled them off. The scrolls in their individual pigeon holes on the right wall were even more anonymous. If someone ever made it this far, they would have to be quite determined to find what they looked for – Copernicus only knew when they would find it.

Even though I was amongst those unfortunates seeking knowledge that did its best not to be sought, it didn’t really bother me anymore. What was the matter with finding more questions than answers? A library wasn’t much use if not for the pursuit of knowledge.

I reached the back wall. Beyond the thick stone was the cool September breeze, wings of a frosty winter riding the currents of air. I placed my palms flat on the rough stone and closed my eyes. It was cold, any traces of the deep fires that formed the dark basalt long gone. Keeping my eyes closed, still breathing deeply, my fingers drifted over the bumps and dips towards the soft wood finish of the bookshelf. I let my thoughts drift with my fingers, letting go of the past few days, and simply enjoying the present moment. It was a technique I had read about back in fifth year, when my bouts of insomnia had begun. The idea was that I did it before I went to bed, so that I was relaxed to fall asleep, but I always felt more energised and focused afterward. Some of my most inspired essays had come after doing this exercise. Perhaps it was time to find a new relaxation technique.

My right hand coasted over the joining of the wall and bookshelf. My pinkie rested on the time-weathered leather of a book, the ridges and valleys of the cracked spine like a braid. My ring finger touched the dusty surface of the wooden frame, whilst my thumb and pointer still rested upon the roughhewn stone. My middle finger touched space. I opened my eyes at this unexpected find. I knew from performing this exercise on the other side of the room numerous times that the joining of wood and stone was flush, with not even a hairsbreadth of a gap between the two. I took a step back, but still kept my finger along the seam. The gap here was at least half the width of my thumbnail. I frowned, and leant in to take a closer look.

“Since when have you developed such an interest in walls, Ellie?” a coolly amused voice asked from behind me.

I jumped at the intrusion and pressed my back into the wall, as if I had made the crack. I’d been so engrossed by a bloody gap, that I had not noticed the tell-tale tingle down my spine.

“Regulus! What are you doing here?” My voice came out more breathy and panicked than I had intended. I had received a fright, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. And it wasn’t as if a sixteen-year-old who had been dead for forty years could do something about it, even if I had.

He smirked, although his ice-blue eyes looked at me keenly. “Nothing, much,” he shrugged. “Just thought I’d check up on you.”

I frowned, and took a step away from the wall. “What makes you think I need checking up on?”

He rolled his eyes. “Come on, Ellie. It’s only been two weeks since the beginning of term, and you’re already hiding in the library from all your friends? Now, I know that I never completed my seventh year, but I’m quite sure that work doesn’t pile up that quickly.”

My eyes narrowed. “It’s none of your damns business – wait a second. How do you know I’ve been spending time in the library? Have you been spying on me?” Incredulity and accusation rose with every sentence I spoke.

The little git wasn’t even a little fazed. For a dead guy, he really had his shit together. He waved a careless hand. “Spying has such negative connotations. I prefer keeping tabs on a friend.”

My eyes narrowed even further. With the terrible lighting and the almost squinting, I was practically blind by this point. “You’re not my friend.”

He gasped, his face forming a perfect mask of outrage. “You wound me, Ellie!”

“Oh, cut the crap –”

“Is this a new thing, or have you been talking to yourself for a while, Anderson?” a new voice asked from the darkness.
 

This time, I yelped.

Both Regulus and Potter smirked.

“What are you doing here?” I asked Potter. I sensed that I sounded like a broken record. I’d asked the same question not two minutes ago of another adolescent male who was too cocky and handsome for his own good.

Potter raised his eyebrows. “It’s a library, Anderson. What do you do here?”

“I didn’t know you could read.” As far as witty comebacks went, this wasn’t one of my finer examples, but my nerves were a little frazzled, what with strange gaps in the wall, and annoying people popping up quite literally out of nowhere.

His lips pulled back in a sneer. “I may be an uneducated heathen, but at least I’m not insane like you.”

I inhaled loudly in outrage. “I’m not crazy!” Why was it that whenever one went to declare the wholeness of their sanity, it came out sounding the complete opposite?

“You sounded pretty crazy to me, just then.” I’d forgotten that Regulus was still standing there. I tried my hardest not to snap at him – I knew I sounded mad, thank you very much dead dude – but I couldn’t help glancing in his direction for a fraction of a second.

Potter caught my glance.

“If you’re not crazy, then what are you trying to hide?” he asked, his smirk once again returning to its rightful place on his rather good-looking mug. He walked slowly down the aisle towards me.

“Nothing! I’m not trying to hide anything!”

“Crazy and a liar, Ellie?” Regulus tutted. “Didn’t your mother teach you better?”

I really wanted to snap at the idiot, but I couldn’t, not with Potter only three feet away, holy Galileo how did he move so fast?

I took a half step back in surprise.

“Nervous, Anderson?” Potter asked casually.

I snorted. “What? Of you? Never?” I crossed my arms across my chest.

“Your body language suggests otherwise,” stated Regulus, oh-so-helpfully.

“Shut up,” I muttered out of the corner of my mouth.

“You said something, love?” Potter asked.

“Are you hearing things, Potter? I’m not sure if I’m the crazy one, here,” I snapped. This was something. Perhaps if I could convince him that he was the crazy one hearing things… It would be killing two birds with one stone!

Potter stood before me for a moment, his posture relaxed and his hands tucked in the pockets of his black school pants. The keenness in his gaze betrayed his otherwise nonchalant stance.

The silence stretched out. Potter and I stared at each, willing the other to break first, whilst Regulus stood between us, watching intently.

“What are you doing here?” I asked again, unable to take the uncomfortableness of the situation any longer. I internally winced at this sign of weakness. Now he’d definitely think I was up to something. I’d as much as screamed it by breaking the silence first.

“What are you doing here?” he asked back, taking half a step forward.

I leant back instinctively.

“That’s none of your business,” I snapped.

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, and knowing what I’m doing here, is?”

He had me there. “He has you there,” remarked Regulus.

My mouth pressed into a thin line. “Go away.” I didn’t know to whom that was directed – I wouldn’t complain if both of them left.

“No.”

“I was here first.”

“You don’t own the place.”

I was becoming severely annoyed at Potter’s cool façade. Here I was, ten seconds away from losing my temper, and there he stood, as cool as the ice sheets of Antarctica.

“This is the restricted section,” I informed him.

He looked around. “I’m aware.”

“Then you’d also be aware that unless you have permission, this place has restricted access.”

“I’m aware of that, too.”

“Ooh!” Regulus said with glee. “What brilliant comeback will Ellie Anderson come up with this time? Has her famous wit finally met its match? Find out next, on the Sexual Tension Saga!”

Sexual Tension Saga? What on earth had this guy been watching on the telly? Gossip Girl?

“Perhaps your obtuseness is preventing you from grasping my subtext, Potter,” I began as sweetly as the circumstances allowed me. “If you don’t have permission to be here, get out.

“On the contrary, Anderson. Despite my obtuseness, I was perfectly able to grasp your subtext. However, since I am here, it seems your obtuseness is hindering your ability to read between the lines,” Potter finished with a smirk.

“Burn,” Regulus added, rather unnecessarily. If ever I did find myself in a situation where I was unable to read between the lines, I could at least count on my annoying ghost companion to fill in the blanks.

I sniffed and turned away, to stare at the bookshelf. “Very well, Potter. Point taken. Now feel free to run along to whichever section you were after. I believe I have been sufficiently defeated for one evening.”

“Oh, bravo!” Regulus cried. “And Anderson delivers the final thrust in this fascinating verbal fencing match, with a clear dismissal, thinly veiling a bruised dignity.”

… Where does this guy come up with shit like this? One minute, he’s all ‘TTYL’s, and the next, he’s commentating from the court of Queen Victoria? Is this guy even real?

“You still haven’t answered my first question,” Potter said, completely oblivious to the dead dude standing not two feet away from him.

“What question?” I asked, trying to focus on the book directly in front of my nose. It was rather difficult, what with Potter’s fat head blocking the dim light.

“Who were you talking to, just before I found you?”

“I believe I answered that question,” I said primly, trying to look as confident as I could as I pulled out the book. I hoped that it wouldn’t be covered in questionable stains, or worse, have a title like The DIY Guide to Making Your Own Horcruxes stamped in gold lettering across the front. I was quite sure that I would take a giant leap from ‘insane’ to ‘criminally insane’ rather quickly. Not that I cared what Potter thought of me. He could take a walk through Dante’s Inferno and never come back, for all I cared.

“You said you weren’t talking to anyone.”

“She’s lying, chump,” Regulus said to Potter, as if he could hear him. “She was talking to me.”

“That is correct,” I said, now flipping through the pages, not comprehending a single word of the tiny cursive print.

“But I heard you talking to someone,” Potter persisted.

I snapped the book shut. “Perhaps you were hearing things.”

“Why would I be hearing your voice?”

“Quite frankly, I don’t want to know, although I have a few ideas,” Regulus said with a sly grin.

What he implied made me almost gag.

“I don’t know!” I snapped, still recovering from what Regulus had said. Did he actually mean… that Potter, of all people… thought of me… in that way! Holy mother of Pride and Prejudice! That was positively disgusting!

“You were definitely talking to someone,” Potter said with confidence.

“Do you see anyone else here?” I asked. And he said that my powers of observation were weak!

“Well, no… but they could have snuck away…”

“What? Into a book, or something? Or perhaps you think that they’re hiding in one of the pigeon holes?” I jammed the book back into its space on the shelf – a callous act that I would never have done if I wasn’t so vexed with Regulus for interrupting my gap investigation and Potter catching me in the act of being vexed with an invisible dead person – and made to march away from Potter and Regulus.

“Was it your boyfriend?” he asked.

Regulus chortled as I tripped over his words. A quick glare in his direction and he quickly turned that chortle into a coughing fit.

“My –” I whirled around to stare at him. “My what?”

“Your boyfriend,” he repeated.

“What in Flamel’s name gave you that idea?”

He shrugged. “I dunno. I haven’t seen you around lately, and then I find you here, apparently alone, in a dark corner of the restricted section on a Thursday evening. What else was I supposed to think?”

“You hear a voice in the library –”

“Your voice.”

“And then automatically assume I had some sort of clandestine assignation with my secret beau?” I finished, ignoring his rude interruption.

“Well, not when you dress it up like a historical romance,” Potter admitted. “So who is he?”

“Who?” I asked, baffled.

“Your boyfriend, or beau, or whatever you want to call him. Come on, you can tell me. I can keep a secret.” He shot me what he probably thought was a charming and trustworthy grin. He dimpled too much for my liking.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, desperately searching for the calm I had before being so rudely interrupted by a couple of jumped up adolescent males. “He’s standing right next to you.” I indicated the space currently occupied by one deceased Regulus Black.

“What? Me?” Regulus asked, incredulousness shaping his features into the first genuine expression I’d seen on his face. “The mere thought is revolting! She’s not my type!”

For the record, dead dudes weren’t my type either.

Potter looked over at Regulus. “There’s no one there,” he said, slowly.

“What? You can’t see him?” I asked. “He’s about my height, dark, handsome.”

“You think I’m handsome?” Regulus asked, sounding rather pleased.

Potter looked at the apparently empty space beside him for a moment more. Abruptly, he looked at me, his eyes narrowing.

I schooled my expression into one of innocence.

He took a step towards me, once again invading my personal space. I didn’t move away this time – I was above such petty psychological tactics. “I’ll have your secrets, Anderson,” he murmured. “One way or another.”

And with that, he strode off into the dark mouth of the entrance.

I stood there for a moment, dread creeping into my stomach at the thought that Potter of all people would find out my secret. Just as quickly as the feeling had come though, I shrugged it off, the ludicrousness of the situation catching up with me. What in this universe could lead to Potter finding out my secret?

 
Later that night, I lay in bed too tired to read, but too awake to sleep. I thought over the events of the evening. What had begun as a rather uneventful trip into the restricted section, had turned into quite the show. There was the whole I’ll-find-out-all-your-secrets threat from Potter, as if after spending a lifetime of doing so, I was going to suddenly divulge my skeletons in the closet.

Then there was the whole a-dead-Regulus-Black-is-spying-on-me issue. This was rather more concerning. He’d promptly disappeared after another baffling “TTYL” after Potter had left, once again leaving me with more questions and answers. He clearly didn’t want to move on, so what did he want from me?

The strangest thing of all, however, was that gap in the wall. It was just a gap, but for the life of me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was so much more.


AN: Hello everyone! Long time, no update am I right? This chapter gave me a lot of grief, so I could really do with all the feedback you could possibly give me on this one, so that I could improve it. I am happier with it after some time away from it and a second draft, but I still feel that it has a rather long way to go. So really guys – lay it on me. I can take it, but more importantly, this chapter needs to take it! Thanks so much for reading!

PS: Gossip Girl was created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, Dante’s Inferno refers to the first part of The Divine Comedy (by Dante, ergo it is his inferno), and Pride and Prejudice is by Jane Austen.

Adios, amigos! :D


 


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