punk’s not dead
“I was always proper punk rock,” she warned him, narrowing her eyes lined in black.
“Yeah, Hazelnut,” Ares deadpanned back, “and I’m a proper classic violinist.”
With deft fingers, Hazel popped the tab of a soda can, took a swig, and then passed it to the boy behind her, their backs leaning together to keep their balance on the thin tree branch they were sitting on, her long brown hair with red streaks hanging over onto his shoulder. Ares took the can, did the same, and then passed it back without turning – and so it went.
Hazel and her cousin were currently hiding from their grandfather, who had wanted to take them out that day to go nargle hunting. Normally, this was an activity that she wouldn’t mind, but there was a Quidditch match on the wireless today, and the Chudley Cannons were playing so that meant that she couldn’t miss listening to it.
Sera passed by underneath the tree, and Hazel let out a low whistle so that her younger cousin snapped her head up to take in the older two sitting in a tree branch. “Granddad’s looking for you,” she informed them.
“Tell him we’re not here,” Hazel called back, stifling a burp by pressing a hand over her mouth before she passed the can over to Ares.
Sera didn’t seem inclined to be the messenger any longer, and the twelve year old began climbing the tree until she reached a branch several feet beneath the one that her two older cousins were perched in. “If you two aren’t going nargle hunting, then I’m not, either,” she declared. “He can take Gids or Ellie or Heath instead.”
Hazel shrugged, not particularly bothered who went with their grandfather as long as it wasn’t her or Ares, who was the cousin she found herself closest to. “Guess what I got from my Grandpa?” she muttered, twisting slightly to address the boy.
Ares flinched away, taking a sip of the soda, “Some mouthwash, maybe?”
Hazel rolled her aptly hazel eyes and turned on the branch, waiting for her cousin to follow suit so that they were side by side. Coyly, she pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and passed them to him proudly.
The boy picked up the pack and let out a low whistle. “Grandad just gave you these?”
“Not our Grandad,” she explained quickly, “I got them from my Grandpa – you know, the one in Italy. Well, he doesn’t know that I have them. Dad tried to get him to stop smoking the last time we were there, and he thought he succeeded, but really Grandpa just hid them all in a cupboard so I thought that I should, er, try out a pack.”
“Do you even know how to smoke?” Ares answered, lifting an eyebrow.
Hazel scoffed and snatched back the cigarettes. “Just wait and watch.” She lifted her voice, leaning over the branch slightly, “Sera Katrine, do you have a light?”
Thankfully, her younger cousin didn’t ask intrusive questions and instead tossed up the lighter she carried, which Hazel caught and passed to Ares. He rolled his eyes at her, but obligingly lit the cigarette that she held out to him. Making sure that he was watching her, Hazel lifted her chin high and placed the end of the cigarette in her mouth – and then promptly coughed.
Her cheeks reddened as both cousins (because Sera had lifted herself higher to get a view of the spectacle) began to laugh, and the thirteen year old irritably handed it off to the boy her age. “You try, then, if you’re such a daredevil,” she ordered, knowing that she couldn’t be the only one her age who couldn’t get the hang of smoking.
Unfortunately, with practiced ease (or at least the air of it), Ares took the cigarette and placed it between his lips, letting out a puff without any air of choking on the smoke. “You’ll get the hang of it too, Hazelnut,” he replied cheekily when he saw her looking in disbelief at him.
“Yeah, and then I’ll be better at it then you,” she countered, taking it back from his grip. Her gaze flitted to her youngest cousin on the lower branch. “You want to try?”
“No thanks, I don’t smoke,” Sera answered smoothly.
The question of then why do you carry a lighter died on Hazel’s tongue as she suddenly remembered exactly whose daughter Sera was, and she only nodded before she took another puff, trying to imitate her cousin – and, this time, she got it.
“Look at you, you’re all proper punk rock now,” Ares marveled as she passed him the cigarette and he passed her back the soda (because sharing spit was too common for them at this point for them to question it).
She swatted his shoulder, nearly unbalancing him from his place on the tree. “I was always proper punk rock,” she warned him, narrowing her eyes lined in black.
“Yeah, Hazelnut,” Ares deadpanned back, “and I’m a proper classic violinist.”
“No, what you are is a proper pain in the arse, you –“
Hazel was distracted from her half-hearted attempts to knock her cousin from the tree when she heard a voice calling them to lunch.
“It’s only Aunt Aud,” said Sera languidly, “She won’t find us.”
They remained still for a moment longer, smoking or drinking soda or otherwise sitting lazily into the tree until they heard a louder voice in place of Hazel’s mother.
“I know you three are up in that tree!”
“It’s Aunt Evie,” Hazel added quickly to the siblings as she quickly stubbed out her cigarette onto a tree branch (and nearly lit the whole thing on fire, which probably would have been to her aunt’s delight).
In a few minutes, most of which consisted over Ares and Hazel bickering over the soda and drinking the last of it to get rid of the smell on their breath, they were down from the tree, smiles plastered on, and perfectly apologetic when they explained to their Grandad that they’d just gotten lost and they were sorry that they’d missed nargle hunting with him.
“Do you really think that I’m not punk rock enough?” Hazel asked aloud miserably as she painted another coat of black polish onto her fingernails and wondered it if it came in a darker shade.
“Mmm,” replied Sera critically without giving a real answer yet, her eyes transfixed on Hazel’s closet.
She had lived in Lilyvale Cottage in Brighton for as long as she remembered, and it was barely half a block from the candy shop that her parents ran. Her father and uncles and most of her cousins were out fishing or whatever the ‘male bonding’ activity was on this fine summer afternoon, but she’d stayed back with her youngest cousin at home. The closet in her room had been magically expanded over the years as her frilly dresses and princess tiaras had been gradually swapped for ripped denim and edgy fringe.
“That’s not an answer,” Hazel said, waving a painted hand so that it would dry faster, “Ares talks a lot of shit, but I don’t think that he was joking.”
“You could wear his leather jacket more often. It would make you look edgier,” Sera suggested, quirking an eyebrow over her green eyes as she glanced at her cousin.
“Which one? He’s got, like, twenty,” Hazel sighed.
Sera paused, her fingers twitching on a pair of Hazel’s ripped black jeans. “Actually, I think he has six, but that’s alright, he doesn’t need any more.”
“In that case, I should probably tell Dad to return the one he got him for his birthday,” remarked the girl with the red-streaked hair, “but he already doesn’t like when I wear his leather jackets. Remember the last time I did?”
“That’s because you dyed your hair when you were wearing it, and it got all over his jacket,” Sera pointed out, shooting her cousin a backwards glance.
“And now he has an amazing red leather jacket instead of the dull black ones all the time,” Hazel answered, shrugging with her palms up.
Sera hummed a reply, her blonde hair falling in a curtain over her shoulder as she bent to study a pair of combat boots on the closet floor. “You could buy some of these with more studs or spikes or chains,” she suggested, clearly still progressing in trying to help her cousin become more ‘punk rock’ as she truly wanted.
“Maybe,” Hazel replied somewhat flippantly as she noticed the nail polish had finally dried on her fingernails. After bottling the polish back up and stowing it in a drawer, she added, “I don’t know why I’m asking you this. You always wear skirts, for Godric’s sake.”
“I don’t always,” Sera replied mildly, “Sometimes I wear dresses, too.”
Hazel suddenly sat bolt upright. “Sera Katrine, I’ve just had the most marvelous idea. We should dye my hair again!”
Rather than being as excited as Hazel had anticipated, Sera only turned her attention from the closet to fix her cousin with a confused look. “We could do that easier if we could use magic outside of school, or we’ll have to do what you did last time and use –“
“Muggle hair dye,” the brunette answered. “It worked last time, why shouldn’t it work this time?”
Unable to come up with a good reason to say no, Sera glanced at her cousin’s ripped t-shirt and shrugged. “Well, at least you’re not wearing Ares’s leather jacket again.”
Fortunately for Hazel, she remembered something that her father had told her about his old escapades with Uncle Jasper, when they’d turned Aunt Fee’s hair black. It was time for a change from the light brown locks streaked with red – she was going to prove Ares Evander Quinn-Nichols wrong. She was going to be the ultimate teenage punk rock queen.
That was why, after scavenging through drawers and concocting a mixture of various products, she sat in front of the sink in the bathroom, the door shut. Sera stood next to her, critically helping her brush in the goopy mixture from the yogurt container onto her cousin’s hair. “You’re sure it’ll work, Hazelnut?” she asked dubiously.
“Don’t call me that. And I’m positive,” Hazel answered, “and even if it doesn’t, well, at least I’ll look edgier than I did before.”
“Aunt Aud isn’t going to like this,” Sera added, but she didn’t let this stop her as she continued smearing the makeshift dye over Hazel’s smooth locks.
After waiting precisely an hour, Hazel washed the mess out of her hair, and stepped in front of the mirror to find herself with nearly jet-black hair. Caught off guard, she blinked at her reflection then grinned, hurrying off to get dressed.
“Well,” Sera Katrine added as she studied her cousin through observant green eyes, “You look more like Grandavey now, at any rate.”
This made Hazel pout and opt for the most ripped stockings, feathery earrings, and black leather clothes that she could find.
The aunts and her Mum and Grandmother were downstairs, making tea and talking about something or the other, but Hazel waited until the rest of her family returned home, stinking to high heaven (which confirmed her suspicion that they had gone fishing), and only then did she proudly step downstairs, her younger cousin trailing after her in anticipation.
There was a collective gasp of astonishment – except for Ares, who looked like he was trying to hide a smirk instead – and then her father burst out laughing.
“Hazel Jane Nyte, what on Earth did you do to your hair?” her mother gasped, putting aside the album of pictures that she had been looking at to come toward her (taller) daughter and place her hands on her hips. “Zach, stop laughing!”
Zachary Nyte would not stop laughing. “You look just like your Aunt Fee,” he managed through his chuckles.
Audrey narrowed green eyes at him, “You’re not helping.”
“Ares thinks it’s funny too. Look, you can tell.” Zach nudged his nephew gently with his elbow, and even the hidden smirk revealed itself on the teenager’s face.
Audrey threw her hands up in exasperation. “You two are useless. Dad?”
“I’m staying out of this one,” Grandavey said wisely.
“Dec?” Audrey whirled on her twin for support.
Declan surveyed his niece through the same green eyes of his sister and then gave a short nod. “The new look makes you look more bad-ass, kid,” he returned with a cheeky grin.
Audrey placed a hand over her eyes and sighed before she tugged on Hazel’s arm so that the girl would follow her mother into the kitchen, where Audrey led her to the sink and dragged a stool in front of it.
Hazel reluctantly took a seat and leaned back, her head in the sink, as Audrey turned the water on, scrubbed in some soap, and began murmuring incantations and moving her wand over her daughter’s hair. From the corner of her hazel eyes, the teenager could see Ares and Sera entering the kitchen side by side to witness the spectacle.
“Do you have anything to say about completely defacing your beautiful hair with so many awful chemicals?” Audrey asked her daughter.
Hazel fixed her gaze levelly on the older of the two cousins. “Punk’s not dead,” she retorted.
Ares finally laughed.
It was a busy day at Kitty’s Caramelle, which meant that Hazel’s parents were running back and forth working with customers, trying to keep their other employees productive, and making sure that the sugar soldiers didn’t keep trying to tear each other to pieces. This meant that there was ample time for Ares and Hazel to scheme about plans for the next school year. It was still midsummer, but the end was quickly approaching, and they needed a game plan.
“Since we get to go to Hogsmeade this year, we have to make sure to hit up Zonko’s,” she told her cousin as they sat side by side on the winding metal staircase that led up into the inventory attic.
“We’re going to get loads of detentions,” Ares observed.
“Yeah, but our parents won’t mind much,” she pointed out, “Didn’t they got loads of detentions back in Hogwarts?”
While they were busy considering if this was a true fact, a ghost floated from the attic and descended until it had sat beside Hazel on one side. “Oh, yeah. Your parents were up to no good,” he told the pair of children.
“Uncle Sean, I bet half the time it was you getting them into trouble,” Hazel replied with a laugh.
The ghost raised his hands. “Guilty as charged.” His pale eyes roamed her plain light brown hair. “What happened to the badass red highlights, Hazelnut?”
“I dyed my hair black, so Mum washed it out, but the red went right with it,” she replied miserably.
“Aw, and now you’re just Plain Jane.” Ares ruffled her hair.
Hazel swatted at his hand, “Hazel Jane. If you’re going to actually use my middle name instead of calling me ‘Hazelnut’ like you all are so fond of, at least get it right.”
“What are you two up to?” the ghost asked.
“We’re planning for next year. Hazelnut here,” Ares paused and smirked, savoring the taste of the name on his tongue even as his cousin shot him a venomous look, “wants to get even more punk rock, so we’re working on that. Also, we’re trying to figure out what to do during Hogsmeade weekends.”
“Honeyduke’s,” Sean’s ghost suggested immediately.
The cousins in unison gestured wordlessly to the candy shop.
“Ah, I guess you’re covered on that front,” the ghost replied bashfully before he added, “Try the Shrieking Shack, then – if you’re brave enough to.”
That prompted in-sync scoffs from the pair, who exchanged simultaneous glances. Sometimes it was difficult to remember that it was their parents who were twins and not the two of them.
“We’re Gryffindors,” Ares replied, “we can’t get scared of some rundown old shack, even if you tell us it’s full of, I dunno, vampires or something.”
“Yeah, we’ll just carry garlic. Or I can use Ares as a shield since he never brushes his teeth,” Hazel added.
He narrowed his green eyes slightly and jostled her by shoving his shoulder into hers. “My breath always smells like sugar.”
“In which case, you’ll get tons of cavities.” She smirked. “How are you going to get a girl to snog you now?”
“Ooh, you two are snogging people?” the ghost asked with a devilish grin.
“No!” Hazel whirled on him. “Uncle Sean, I’m just teasing Ares. No one’s snogged anyone. Don’t tell Dad.” She didn’t see her father as the overprotective sort when it came to his daughter, but she’d rather not put that theory to test.
“Alright,” Sean’s ghost stood and floated back toward the attic. “I’ll let you two plot on your own. But if you want my advice – don’t snog anyone for too long and then end up getting drunk with them, or you’ll end up married to them.” He disappeared back into the attic.
Ares gave his cousin a sideways glance. “Do you think he forgets that we’re only thirteen?”
“All the time,” Hazel decided. “Anyway, since we can go on Hogsmeade now and dates and stuff, I think that you should ask out Serena Greenway.”
“What?” Ares shot his cousin a wide-eyed look in surprise as color began to flood his cheeks. “Why would you say that?”
“Because, she fancies you,” Hazel replied in a sing-song voice.
“Shhh,” Ares ordered suddenly as an employee passed them on the staircase, carrying a box of cherry pops, “how would you even know that?”
“I’m her roommate. I can see her when she’s scribbling down ‘Mrs. Quinn-Nichols’ onto the corner of her parchment – not that she has,” she added quickly just so that her cousin’s ego wasn’t inflated to levels that she couldn’t shatter. “But, anyway, I think it’s a good idea. I can even help you out, if you want.”
Ares was silent a moment, and then he added, “We’ll see.”
Hazel knew what his tones meant, however, and she beamed at him, jostling him with her shoulder. “I’ll be your wingwoman, then. You just have to promise that you won’t go to the Shrieking Shack with her before you go with me.”
“Of course,” he replied smoothly before he changed the topic, “Anyway, we were still thinking of ways for you to assert your badassness, remember?”
“I’ve got one,” Hazel declared, “how about the next time someone says something rude about me to my face, I can deck them in the jaw instead of you hexing them, hmm?”
Ares murmured back something unintelligible, which Hazel strained to hear and then leaned in. She rolled her eyes when she made out his words. “Just because it was only twice doesn’t mean that he’s any less scared of you now.”
“Yeah, but at least he’ll still be scared of me if I ever face him in a dueling tournament,” Ares mused aloud quietly.
Hazel rolled her eyes. “Anyway, mission goal – be less protective. Let me be a badass on my own. Hit up Zonko’s and the Shrieking Shack with me, and get your girl. Anything I’m missing?”
He shrugged nonchalantly, which signaled to her that she’d gotten everything right, so she sighed and leaned against him, shoulders touching again.
Zach passed by them with a box in his hands, heading up the stairs. Frazzled, he barely noticed that the two were sitting on the staircase until he passed them and then he paused, turning. “Oh, Ares, Hazelbean – do you two want to finish off this batch of sugar soldiers? They’re all defective, and they’ve torn each other to shreds. I’ve got to figure out how to make a new, less violent batch.”
Naturally, with her Nyte genes of having a large appetite and their combined teenage metabolism that was envied by anyone older, the two heartily agreed and spent the rest of the evening spoiling their appetite for dinner by devouring the sweets instead.
“Yeah?” She turned and her cousin, from the doorway of her bedroom, blinked in surprise at the girl in a dress with simple braided hair. He’d seen her only the week before in the candy store, but she suddenly looked like a vastly different person.
“You’re dressed like Sera,” Ares pointed out.
She shrugged. “Being punk is pretty exhausting. I might start up again when the school year starts.
“What happened?” he asked.
Hazel sighed. “I miss my red streaks, and the ripped jeans, but I think it’s time for a bit of a change.”
“Well, I can’t say that I missed the raccoon eyes,” he remarked, picking up her eyeliner pencil.
She snatched it back huffily. “I’ll miss them. But, I dunno, this is third year. I’m a teenager now, I probably should change sooner or later. I don’t want to be the girl who no one takes to the Yule Ball because I refuse to wear dresses and I keep wearing studded boots.”
Ares quirked an eyebrow in amusement before he replied, “You had your rebellious teenage phrase before you even became a teenager, then.”
Hazel scoffed at him.
He tried again, “So what, punk’s really dead now?”
“Six feet under,” she replied.
“That’s a shame,” Ares replied, drawing out the last word with a long sigh, “I had a present for you.”
“Oh?” She eagerly looked at his arms, but he wasn’t holding anything. “What is it?” she asked suspiciously.
Ares shrugged off his leather jacket and held it out to her. She noticed that it was the one that she’d turned red that time when she’d dyed her hair while wearing it. “Put it on,” he prompted.
She did as he told and stared at her reflection in the mirror: floral white dress, red leather jacket on top. Not quite punk anymore, but still not quite airy – it was somewhere in between, just like Hazel Jane was.
“Not an awful fit,” Ares admitted somewhat grudgingly, because at this age, she was hitting her growth spurt while he was a year away from it, so they were the same height.
“I like it,” she admitted in return, “are you really going to give me your jacket?”
“Is punk dead?” Ares countered.
Hazel studied her reflection again. “Punk is still kicking,” she answered, lifting her chin as she strode toward the door.
“You want to go play Quidditch with our parents? They’re asking us to settle their old Hufflepuff against Gryffindor rivalry, which is rubbish because now they won’t even have even teams,” Ares inquired as he leaned against the doorframe, pointing backwards in a vaguely downward direction.
“Of course,” she answered at once, “we can’t let Uncle Dec and Mum win now, can we?”
“I suppose, for the sake of Gryffindor’s dignity, we’ve got to decimate them,” Ares agreed as they began down the stairs to the backyard.
“Oh, by the way,” she added as they proceeded, “Thanks, Daredevil.”