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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> Ch. 2 - When You Least Expect It... - By Luna26 by Luna26

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A/N: WOOO Year four. Let's get this ball rollinggggg.

When You Least Expect It… by Luna26

The inhabitants of Green Knolls Apartments had long since retreated into the refreshing cool of their air conditioned homes when Vivian Coldren apparated into a shadowy alcove beside the stairs to her second story home. She blew an agitated breath at her bangs, which already stuck to her head with perspiration. It was this type of weather that made her consider moving so far north she would never have to see the sun again, she thought as she dug through her large yellow purse for her house keys. She retrieved them, cursing at her lack of organization, and stuck the little bronze key into the lock only to find it was already unlocked. She sighed, exasperated.

“I’m going to murder her,” she muttered, pushing the door open and rushing into the shady cool of her kitchen. She slammed the door behind her against the heat that was threatening to press its way in.

Running her fingers through her damp bangs, she glanced around; none of the lights in the house were on. Her niece’s cat, Mia, was curled up on the couch in the living room, dozing in a patch of sunlight. Realizing Vivian was home, she promptly slunk off the couch and made her way into the kitchen, mewing loudly and weaving around the woman’s ankles. Vivian attempted to extricate herself and make it to her bedroom – she wanted nothing more at the moment than to be out of her back skirt and blazer – but realized any attempts to relax before feeding the cat would be futile.

“Merlin, with the way you act, you’d think no one ever fed you,” she told the cat sternly as she fumbled in the cabinet for the nearly empty bag of Meow Mix. Mia mewed at her beseechingly.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.” She stooped and filled the little metal bowl in the corner of the kitchen, scolding the feline who did nothing but rub against her stockings, leaving bits of white hair in the nylon. As soon as the bowl was full, however, affection turned to ravenous hunger, apparently, as the cat pounced on her food. Vivian eyed her; she was getting to be quite the pudgy cat, and she wondered if Magenta was feeding her table scraps at school. Yet another thing, along with leaving the door unlocked, she would have to nag the thick-skulled thirteen-year-old about.

Fourteen, she reminded herself as she made her way through the living room and down the hall, slipping out of her yellow pumps as she went. She’ll be fourteen in a little over a month, she realized.

Her room, the one next to Magenta’s, was a simple one, and she liked it that way. The curtains had been drawn that morning in anticipation of the blazing day, and it left the interior dark and cool, a serene retreat from the world. She sat wearily on the bed, sliding off her stockings and tossing them into the overflowing laundry basket in the corner. She unbuttoned her blazer and laid it neatly over the foot of her bed stand, and laid back herself, un-tucking her white button down shirt as she did. A sigh of comfort and relief escaped her lips. She felt the tension that always followed her home from the office slowly slip out of the muscles of her back and neck.

“To think… I spent five years making copies, delivering coffee and sucking up to my superiors… for this.” She sighed slightly despairingly and rubbed her temples. After the war had ended and things are the Auror agency had gotten slow, she had returned to her former occupation and what she felt was truly her calling; journalism. Mickey, of course, had scoffed at the idea playfully until, five years ago; she had gone part time at the agency and taken a job at a local news paper. She moved slowly up the ranks, taking a job at Witch Weekly and leaving the world of Aurors behind completely. Still, it wasn’t her cup of tea, writing endless reviews of cook-books the latest cosmetic spells.

Now, finally, she had a job at the Herald, the U.S. syndicate of the Daily Prophet and found herself less fulfilled than she had felt for a long time. The last six months had been comprised mostly of running pointless errands and sitting in on meetings on which she wasn’t allowed to comment. She’d written countless wedding announcements, obituaries, and sale ads. And her boss, a curmudgeonly old man named Foster, treated her like she was some prize poodles or something, calling her Pet and Sweetie and doing everything short of saying ‘Fetch!’ when he sent her on his errands.

Vivian pinched the bridge of her nose, hoping the stem the headache that arose whenever she thought of her dead-end new job. You should’ve just stayed at Witch Weekly, she told herself silently. At least there you had respect.

She sat up after a long moment, extracting her wand from her sleeve. With a nonchalant flick, all the lights in the room were ablaze and the fan on the ceiling sped up a little. She passed her dresser, the drawers of which slid open and emitted a black sweater, tank top and jeans. A comb produced itself from her night stand drawer and, after the pins that help it up had flown out to land nearly in a dish on her dresser top, began to comb out her long dark brown locks as she changed. Feeling refreshed, she decided to venture down the hall and see what had kept her niece from her responsibilities all day,

The door to Magenta’s room was half open, and from inside she heard a radio playing softly, most of the sound swallowed up by static and the sound coming from the television, which had just announced that someone had gotten a high score in a cheesy Italian accent. A series of beeps that was supposed to be music assaulted Vivian’s ears she pushed the door open fully and entered the room.

The curtains in here were drawn, and the ceiling fan blew cool, dark air out towards the blue-green walls. The floor, she knew, was covered in purple carpeting, but visibly it was smattered with an even coating of everything; clothes, cassettes, papers, a broom stick, a bottle of peroxide for hair and a jar of pink hair die that was spilling onto some parchment. A black and white polka-dotted trunk sat ajar in the corner, school books and scales and a cauldron cascading onto the floor before it. Nail polish stained the top of the dresser next to the door, and the wooden four-post bed with a black canopy and comforter was left unmade, its high-liter yellow sheets hanging off to one side.

In the far corner sat Magenta, wrapped in a bright pink fuzzy blanket, ensconced by a number of pillows and bean bags, before the television Vivian’s boyfriend Mickey had bought her as a welcome home present. Underneath was her brand new Super Nintendo Entertainment System, whirring as Magenta hit the buttons of the controller madly, trying to avoid the pixilated foe on the screen. It, too, was a gift from Mickey, an early birthday present as he wouldn’t be around for her actual birthday in August.

“So this is what you’ve been doing all day,” Vivian said reproachfully. Magenta shot up. She was still in her pajamas, which were really getting too small for her. The plaid pants, low on her hips, just barely brushed the floor and the tank top bared several inches of her abdomen. She was nearly 5’9” now, at least a head over her aunt, and almost worryingly skinny. Vivian was, for a moment, taken aback by how grown up the girl she’d raised from a year old was getting; it was becoming harder and harder to tell she was the same person that had been endlessly mistaken for a boy when she was little. Her hair, black on top and turquoise on the bottom, was a tangled mess on top of her head and her blue eyes were slightly bloodshot from staring at the television.

“Aunt Viv! You weren’t supposed to be home for another…” she trailed off as her eyes floated to her digital clock. “Ten minutes ago…”

“Lost track of time on Mario again?” Vivian asked, arching an eyebrow. Magenta looked sheepish and shrugged as she collapsed back into her nest of pillows and hastily hit the pause button on her controller.

“The front door was unlocked and you didn’t feed Mia today, did you?” Vivian inquired as she attempted to push some the clothes spewing from her niece’s dresser back into their drawers. “Not that she really needs it, since she gets all that lovely food when you’re at school…”

Magenta made a non-committal grunting noise and covered her face with a pillow.

“Maggie, how many times do I have to tell you not to leave your nail polish bottles open like this,” she continued when she lifted a stack of paper to reveal and up-turned bottle of blue liquid. She produced her wand from her back pocket, she cast a silent cleaning spell and the liquid flew back into the bottle, which capped itself.

“See? It’s easy for you, I can’t do magic yet!” Magenta groaned petulantly. Vivian sighed. They’d had this argument five times since Magenta had arrived home last Friday.

“Oh, let it go, Magenta, I hardly use magic around the house.” Magenta rolled her eyes. “Will you please clean up in here tonight? It’s getting a little disgusting,” she continued, eyeing a pizza box of unknown antiquity that was peaking out from under the bed.

“Jeez, Aunt Viv, will you please cut it out with the mom thing?” she drawled as she came out from under her pillow and returned to her game. Vivian froze. It had been the third or fourth time she’d referred to her chastising at the ‘mom thing’, and it stung more every time. No, she wasn’t Magenta’s mother; she knew that, but…

Vivian shook herself. She doesn’t mean anything by it, she told herself firmly.

“Chinese or pizza?” she asked as she made her way over a stack of clothing on her way out.

“Chinese, uh… damn you, Bowser! … Sorry, uh… orange chicken and pork fried rice please?”

“Would you be alright with shrimp instead?” Vivian asked from the door. Magenta shrugged. “You know, you should really get out and do something, Maggie, it’s not healthy to sit inside all day like you have been… it’s starting to smell a little in here…” Magenta paused her game with a dramatic sigh.

“Again, with the mom thing… cut it out, please!” She fixed Vivian with an exasperated stare as she backed out of the room. Vivian ducked out into the hall and tried to shake the feeling away, but this time it stuck, that dull ache in her chest.

Demetria, Magenta’s mother, wasn’t actually Vivian’s sister, but her stepsister. Nevertheless, Vivian had felt closer to her than to her actual siblings. They were born hardly a year apart and were so close people often mixed them up as children. When Demetria left for the states, Vivian had followed suit almost immediately, leaving to try her hand at journalism on the east coast while her sister was falling in love in the northwest. Vivian had been there when Magenta was born, and there on the night Demetria had returned to their home, hoping for help after Jordan left her. She had raged endlessly against her father’s decision and had been the first to find her sister’s lifeless body, and Magenta, in the nearby carrier, crying incessantly. Her father, of course, had made arrangements to send the toddler to the local orphanage, but Vivian, although just barely 20, had counteracted him with the help of her step brother, Nikolai, and brought her to America. She hadn’t spoken with her parents or any other family since.

It wasn’t that she felt she deserved something from Magenta, respect or adoration or otherwise; it wasn’t in her nature. She had willingly given up her family and a good chunk of her youth to care for Demetria’s daughter. Willingly and gladly; her niece was growing up to be so like her mother, sometimes Vivian had to remind herself who she was. It was a little piece of her beloved sister that she could keep; it eased the pain of losing her other half. She never intended to replace Demetria and she would never ask Magenta to call her mom, but it stung to hear her behavior called ‘the mom thing’, as if it wasn’t her job. If it wasn’t hers, if she hadn’t earned the right, then whose was it, who had?

She flopped down into a chair in the kitchen and picked at a hang-nail for a few moments. Outside, she heard birds chirping happily in the pressing heat, and wondered how they would stand it. The pleasant noise was cut by the rumble of thunder in the distance, signaling a storm was coming. The neighbors were having a loud argument like they always did, audible through the adjacent walls. Deciding she’d rather not hear their particularly graphic and intimate disagreement, she reached up to the phone on the wall she sat beside and dialed the number she knew by heart, East Wok Chinese.

“Yes, I’d like to place an order for delivery… yes, Mimi, it’s Viv… oh, I’m alright… how’re you? How’s the new baby? Really? Oh, right the order… yes, um, shrimp fried rice, orange chicken, sesame chicken… uh, two spring rolls and some wonton soup. Yes, I know, twenty minutes. You too, bye!”

She returned the phone to its hook, and stood wearily. Her feet ached a little, as did her head. The frown across her face reached right into her pale green eyes, making them a little duller than usual.

Magenta, finally tired of Super Mario World, rose slowly from her fortress of pillows and bean bags and stretched languorously. Her eyes were a little over dry, and she felt sort of slimy, having sat the whole day in her pajamas without a shower. She could smell the Chinese food in the kitchen, however, and all thoughts of dry eyes and hygiene fled her mind as she realized how hungry she was.

She shuffled out into the hall and on to the kitchen, lit up now by the yellow light fixture on the ceiling. It was silent, save for the sound of the sudden downpour that pelted droplets of water against the roof of their apartment. Her aunt was unpacking the brown paper bag with East Wok’s red insignia imprinted on the side. Magenta pounced on her orange chicken, beginning to devour the citrus-sweet sauce before it had left the container. She heard her aunt sigh her usual sigh of exasperation and shot her and irritated look.

“I haven’t eaten all day!” she defended, her mouth half-full. Aunt Viv shoved a plat in her direction, which Magenta ignored.

“No one’s fault but your own… I swear, I’m going to kill Mickey for buying you that thing,” she muttered, in reference to her super NES. There had been a long argument between the couple about his purchasing the game system, mostly because Aunt Viv had feared coming home to, well, exactly this. Magenta shrugged and tucked into her meal once more. She listened vaguely as Aunt Viv complained about her job at the Herald, which, even being an insensitive fourteen-year-old, Magenta couldn’t help but sympathize about. She really was being stomped on by the man. But she wasn’t focused enough to do anything but ‘tsk’ and occasionally nod or shake her head. Her mind was elsewhere, as it had been most of the last few days.

She realized, last Monday, that it had been several months since she had written to her father, a strange thought. Half a year later, and he hadn’t replied or even sent the letter back. Her aunt’s warning that the address may not have been his fell by the wayside quickly; post-owls were smart creatures, and usually found the object of their deliveries without an address or even a word from their senders. Images of him finding the letter had floated in and out of her mind all week, as they had been she had initially sent it. But they were vague, and she could never picture his face, or his reaction properly. It was frustrating. Mario was a decent enough escape, but moments like this one… she drifted.

“Maggie? You in there?” her aunt asked, grinning and knocking on her head. Magenta looked at her, wide-eyed.

“What?” she asked, a little dumbfounded. Vivian rolled her eyes.

“You weren’t listening at all, were you? You know, I always listen to you…” Magenta held up a hand.

“Oh, right, you always listen, right,” she drawled sarcastically. Aunt Viv arched a thin, dark eye brow. Her eyes, the color of jade, flashed at the challenge.

“What was I just saying?” she asked inquisitively.

Magenta fumbled. “Uh… the man was keeping you down?” she asked, surrendering helplessly. It was no contest, really; there were rocks that were better at listening than Magenta. Vivian smiled smugly.

“Maggie, m’dear, you really should be more attentive. You miss lots of things when you don’t listen carefully. Especially,” she added with emphasis, “to yourself.”

It was Magenta’s turn to cock an eyebrow. “What in the name of Merlin’s saggy left… what’re you on about?” she asked, wide-eyed. Her aunt’s face took on an expression she knew all too well.

“Yes, yes, I get it,” she spat exasperatedly, before her aunt could open her mouth to speak the words Magenta knew were coming. “I know something you don’t know,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Please, enlighten me.”

Vivian smiled. “That boy… Neville?” Magenta’s eyed brows shot to the top of her forehead.

“When have we even talked about Neville?” she asked, initially more shocked by the fact that Aunt Viv knew who he was.

“Loads of times,” Aunt Vivian retorted with a self-satisfied smirk. “Half your letters mention him, and more than half the stories you told me about this past year do as well. See?”

“Right,” she said, not convinced. There was no way in hell she could have mentioned him that much. Or so she thought, anyways. “Ok, what about Neville?” she said, rather defensively. She’d had a similar conversation in the Room of Requirement several months before. She didn’t like the outcome very much.

“From what you’ve told me, I think he might have a little crush on you.” Magenta sighed and stood rather forcefully, nearly knocking her chair over. “And, from the way you talk about him…” She snatched up the plate she’d neglected and the one still half-full of her aunt’s dinner.

“I was still eating that!” the woman protested. Magenta snorted.

“But I thought you loved it when I did the dishes?” she shot back archly. Aunt Viv rolled her eyes and stuck her fork defiantly into the last piece of orange chicken, leering at her niece. Magenta made a face and turned the sink on, letting the food drop into the disposal in the drain.

“Back to the subject,” Aunt Viv began as she finished the last mouthful of fried rice.

“I’m just going to cut you off here because, frankly, I don’t want to hear about it,” Magenta spat, slamming a dish into the drying wrack.

“You didn’t let me finish earlier though!” he aunt argued. Magenta sighed and turned to face her.

“Fine, what?”

Aunt Viv grinned a little devilishly. “You like him too, don’t you?” She was practically gushing. Her face fell when she saw the disgusted look come over her niece’s pretty face.

“Ew. That’s kind of really gross, Aunt Viv.” Aunt Viv was on her feet now, wrapping up the last of their food and trying to fit it into their overflowing refrigerator.

“What? What’s gross about it? He’s a boy, you’re a girl, it happens…”

“Not to me. Boys are icky,” Magenta said petulantly, sticking her tongue out in a manner that matched her childish tone. Once again, Aunt Viv rolled her eyes.

“Just you wait, Mags. Boys are icky and gross now, but just you wait. And keep an eye on Neville. Something might just happen when you least expect it…” She finished with a grin. Magenta was about to protest ardently, but she was interrupted, not by her aunt, but a loud knock on the door.

Her aunt looked puzzled and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was nearly nine o’clock.

“Is Mickey coming over?” Magenta asked, curious at the odd hour this caller had chosen. Aunt Viv shook her head.

“No, he’s in Vermont with his sister,” she said as she made her way to the door. She leaned down and looked through the peephole located a few inches below eye level. The gasp that escaped her lips sent shivers up and down Magenta’s spine. She felt instinctively for her wand, which unfortunately was in her room. She frantically tried to imagine what lay on the other side of the door. Images of dark figures filled her mind, hooded men with dark intentions.

“Who is it?” she hissed as her aunt stood, feet frozen in place. Aunt Viv looked around at her as if only just realizing she was there. Shaking herself, she reached for the handle.

“See for yourself,” she said quietly as the door swung open.

Magenta joined her aunt before the door. Before them stood a man of about her aunt’s age, tall and sturdy. His skin was tanned and looked rough, the way it becomes after a long time spent in the sun. His dirty blonde hair was cut short and barely touched his pale eyebrows. His eyes were deep hazel beneath them. He was soaking wet, his red windbreaker dripping like the rain off of the gutter behind him. He shivered and sighed, gazing at the pair of women. Magenta’s mouth slowly fell open, and then shut again.

The three stared at each other without speaking for several long moments. Finally, the man broke the silent

“Vivian,” he said politely, nodding in Aunt Viv’s direction. The woman said nothing, but nodded back.

“And you… you must be Magenta. You probably don’t recognize me,” he added, inclining his head towards the dumbstruck teenager. Silence reigned again as her mind worked at quarter speed. Things were falling into place. The picture that still lay in the drawer of her night stand floated vaguely into her mind. She recognized this man very, very well.

“Hi… dad.”

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