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A Strange Case of Muggle
It was surprisingly cool and crisp, despite being the last day of the summer holiday. Albus would soon be entering fifth year. He found himself unexpectedly reluctant to leave Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
His friend from three doors down, Jeanette Bronadello, nudged his shoulder playfully as they sat on her front step.
“Oh, cheer up!” Jeanette exclaimed. “You're going back to school! YOU'RE not allowed to mope about that, only I’M allowed to mope about that.”
Jeanette was a strange case of muggle. Albus himself had told her about the existence of magic when he was four years old. She, only three months his elder, had thought about this, nodded, and said quite simply, “I knew it.”
The Bronadellos had been friends with the Potters ever since, although Jeanette was the only one who knew about their more… peculiar tendencies. After Albus had been punished quite severely by his parents (in truth, he had appealed to his father, who was the more lenient of the two by far), the Potters had invited little Jeanette out to lunch and a movie, where they gave her a stern talking-to about keeping the existence of wizards and witches a secret. She listened quite seriously, for a four-year-old, and immediately after returning her home, Mrs. Potter had declared quite suddenly, “I like her.”
It was all terribly embarrassing to Albus, especially as he got older, but Jeanette had quickly grown to be one of his best friends.
“I can mope about whatever I want,” Albus declared grumpily.
Jeanette laughed. “Oh, no you can’t. Come on, race you to the underground!” She jumped up, and would have shot away across the busy street had she not noticed that Albus had yet to move from her front stoop.
She wasn’t quite sure why he was so depressed. Jeanette had made it quite clear that she would miss him, with the absence of all three Potter children for the third year running. James was already off in the wizarding world of summer employment, and never showed up any more, not even to prank her and Albus when the two of them weren’t paying attention. And Lily was quickly growing concerned with the “only thing in life worth focusing on”—in other words, boys. Albus was the only levelheaded one of the bunch.
“All right, what’s up?” Jeanette complained, placing both hands on her hips. “You’re no fun anymore!” She elbowed him in the side, but still no reaction. “Whatever. Let’s go over to your house. It’s more interesting in there anyways.”
Albus sighed, and stood, bracing his hands on his knees before drawing his wand out of his jacket pocket. Jeanette let out a long breath of relief, although she was careful not to let him see. Albus strode over to the empty space between numbers eleven and thirteen, and waved his wand absently. Jeanette had to pull him backwards so that the extending concrete steps to the door wouldn’t bowl him over.
Once inside, Albus said, “I’ll be right back.” He vanished down the hall, and Jeanette, punching the air in front of her in irritation, went to see where Mrs. Potter was.
“Hello? Oh, hello, Jeanette, it’s you,” Mr. Potter said, coming down the stairs. “I’m just about to leave for work. Are you looking for Al?” He was dressed in trousers and a button-down shirt, but over his arm draped a black set of robes.
Jeanette shrugged. “No, sir. He just went down the hall.” She turned towards the kitchen, where she could hear Mrs. Potter humming as she cleared the dishes, but changed her mind and abruptly swiveled around.
“Actually, Mr. Potter, I was wondering… Al’s been acting really down lately. Is everything all right? And if you tell him I asked, I’ll have to kill you.”
For some reason, this made Mr. Potter laugh. “Oh, he’s all right, Jeanette, don’t worry.”
Jeanette crossed her arms, sure Mr. Potter knew more than he was telling her. “He’s not usually this way on the last day of holiday.”
Mr. Potter shook his head, attempting unsuccessfully to erase the smile from his face. “No, not usually.”
“I see. Thanks for the help, sir.” Jeanette gritted her teeth. She swooped towards the kitchen like an angry, fluttering bat, doing her best not to react to Mr. Potter’s quiet chuckling as he headed out the door.
Mrs. Potter was indeed washing the dishes. That funny little creature—Kreacher—was drying.
“Jeanette, darling, how are you?” Mrs. Potter greeted. “Looking for Albus?”
Jeanette dropped into a pulled-out chair. “Absolutely not! There’s something wrong with that boy, ma’am, no offense. He’s acting weird.”
Kreacher croaked something quietly to Mrs. Potter that Jeanette couldn’t hear. Mrs. Potter laughed. “I quite agree,” she affirmed, and Jeanette knotted her arms even tighter around her torso.
“Quite agree with what?” Jeanette cursed. “What’s up with Albus? If you don’t want to tell me, just say so! I know Mr. Potter knows, but he’s not spilling.”
Mrs. Potter dried her hands on a dishtowel. “Toast, dear?” she inquired innocently.
Jeanette let out a gargled shout, and slouched over the table, her head frustratedly nested in her arms.
Mrs. Potter decided to take pity on the girl. “He’s in love.”
Jeanette shot up, her spine now ramrod straight. “What, now?”
“Albus is in love, Jeanette.”
“What?” Jeanette gasped furiously. “With who? I’ll tear out their—” She cut off, realizing she might have said too much.
Kreacher tugged on Mrs. Potter’s apron. “Yes, Kreacher?”
He motioned for her to bend down, with a surreptitious glance at Jeanette. He placed a hand over his mouth and whispered to Mrs. Potter. Jeanette glared at them defensively, her face a marvelous shade of fuchsia.
Mrs. Potter sighed, “Yes, I suppose you’re right, Kreacher. Jeanette, Lily is in her room. Why don’t you go talk with her? I’m sure she’s terribly lonely.”
Jeanette didn’t move, and Mrs. Potter stared at her pointedly, a glance that soon grew into a rather terrifying glare. Jeanette shot up and scrambled out of range towards Lily’s third-floor bedroom. On her way, Albus zoomed past her, his feet inches above the floorboards like he was being magicked to his mother. Their eyes met for half an instant.
Jeanette mounted the moving stairs three at a time, although she was wheezing by the time she reached the third floor. She knocked on Lily’s bright purple door.
“Who—” sniffle “—is it?”
“Lil’, it’s Jeanette. Can I come in?”
The door creaked open half a foot, and Jeanette was yanked inside before she could say another word.
“Hi, Jeanette,” Lily said morosely. “Are you looking for Al?”
Jeanette tried not to scream. “No, I am not.”
Lily sighed. “All right. Because you always are.”
“No, I am not.”
“Okay.” Lily’s face was dry, but her nose was red, like a little cherry tomato. Tissues were strewn about the room, and while her school trunk was neatly packed up, her robes for the departure were thrown over the back of a desk chair.
Jeanette appealed carefully, “I’m sure I’ll regret asking, but is everything all right? With you?”
Lily collapsed belly-down onto her bed melodramatically. “No, everything is not all right! The world is ending!”
Lily just rubbed her face deeper into the bedclothes. Jeanette rolled her eyes. “You wizarding types. I don’t know why I still put up with you.”
“It’s because you’re in love with Albus,” Lily supplied glumly, “Isn’t it?” Her voice was muffled, speaking as she was with her face pressed into her quilt.
Jeanette kicked at Lily’s trunk angrily. All she got in reward for her efforts was a bloodied toe. “Why do people keep saying that?” she hissed.
Lily sat up, and brushed her hair behind her ears. “Because it’s true.”
“I. Hate. Magic.”
“No you don’t,” Lily reminded her. “Don’t worry, Mum supports the match.”
Jeanette punched a pillow.
“Al doesn’t even like me like that,” Jeanette complained. “Not that I, um, want him to or anything.”
Lily put her arm around Jeanette’s shoulders. “Oh, yes he does. And yes, you absolutely do.”
“But we only hang out three months a year! How do I know he won’t meet some other girl who can—who can—turn teacups into rabbits or something cool like that?” Jeanette moaned. “It’s not fair.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Lily crooned. “He comes home for Christmas, doesn’t he? And Easter? I’m sure I could fix something up…”
Jeanette mimed puking. She declared, “The only way you’re organizing my love life is if I’m unconscious for the whole of it.”
“I can do that,” Lily said helpfully.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” called Lily.
“It’s me, twit,” Albus answered grumpily. “Can I come in?”
Lily and Jeanette gasped. “Not yet!” yelped Lily. She snatched up a spare tissue and cleared Jeanette’s eyes violently. Then she yanked out her ponytail and expertly put Jeanette’s hair up.
“What are you doing?” Jeanette winced as the younger girl ripped her hair out by the roots.
“No time!” Lily replied. She whipped out her wand from under her pillow and pointed it at Jeanette’s face.
Jeanette sputtered, “What are you doing? No magic out of school!”
Lily muttered something unpronounceable. Jeanette felt her face grow very hot, and then very cold, and she flinched.
“Okay, come in, Al!” Lily called, propelling Jeanette into a standing position.
Jeanette whispered a very vivid curse at Lily just as the door edged open and Albus pushed his head in.
“Hey, Jeanette, Mum said you were in here.”
Jeanette made a face at Lily. “Yeah, just talking with Lily.”
Albus stepped fully into the room. “Cool.”
From the bed, Lily snatched up a pillow, and pretended to kiss it madly. Jeanette held her breath, and glanced at Albus’s face. He was glaring at his little sister, and Jeanette felt perfectly comfortable following suit.
“What?” Lily defended. “Ask her on a date already!”
Jeanette gasped in shock. “Lily!” she spluttered, just as Albus stammered, “I’m not going to ask Jeanette out! She’s my friend!”
Lily threw the pillow, aiming for Albus but accidentally hitting Jeanette instead. “So then what do you want, big brother?”
“I was…um… just wondering… Jeanette do you want to get something for lunch?”
“For lunch?” Jeanette asked, contemplating whether or not she should strangle only Lily, or her brother as well.
“Yeah… er, together.”
“Like a date?” Lily asked innocently.
“No!” the other two shrieked at precisely the same moment.
Lily just shoved her face into the bed again. Was she the only sane one? “You two are idiots,” she muttered.