Author's Note: I definitely have quite a few people to thank for this story... KD, Hazelmist, blondy143girl, and my friend Liz. These guys helped me edit this story and check for all of the holes in every way possible - thank you SO much for all of your help!
As for the story, I have to admit that for some of the highly impatient, this first chapter might seem slow, but it's also necessary for the plot... The second chapter definitely picks up, though!
Enough of my babbling - on with the story!
The Curtain Call
Chapter One: Bennett Theater
Mr. Potter lowered his wand and turned around slowly. With a sigh of annoyance escaping his lips, he raised his eyebrows at his son. "What is it, James?"
The bouncing boy circled the new desk they had just levitated into Mr. Potter's study. He jumped into the chair behind his desk and spun around in it several times before realizing he had not asked his question. In his excitement, he ran to his father. He grabbed his wand arm and hung onto it. "How far is Sirius' house from here?"
The large, red vase that Mr. Potter had just levitated out of the large, brown box dropped to the floor with a smash. With an audible gasp, James quickly jumped off of his father's arm, realizing he had been the reason his father's wand connection with the vase had been broken.
Mr. Potter held a hand up to his eyes and covered them as he tried to calm himself. He shook his head and dropped it onto his chest in a defeated manner. No wonder he had been losing so much hair recently. And he could have sworn he saw a gray spot yesterday…
Mr. Potter moved backward and sat wearily on the corner of his desk and said, "James, you can't walk to Sirius' house anymore." Mr. Potter sighed and gestured weakly to the fireplace outside of the room. "The Floo Powder is sitting on the mantle," Mr. Potter calmly told him, trying his best not to shout. "But make sure you invite Sirius to our house, this time," Mr. Potter reminded his son. And in a softer voice, he muttered, "I don't want an 'accident' like there was the last time you went to the Black's house..."
James pushed his glasses up his nose and ran from the room. Waiting for at least a minute until Mr. Potter was sure that James had left the room, he bent over the vase that James had accidentally broken. He lifted his wand and whispered, "Reparo," and it repaired itself, looking brand new. As he levitated the red vase again, he frowned, searching for a spot to put it.
"Right here, dear."
Mr. Potter spun. His wife stood in the doorframe with her hip jutting out to the side and a deep look of concentration etched across her face. Her glasses were pulled down to the bridge of her nose as she looked over them.
She tugged at her long, black hair as she thought, pointing to the spot she had suggested for the vase to be placed. Mr. Potter found the location that his wife had pointed out: a small table near the corner of the room. He flicked his wand and the vase moved to the location, gently sitting it down on the surface. With a smile, he leaned over it and magically filled it with a large bouquet of assorted flowers. Mrs. Potter bent over the flowers and smelled them.
"Does that work?" Mr. Potter asked his wife, taking her hand. He pulled her further into the room and wrapped an arm comfortably around her waist so they were standing beside each other, hip to hip.
"As long as you remember to change the flowers before they die," Mrs. Potter smartly reprimanded her husband. She turned to look at him straight on with her hands on his shoulders. "I can't tell you how many times I've walked into your office to serve tea when you have a visitor from the Ministry, and I find all of the flowers hanging over the edge of the vase, dead."
Mr. Potter hugged his wife with a laugh. "I'll try to remember that next time, then."
"It doesn't work."
The two parents looked at each other in confusion. But after realizing that neither of them had said anything, they inwardly groaned. Slowly, as if they were bracing themselves, Mr. and Mrs. Potter turned to the door and found James holding a wooden box upside down in the air.
Mrs. Potter let out a small sigh and let her head fall onto her husband's chest.
"James," Mr. Potter spoke calmly, "what did you do with all of the Floo Powder that was in that box?"
James scratched his head. He looked up and immediately cringed at the sight of his parents hugging each other. "Ew – dad! That's disgusting!"
Mr. Potter's face was slowly heating up in anger. His wife sighed and moved away from him after taking off her glasses and massaging her temple.
Mr. Potter moved slowly towards his son. "Where's Sirius?" He pointed to the wooden box in James' hands and put both hands on his waist. "What happened?"
"It didn't work," James said again. "I threw the powder in the fire, but nothing happened."
It finally occurred to Mr. Potter what was wrong. They had just moved into the house; their Floo Network had not yet been activated.
He groaned and started to walk to the back of the room, pulling at his hair. Mrs. Potter, who had also figured out the problem, brought her hands up to her face and shook her head, trying not to let her husband see her smile of amusement.
"So I threw another handful in," James continued explaining, "and it still didn't work." He frowned as he looked into the box as if the Floo Powder had been defective. "So then I threw another - "
"James," his father cut him off, seconds from losing any patience he had left, "did you throw all of our Floo Powder into the fire?"
"Well – yeah, I did," James shrugged. He looked up at his dad with wide, innocent, hazel eyes and held the box up to him. "I think we need more."
Mrs. Potter readjusted her glasses quickly, swooped in before her husband could, and took the empty box from James' small fingers. "I'll refill that – don't get so upset; he's only eleven," she reminded her husband. "And he doesn't know."
"Doesn't know what?" James quickly asked as his eyes darted back and forth between his parents. He was not one to be left out on secrets, and found it highly insulting that his parents chose not to inform him of something. The moment his mother apparated from the room, James' large eyes focused on his father. "What didn't you tell me?"
"James," Mr. Potter said as he pulled up his chair behind his desk to sit in front of his son, "our Floo Network doesn't work because your mother and I chose to move into a Muggle home. A Muggle neighborhood," he added on.
His son's jaw dropped. "Nuh uh," he said in his high voice. And then suddenly, as if their family had been shunned, shouted, "Dad – we're pureblooded wizards!"
"That doesn't mean we can't live with Muggles!" his father explained quickly as if he were making an excuse. He took his son by the hand. "We all share the same world – we don't have to leave them completely out of our lives! Besides," his father added, poking his son in the center of his chest, "I think it'd be good for you to get comfortable with both worlds. That's something I wish I had been able to do when I was just a boy," he reminisced.
James made a face. "No way," he said in a very childlike manner, "I don't wanna hang around a bunch of Muggles just because you fancy them!" He tried to get his hand free from his father's grip but froze with a panicked look in his eyes. "Wait – can I still fly my broom in the backyard?"
Mr. Potter's apologetic face said it all.
"I can't?" James shouted. He looked like he was on the verge of tears. Flying his broom was the one thing he did every day and felt he couldn't live without. "But dad - "
"Look, James, we're all going to have to make some sacrifices, here," Mr. Potter said.
"What sacrifice are you making?" James asked sourly. "You would gladly live with Muggles – what about me?"
"I'm sorry if it's not perfect, but you'll have to learn how to cope with Muggles sooner or later; I would prefer it sooner," Mr. Potter said with a note of finality. "I was sheltered from the Muggle life all through Hogwarts, and was in for a big surprise when I fell into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry as an Auror, James. I have to deal with Muggles almost everyday! Even after taking Muggle Studies at Hogwarts, it was still a shock. Trust me," Mr. Potter patted his son on the shoulder sympathetically. "It's the best thing for us all."
"Dad," James tried to argue one final time, "there's gonna be nothing to do around here!" He crossed his arms and began to pout like he did every other time that he was upset. "That's not fair!"
"Give it a chance!" Mr. Potter raised his voice, beginning to grow upset that James was not open to change. "Here," he finally said, patting the sides of his robes. He stuffed his hand into his right pocket and pulled out a key. Grinning, he stood and threw an arm over James' shoulder and walked him out of his study. The pair walked into a kitchen full of empty boxes.
"Honey!" Mr. Potter shouted through the empty house. "James and I are going for a drive!"
James looked at his father with unmasked horror. He discreetly moved toward the kitchen table and circled it so that he was on the opposite side as his father. "You're joking, right?"
Mr. Potter looked at James with a smile. "No, I'm not joking." Pulling out his wand, Mr. Potter shot a spell at his son and himself that quickly changed their wizard robes into Muggle outfits.
James stared at the clothes he was wearing. A pair of jeans hung loose on his hips and covered his brand new sneakers. A large t-shirt enveloped his small torso, giving the appearance that James looked smaller than he was. With horror, James pulled at the front of his t-shirt to find it stretched out to arm length without any resistance. "These clothes don't even fit, Dad…"
Mr. Potter ignored him and took a deep breath and shouted again. "Honey?"
Mrs. Potter apparated in front of her husband holding their wooden box filled with brand new Floo Powder. She raised an eyebrow at both Muggle outfits, particularly James' outfit, unable to hide her smile. "Where are you going?" she asked, tossing her hair over her shoulder. She eyed James with curiosity when she noticed that he was too afraid to let go of their kitchen table.
"We're going out for a drive," Mr. Potter said with a bounce in a step. He kissed his wife on the cheek and pushed James toward the front door. "Bye!"
"Have fun," Mrs. Potter said with a smirk.
"Mum," James called to his mother, trying to return to the kitchen, "you can't be serious – you're letting him drive?" James reached out to dig his nails into their walls as his father easily dragged him out of the door by grabbing a hold onto the back of James' large shirt. "He could kill me, Mum!"
Mrs. Potter laughed to herself and waved as her two boys left the house.
"Oh, would you stop overreacting!"
Mr. Potter leaned over to the seat beside him and merrily ruffled James' messy, black hair.
"Keep your eyes on the road!" James shouted at the top of his lungs. Sweat poured down his pale face. He closed his eyes and clutched the arms of the chair he was sitting in. His knuckles turned white.
Mr. Potter came to a slow, easy stop off to the side of the road. He put the car in park and sat back in the comfy, leather seat. James did not move for several minutes. When he realized they were parked for good, James finally opened his eyes and Mr. Potter was grinning down at him.
"This," he said, patting the dashboard of the car, "is a Muggle item. Within a few years, your mother and I intend on teaching you how to drive as well." He smiled and unbuckled his seat belt before opening his door. "I only wish my parents would have let me learn to drive a car when I was younger; it comes to your advantage every now and then."
James shook his head at his father and scrambled out of the car as quickly as he could. He pulled up his pants, furious with his father for not only giving him clothes that didn't fit, but for also making him leave the house wearing the clothes. James started to mutter softly under his breath, wishing his father heard every word that he said. "I think your parents were smart not to let you go anywhere near Muggle objects…"
Mr. Potter ran from his side of the car over to his son, standing on a sidewalk in front of multiple buildings. He crouched down to James' level and lowered his voice; the fear in his eyes made it clear that Mr. Potter had, in fact, heard his son's offhand comment. "James, you can't say Muggle here – these are Muggles. You don't want them getting suspicious, do you?"
James rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. He felt his pants start to slide off of his waist and reached back down to hold them up. "I'm just saying that I think non-wizard things should be left to the non-wizard!" James exclaimed, not caring who overheard him. "There's a reason we lived in an all wizard neighborhood – so we didn't have to do anything you're making me do right now!"
Mr. Potter didn't try to quiet his son. "James," he explained calmly, leaning up against their brand new, silver car, "we didn't even drive five blocks." Mr. Potter gestured to the empty road they had just been driving on. "I didn't even have anything to hit! Think about it as flying on your broom," Mr. Potter offered. He started to walk toward the nearest building with James following grumpily in his shadow. "It's the same principle."
James shrugged and continued to sulk, but, upon hearing his father's latest words, couldn't help feeling excited at the fact that he, too, would soon learn how to drive a car.
But he would never admit that, of course.
James looked up at the building he and his father were about to enter. It was a very old, two-story building made entirely of brick. The windows were all open, letting the cool, summer breeze blow freely through the building.
As they approached the double doors made of splintering wood, James noticed that there was a large sign hanging above them.
"'Bennett Theater'? Why are we here?"
Mr. Potter turned the handle and held the door open for his son to walk through. With a noticeable attitude, James stormed through the doors and into the old building, stopping at his father's side.
"I read about it in the Muggle newspaper – it's a great theater for kids your age," Mr. Potter said in a soft voice as they entered a large auditorium. "I thought that – you know; you have energy enough that you would be a great performer in these plays." He grinned up at the stage full of kids, all sitting on the ground and reading through a script. "I'm positive you'll find plenty of friends here, son."
James scanned the dusty, old room. He squinted up at the front of the room, and noticed that all of the kids gathered together on the grand, wooden stage were either his age or older. Large, billowy, red curtains framed the corners of the stage and hid the broken down set behind the kids. Rows upon rows of empty, red seats were scattered across the auditorium for the audience to sit in.
With a great huff, James plopped into the red seat furthest from the stage and closest to the exit. The cushion below him fell through the bottom of the chair and hit the floor with a loud – and noticeable – thud. James, too, fell through the open hole created by the four connecting sides of metal framing on the base of the chair.
The people on the stage went quiet, distracted by the odd sound in the audience. The only noise that was heard was Mr. Potter's booming laughter at his son's antics as he struggled to get out of the very old chair.
"It's not funny, dad," James hissed at him, turning very red. He kept his head hidden behind his hands, afraid of who would find him in his awkward position.
A loud voice shouted, "Five minutes, kids – be prepared to start reading act two when I get back!"
"Oh, man…" James groaned, trying to wiggle out of the chair. Someone was coming. "Dad – help me!"
Mr. Potter laughed, slapping his son on the back. "Come on, James, it's funny!" he boomed in his loud voice. "Laugh a little, would you?"
James did not laugh. Instead, his eyes grew darker and his face got redder by the second.
His father moved to his son's side and grabbed his hands to pull him out of the chair. He tried one last attempt to cheer James up. "Will you at least crack a smile?"
James did nothing.
Mr. Potter sighed and heaved him out of the chair.
James put a hand to his sore back, rubbing it. He was almost positive that the chair he had been stuck in had left a red mark in the middle of his back, possibly even a bruise.
Once James straightened out his glasses on his nose and pulled his falling pants back up to his waist, he heard a girlish giggle ring in his ears. With a slight cock of his head, James turned toward the aisle to see a short, red-haired girl with a hand covering her mouth.
James couldn't help but think the girl was pretty – anyone would have agreed, of course.
But no one laughed at James Potter.
"I see you've, uh… made yourself comfortable." A very tall man approached the circle with a great smile, standing beside the red-headed girl. He wore a shirt with a vest pulled over it and long pants. Wispy, blonde hair just barely covered the man's scalp. James held back a chuckle at the receding hairline.
This man looked most definitely like a Muggle.
James' dad laughed and bent over to pick up the red cushion from the chair; it looked like it was in bad condition. He set it on top of the chair again, trying to see if it looked normal. After realizing that the cushion's bent position would not easily be fixed, Mr. Potter gave up and shook his head, unable to stifle his laugh. "We'll pay for any repairs," he assured the tall man.
"It'll be no problem," the man beamed. "We can fix it."
The girl beside him could not take her eyes off of James. The same was true of James; however, his reasons for watching this girl were not the same as hers. He had been trying to stare her down for several minutes in order to scare this little girl, not because he thought she was interesting. She either didn't seem to notice James' less than friendly glares or chose not to acknowledge them.
"This is James," his father announced to the small group. "We just moved into the neighborhood and we were hoping he might be able to help with the play – make some friends," he added, winking at the little red-haired girl.
The girl blushed and turned back to stare openly at James.
James rolled his eyes.
"Well, nice to meet you, James. My name is Roger Evans; I'm the director of the play." The man bent over to look at James at eye level. "I assume you're between the ages of eleven and eighteen?"
James nodded. "I'm eleven."
"Fantastic," Mr. Evans grinned. "Would you care to be an extra?" the man asked James. "Roles for the lead parts were already cast last week, unfortunately, but we can always use an extra!" he said exuberantly.
"I, uh… Well, do I have to act?" James asked lamely. "I think I'd rather just help backstage, if that's alright," James muttered, resigning to the fact that his father would never let James live it down if he didn't at least try to join the play somehow…
Mr. Evans looked surprised from James' request, but quickly recovered, grinning once again. "Well, I'm sure we could put you to work in many different areas – what about designing the set?" he asked. "Our main set designer just graduated last year, and we've been in need of some more designers. Does that interest you?"
James scratched behind his ear, pondering the option. It wouldn't hurt anything; it could only help, really. In fact, moving heavy items around the set might act as a new weight lifting option and help him in the athletic department. He was planning on trying out for the Quidditch team at Hogwarts next year, of course…
"I'll do it," James nodded affirmatively, cracking a smile for the first time. He wouldn't like it, listening to all of those Romeo and Juliet wannabes practicing their lines for the play, but it had the opportunity of working to his advantage.
"Now that that's settled," Mr. Evans said happily, "I'd like you to meet my daughter: Lily." Mr. Evans gestured to the red-haired girl beside him. "Lily, could you take James to the back and show him around the stage a bit? Introduce him to the other set designers he'll being working with this summer."
The curls of Lily's hair bounced up and down as she nodded excitedly. She reached over between the two fathers and took James' hand. She laced her fingers through his and pulled him enthusiastically down the aisle where multiple people were milling around the stage, whispering about the new cast member about to join them.
"I'm so excited to have someone else join the cast!" she grinned, unwilling to release James' left hand when he tried to pull it from her grip. However, James did not dare remove his right hand to pull his left one free, because his right hand was still holding up his baggy pants.
Lily touched his arm with her other hand as she spoke. "Oh, I just love the summer play – I used to always watch it when I was younger. But now I'm old enough – now I can be in it! Of course, I'm just an extra this year… My dad likes to cast the older kids as the leads in the play because they won't be able to come back next year. Of course," she laughed and threw her hair over her shoulder, as if she had told a joke.
Listen to this stupid Muggle girl, James mused. She can't stop talking – what have I gotten myself into?
Before Lily had even taken a breath, James casually stuck his foot out in front of hers. As if in slow motion, James saw his evil deed happen before his eyes. Lily stumbled and fell face first into the carpeted aisle for all onstage to see.
"Oh, wow," James said in mock concern, hiding his cocky smile. He looked over his shoulder in a casual glance as he walked past the girl, unwilling to slow down and check to see if Lily was hurt. "You know, you should really watch where you're going next time…"
Couldn't have been easier, James thought smartly to himself. What an easy target…
One minute, James was striding easily towards the stage, smirking at every person he passed, and the next thing he knew, James, too, was laying on his stomach, flat on the floor. His glasses fell from his face at the impact and landed a foot ahead of him. Slowly, he sat up, spitting out the dust that had been kicked up from the carpet and forced into his mouth, and pulled on his glasses.
James got to his feet, but immediately wished that he hadn't. The moment he stood up, he found that his pants had been pulled down around his ankles.
They had been pulled from his hands. That was what had tripped him.
James quickly bent over and pulled his pants back up, hiding his checkered boxers. Furious, he spun on his heels.
Lily Evans was smiling back at him with a wave of her fingers.
Standing ten feet away.
Impossible. James was doing some very quick thinking, trying not to show the girl that she had surprised him. There's no way she could have done that – not without –
James shook his head, allowing himself to come to the conclusion that Lily was most definitely not a Muggle. He returned her wave with a smirk of his own.
I'll see you at Hogwarts, Lily Evans.
Author's Note: I hope I get some positive feedback from this chapter! I'll try to have some of the next chapters up as soon as possible!
Next Chapter: We jump forward in time! It's the summer of Lily and James' sixth year, and a new play is starting up...