Of Teacups and Rats; Candles and Books
A red car lurched up into the driveway, stopping two inches from the garage door. Lily Potter slowly unclenched her left fingers off the door handle. "I can't decide if you did that on purpose or not."
James grinned at her. "This was your idea. I said, 'let's floo in or even use Sirius's motorcycle,' but you said 'Nooo... you can practice your driving skills, plus flooing in will upset my sister whose the Mugglest Muggle of them all...'"
"If you're going to be like this, I'm going to leave you in the car with the windows up." Lily said, unbuckling her seatbelt. "Please be a little more serious, James."
"That's funny." James replied, full of innocence. "You generally want me to be less Sirius and more Remus."
Lily glared at her husband. "You have to behave. We both need a bit of a break from things, and this is important to me. She's not... she's not big on magic, but I need to talk to her. And I haven't met her new husband either." Lily smiled. " Maybe you two will hit it off."
"Is he a muggle too?"
"I presume that he is." Lily led her husband up the prim peony path, and stopped in front of the front door. "Petunia wrote that he just got a promotion in his drill company after Dudley was born."
"Drill company, huh." James noticed a curtain flick in a second story window, then turned back to the door. He squinted his left eye into the spyhole, getting so close as to pop the frames of his glasses against his nosebridge. "We oughta get one of these for Arthur's door. What do they do?"
"When you look through the other side, you can see who's standing out front without opening the door."
James opened his mouth to reply as the door swung open. A thin, mousy woman stared at him coldly. She cocked an eyebrow until James snapped his jaw shut.
Petunia slid the door open further, and let the couple into her house. "Mind your shoes." She ordered, pushing her way past James. Lily slipped off her own heels, and followed her sister into the kitchen. James pulled his own off slowly, and watched as the two women disappear around a corner. He did a quick scourgify spell, then watched as whatever dirt that had been on his soles evaporate into little light bursts of microscopic particles.
"What are you doing?"
James stood up quickly, his left shoe still in hand. "Just taking off my shoes." He grinned at a man just going to seed, dropped the shoe, and held out a hand. "James Potter, Lily's husband."
"Vernon Dursley." The other man sniffed, and took the proffered hand with the least amount of human contact possible for a handshake.
James pulled his hand back in, and followed the man toward the living room. Vernon plopped into an easy chair, while James sat on the couch next to a rather fat baby with chocolate smothered over his face. The infant looked once at the man, then rolled onto its side. His eyes glued back on the television. Chocolate wrappers littered the floor and cushion. "Well, aren't you a little Augustus TV?" James grinned.
"What's that, Potter?" Vernon asked.
The other man felt his ears grow red, "it's your son. He just reminds me of this book Lily once gave me when I was younger. You Mug- Bri - Engl- we Brits definitely have a perverse pleasure in reading about orphans and odd characters. Lily and my friend, Arthur, always have to explain certain things to me, except that Arthur gets it wrong half the time. For example, he once told me that washing machines were for washing machines." James chuckled over the memory, then noticed his unamused brother-in-law. "He's from... Canada. You know their warped senses of humor. All four of them."
"I don't read, Potter; I work. You work, Potter?"
"Ah, well, no. Not what you'd consider 'work.' I just recently came into my inheritance, and got married, and moved, so I'm sort of not working... presently." The room grew quiet. James looked at the other two, and found them staring at the television screen. He sat back against the uncomfortable couch, and began to stare as well. A game show flashed blinky lights as screaming housewives and US soldiers on leave filtered into his cerebellum, turning his brain into a mushy goo.
"Everything all right in here?" Lily sauntered into the room with a plate full of cookies and crackers. James looked at her blankly, the tv screen reflecting off his glasses. "Ooh boy," she said at the sight. "James, why don't you help me set the table?" He blinked a few times as he was pulled onto his feet. He went with his wife into the dining room, watching as his nephew mushing the cookies into the couch.
"I need to have a talk with Petunia." Lily said, pushing plates into James's arms.
"Are you sure?"
"She is my sister, James. She's the last of my family, and has her own family now. I'd like to know that's she'll be safe if anything were to happen."
"All right," James agreed, finishing the table with a few quick embellishments just as Petunia entered the room with a large roast on a platter.
Petunia looked at James for a second, then yelled at her husband."Vernon, bring Dudley-kins in, would you?"
The television's noise died suddenly in the other room only to be replaced by the squawking baby. A large rattling followed as Vernon entered the dining room pushing the television with Dudley riding atop. The man grew redder and redder at the exertion needed to move both set and boy, until he finally stopped it right in front of the dining table. "Dudley's favorite show is on in ten minutes." Vernon explained, plugging in the set as Petunia strapped the squirming not-yet-a-toddler into his highchair.
James blinked as Lily slammed a bowl of watery mashed potatoes into his hands. The television managed to drown out most of the conversation during dinner, while Dudley flung strained peas at the guests without reprisal. Miraculously, nothing hit the couple as they somehow flew at strange angles and hit the walls instead.
"Li'l Dudley-kins is such a delicate boy. He hardly eats anything at all." Petunia explained, dodging mashed potatoes. The television got impossibly louder as an used car advertisement blasted out of its speakers.
It roared until something in it "popped," and ozone filled the air. Silence filled the air for a good five seconds until Dudley finally began to scream. Lily kicked her husband hard under the table, while simultaneously explaining that they too had been effected by odd power surges. Vernon agreed wholeheartedly, cursing the electrical company, and gave the set a good kick of his own. The room finally settled down as Petunia packed Dudley back in the living room with a leaky bottle full of chocolate milk.
"So, Lily. What brings you here? It's been what? 5 years now?" Petunia asked.
"Well, first off, I wanted you to finally meet James here. We met at school, and have dated for a while now before getting married. I also wanted to meet your family. Time has sort of slipped away from us. And second. There have been some things that have come up recently.
"Is this about-" Petunia looked at her husband. "You-know-what?"
"Yes, Petunia. It is."
Petunia swallowed, then pushed her plate away. "Vernon, Dear. There are things that Lily and I need to discuss."
"Well, go on, then." Vernon replied testily.
"Lily and James have a certain... condition."
"They're not... normal. They can do-" she choked on an m. "magic."
"Magic?" Vernon exclaimed. "Like crystals and hippies and pulling eggs out of nostrils?"
"No, Vernon. Real magic."
Vernon dropped his fork, splattering gravy onto his tie. "You're looney, Petunia. Magic, indeed. Well, I won't have it. Not in this house!"
"It's true, Dursley. James said quietly. "Lily here is a witch, and I am a wizard."
The portly man turned to his wife. "Petunia, if you're anything like these two here-"
"No, no, I'm fine, Vernon. It's my sister who is 'different.'"
"She's NOT different." James exclaimed loudly. "She's perfectly perfect."
"How about we clear the dishes?" Lily offered, "then we can get on with desert. James, see if you can't 'fix' the television while we're gone." She started grabbing plates at random, and led her sister back into the kitchen. The two men were left gaping at anything but each other in the dining room.
Lily dropped the dishes into the sink as her sister began to wrap up leftovers. "We need to talk," she finally said.
"I will not talk to you about your charms and spells and other nonsense." Petunia spa back.
"Yes, you will," Lily ordered angrily. "There are things happening, Petunia. Very bad things that could get a lot worse. I know that we're not close, but you are my sister, and you have a right to know."
"Remember Uncle Harrison? Mother's older Brother? He spoke perfect French and German, so he joined the French Resistance in 1942 at the age of 14 and was dead within a year. There are things happening within the wizarding world. Dark, evil things." Lily wiped her hands on a towel, then retrieved a book and a candle out of her pocket. Petunia tried to ignore the size differential between when they were first taken out and when they were finally placed on the counter top. "This book will explain it all to you. Once you've read it, you'll know what to do if anything- if anything were to happen. There's a memory charm on it, so you only need to read it once. After you've finished, just bury it in uniodized salt, and it'll dissolve completely."
"But I don't-"
"Dammit, Petunia. This isn't a tea party. Just, please do as I ask."
The woman's sallow face grew white, her eyes dimming at her sister. "I knew it. I told everyone that you'd get into trouble. I warned our parents about this... this magic, and now you come here and tell me that something evil is lurking around, and simply because I'm your sister, that my family is now a target?"
"That's not what I mean! I- All I want is for you to read the book... And light the candle at the next new moon."
"Oh, is that all?"
"I promise that I won't ask you for anything ever again."
"Oh? And what happens when you have the baby, and then something bad were to happen?"
Lily jerked. "What did you say?"
Petunia set her teeth. "I said, 'what happensif you have a baby, and something bad were to happen?"
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did."
"No, you used a definite article instead of the indefinite." Lily gazed deep into her sister's weak irises. The other sister looked quickly away, and pulled a tea pot onto a burner.
Lily looked down at her feet, then back to Petunia. "For as much as you deny me, Petunia, we will always be sisters. I've been working on a few things these past few years. You see, I am a bridge between two disparate worlds. I've been researching Muggle genetic science as a way to bolster the Wizarding world. Both worlds have lived apart for far two long, and each has the ability to better the other in ways that I can't even begin to guess at. We can't go on living in fear of the other. What I've discovered is that Muggle families with spontaneous wizard offspring will often produce more wizards and witches in the future descendants until sometimes they begin to produce 99 magical offspring out of 100. As we share DNA, Petunia, your son has a good chance of being a wizard. A one out of six chance as it is. And if I were to give him a transfusion of my own blood, I can guarantee that he'll be getting a letter from a certain school 10 years from now."
"All I'm asking you to do is read the book, light the damn candle, and you'll never have to do another thing for me again."
"Fine!" Petunia yelled, grabbing the book and candle.
"Don't ever say those words again!" James wailed from the dining room. The two women looked at each other, then barged back into the dining room. James had his wand out and had it pointed at Vernon.
"Don't say what, Potter?" Afraid of a few words?" Vernon sneered back, his face twisted cruelly.
"If you weren't a Muggle, Dursley, I'd be well within my rights to curse you." James replied in a low voice.
"I'd like to see you try."
"Silencio!" James said. A purple mist seeped from the wand, and wrapped itself around Vernon's throat.
The room grew unearthly quiet outside of the newly fixed blaring television and a screaming Dudley from the living room.
Vernon was even more irate as he swatted at the fog clinging around his voicebox.
"James!" Lily scorned.
"I"ve had it, Lils." James turned toward his wife. "This- this Muggle is pompous and inconsiderate to his guests, and he keeps saying things that no Muggle has any right to be saying!"
Vernon, unable to respond to the charges verbally, stood there glaring at the wizard, fighting his compulsion to resort to physical violence.
Lily looked back at her horrified sister, the other woman unable to speak through bloodless, pursed lips. "Petunia, I must apologize. Just do what I asked, and I'll never bother you again." With that, she hugged her sister quickly, grabbed her husband's elbow with more pain than necessary, led him to the front door, looked at her nephew, then back at her sister, and finally released Vernon from the spell. "I do love you, Petunia." She said softly, and shut the door behind her.
The couple got into the car. Lily sat there fuming as James delicately drove away from #4 Privet Drive.
"Sorry." James finally mumbled once they were halfway home.
"Sorry? Sorry? I ask you to do ONE thing, and all you can say is 'sorry?' I was trying to save my sister's life, and you go and screw it all up! You're just lucky that I know my sister."
"I am sorry, Lil," James interjected. "But that Dursley-"
"I know that he's a bit of a Muggle. I wouldn't expect any less from Petunia-"
"He kept yelling the Killing Curse at me!"
"Why would he do that?"
"He just started doing it- yelling nonsensical words at me and laughing. Then he said the words, and I told him to stop, but he kept it up."
"The actual curse?"
"Well, no... but it was close enough."
Lily thought for a minute, then spoke up. "You let a Muggle with probably the least amount of magic in any Muggle upset you with the phrase, 'Abra Kadabra?'"
"That's it!" He exclaimed excitedly.
"You TWIT!" she responded.
"It's only been two weeks, Lillian!"
Lil breathed in deep. "Look, I know that it's been hard lately. Morganicus was my friend too. It was the reason why we came here. If Voldemort is targeting Muggle relatives like he did with Morganicus's family, then nobody's relatives are safe. Mine especially."
"I watched him die, Lil."
"I know; I'm scared too."
The car drove along the highway as the afternoon sun began to set before James spoke again. "So what spell did you use for your sister."
"One of Dumbledore's. It's sort of a cloaking spell- if it works, Dumbledore will use it on other Muggle families in danger. One of his better ideas. The closer you're related to a wizard or witch, the more protection it gives off. It won't protect you completely, but it'll make the family sort of fall off the map as long as there isn't any magic being performed near them."
"Guess I killed that, huh." James said, sounding contrite.
"It hasn't been done yet."
"So when are you going to?"
"I"m not- Petunia is."
The car lurched into the next lane then into the emergency lane before James regained control of the car. "What?" He managed to squeak out.
"I know that this might come as a shock to a Pureblood, but not everybody wants to be a witch or a wizard or any other magical entity. Look at Remus."
"But that's different."
"No, James. It's not."
"I never knew."
"Neither does she. Well, she won't admit it, at least."
Lily laughed guiltily. "I've manipulated my sister way too many times growing up. I used to change teacups into rats when I was underage, and then threatened to do the same to her."
"That's not possible- you'd've been expelled."
"I didn't really use actual wizard magic. It was good, old-fashioned sleight of hand trickery. And she fell for it every single time."
"I can't believe that you gave me all of that grief about Snape when you did the same to your own sister."
"Well, I'm not proud of it." Lily snapped back. "But I hope that it'll save her life. And she also doesn't know that she's the one to be doing the spell."
"Plus empty threats." Lily confessed. "It's a potion spell disguised as a candle. It took nine months just to create that candle, and all she has to do is light it. Once it's lit, the spell activates. One of my friend's better ideas. The best part is that since she's the one to do the magic required, nobody can trace it back to me."
"Are you sure that she'll light it?"
"Dare I ask?"
"I threatened to turn Dudley into a wizard using bogus wizard genetic grafting technology if she didn't comply."
"Great Merlin! I married a Slytherin!"
Lily laughed at the sentiment, then grew silent again. "There is one more thing, James."
He looked at his wife. "Only one?"
"Not going to lose control of the car?"
"I could turn on the autopilot. I wouldn't have put it past Sirius to have built it in. So- what's the big news?"
"I'm probably pregnant."
The car never quivered. James looked straight down the road. "Probably?" was all he asked.
"My sister told me."
"One of her talents that she claims not to have. She hasn't been wrong yet. Granted, she's only done it about three times that I know of." Lily looked at her husband. "James?"
"I'm a lot better now than I was five minutes ago."
"Lily, as long as the kid has your eyes, I'll be the happiest father in the world."