Chapter 2 : Self-Depreciation Is My Specialty
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My eyes flew open at the sound of a failed attempted whisper.
It was dark out, but not late enough for the house to be silent. Dad was locked up in his office, hurriedly trying to finish a couple of reports for work tomorrow. Victoire and Teddy (who had shown up for dinner) were talking about their stupid wedding in the parlour. Mum kept a close eye on them from the kitchen, where she was washing dishes. I had no clue what Louis was up to and my parents were under the impression that I was asleep.
Unfortunately, that was far from the case.
I was still reasonably pissed at my parents, and with all of the emotion from today rushing through my mind, I was so livid it was practically impossible to fall asleep. I was going through an on-and-off pattern of lying down and closing my eyes, then getting up and pacing around my room five minutes later. The entire day was spent running around Diagon Alley, going to one shop for this and another for that. Those so called "few errands" had quickly turned into twenty, my patience running thin with each one. I had made the experience a miserable one for my mum and sister, and I honestly could care less.
"Oi, are you going to wake up or not?" The voice asked, shaking my arm.
I blinked a few times, my eyes still trying to adjust, before turning my head to find a dark silhouette leaning over me. I shot straight up, tugging my blanket so that it covered the rather thin camisole I was wearing. It took me a while but I eventually realized that the figure was James, his broad shoulders and messy hair giving him away.
"The hell, James?" I exclaimed, staring at my cousin in surprise.
"Lovely to see you too, sunshine," he greeted, sounding rather amused.
I turned on the lamp that sat next to my bed, it's dim light allowing me to get a better look at my cousin. He was grinning cheekily at me, the always present mischievous glint shining in his hazel eyes. His rumpled pyjama bottoms were a vivid red, little gold lions decorating the fabric. I had given those to him a few Christmases back along with a few other random items.
"Who let you into my room?" I asked, slightly concerned.
"No one. I apparated onto the beach, walked the five minutes to your house, and then climbed the tree with the branch next to your window. You know, the usual," James explained, taking a seat on my bed.
Its wooden frame creaked underneath his weight, and for a second I was worried it would give out. I had no idea how old this bed was, having been around since before my time. My parents assured me that it was safe, it being made of a rather sturdy wood, but the fear of it breaking while I slept always nagged at the back of my mind.
"Why?" I asked, trying to ignore my irrational concern.
"To see you, of course! Have you forgotten that it's your birthday? I said in my letter that I'd drop by."
"Yeah, but I didn't expect you'd show up at-" I turned to see the time on the clock which hung from my wall, "-a quarter to eleven."
He merely shrugged, a sheepish look on his face. I rolled my eyes and got out from underneath my covers, grateful for the fact that I remembered to wear a pair of shorts to bed. Figuring that any chance I had at falling asleep just went out the window, I started to stretch, my muscles stiff from lying down.
"Fancy a stroll around the beach?" James asked, and I nodded, eager to get out of the house.
Grabbing a worn jumper from the numerous piles of clothing lying across my bedroom floor, I began to scrounge around for a pair of trainers. My room was a right mess, having not cleaned it since the beginning of the summer holidays. Text books, late homework assignments and crumpled Chocolate Frog wrappers were scattered everywhere. It took a little digging, but I eventually found an old pair of Chucks to slip on.
As James began to make his descent out of my window, I tucked my wand into my back pocket and turned off the light. Quietly, I climbed onto the ledge, and lowered myself down. We carefully swung ourselves onto the tree limb that hung nearby, shimming down the trunk and onto the floor, and started the five minute trek to the beach. It was a routine we had been doing since we were eight, and mastered at nine.
"I can't believe this is going to be our last year," James said once we reached the shore, his tone a bit more solemn than what I was used to hearing.
"Tell me about it."
I slipped off my shoes and took a few steps closer towards the sea, letting the waves splash against my feet. James followed suit and we stood like that for a few moments, quiet and thoughtful. Two words I would have never used to describe the pair of us. Yet there we were, looking over the vast ocean that seemed to glow in the moonlight like we were a couple of philosophers.
"Any idea what you're going to do once it's all over?" James asked, breaking the silence.
"No bloody clue."
Whatever it was that had been keeping everything so serious shattered. We turned to each other and broke out into a mad fit of laughter. Silly grins spread over our faces, completely ruining the spell of serenity that had been cast on us. I lightly splashed James who in return shoved me into the water. It was ice cold, causing me to shriek the moment my skin made contact with it. In an act of justified revenge, I grabbed my cousin and attempted to pull him down next to me. It was like trying to drag a brick wall, he weighed so much. He wasn't thick or anything - just full of hot air. And muscle, but I wasn't going to admit that to him anytime soon. Thankfully, I seemed to have caught him off guard which made it a lot easier to bring him down. He landed with a loud thud, a large splash of water soaking me to the bone. This of course caused us to laugh even harder.
"God, Min. What are we going to do with ourselves?" James asked breathlessly. We were sprawled along the sand, our breaths ragged, with the waves lapping at our legs.
"Whatever the hell we want to do,” I replied, closing my eyes.
I wished I could have remained like that forever, lying on the beach without a care in the world. Not having to worry about "my future" or being a disappointment. Not having to put up with Victoire and her dumb wedding. Not having to go to school, where I'd be swamped with a bunch of homework I didn't understand. Or having to deal with all of the annoying gits that I had the misfortune of being classmates with. Not having to face the fact that my parents seem to constantly forget about me.
My eyes had begun to sting, but I blamed it on the salty water. I had done enough crying for today.
"I like the sound of that." I heard James say.
I wasn't sure how long we stayed like that. The two of us lying side by side, watching the waves crash into each other. The stars glow. The sun rise. We talked about everything and nothing. We gossiped about the kids at school. We planned future pranks. We wondered about who was going to be Head Boy and Girl. We made bets on how many detentions we'd get this year. We sang old Weird Sisters songs at the top of our lungs.
It was the most fun I had all summer.
It wasn't until I heard birds begin to chirp that I realised we had spent the entire night outside. I remembered Aunt Ginny's letter where she had asked me to make sure James didn't stay out too late, and a feeling of guilt crept into me. I had a feeling she'd be waiting for him when he got home, and this led me to suggest that we should head back. He could have apparated then and there, but James decided to walk me back. Always the gentleman, my cousin.
"So I guess I'll see you on the first," I said, once we had reached the tree outside of my bedroom.
"Save me a seat?" he asked, a little smirk playing at the corner of his lips.
"I'll think about it," I replied, with a smirk of my own. He rolled his eyes, enveloping me in one of his signature bone-crushing hugs. I faked a groan then buried my face into his shoulder, allowing myself this small comfort. James was good at many things but hugs were his specialty. Reluctantly I had to let him go, and begin the routine of sneaking back into my room. I had just climbed into my window, when he called back to me.
"Yeah?" I asked, leaning against the edge.
"Happy birthday," he said with a grin, running his hand through that mess of auburn hair.
I watched him turn around and head back towards the beach, where he could apparate without my parents overhearing. I sighed and closed my window, smiling the entire time. It wasn't until I had crawled back into bed that I realised how exhausted I was. The sun was already out, and I could hear the faint sounds of my parents getting ready to leave for work. Victoire would also be waking soon to start her day. I snuggled deeper into the comforts of my blanket, and found myself falling asleep.
"Minnie, let's go!" The ever-so-obnoxious voice of my older sister yelled.
It was the first of September and I was hastily trying to find a clean shirt to throw on. Not only had I overslept, but I had forgot to leave out a clean set of clothes to wear on the train. The last few days of summer were always spent getting ready for school, which also included Mum's cleaning rampage. She had this weird obsession with neatness, and went a little crazy whenever there was a mess anywhere in the house. While I was home she'd put up with my messy room, but as soon as I left I knew she'd jump at the chance to tidy it up. The idea of her snooping around my room was enough incentive for me to go along with her end-of-the-summer cleaning spree.
Since the vast majority of my mess was the contents of my school trunk sprawled across the floor - I had the habit of dumping my trunk the moment I came home - I also managed to get everything packed on time. The only problem with that was when I'd pack all of my clean clothes and end up not having anything to wear the next day.
Hence, my current dilemma.
Realizing that I had about thirty seconds to leave, I resorted to grabbing one of my dad's old t-shirts from his room. With my wand placed safely in my bag, I made my way downstairs. My trunk was waiting for me there, having brought it down last night.
"About time! Must you always leave everything for the last minute?" Victoire said, tapping her foot impatiently.
God, she was such a prat.
"Why are you still here, then?" I snapped, noticing that neither my parents nor Louis were around.
"How else are you going to get to the train? Someone has to apparate with you to King's Cross."
I began to say that I was of age and could very well apparate by myself, but decided against it. The longer she went without realising she'd forgot my birthday, the greater the guilt will be when she finally did. So with one hand I grabbed my trunk, the other her wrist, and braced myself for the weird sucking sensation that came with apparating.
We landed rather smoothly, everything still intact, at the entrance of King's Cross station. It was fairly busy, but nowhere near as hectic as it would get in just a few hours. Having parents that worked for Gringotts, where they were expected at nine o'clock sharp with no exceptions meant that we had to be at Platform 9 3/4's by eight forty-five. We were always the first ones on the train, along with all of the other poor unfortunate souls with parents that worked for the bank.
Grabbing a trolley for my trunk, Vic and I quickly made our way towards Platform 9 3/4. Dad was waiting for us at the entrance, Mum and Louis probably having already gone through. He raised his eyebrows when he saw me wearing his shirt. "Forgot to leave out a set of clothes?"
"What am I going to do with you, Minnie?" he shook his head with a small smile, placing a warm hand on my shoulder. We let Victoire go through first, before going in ourselves.
The platform was still rather empty, which was expected at this hour. Spotting Mum and Louis, we made our way towards them. She was fussing with his collar, rambling last minute reminders in French which my brother paid no attention to.
"Ne pas oublier d'écrire," she told him, in that rapid way of hers. "And please make sure that your sister stays out of trouble."
"Shouldn't that be the other way around?" I asked, rolling my eyes.
“Maybe if you would write back every now and then, I wouldn’t ‘ave to worry.”
I chose to ignore her.
“Really Min, is it that hard to write a simple reply?” Dad asked me.
Is it that hard to remember your own daughter’s birthday?
“I’ve got homework,” was my answer.
“If you’re spending so much time doing ‘omework, ‘ow is it that you don’t ‘ave better marks?"
“Because you raised an idiot for a daughter.”
Blimey, I was on a roll.
"Hey, you know better than that,” Dad began, his blue eyes concerned and serious. “You’re a smart girl Minnie, albeit a little lazy. I don’t want to hear any more of this self-depreciation, alright?"
If that was the case, then it’s a bloody well thing he’s rubbish at Occlumencey. Merlin knows my thoughts were just a cesspool of pessimism. Self-depreciation was my specialty.
“It was just a joke, Dad. No need to go all suicide alert on me,” I replied, with only a smidgen of defensiveness.
“There are better ones,” he said, simply.
I decided to let it go, and began the ritual of saying goodbye. I allowed my mother to hug me, ignoring her nitpicky reminders to comb my hair and make my bed. Dad embraced me, kissing the top of my head like he did every year. His hug lingered a bit longer than the norm, probably still worried that I might throw myself onto the tracks in a fit of wild self-hate. Victoire played the role of the endearing big sister which I knew she wasn’t and hugged me as well. With one last “See you at Christmas”, I boarded the bright red engine with Louis in tow.
We parted ways once I reached Compartment J, the same compartment I’ve rode in for the past seven years. Tossing my bag onto an empty seat, I took my place at the window and made myself comfortable.
If I had any ounce of responsibility in me, I would probably use this time to look over my textbooks and get a head start on the lessons. Too bad that that wasn't the case.
Instead, I dug through my bag for the stash of Chocolate Frogs I always kept in there and began to stuff myself as if there was no tomorrow. It was moments like these when I really loved being an eighth Veela. Merlin knows I should be as thick as an elephant by now.
I was working on my seventh frog when the compartment door slid open and a flustered Louis appeared. His stick-straight blond hair stood in various directions, giving him the appearance of an albino hedgehog. He was panting, his small chest moving up and down as he caught his breath.
“There’s a creepy girl following me around,” he explained, once he saw that I was looking expectantly at him.
“What house is she in?” I asked, wanting to make sure if it was worth getting concerned.
“She’s a Puff.”
He shot me a grateful look and all but ran into the compartment. If there was one thing I was going to protect my brother from, it was a creepy, hormonal Hufflepuff. Or any Puff to be honest, but if I went around saying that then people would get the impression that I was prejudiced. Throughout mine and my cousins’ childhood, the authoritative figures in my family have drilled into our minds to not be prejudice. Sometimes Uncle Ron would slip and say that it was okay to hex a few Slytherins every now and then, but I never considered him to be an authority so it all worked out.
“Can I have a frog?” he asked, noticing the wrappers. I gave him a look that said, “you’re kidding, right?” which shut him up.
An awkward silence filled the room, as we tried to figure out what to say to each other. Our entire relationship was built upon my teasing him and his bursting into tears. Of course now that he was a “cool twelve year old” the crying stopped and transformed into him rolling his eyes at me.
I really ought to be a better influence on him.
“So... excited for school to start?” I asked, figuring it was the sisterly thing to say.
“Are you?” he deflected.
I could tell that he wasn't going to make this whole building-our-relationship thing easy for me.
I racked my brain for topics that would entertain a twelve year old boy and began to spit them out like clockwork:
Are you trying out for Quidditch? No.
Are your friends trying out for Quidditch? No.
What do you and your friends do for fun? Nothing.
What did your friends do over the summer? I don’t know.
Do you even have friends? Duh.
Do you like any girls? Blank stare.
Do you like any boys? Death glare.
I was about to start round two of twenty questions, when the door to the compartment opened and revealed our Aunt Ginny.
“Get off your lazy bum and come give your favourite aunt a hug,” she said, grinning.
I got up and approached my godmother only to be smothered by her red hair and perfume. Her thin but surprisingly strong arms wrapped themselves tightly around my shoulders. I was starting to wonder if suffocating hugs were a genetic trait.
“Hey, Aunt Ginny,” I said, although it was muffled by the fabric of her navy cardigan.
“Hello, love. Where’s that shiny new charm necklace of yours?” she asked, glancing at my bare neck.
I quickly tried to come up with a passable lie to explain for its absent: stolen by a crew of Transylvanians pirates, got mugged in Knockturn Alley, accidentally flushed it down the toilet. However, before I could choose one Louis opened his fat mouth.
“What necklace?” he asked, confused.
Aunt Ginny looked at him like he was insane and I jumped in to prevent any further damage. “Merlin, Lou! You were sitting right next to me when Mum explained about the mix up.” I turned to my aunt and continued explaining, “The order got mixed up so it won’t arrive until November.”
She raised an eyebrow and I prayed that she would buy my lie. I had to pinch Louis’ arm to keep him from saying anything else that would give Mum and Dad away. As much as I’d enjoy watching Aunt Ginny get on their case for forgetting my birthday, I really did not want to put with anymore family drama.
“Blimey, I’m sorry to hear that Min,” she finally said, and gave me another squeeze.
"Oh it’s alright; I’m not much of a jewellery person anyway,” I replied offhandedly, letting out a breath I had no clue I was holding.
"Well, I just wanted to stop by and wish a quick hello. James is helping Lily put her trunk away, but he should be here soon,” she told me, before turning to give a hug to Lou. “You two be good now, you hear?”
We nodded, and watched our aunt as she waved goodbye and left the compartment. I heard a loud shriek that sounded like it belonged to our cousin Lily, who was probably mortified at the idea of her mum on the train where all of her friends could see her. I listened to my aunt tell her daughter to get over it and how she’s lucky to have such a cool mother, before it faded and the awkward silence between Louis and I returned.
“Your birthday... we forgot, didn’t we?” he asked, looking both extremely guilty and uncomfortable.
There was no point in trying to keep that hidden from Louis. He may be twelve, but there was a reason the kid was placed in Ravenclaw. He had an ear for sorting out the bull from any explanation. I glanced at my brother, who had a thoughtful expression on his face as he began to put all of the pieces together.
“I’m sorry.” His tone was genuine, apologetic.
It would have been the perfect moment to hug him, had we had a less awkward relationship. Instead, I settled for punching his arm.
“Don’t worry about it. You can always make it up to me by buying out Honeydukes.”
“I thought only I could buy your forgiveness with chocolate!” James exclaimed, as he walked into the compartment.
“So long as I’m getting chocolate, I really don’t care who’s buying it,” I answered, grinning at my cousin.
He returned the smile before greeting my brother with a giant hug that could’ve snapped him in half, had he squeezed any harder.
“Lily’s over at Compartment G if you want to go sit with her,” he said to Lou, ruffling his hair.
My brother took that as his cue to leave and made his way towards the exit. He hesitated, before running back towards me and wrapping his small arms around my waist. I was too shocked to say anything and by the time I had regained my composure, he had ran off.
“What was that about?” James asked, staring at the empty spot where my little brother had once stood.
“I have no idea.”
Minnie - Emma Stone
A/N:Aaaannnd there it is! I hope you guys liked it, and don't forget to leave a review to let me know what you think! Next chapter is at Hogwarts and we'll meet my OC's. Thanks again everyone!
"Ne pas oublier d'écrire" = Don't forget to write
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