|Through A Glass Darkly
Author: EHWIES PM
Nothing's fair in love and war anymore. xx The sixth and seventh years. JPLE, MMSBRated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Drama - Lily Evans P. & James P. - Chapters: 30 - Words: 147,312 - Reviews: 497 - Favs: 328 - Follows: 385 - Updated: 03-23-13 - Published: 06-07-09 - id: 5119889
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
"It's simple, really," I'm trying to convince him, telephone cord caught loosely around my feet. "The girls worked it out with me last week—I'm not imposing on anyone, I swear—" but it's late night Monday as I'm breaking the news, so I know he doesn't believe me.
There's a sigh at the other end of the line. "Could you at least have let us know before boarding the train that we needn't pick you up? God—that owl you sent came in the middle of one of your mother's brunches. Dropped your letter right in Mr. Snape's salad—"
I suck in a quick breath. "You had Sev's father to the house? Are you barmy?"
I'm sitting on a rickety stool in the McKinnons' modest kitchen, marveling that their bought-this-morning telephone works in the house and wondering exactly when their daughter became attached at the hip to one Sirius Black—thoughts obviously far from the conversation. To be fair, Marlene's offer of room and board until August was generous, and she's the best in Gryffindor to turn to for a social overhaul. However, while I'm not in a position to be choosy, my first choice of constant summer companions wouldn't be the Marauders—a fact that Marlene seems to have disregarded.
"Your mother wanted to ask exactly how big this fight was between the two of you—you know how she gets." Dad's voice is tinny over the phone, but I can almost hear him shaking his head.
"It's big," I say shortly, uncrossing my legs (the cord still stubbornly around my ankle). "I'm not five anymore; you can't just set up a play-date and decide whom I'll be friends with."
"Have you met your mother, Lil?"
I tilt my head back in exasperation. "That's not the point. The Snapes actually came to the house? Has Eileen forgotten we're Muggles?"
Dad divulges, "Put on a fairly good show of it—you'd almost think she weren't a witch herself. Likely being polite, now that they know they won't be coming around anymore. But Lily, honey, if you've known for weeks, you've had ample time to call."
"The phones don't work at Hogwarts, Dad," I remind him. "Electricity and magic aren't compatible in high quantities, remember?"
"You still could have written," he maintains; then, changing tack, adds, "Pet would have appreciated the advance notice that you're not coming to the wedding."
I groan a little, quietly—I had been hoping to avoid this particular discussion. "Dad, Tuney didn't invite me to the wedding."
Dismissively, Dad retorts, "Just because you're not in the wedding doesn't mean she doesn't want you at the wedding—"
"I see no reason why I should come to watch her lord her intolerance over me. If she'd rather have that absolute hag, Linda Baker, as her maid of honor…" I break off disgustedly.
"Linda's not a hag, Lily, she's a perfectly nice girl," replies Dad placidly. (I roll my eyes.) "Anyway, I see no reason why you should run off to Scotland for the summer over a petty fight and a bit of offense."
I drum my fingers halfheartedly on the countertop, imagining his face—stoic but soft, with a genial smile. "My fight with Sev wasn't petty, Dad, it was a long time coming… Tell Mum I'll think about it, okay? It's on July—sixteenth, was it?" I concede after a pause.
"Eighteenth," he corrects, self-satisfied. "You'll be back in England by then, I hope?"
"I'll…" I tally weeks quickly. "I don't think so, but it shouldn't matter. We have Floo powder, things like that—I'm sure I'll pop in and out of England all the time; almost everyone at Hogwarts lives there, anyway."
"All right," Dad accepts. "I still don't see why you're spending half your summer hiding at the other end of the U.K., but—"
There's a sudden crack of thunder that nearly rattles the house, and I hasten to hang up. "I'm in the Wizarding world, Dad, everything's globalized for us. Look, I've got to go, we're having a lightning storm. Love you."
I set the phone in its cradle and reach down to disentangle the cord from my ankles. What Dad doesn't realize, for all his good intentions, is that I'm not denying but rebuilding. People aren't supposed to alienate you just for choosing a Slytherin, and that Slytherin isn't supposed to call you a Mudblood and cut your ties together. It almost makes me regret rejecting the other Gryffindors all these years—not quite, but just enough to take Marlene up on her surprising offer to house me for the holidays, if only for a chance to get away from Spinner's End and maybe make up for all that lost time.
Another thunderbolt jolts me from my reverie, and I start towards the bedroom that I'm to share with Marlene for the next month and a half. She's sprawled across one of the cots, reading, when I push the door open a couple centimeters and peer inside. "Hi," I say to announce my presence, sidling awkwardly into the room.
Marlene glances up. "Hey," she says lazily, turning the page. "So did your sister take the news well?"
"Honestly, I don't think she was fazed by it; it's more my mother I have to look out for," I admit, glancing around the bedroom. It's small but not especially cozy; the walls are covered in Quidditch posters, and I'm a little nervous about sleeping in a room with so many pairs of watchful eyes. "They're not making me go home, but I might have to go to the wedding—probably not the reception, though, since Tuney won't want me around all her friends."
Marlene laughs a little under her breath. "If it's that bad, just go to spite her, Lily. I could ask Black to go with you, make a big scene."
"I think I'll pass, but thanks for the offer," I decline, smiling. "I don't hate my sister that much. So what do we have planned for tomorrow?" I add offhand, unlocking my trunk and rummaging inside for pajamas.
"Staying here, I think," says Marlene sheepishly. "We were going to go to Pete's, but he had to cancel last minute—he'll still be coming over with the others, but his parents had something come up and didn't want us there unsupervised."
I shrug mildly, grabbing a clean pair of pajamas and my dressing gown. "No, no, it's fine, don't worry about it," I insist distractedly, tugging open my robe. "What time will everyone be coming over?"
"Er… well, I said quarter after eleven in case you want a few hours to get ready, but knowing J and Black in particular, it could be anywhere from nine to noon," replies Marlene idly, flipping another page. "How late do you sleep in on holiday?"
I murmur, "Not too late; I probably won't be up by nine, though." There's silence for a few minutes as I change and Marlene makes progress on the novel, until I flop down on my own cot and turn on my bedside table's lamp. "How's the book?"
"Decent," she muses. "Just a romance my mum recommended—you wouldn't believe how inappropriate her tastes can get, honestly." (I suppress a thought about exactly how much of those tastes Marlene inherited.)
"Sounds like my mother," I mutter, "but she usually passes her library stock on to Tuney. You read much?"
Marlene shrugs. "A bit. Nothing heavy." She slides in a bookmark and tosses the book onto the nightstand between us. "Think we should turn in? It's going on eleven."
"Yeah, all right," I consent, peeling back the covers. A moment passes, then Marlene blows out the dim candle and all is quiet.
I'm startled when she speaks, thinking she'd long ago fallen asleep; her voice is far too soft, too—penetrating, in a way. "I know why you're here."
She pauses, waiting, but I'm cautiously motionless, making sure to keep my breaths even. "I know Snape finally hit a nerve—why it took so long for you to ditch him is beyond me—but you need people more than people need you, and that's all right, since it's not like people hate you because of him. But look, Lily, just because you haven't gotten close to anyone for five years doesn't give you an excuse to feel above us—and I know what kind of reputation the Gryffindors have. Arrogant snobs, right?"
I don't reply, half to not discuss it and half because it's true.
"But we're not just—we've got secrets, all right? Big ones. You think you know us girls because we share a dormitory, but—I'm sure you were at least a little surprised to see this house, right? And that's just the tip of the iceberg." Marlene draws a breath, lets it out shakily. "I don't want to lecture you, so—don't be so quick to judge, yeah?"
The question is still hanging when I fall asleep.
It looks to be early when I wake up—only a faint gleam of sunlight trickles in through the uncovered window, and there's a soft, constant snoring coming from something in the room. It takes a minute for me to realize that it's Marlene, as I've momentarily forgotten where I am; I've never spent the holidays away from home before. Shaking myself out of my reflections, I slide out of the cot and reach into my trunk for my dressing-robe and slippers; donning these, I leave the room, quietly shut the door behind me, and promptly start singing on my way to the kitchen—it's a longtime summer-morning habit that I've never bothered to break.
The tune in my head is a recent single by the name of "Moontrimmer", popular at Hogwarts in the last month more for its beat than for its lyrics—and its wide range makes my voice crack repeatedly as I rummage through the McKinnons' pantries, looking for cereal and utensils. "I get lost in the astronomical space between you and me," I bellow as I give up upon finding a stack of Chocolate Frogs and start to unwrap one. "Like the shining sea, but we'll Banish the Kelpies if you'll only come Moontrimming for—POTTER!"
I've glanced over my shoulder and spotted a fairly unwelcome face. "Don't you just love The Peverells?" he asks, unbidden, from where he's leaning in the doorway.
I realize that the Frog has jumped out of my hands and now is leaping, unfettered, across the counter. Recognizing my company, I scramble to tie my dressing-robe tighter.
"Merlin, Red, I'm not going to molest you," laughs James Potter.
"Potter," I acknowledge, blushing a little. "Wait—Red?"
"I'm trying out new nicknames. It suits you—the red hair and all, I mean," he says cheerfully.
He's dressed as an obvious pureblood, though he's taken off the school hat and exchanged black robes for midnight blue—a kind of cross between standard and dress robes, for they lack the cuffs necessary for formal occasions—and he looks scattered, his hair extra-messy and glasses askew, like he's stumbled out of bed too early in the morning.
I roll my eyes. "I wasn't expecting you yet. What time is it?"
"Ten to eight," replies Potter promptly, stepping into the kitchen. "Aren't you going to get that?"
"Get wha—oh," I realize, then turn around and grab hold of the Chocolate Frog hopping dangerously close to the edge. "Marlene said you wouldn't be here until after eleven."
He smiles and shuts the door behind him. "Did she mention that I like to be early?" Without waiting for an answer, he adds, "The breakfast food's on the far left, if you're looking for it."
"Thanks," I mutter begrudgingly, reaching in for a box of "Common Welsh Greens—Your Daily Crunchy Vegetable Staple, Now With Thirty Percent More Spice!" and a bowl. "You come here often, then?"
Potter shrugs. "Every week or two since fourth year—in the summer, that is. Your first visit, I'm guessing?"
I nod, looking for milk. "Cold drinks go in the—"
"Icebox," Potter finishes for me, grinning. "Not that there's any ice in it; Cooling Charms work so much better."
"Of course," I say, more to myself than to him. "I'm so used to the refrigerator…"
"You don't get out very much, do you?" Potter interrupts as I find the jug of milk. I turn around and stare; he blinks. "Just, you know, since all Wizarding houses use iceboxes instead of refrigerators. No electricity and all…"
I grab a napkin and agree haplessly, "Guess not."
He lets me chew in silence for a minute. "Marlene still in bed?" he asks finally, when I'm already half-done.
"Yeah. How long have you been here?"
"Not too long, er…" Potter pauses to think. "Maybe ten minutes before you came in here? Wasn't too boring until then; I brought a book."
I raise my eyebrows. "Since when do you read for fun—since when you do read at all?"
His laughter fills up the tiny room. "It's Quidditch Through the Ages, not the Apocalypse." I tilt my head in consideration, then drain the remaining milk and crumbs and bring the bowl to the sink. When I turn to leave the kitchen, Potter's looking at me intently, his brow furrowed. "I thought you hated me, Red."
"It's Evans," I correct softly. I lower my eyes and gently push past him to the door. "I never hated you, Potter," I mumble before stepping gratefully out into the hall.
"So are we friends, then?" he calls after me, right on my tail.
I burst into the living room and throw myself in an armchair, where he can't scoot in next to me. "What makes you think you know me well enough to be my friend?" I retort, starting to get annoyed.
"I know you have Common Welsh Greens every morning because you hate vegetables but want the nutrition in them," Potter blurts out, sitting on the loveseat across from me. "I know you're one of the few students at Hogwarts who enjoys History of Magic. I know you've been friends with Snape since you were eight—"
"Don't talk to me about Snape," I spit venomously.
Potter visibly pulls back, away from me. "I know you're here because of him," he adds softly.
I exhale shakily, taking a second to compose myself. "None of which you heard from me," I insist.
"Then let me get to know you."
I fidget uncomfortably and eventually meet his eyes. "I should go get dressed."
The intensity dies down; Potter grins genially again. "But you're so much more attractive wearing outgrown pajamas and hair looking like—that." I touch my (undoubtedly frizzy) hair self-consciously; he smirks in response.
I suggest, less than threaten, that he not do anything stupid, and I all but sprint out of the living room. Retreating down the hall to Marlene's, I hear Potter pick up the song in a disjointed alto: "So won't you say with me, Reducio! To the astronomical space between you and me…"
I take as long as I reasonably can to get ready for the day. Wizarding though Potter's clothes may be, I opt for my more comfortable attire—jeans and an Appleby Arrows T-shirt—before painstakingly setting to work on brushing my hair. It's a lengthy task even without my purposeful lack of speed, given that it's so thick and tangled. About fifteen minutes into the task, Marlene stirs in her cot and promptly buries her head under the pillow.
"G'morning," I say, though it's less a cheery greeting than a snarl as I yank fruitlessly at an especially stubborn knot.
She rolls on her stomach. "Five more minutes, Mum," she mutters—quietly, with her mouth now pressed up against the mattress.
"That's Lily to you," I correct her casually, "and you'll want to go say hello to your guests; Potter has been here already for at least half an hour."
"Half an hour?" moans Marlene half-irritably, half-incredulously. "It's got to be…"
I reach around my cot for the nightstand and grab my watch. "Half-past nine. Nearly an hour, then, and Black might have shown up in the quarter hour I've been here, too."
"So you're hiding from J?" Marlene asks dully, now having resigned herself to awakening and dragging herself off the cot. "I'll apologize on his behalf if he said anything grossly inappropriate. Merlin, I said after eleven…"
"In your defense as a hostess, you did warn me they'll probably get here early," I say with finality. "Hopefully you have an extra brush; I might be occupied with this one for a while."
She nods, glancing at me fully. "Arrows suck," she comments offhand of my apparel. "Everyone knows the Magpies are the most successful team in the league."
"Not everyone takes a regional interest in supporting Scottish teams, Marlene," I retort. "I thought you Scots wanted devolution, anyway, not centralization by taking over the country."
I shake my head and yank hard on the brush. "Muggle politics. I forgot for a minute that no one in the Wizarding world keeps up with it. Do you even know who the Prime Minister is?"
"Don't know, don't care," shrugs Marlene, throwing open her dresser drawer (she'd unpacked last night when I was on the phone with Dad). After a pause, she closes it. "On second thought, everyone coming sees me more often in PJs than not. Try to be quick, yeah? I won't abandon you with J again, swear."
"Yeah, all right," I agree over my shoulder as she leaves the room with a little wave.
After another fifteen minutes of battle with the brush, I give it up, not wanting to keep Marlene waiting (however much I may want to avoid Potter), and take it with me back into the living room. Black is here by now, though I can hardly see him from the other side of the Daily Prophet he has open. I skim the headline with dread: "MINISTRY REPORTS DEATHS OF ANOTHER THREE MUGGLE-BORNS."
"Voldemort again?" I ask, curling up in the same armchair, patterned-pink and overstuffed, as before. I would dread the answer if it weren't so inevitable.
Black nods, not looking up. "Morning, Evans," he greets gruffly, flipping the page.
"Red," acknowledges Potter simultaneously.
"Evans," I tell him in vain. From her seat next to Black on the couch, Marlene dismally fails to pass off her laugh as a cough.
Surprisingly, it's nice, just sitting. Students don't leave their dormitories at Hogwarts without dressing for school first, so the casualness of the day sets a more comfortable, less avoid-Gryffindor-housemates-at-all-costs, atmosphere—even if I am in the room with the two Marauder ringleaders. Potter keeps watching me out the corner of his eye, though, so I eventually break the silence to ask Marlene, "Anyone else coming?"
"You're morphing into quite the social butterfly there, Red," comments Potter unnecessarily.
Warningly, I spit out my surname again.
Black promptly sneezes all over the Prophet.
This time not bothering to keep her laughter to herself, Marlene replies, "Lupe and Pete, plus Mary if she can find a way to come out."
She's referring to Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and Mary Macdonald, all Gryffindors. "Why wouldn't she be able to?" I ask distantly.
"Doesn't live near enough to anyone hooked up to the Floo Network," says Marlene, passing Black a box of tissues to clear his mucus off the paper.
I nod, pursing my lips. "It'll probably be another couple hours before Lupin and Pettigrew arrive, then."
"Mmh," mumbles Marlene, glancing over Black's shoulder at the paper that he's now resumed reading.
"So it's just us for now?" I press, borderline desperate.
"Mmh," she repeats.
Potter looks entirely too thrilled about this; Black (and Marlene, for that matter) remain unresponsive, engrossed in the Prophet. Sighing, I draw my knees together and brace myself for a longer morning than I had hoped for.
Gradually, the others trickle in. Pettigrew Flooes in around ten, a little before Marlene's family starts to come out of the woodwork. By the time Lupin appears in the hearth, the little house is bursting at its seams: besides him and the five of us, Marlene's—count them—parents and four siblings are crammed together in the kitchen across the hall.
"Bit loud in here," is Lupin's first comment as he stumbles out of the fire. "I was going to suggest turning on the WWN, but that might not be the best idea…"
He is greeted by a chorus greetings and mixed reactions to the idea, cultivating in Marlene darting into the kitchen and turning on the Wizarding Wireless Network full-volume. Black and Potter cheer, while the rest of us grumble to ourselves.
"Fancy seeing you here, Lily," Lupin says to me after the chaos has somewhat dissipated. "Did Marlene drag you in here without telling you about Prongs first?"
I blush faintly. "Staying here for the summer, actually—well, until August, anyway."
"We'll all be seeing a lot more of you, then?" continues Lupin, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly upward—probably at the notion of keeping Lily Evans in close proximity to the Marauders for a month and a half.
Marlene answers before I have the chance. "I'll see to it that you will," she cuts in with a self-satisfied smirk. "Budge up, Black, don't leave Lupe just standing there…"
"But it's so much healthier for him to be on his feet," Potter comments, looking a little squashed himself with Pettigrew on the loveseat. Lupin rolls his eyes and perches gingerly on the edge of the couch.
It's a bit slow going, since I don't really fit into their long-established group dynamic. I catch Pettigrew's occasional empathetic look—I don't mind it, as he looks to be just as out-of-place as I am. When Black decides a while later that it's time for lunch and everyone parades into the already overcrowded kitchen, I see Pettigrew fighting his way towards me, but Lupin beats him to the punch.
"You look a little lost," he provides, falling into step beside me.
I smile weakly. "Your lot is a handful," I agree, understating. "And I only really know Marlene well."
"Need a diversion to get some fresh air?" I blink incomprehensively back at him; he chuckles. "With a prank, I mean. Merlin, and to think that they didn't make you prefect, not even recognizing a scheme when you're invited to help with one…"
"Think I'll pass on the diversion—I don't want to be rude to Marlene—but thanks for the offer," I decline awkwardly.
Lupin shakes his head. "I'm still getting you out on the patio for lunch. I'm getting a little claustrophobic myself, and that takes a lot for me."
"Whatever you say…"
"So passive. Come on, let's go outdoors," mutters Lupin, mostly to himself, but he turns to me and grins nonetheless.
He opens the sliding door leading out to the deck, and I follow him outside, two of Mrs. McKinnon's sandwiches in tow. The house may be small, but the neighborhood is cozy, the yard richly floral. There's no more than a couple meters between any of the trees, and the patch of garden on the side of the house is spilling out of its picket fence. "Nice out here," I remark.
"Mum's big on nature," interjects Marlene unexpectedly; I glance back toward the house and realize that she's come out with us—she seems to have spilled out of the overflowing kitchen. She adds over her shoulder to Potter, who's trying to follow her out, "Stay inside, J, you look far too conspicuous to be out here." To us: "Muggle neighborhood. Keep it in mind while you're outdoors."
"Let me guess: Potter's recent nickname fascination was inspired by you," I suggest to her.
Lupin's forehead creases in confusion. "What—"
"Red," I intone darkly, glaring in the direction of the house.
Marlene laughs. "He's been calling her Red all day," she informs Lupin. "For all our sakes, I'm going to hope it's just a phase."
I continue to seethe, tearing through my sandwich. "Reckon you passed all your O.W.L.s?" asks Lupin, lowering his voice.
"Hopefully," says Marlene nervously, through a mouthful of cheese and lettuce. "I know I bombed History of Magic and Arithmancy—why I ever let Alice talk me into Arithmancy is beyond me—but as long as I survived Herbology, I'll be all right."
"I love Arithmancy," I pipe up, unbidden. Marlene rolls her eyes. "You want to be an Auror, right?"
"Mmh," confirms Marlene. "I need five N.E.W.T.s—I'm doing the core classes. You?"
"I want to get in the Department of International Magical Cooperation—but just in case, I want to have a solid background in more than the requirements."
Marlene shrugs noncommittally—she's never been too interested in my History of Magic line of study. "And Lupe?"
We both turn expectantly to Lupin, who blanches. "I'm—not sure yet," he admits; we let him leave it at that.
My mind is stuck on Marlene's choice in occupation—and the implications thereof. "So Lupin—"
"You can call me Remus, Lily, Lupin is far too stuffy."
"Or Lupe," puts in Marlene thickly (she's chewing again).
"Or Rem," Lupin concludes triumphantly.
I smile, even though it's hard to think of him as anything but Lupin. "Remus, then—did you read about the latest killings?"
Lupin darkens considerably. "You'd have to live in a hole not to; it's all anyone talks about these days," he says grimly. "The Muggles are baffled; wizards don't officially exist in their world, you know. Even Muggle-borns—wiped right out of the government records once they're enrolled in Hogwarts."
"You have any Muggle ancestry?"
"My mother," he affirms. "Dad's worried sick about her, and it gets scarier every day…"
He breaks off, touches a hand to his forehead, and finishes off his sandwich. Marlene, too, has gone quiet, tracing along the rim of her plate. For only a moment, I reflect on what they're starting to call war—but it reminds me too much that I should have stayed home, so I quickly toss my napkin on my plate and head back inside.
The song from earlier—"Moontrimmer"—is playing on the WWN again when I enter the kitchen. Potter catches my eye, and to my surprise, I don't feel the urge to call him out on his immaturity when he yanks Black out of his chair and starts to dance, sneaking glances at me all the while.
A/N: Beta'd August 6th, 2009.