A/N: While writing this, I came to a realization: Chapter 26 was the last chapter of ITISNS. This is NOT the last chapter of LAT, obviously, but there are a few... um... call-backs to ITISNS, that I just added in for fun. Cookies to anyone who catches them.
Disclaimer: Copyright Jo-Ro and the inimitable George Gershwin.
Before: Petunia tells Vernon that Lily is a witch, and Vernon wants nothing to do with Lily, so Petunia kicks her out of the wedding party. James and Remus have finally forgiven Sirius for the Snape-Willow incident. Marlene tells James that she's in love with Adam. Donna and Sirius work at the Leaky Cauldron, where the usuals include the ancient, paranoid Pip and the suspended auror Lathe.
I really did not mean for this chapter to be this long, but... well... it is.
Chapter 26- The Wedding
"Rhapsody in Blue"
"Bloody hell," Lily sighed. There were entirely too many women in her family.
She had only three cousins, two of them female, and both of her grandfathers were deceased; her maternal grandmother was still living, however, and this—combined with the presence of Lily, Petunia, and Mrs. Evans (to say nothing of the bridesmaids), meant a household of females, three hours before a wedding.
In short: chaos.
"Alright, Lily," said her mother, in a rare, solitary moment just before noon, "It's time to get serious. In an hour and a half, we are leaving for the church, which means that you, love, have ninety minutes to figure out how to be in two places at once, so that you can have some lunch, keeping those asylum escapees in the kitchen from wreaking havoc, while simultaneously changing your clothes, because, Lily, as lovely as you are, I don't think you should attend a wedding dressed like that."
Lily raised her eyebrows. "What, Mum? You don't think Petunia would appreciate me showing up in candy cane socks?" She indicated to the striped knee highs she had paired with shorts and a t-shirt that might have fit three or four Lily Evanses. She had yet to find an opportunity to get out of her pajamas.
"Somehow, I don't."
"Well don't worry about it," Lily assured her. "You go sort out Petunia and the bridesmaids... I have a plan."
"Should I be worried?"
"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies."
"Now I am worried."
Mrs. Evans turned and hastened up the staircase to her bedroom, where Petunia was in the middle of her third nervous breakdown of the day. Lily, meanwhile, breathed deeply and started for the kitchen.
At the table sat Lily's grandmother, and she seemed to be arguing with her daughter—Lily's Aunt Sara—about (of all things) politics. Lily's two female cousins, stepsisters Alexandria and Eden, were bickering about rides to the church, all the while making a horrible mess of the cold cuts intended for lunch.
Lily sighed. She liked her family—especially her cousins—but they didn't often get together, and when they did, especially for "family events," there was bound to be conflict. And today, the house could stand no more conflict.
"Aunt Sara," Lily addressed her mother's older sister, and the rosy cheeked woman looked up.
"May I have a word—I just wanted to ask your opinion on something..."
Sara followed Lily out into the hallway.
Lily assumed a most confidential tone: "Aunt Sara, my mum just asked me to have you keep an eye on Gran. I mean, she's your mum, so you know better than anyone how to deal with her, and Mum's just worried she's getting a little tired out from all of this wedding flurry."
The older woman's expression suddenly became quite sage. "Of course, dear. Don't you worry yourself about it."
"Oh, thank-you so much..."
"Of course, dear."
They started back for the kitchen, and then Lily, as though she had just remembered something, exclaimed: "Oh! I completely forgot: I was supposed to bring the dress downstairs..."
"I'll do it, Dear," her aunt volunteered kindly. "You're so busy as it is, and I'm sure you want to get ready to leave..."
Aunt Sara hurried upstairs to the master bedroom, while Lily returned to the kitchen. Gran was now lecturing Lexi and Eden (Lily's paternal cousins) on the proper assembly of sandwiches.
Lily winced. She hurried over to the counter, where the two cousins were rapidly loosing patience.
"Gran, why don't you sit down? I'll bring you your sandwich."
"Now, now, I'm quite alright, Lily..." But she allowed Lily to guide her back to the kitchen table anyway. Once there, Lily sat down in the chair formerly occupied by her aunt and leaned close to her grandmother.
"Gran, I hate to ask, but Mum wanted me to see if it would be possible if you could make sure that all of this wedding flurry isn't tiring out Aunt Sara. She was complaining of a headache earlier, and she doesn't walk as much as you do, so I'm sure she's not used to the excitement, and I would do it, only I'm supposed to help the bridesmaids with their make up..."
Gran patted Lily's hand affectionately. "Of course, dear, you mustn't fret about it. I raised Sara. I'll take care of everything..."
"Oh thank-you, Gran." Lily rose from the chair. "I'll just go see about that sandwich of yours..."
She went to the counter, where Eden was pouring juice for herself.
"Honestly, Lex, what is your problem, anyway? I'm twenty-three years old! I'm in absolutely no rush to get trapped in a loveless marriage!"
Lexi—who happened to be both married and eight months pregnant—turned bright red. "Watch out, E, or you're going to end up the moral of a cautionary tale. I mean, do you have any idea where those blokes you run around with have been? I wouldn't touch them, personally..."
Lexi started for the icebox, and Lily followed her there, while Eden carried on the argument with a slice of ham.
"You look lovely, Lex," said Lily.
Her cousin softened at the statement.
"I feel enormous."
"Rubbish; you really look fantastic. Hey, I have a favor to ask..." She lowered her voice, so that the conversation was just between the two of them, "...I was wondering—I mean, I know it's so wrong of me to even ask, because she's not even technically your family, but I was hoping... could you possibly just... y'know... keep an eye on my Gran? Tuney and Will and I are her only grandchildren, and I've just got a million things to do, and Will's watching the match and... well, let's just say, he's the Eden of my Mum's side of the family..."
Lexi nodded understandingly. "Don't worry about it, Lily. I'll take care of it."
"Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you," gushed the younger girl. "Just, y'know, make sure she's not tiring herself out..."
"Of course; that's fine."
"You're a life saver!"
Lexi smiled warmly and then went to fetch the milk, while Lily assembled and brought a sandwich to her Gran.
Eden, meanwhile, had switched on the radio and was swaying to Elton John. Lily moved to her corner of the kitchen and leaned against the counter next to her.
"Hey, E—cute shoes."
"Thanks," said Eden, cheerful now that it was Lily and not Lexi speaking with her. "I like your socks. You should wear them to the wedding—Petty would have kittens."
Lily laughed. "Hey, E, have you ever met my cousin Will...?"
Fifteen minutes later, Lily came downstairs, dressed in a bathrobe, but showered and made up. Her Aunt Sara was making sure that Gran's tea wasn't too hot, while Lexi feigned interest in the elderly woman's stories of "The War," and Eden fixed Lily's cousin, Will, a sandwich... which, no matter what Gran said, seemed to be perfectly satisfactory in Will's eyes. Lily smiled at the scene, and her mother came downstairs.
She stared at the happily coexisting relatives, and then at Lily, eyebrows raised.
"I'm a genius," sighed Lily.
"What did you do?"
"Lied through my teeth."
Mrs. Evans patted her daughter's shoulder. "That's my girl."
(Shattered and Whole)
The Leaky Cauldron had a pleasant early afternoon hum, and while James had seen it on busier days, the presence of any witches and wizards was something of a relief these days.
Sirius was just finishing up on his morning shift, and Donna had not yet arrived for her afternoon sting. James sat at the bar beside Pip, the white haired wizard who frequented the pub and was currently entertaining James with his many conspiracy theories.
"So, the Ministry is the reason skin gets blotchy like that when we get old?" asked the younger wizard. "Who knew?"
"Can't trust any of 'em," muttered Pip, shaking his head and taking another deep drink of mead.
Sirius smirked, serving bacon and eggs to a curly haired witch at a nearby table. "Tell him about the run in with the Lethifold, Pip."
"He's already told me that story," said James. "On Tuesday. You need to pay better attention, Padfoot."
Pip began embarking upon the story anyway. "It was the thirties, an' I was in Lichfield at the time... back when they still called me..."
But at that moment, Donna entered, tying an apron around her waist, and James was distracted from a second hearing of the story.
"You're late, Shack," teased Sirius. "And table four needs another round of pumpkin juice."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," snapped Donna. "It was a bad morning." She drew her wand and tapped the bottle of pumpkin juice twice. It at once set about pouring into three different glasses. "Get out of here, Black. I've got it."
Sirius snorted. "Later, Shack. Punch me out, will you?"
"I will not..."
But Sirius had already tossed his apron over the bar and started out towards the muggle London door with James.
"Prat," muttered Donna.
"'Afternoon, Miss," greeted Pip, raising his glass to her.
"Hi, Pip," she replied dully.
Waiting for James and Sirius out on the road were Remus and Peter, who had been to the bakery nearby, as demonstrated by the pastries they were in the process of consuming.
"Did you get me one?" asked Sirius, as they began to walk, destination-less, up the street.
"No. You didn't ask us to," replied Remus. "What are we doing today anyway?"
"What do you mean, 'I didn't ask you to?'" Sirius demanded. "They're pastries! There's an assumed request—and I was working."
"You should have owled," said Peter.
"Yeah, or used the two-way mirror," grumbled Sirius. "If either of you prats had one. Which reminds me..." He turned to James. "I hollered at the mirror for about ten minutes last night, and you didn't answer."
James dropped his gaze quickly, clearing his throat. "S-sorry. I must've been... playing Quidditch. Yes. Definitely. Playing Quidditch. So, what did we decide we were doing today?" He quickened his pace. "I thought maybe..."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Sirius. "What was that?"
"What was what?"
"The awkward, stuttering thing."
"I didn't notice anything," said Remus quickly.
"Me neither," agreed Peter.
Sirius stopped walking, compelling the other three to do so as well. He looked at them suspiciously. "What aren't you telling me?"
Padfoot folded his arms, turning to Peter and towering over him. "Wormtail?"
"What are you all lying about?"
"We're not lying!" said Remus eagerly. "So, did anyone catch that match on the wireless? The Wasps and... that... other... team...?"
Peter squirmed. Over Sirius's shoulder, James and Remus shook their heads violently.
Sirius rounded on James, who glared at Peter. "I'm going to smother you in your sleep, Wormtail. So... y'know... watch out for that."
"You broke the two-way mirror?" Sirius demanded.
"We shouldn't be talking about this in the middle of the street," said Remus loudly.
"You broke the two-way mirror, Prongs?" Sirius repeated.
"I was angry," James defended himself. "And, y'know, if you had been there, you would've been impressed. It was very dramatic. I almost took out Adam McKinnon's eye with the debris."
"It's true," Remus affirmed. "I had to clean up the mess."
Sirius did not, however, seem impressed. Far from it. "I can't believe you would break the two-way mirror! When did this happen?"
"After the Q-Word final," said James glumly. "It was a really bad day."
Sirius frowned. "Well—can't we fix it?"
"I tried," said Remus. "And so did Prongs, but too much of the glass is missing, and it's..." He lowered his voice, though no passing muggles seemed particularly interested in their conversation, "bewitched glass, so normal Reparos won't work..."
"And we don't know the charm that they used on the glass," Peter added. "So we can't reproduce it..."
Sirius scowled at James, who suddenly became fascinated with a pebble on the road. "Oh, come off it, Padfoot. Glaring won't fix anything."
"Maybe we can have it mended," Peter suggested. "Where did you get it again, Prongs?"
"The mirrors were my dad's," said James. "I think he bought them when he was a student... about a century ago."
"Well, that doesn't mean the shop that sold it to him is closed," said Remus optimistically. "There are loads of really old businesses in London. Ollivander's has been around since the B.C. years. It's literally ancient!" He chuckled at his own joke, but James only rolled his eyes.
"It really wasn't," said Sirius. "Alright, so—it's Saturday. Your old man's home, right Prongs?"
James raised his eyebrows. "You used to live with us, Padfoot. Were you drunk the entire time? Of course he's not home!"
"But it's noon," said Peter hopefully. "He's likely on luncheon now, right?"
James rolled his eyes again. "I swear, it's like you lot don't know my family at all."
"But," said Remus, "I'm sure he'll be pleased that his beloved son decided to drop in and visit him during his last weeks at the Ministry..."
"Brilliant!" said Sirius enthusiastically. "So, we'll fetch the mirrors and then pop in to see Mr. Potter, and he'll be able to tell us where we can have James's fixed." He looked at the others. "Alright?"
"Alright," they agreed, shrugging.
Sirius nodded, pleased. "Good. But first, I'm getting one of those pastries..."
(Yellow and Blue)
Lily's dress was yellow. It was cotton, with a mid-calf hemline and a square neck, formed on the right and left by the dress's straps, which were about the width of two fingers. There was no true waistline to the dress, but there was a matching sash. She tied it around at the slimmest part of her waist, and that looked nice.
Lily stepped into dark brown heeled sandals and set her hair—dried and curled loosely with magic—around her shoulders. She applied her pale pink lipstick once again, and then stood back to see her whole reflection in the glass. Yellow was far more her color than pink anyway.
In the kitchen, the bridesmaids had congregated, a mass of pastel ruffles and hairspray. Petunia hadn't put on her own gown yet, but her platinum hair had been pinned in a high, elegant bun, augmented with miniature roses and meticulously designed to appear loose and relaxed. A single curl fell purposely near each ear, drawing attention to the diamond studs Petunia proudly wore—some of the few diamonds she owned, and certainly the only ones not awarded to her by her fiancée.
Despite the scowl the bride wore, and despite the fact that she was currently barking at everyone to pick up their things and get in a car, Petunia looked rather pretty. Lily had suspected that the "Bridal Glow" wasn't nearly as prominent as people made it out to be, but she did detect something different about her sister that morning.
"You had better find yourself a car, Lily," warned her mother, dressed in coral satin; "And I suggest you get the front seat."
There was a great ordeal made over getting into cars, and it was another ten minutes before Lily found herself in her cousin Eden's Austin Allegro with Eden as the driver and Rachel Richards—Lily's replacement bridesmaid—in the back seat.
"You look adorable, Lily," said Eden, lighting a cigarette once they were on their way. "Yellow is a much more flattering color than pink." She said this with a calculated look in the rear vision mirror to catch Rachel Richards' reaction.
"E," Lily censured in an undertone, but she didn't mean it, and Eden only smiled.
"Find something on the radio, will you, Red?"
The drive to the church was not a long one. There was a Paul Simon song, then Queen, Diana Ross's latest hit, a KC and the Sunshine Band number that Rachel not only insisted that they maintain but even turn up the sound on, a commercial break, and about eighty percent of ELO's "Strange Magic," before they pulled into the church lot.
While Eden went to sit down in the church, Lily hung back with Rachel in the vestibule. It occurred to the redhead that the net effect of having her expelled from the wedding party was mostly emotional; she was still sticking close to her mother before the ceremony, which meant she would be in the bridal party's room, and an usher would escort her to her seat before the bridesmaids and groomsmen processed down the aisle. Of course, it would have been nice not to have been denounced by Vernon and kicked out of the wedding party, but all in all, he could do nothing about the fact that Lily was there.
Speaking of Vernon...
Since Eden drove like a maniac, their car was the first to arrive from the Evans', and while Rachel Richards went to prepare Petunia's room off the church, Lily sat down on a bench in the ante-chamber, near a holy water font, humming "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," because now—thank you, radio—it was stuck in her head.
The groom's half of the wedding party had arrived some time before and were lurking all over the place, but it was Lily's misfortune that Vernon Dursley himself should happen upon her there.
A moment of awkwardness commenced. Lily stopped humming.
"Is Petunia here?" Vernon grunted. Lily debated answering at all. Fully acknowledging the immaturity of it, lately she had taken to behaving very strangely around her sister's fiancée, just to savor the fear he inevitably displayed as a result. Perhaps that was why he currently looked at her as though she were likely to explode at any second, taking half the church and a bit of the car lot with her. So, for a few seconds, Lily remained silent, and Vernon repeated: "Has Petunia arrived yet?"
"No," Lily relented. "Any minute now."
Vernon fixed her with a look of utter disgust, which Lily met and reciprocated. After several seconds of unvoiced animosity, however, she decided to take action. She stomped her foot once against the polished floor and shouted "Boo!" causing Vernon to start. Her exclamation echoed in the empty vestibule, and Vernon's shocked expression—like an elephant startled by a mouse—quickly faded. With a final sneer, he stomped away, mustache and all, and Lily was left alone until the rest of the bridal party arrived.
Yvonne Howard—maid of honor—stuck her head in the vestibule first to make certain Vernon was not about, and, ascertaining that he was not, she beckoned the others inside. Petunia, escorted by Mrs. Evans, Nancy Wiggins, and Marge Dursley, marched through to the little room off the ante-chamber, and Mrs. Evans, carrying the carefully wrapped gown, gestured for Lily to follow.
Already when Lily entered her sister's chamber, there seemed to be a crisis in need of fixing. In the thick heat, Petunia's eye make up had smeared, and as a result of misguided attempts to solve the problem, one of her cheekbones was now entirely without cosmetic attention. Absolute disaster, obviously.
Actually, Petunia was the calmest of the lot, while the others spilled their make up bags all over the two tables, locating foundation, powder, blush, mascara, and eyeliner as if their lives depended upon it. And, to be fair, they probably did.
"Why didn't she have the air conditioning on?" Lily wanted to know.
Nancy Wiggins, who was comparing two different concealer bottles, shook her head sadly; "Since the florist accidentally delivered the bouquets to the house instead of the church, they had to be put in Marge's car, because Marge has the best air conditioning. Petunia came in my car, and—oh! It's all my fault!" She began to wail, and Yvonne rolled her eyes.
"Snap out of it, Nan, and hand me that mascara..."
Mrs. Evans, who had slipped out on Lily's arrival, returned, carrying three bouquets of white miniature roses; she was followed by Lily's cousin, Lexi, carrying the other one and the bride's bouquet.
"Clear a table then," called Mrs. Evans over the din, and Rachel relocated the spilled make up from one counter to the other. The bouquets were placed, and Mrs. Evans departed to speak with the minister. Lexi gave Lily's hand an affectionate squeeze, murmured: "You look very pretty, Lil," and then departed.
Then, Lily was once again the only one in the room, besides Petunia, not wearing pink. Still, she didn't look nearly as out of place as Marge Dursley.
In honor of the wedding, and—more importantly—in honor of the wedding photos that would immortalize the day, the bridesmaids had descended upon Marjorie Dursley with everything from eyebrow (and mustache) wax to a suspicious green liquid that Yvonne called "skin care" and Lily suspected would soon be illegal due to probable links with cancer. Marge's dull, flat blond hair had been teased, trimmed, and tortured into style, and make up applied so thoroughly that, except for a little around the eyes, her actual face was invisible. And, after efforts almost surpassing that of the bride's, Marge looked...
The poor woman, surrounded by girlie-girls of the Petunia variety, was sweating profusely and obviously loathed all of this. She looked like she could use a good stiff drink, if only the Wedding Diet permitted alcohol. Marge was not, and never would be, pretty (even Lily was not so generous as to believe otherwise), but in another environment, she might at least have been comfortable and happy, and comfort and happiness can perform wonders of which Yvonne's "skin care" knew nothing.
The minutes passed. Lily fetched a book from the car that she had wisely brought along, and she remained in the little room off the vestibule while the bridesmaids and bride bustled around her. She sat absorbed in her novel and did not see when Petunia was put into her dress, or when the others took pictures with the Polaroid that Mrs. Evans brought in. She paid no heed to the Manicure Panic of 2:09, when Nancy's nail polish chipped, and Rachel was called upon to redo it, because Nancy was too nervous to hold the varnish brush. Nor, did she hear the Carbohydrate War of 2:18, between Yvonne and Marge regarding a cheese danish, culminating in Yvonne knocking into the bouquet table, and dropping Petunia's meticulously arranged bouquet to the floor. This spurred the Bouquet Battle of 2:19, which, in turn, ended, when Petunia placed the bouquet on a chair in the corner and demanded that no one speak for the next ten minutes.
In fact, the real disaster did not strike until 2:24, thirty-six minutes before the wedding, while Nancy and the returned Mrs. Evans aided Petunia in pinning up her veil. Marge, still bitter over the loss of the Carbohydrate War of 2:18, wiped beads of sweat from her forehead with a handkerchief and made to sit down. Unfortunately, she neither remembered nor noticed the chair of choice's prior occupant: Petunia's bouquet.
A piercing shriek finally drew Lily away from Brideshead Revisited, and Yvonne held up the flowers, worse for the wear of having Marge Dursley sit on them. Real panic drained the color from Petunia's face, as she took the flowers from her maid-of-honor, examining the forlorn floral in shock. Marge covered her face with her large hands, and for a moment, the entire room held its breath. Then, Mrs. Evans snatched the bouquet from the bride and said in a stern voice, "Don't you dare cry, Petunia Elaine. I have an idea how to fix this, alright?"
"B-b-but they're ruined..." Petunia stammered.
"Y-yes," allowed Mrs. Evans, not quite meeting anyone's eye. "But... there is a florist... up the road, and I am sure that I can find a suitable replacement in the next..." She checked her watch, "half an hour."
"Petunia," interrupted her mother, calm and serious, "everything will be alright. Yvonne, make sure she doesn't cry. Lily, come with me."
Lily followed her mum out of the room and into the antechamber. They stood a safe distance from the crowd of people filtering through to sit down, and Mrs. Evans spoke very rapidly and very quietly. "Lily," she began, "in six years, I have never asked for you to use... any of your special talents for anything..."
Lily caught on at once. She took the pitiful bouquet from her mother. "I'm the 'nearby florist,' aren't I?"
"Can you fix it?"
Lily nodded. "Tuney won't be thrilled if she finds out."
"So perhaps we shouldn't tell her?"
"I've never known you to be so sneaky," Lily teased.
Mrs. Evans glanced around the hall anxiously; "Perhaps you'd better go to the car."
Lily nodded. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Lily ducked back into the bride's room to fetch her purse and avoided catching anyone's eye as she stole out to the car park. Her mother's Cortina, however, was parked right in the front, and that would not do at all if she was to avoid muggle eyes. So, instead, Lily made for her cousin Eden's Allegro, in which she had traveled not long before and which was more advantageously and discretely located near the road.
The driver's side was mercifully unlocked, and Lily sat down, closing the door behind her. The seat back felt hot against Lily's bare shoulders, and when she leaned forward to roll down the window, the metal handle burned her fingers.
Merlin, it was boiling today: dry, which was a nice break from the humidity, but still awfully sweltering.
Transportation of her wand had been something of a difficulty for Lily for some time. Wizards' robes almost universally had a pocket for storage, but muggle clothes did not, and so, for long stretches of her muggle existence, she had been forced to improvise. Finally, in fourth year, she had finally found a spell (she called it the Mary Poppins charm) that allowed her to fix her purse so that it would hold more on the inside then it appeared to be capable of on the outside.
And so Lily pulled her ten and one quarter inch willow wand from her small clutch bag, and picked up the bouquet, which she had tossed on the passenger's seat.
Marge's brief use of the flowers as a seat cushion had certainly done a number on them: one stem was snapped, and most of the petals were crinkled—a few had even fallen off in the journey to the car. For a moment, Lily looked over the flowers carefully. She closed her eyes, envisioning the bouquet—not as it had looked before—but how she wanted it to look. Pure white roses mixed with rich and vibrant pink ones... vivid green leaves and stems...
Somewhat predictably, Lily had always been good with flowers.
She opened her eyes again. Picking up her wand, Lily pointed the tip down at the flower in the center of the bouquet; then, she traced spirals in the air, emanating from that point and branching outward, until she reached the perimeter of the bouquet. Still twisting, like spaghetti on a fork, she drew her wand upward. She stopped when her hand was at eye level, and then, flicked her wrist once.
Light flooded down from the end of her wand—not bright, but visible, as it showered the flowers in a gold kind of glitter. Then, the light faded, and Lily put down her wand, holding up the bouquet for inspection. It was largely the same in arrangement: the same ratio of miniature whites to standard pinks, the same white ribbon tied along the stems, fastened with the same pearl pins. But the flowers themselves—the petals and leaves—were brighter and fresher, and when Lily inhaled, they smelled deliciously sweet...
Smiling at the job she had done, Lily carefully set the flowers down on the passenger seat again. She ought to stay out for a few minutes more, because a quick return might raise the bridesmaids' suspicions.
Lily sighed and leaned back, and the hot car seat stung her shoulders again. She idly considered her cousin's car for a moment, until she noticed Eden's little gold pack of Benson and Hedges cigarettes on the dashboard.
It was a second before Lily registered why her chest gave a painful twinge at the sight of the box. She picked it up, considering the smooth cardboard between her fingers.
Her dad had always smoked Bensons.
Almost automatically, she drew one from the box and, with her wand, lit it, taking a long drag. She hung her arm out the window and leaned her head back.
She had last smoked with Sirius Black, by the lake at Hogwarts, when they'd talked about his uncle and her father and death. Four months ago.
Only, Sirius didn't smoke Bensons, and it had been a lot longer than four months since she'd had one of her father's brand. Two years now... not since her short-lived rebellious phase.
It had been more than a "rebellious" phase, though. She was still friends with Snape at the time—it was before their first "break up." It was their last summer together, and it was awful. Sev wasn't what he had once been... they were both clinging to faded memories of what they had once had together, except that she was clinging a little tighter. Her dad had died five months prior, and Petunia had just started seeing Vernon. Lily spent very little time with her other friends that summer... if she wasn't with Sev, she was alone. And suddenly, she had just become so tired of being Lily.
She took another drag. Some friends of Petunia's from secondary school could be seen, gabbing on the steps of the church. Just over twenty minutes till the wedding... she'd let Petunia sweat it out for a little while longer.
Smoke trailed off from the end of Lily's cigarette, disappearing amidst the pale blue sky. So bloody hot out.
Her dad would have loved this awful weather.
He'd had the strangest fancy for oppressive heat—said there was nothing more honest than a hot day.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly in the silence of the car, Lily heard her own voice say: "I wish you were here." Only when she heard it did she know she had spoken aloud.
Without really thinking, she continued: "You'd make fun of it with me, without really meaning it, and it would be nice for Tuney—to have you here... walk her down the aisle and all that." Another, longer inhale. "I miss you, Dad..." She was blinking back tears suddenly, her voice gone hoarse: "And I hate that I... that I don't think about you every day anymore. At first, you were there all the time... everything that happened, I just thought about you. And then, after a while, it was just at night, when I was trying to fall asleep... do you remember? I'd always talk to you in my head, and... Well, then eventually, I'd only think about you a few times a week, and now it's just every once in a while. Except at home—when I'm home, it's a lot more." She brought the cigarette to her lips once more, "You'd probably smack my hand if you could right now, wouldn't you? Mum would. But they're Bensons, Dad, and you couldn't resist them either. Not that I... I mean, that's not why..." She tried a small, watery smile. "They smell like you, that's all."
Lily tapped the cigarette with the top of her ring finger, and the grey ash drifted down to the asphalt outside the window.
"You'd hate Vernon," she continued unevenly. "He's exactly everything you disliked in people. Boring and vapid and greedy and... rich. Well, we can't fault him for being rich, but he might try not to be boring. But—but I reckon that... where you are, you don't hate anyone... not even Vernon Dursley? Can you still tease people, at least? Not in a mean way, just... y'know... in good fun? I hope so. I hope you're blissfully happy, and that you're not lonely for Mum and Tuney and me... I don't think you are... I think, I think that it's like, you can always remember us, but your memory is perfect, so it's not like a memory at all; it's like, living every moment all the time. And all the bad things seem little, and just—just stepping stones to the good things. And all the good things seem wonderful."
The first proper tear slid down her face, and Lily wiped it hastily away.
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
"Tuney's wearing the earrings you gave her for her sixteenth birthday." Inhale... exhale. "I d-don't know if she's said anything to you, but I—I wouldn't blame her if she hasn't. I know she misses you, too, though." Another drag, another ash. Bitterly: "I just wish you were here. Everything would... it'd be so different if you were here... you know, I don't think Petunia would be marrying Vernon at all. Maybe she..."
But Lily stopped, because that was wishful thinking. She didn't know whether or not Petunia would marry Vernon Dursley in other circumstances, but a small, inexplicable part of her thought she would.
The cigarette was short, now, and Lily lost interest. She put it out in the ashtray and picked up her wand again. Here, she hesitated.
She leaned back again and closed her eyes, breathing deeply and committing the smell of the tobacco to her memory. Then, without opening her eyes, because she might change her mind, Lily waved her wand and banished the scent from her clothes and hair. After all, she couldn't very well show up to the wedding like that.
Lily put the wand back in her purse and used the rear view mirror to fix her make up, which had been smeared by tears. When all was as it should be, she picked up the bouquet and stepped out of the car.
Her heels clicked satisfactorily as she walked across the lot, up the stairs of the church, and through the vestibule, dodging all looks and avoiding everyone. She moved into the bride's room, and found that Petunia was alone.
"Where are the others?" Lily asked, and her sister jumped at the sound of her voice. She was seated at the vanity, staring into the mirror, and yet had been oblivious to Lily's entrance behind her. Petunia stood up, tentatively touching her delicately arranged hair.
"I asked for a moment. You've got the bouquet, have you?"
But as Petunia stood and faced her, Lily glimpsed her in her wedding glory for the first time and was rendered speechless. She at once admonished herself for ever having doubted the fabled "wedding glow." Petunia was magnificent.
"You're gorgeous," said the younger girl in a small voice. She set down the bouquet.
The dress had a natural waistline, an elegantly stitched bodice, slightly capped sleeves, and an encompassing skirt: satin, but with a covering layer of lace-like chiffon. The veil was slight in comparison, pinned into her hair and only a single layer of tool, falling somewhere around her elbows. There was a radiant light in her skin and eyes, a slight flush in her cheeks that might have been excitement.
Petunia did not respond to Lily's statement at once. She seemed to want to say something, without knowing exactly how to go about doing so. Lily regained herself a little, and observed more naturally: "You're wearing the earrings Dad gave you." The bride nodded slowly. "I wish he were here."
Sighing, Petunia sat down in the empty chair. Lily took the one beside her. "Me too," the older girl muttered. "For one thing, Uncle Awkward will be walking me down the aisle..."
Lily laughed. "Uncle Richard isn't that bad..."
"God, if only he wouldn't always be talking about all the women who won't go out with him..."
"Oh, God, yes."
Petunia smiled. She picked up the bouquet from where Lily had set it down, glancing over it. She didn't seem particularly interested in making sure that it was an adequate replacement, and Lily soon learned why. "You fixed it, didn't you?" said Petunia, more declaration than question. "With your..." She trailed off, and Lily considered denying it. She didn't though, instead nodding slowly, not quite meeting Petunia's eye. Both sisters remained quiet for a moment. "I knew you would," the elder began at last; "when Mum took you with her, I knew she'd ask you to... to fix it." She held the ribbon wrapped stem up, examining the flowers with a bit more care. "They're lovely," she finally admitted, clearly reluctant. "I remember... when we were little, in the park..."
And though she cut off the sentence, Lily knew exactly what ending Petunia had planned.
"I was always good with flowers," murmured the younger sister. Petunia looked at her, frowning.
"Is that what you do at that school all year? Play in gardens?"
Lily sighed. How to explain? That it was so much more... real than Petunia had ever grasped? It wasn't just the school. It wasn't just the wand and the books, the owl and the cauldron. It wasn't just making flowers bloom, or bouncing when she ought to break. It was her life—her entire existence, really.
None of this she said, because Petunia's question constituted the first time she had expressed interest in Lily's Hogwarts life in a very, very long time, and there was no way of communicating all that needed to be understood.
"It's pretty much the same as normal school. Books, blokes, detention..."
"And playing in gardens," Petunia added wryly. Lily smiled.
"Magic gardens," she corrected.
Petunia's expression became uncomfortable. She straightened up, and then got to her feet again, smoothing out her extensive skirt. "You had better get mother—I think I'm ready."
Lily nodded, standing also. While her sister inspected her reflection one last time, Lily made for the door. She hesitated there. "Tuney?"
Petunia met her eye in the mirror.
"You—you really do look beautiful."
The bride almost smiled, but she maintained an even countenance and replied, barely louder than a whisper: "Thank-you."
Lily nodded and slipped out of the room to find her mother.
(Dervish and Banges)
"Byron's Bewitched Commodities," repeated Sirius, throwing another salted crisp into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully. "Never heard of it. Reckon they're still open?"
"They can't be," said Remus. "We know every shop in Hogsmeade, and I know we've never been there."
The four wizards sat on a bench in an Underground station, not because they had any intention of taking a train, but because, after their somewhat lengthier than intended stay at the Ministry (security and all that), they had wanted a place to sit down, and this was as good as any. James stole a crisp from Sirius's newly purchased bag and smirked.
"That's the closest thing to Marauder pride I've ever heard from you, Moony. And, unfortunately, you're right."
"Damn it, Prongs," swore Sirius idly. "Why is your old man so... old?"
"Not helpful," countered James. "So what now?"
"I reckon someone in Hogsmeade ought to know something about the place," said Peter. "Or we could try Dervish and Banges."
"Wormtail's right," agreed Remus. "Just because they didn't make it doesn't mean they won't know how to fix the mirror."
James stole another potato crisp. "So we're agreed? Dervish and Banges?"
"As soon as I'm finished eating," said Sirius. Remus rolled his eyes.
"At that rate, we'll be here forever."
Despite that pessimistic conclusion, the boys apparated into Hogsmeade ten minutes later. The nice thing about apparating into an all magic community was that they didn't have to worry much about where they appeared, which, in this instance, was not far outside the shop.
Sirius explained the situation to the appropriate Dervish and Banges authority, James presented the mirrors, and they waited.
"I see the problem," muttered the wizard behind the counter. He was a stout, bespectacled man, with ruddy cheeks, a bulbous nose, and thinning hair. He had introduced himself merely as "Glauff."
Sirius raised his eyebrows at this statement. "Shattered glass, perhaps?" he suggested sarcastically.
"Nah, nah," replied the other. "Well, 'course the glass doesn't help much, but it's the spell that's the problem here, if the mirror can't work at all with a few missing pieces."
"Do you know how to fix it?" Peter asked hopefully.
"Can't say as I do," said Glauff. "You say your pap bought her a Byron's?"
"Yes," said James. "Did you know the place?"
The wizard nodded. "Closed down near twenty years ago, and that's where a bloke would go to have this bit mended. I don't know many others that'd know an old piece of magic like it these days."
"You can't try a different spell?" asked Remus. "There must be other two-way mirrors..."
"I could try," said Glauff, bobbing his head. "But it wouldn't make the working one much use. In the end, I'd only be making a new pair altogether."
"How long would that take?" Sirius wanted to know.
"A few weeks or so, at least, with my schedule."
The Marauders exchanged looks, and James frowned. "You said we would have to take it to Byron's Bewitched to have this pair fixed."
"Ay, but it's closed now."
"Yes, we know, but do you have any idea where we might find the bloke who ran the store to begin with?"
James nodded eagerly.
"Six feet under."
Sirius looked crestfallen, and the wizard sighed. "Byron passed in '56, but I'm fair near certain his son did most of the work in the shop for the last few years. Clarence's his name, and I reckon he's still around."
"Do you know how we could find Clarence?" pressed Remus.
Glauff removed his spectacles and began to clean them with a handkerchief from his pocket. "If you boys had been here a year ago, I'd have said 'no.'"
"But now?" Sirius urged impatiently.
"I spoke with his missus, Lorraine, some months ago. She was stepping into Gladrags—nice lady, and very resourceful, but she wanted dress robes, and Gladrags is a nice place for that. 'Course it's not so flashy as some of the things you'll find in Diagon Alley, but..."
Sirius looked ready to draw and hex, but Remus held up a steadying hand. "Please," he interrupted as politely as possible. "Clarence Byron?"
"Right, right, right you are." Glauff finished polishing his glasses and placed them delicately on his nose again. "Mrs. Byron mentioned her husband was over at Harvest Lane. 'Course, that was 'most a year ago now, but I imagine he's still there..."
"Harvest Lane?" asked James, confused. "Is that where he lives?"
"No, no, boy. Harvest Lane. It's a shop. Magical antiques, mostly. Enchanted goblets and the like—not dangerous stuff, that, but pretty, and it might empty your pockets a bit."
"We've got deep pockets," said Sirius. "Where's this place?"
"James has deep pockets," Peter corrected.
"Well James threw the mirror at a wall," Sirius pointed out, before turning to Glauff again. "Where's Harvest Lane?"
"Liverpool," said the wizard. "Real nice spot—looks like an ordinary back alley to the muggles, but..."
"Can we have the address?" Remus interjected.
"'Course, 'course." Glauff found a quill, ink, and some parchment, and began to write. "Only, you won't be able to get in today."
"Why not?" asked Peter.
"Saturday, boys. Nice place like that wouldn't serve on the weekend."
"Rubbish," said James. "You're sure?"
"Quite, quite." Glauff paused. "Unless... no... I'm quite certain."
"Unless what?" asked Remus.
"There's a chance... no, I'm certain it was the Lane... only, well, now I can't remember..."
"Can you try?" snapped Sirius.
"Cuthbert Cauldrons... used to be near the same neighborhood, and I'm trying to recall if it was Cuthbert or Lane that shut up on the weekends..."
"So you're not sure," said Remus with renewed hope.
"No, no, I'm sure it was Lane. Only... maybe..."
Five minutes later, the Marauder sat with butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks.
"What are you lot up to?" Rosmerta, the lovely witch behind the bar, inquired, setting a fresh round of drinks before them. "Anxious to be back in school, are you?"
"Couldn't stay away from you, my love," said Sirius. "Rosie, when will you put me out of my misery and marry me already?"
"Hmmm, not a bad offer," countered the witch. "Only I know you're only after the free drinks." Winking, she moved to another patron.
"So," began Remus. "Are we going to try for this Harvest Lane place? Find Clarence Byron?"
James toyed with the parchment that bore the address. "It can't hurt." He grabbed two galleons from his pocket and placed them on the counter. "Let's go then," he said. "Never mind it, Moony, I've already paid."
"Blah, blah, you're boring me. Bye, Rosie! Keep the change!"
Rosmerta smiled and waved, and the boys stepped outside, carrying their bottles with them. "Alright," said Remus. "So, first, Honeydukes, and then Liverpool. Agreed?"
(Wagner and Mendelssohn)
Lily supposed that when Wagner composed "Lohengrin," he could not possibly have known that that the Bridal March would become so common as to be cliché. But some people never did live to know what they left behind, and when Petunia appeared, and everyone stood, and the march began on the organ, it didn't seem cliché anymore. It was 1976, and while there would be many, many brides that year, choosing trendier pieces, in fifty years, when there were new chic wedding fashions, Petunia would be able to say that she had walked to Wagner, and it wouldn't seem dated. Cliché or not, Lily thought that stood for something.
"We are gathered here in the face of this company," began the minister, "to join together Vernon and Petunia in matrimony..."
Petunia looked radiant up there.
"...Which is an honorable and solemn estate, and therefore not to be entered into lightly, but reverently and soberly..."
Vernon looked a little purple. Marge kept fidgeting.
"...These two persons present come now to be joined..."
Mrs. Evans already had tears in her eyes.
"If anyone can show just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together..."
Lily held her breath.
"...Or forever hold their peace."
Grammatically incorrect. It shouldn't have been "their." It should be an inclusive "his" or something, because it was singular... Lily objected to the inaccuracy of the language...
No one objected to anything else—at least, not out loud. Yvonne was checking out the best man.
"Vernon, do you take Petunia for your lawfully wedded wife to live in the state of matrimony? Will you love, honor...?"
"Petunia, do you take Vernon for your lawfully wedded husband to live in the state of matrimony? Will you love, honor, comfort, and cherish him from this day forward..."
No hesitance, no doubt in the bride's eyes.
"...Forsaking all others, keeping only unto him for as long as you both shall live?"
There was a little more, and then Vernon's "to have and to hold," and then Petunia's.
"May this ring be blessed so he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in peace, and continue in love until life's end."
Maybe a little longer, too.
"With this ring, I thee wed."
"With this ring, I thee wed."
"May this couple be prepared to give, to be able to forgive, and experience more and more joy with each passing day, with each passing year. Vernon and Petunia are now beginning their married life together. We hope that they may have loving assistance from their family, the constant support of friends, and a long life with good health and everlasting love. In so much as they have consented to live forever together in wedlock, and have witnessed the same before this company, having declared same by the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife."
For something that was meant to last so long, marriage ceremonies were rather short.
Vernon's mother didn't cry, but Petunia's did, and her sister, in the front row, wearing the yellow dress, had tears as well.
(Bribes and Clues)
James had no idea what Harvest Lane looked like to the muggles, but to his eyes, it looked like a dump. The entrance was not in the front of the shop at all, but on the side, in a derelict alleyway, complete with an unfortunate looking tabby and several rubbish bins. The wooden door was narrow and could probably have been kicked in, if anyone cared enough to try, and the paint on the sign over the mantle was peeling, as though the place were deserted. In fact, the only indication that the place was still in business was the long window to the right of the door. This, James guessed, must have been invisible to non-magic eyes, for the display there was far too risky.
However, there persisted one primary problem with Harvest Lane, and it was not merely the inexplicable name.
"It's closed," stated Remus obviously.
"It might not be!" protested Sirius.
"The windows are dark," Peter pointed out.
"Maybe it's a motif thing!"
"There's a 'Closed' sign in the window," said Remus.
"Maybe it's a mistake!"
"Their service hours are posted right there..." said James.
"It's not a mistake," Remus maintained. "And you're delusional."
Sirius sighed. "I'm not delusional. I know it's closed." He leaned back against the brick wall opposite the shop. James joined him there.
"We can always try Borgin and Burkes," he said. "They may be creepy and disreputable, but I'm sure they know their way around a two-way mirror."
"I know," Sirius replied listlessly. "But that place reminds me of Master Black..." Sirius often referred to his father as such; "He used to take us there when we were kids."
James tried to think of something comforting to say but found himself at a loss. He momentarily fumbled about for an excuse, until Remus—who had been examining the window display—spoke up.
"Hang on, I think there's someone inside!"
"Stop trying to make me feel better," whined Sirius.
Remus rolled his eyes and turned to them. "I'm not. Come look."
They did, and there was, indeed, a wizard moving about inside the shop. His exact actions were obscured by a stack of trunks and the poor lighting, but his mere presence provided hope enough for James, who at once began to tap the window and call out. The others imitated him, and, after a minute, the wizard—an elderly, hunch backed chap—took heed and limped towards the door.
He opened it wide enough to stick out his head and then croaked: "We're closed." He started to shut the door again, but James stopped it with his hand.
"Please, we're looking for someone. Clarence Byron? Are you him?"
The man laughed. "Do I look like any Clarence Byron?" he asked, uttering the name derisively.
"He has a point," Sirius allowed. The others looked at him. "What? Clarence... it has a certain... femininity to it..."
Remus rolled his eyes again. "Do you work here?" he inquired of the wizard.
"Nah, I'm robbin' the place," snapped the wizard sarcastically. "Of course I work here, and I'd like ta continue that, if you understand me, so you boys had better get gone, before I..." He stopped when James handed him three galleons. "Well, what do ya want, then?"
"We're looking for someone to fix a mirror," said Peter.
"Not just a normal mirror—a bewitched one," Sirius added. "It was made in Byron's dad's old shop in Hogsmeade, and the wizard at Dervish and Banges said that Clarence Byron might have some insight into how to replace the spell on it."
"Well, ya won't find Clarence Byron here. We're closed, as I told ya..."
"I don't suppose you have any experience with outdated two-way mirror spells?" asked Peter. The wizard snorted.
"You think I'd be dustin' up in this place on a weekend if I were any good with those spells?"
"Probably not," agreed James.
"Do you know where we could find Clarence Byron, then?" Remus asked.
"Not here," reiterated the elderly man. "An' you won't be findin' him here any time soon either. Sacked six months ago, Byron was."
"Sacked?" echoed Peter.
"What for?" asked Sirius, optimistically adding to James: "Maybe he'll be hard up for money..."
"Hexed if I know," said the wizard. "Didn't seem too troubled, the way I understand it."
"Why not?" Remus inquired.
"Had a new position already, that's why."
"Where?" asked James.
"Well, now..." The wizard smiled a wrinkled, toothless smile. "It's difficult to remember..."
"That's your cue, Prongs," muttered Sirius, rolling his eyes. James handed over a few more galleons.
"The Daily Prophet," said the wizard, tucking the coins into the pocket of his dusty apron. "Merlin knows why. 'Heard he was writin' some kind of column."
"The Daily Prophet?" Remus repeated. He looked at the others. "There's a chance we might be able to find him there."
"Alright," said James. "I'm in if you lot are."
Sirius turned to the wizard. "Might we use the shop to apparate?"
"Well, now, I'm not quite..."
James handed him another galleon.
"Step lightly, then, lads; ya musn' linger in the street there..."
(Bruno and Elton)
Bruno Trent might have been Vernon Dursley's brother, if he had not lacked one of Dursley's defining characteristics. Bruno, like Vernon, was large and thick, fair instead of dark, but equally ridiculously mustached nonetheless. He possessed similarly beady eyes, and a similar partiality to stiff, ugly, expensive clothing. He also sweated profusely, a fact that Lily was unhappily learning now—which brings us to the difference between Vernon and his distant relative, Bruno. Bruno Trent did not despise Lily.
Why was it that—in movies and books—when a girl got asked to dance by a stranger at a wedding, the asker was handsome and charming, while in real life, they were just... Bruno?
After he stepped on her feet throughout the entirety of Can't Help Falling in Love, Lily tried desperately to detach herself for Your Song. Bruno quickly shot down her feeble arguments, however, and insisted she share another dance. At last, Lily reluctantly submitted, with the caveat that this would, indeed, be her last dance with him.
The reception took place in a large hall in a hotel lobby, the expense of which must have been considerable; Lily remained uncertain as to how it might be paid for. Nonetheless, seeing the place left little doubt about Petunia's taste. The effect of the room's soft lights, polished wood floors, extensive flower arrangements, and ornate design was just short of breathtaking.
"Fine weather today," said Bruno, since, apparently, he had no real conversation to start.
"I prefer it a little cooler," replied Lily. She glanced over at the head table, where the bride and groom sat, talking. Wondering vaguely what Vernon and Petunia had to talk about, Lily tried to distract herself from the pain that shot threw her foot when Bruno tread upon her toes once again.
"Yes, yes, of course," he said, attempting to steer her in a distantly circular motion. Lily would have tried to help him in the gesture, but the last time she had made such an attempt, he accused her of "Leading."
Mrs. Evans was talking and laughing with some friends near the gift table. She had a glass of white wine in her hand, and, from the brief glimpse that Lily caught during the time Bruno had her facing in that direction, she thought her mother looked very happy. Very happy, and very beautiful. That, at least, made Lily smile.
Bruno chuckled nervously, evidently thinking his "Yes, yes, of course," had caused Lily's smile. She looked at him as though she had forgotten he was there, sweating on her, altogether.
"Do you have a boyfriend, Lily?"
"Why not?" asked her partner with his best, most winning smile. Lily hated that question. She supposed that blokes meant it to be a compliment, but it never was.
"I had one," said Lily dully, watching Nancy Wiggins and Rachel Richards flirt with her cousin Will across the courtyard. "We broke up in April."
Bruce danced awkwardly on. "W-what for?" he inquired. Lily didn't even care that she had clearly steered the conversation into an uncomfortable area.
"His brother wanted to murder me and scatter my ashes across the Channel."
Bruno stepped on her foot again.
"Just kidding," she deadpanned a moment later, rather than elaborating. Bruno smiled uneasily. Why he continued to dance with her was a mystery to Lily at this point; she had been nothing but sarcastic and weird (if not exactly mean) since he first asked her and she'd been unable to think of a reasonable refusal. The yellow dress must really have been working for her.
The song finally ended, and this time, Lily made her escape. Her targets were two-fold: her mother and a glass of wine. She found the latter first, and then made her way over to the former.
"Hello, love," greeted Mrs. Evans, kissing Lily on the top of the head, as her youngest daughter placed it on her mother's shoulder. "I saw you dancing."
"That was dancing? I thought he just wanted someone to sweat on."
Mrs. Evans smothered a smile. "Play nice."
"Who, me? I'm always nice."
But her mother decided not to comment on this. "Have you eaten?"
"Like a pig, yes."
"Good. You look very pretty."
"So do you, Mum."
Mrs. Evans smiled. "We're serving the cake soon."
"Indeed. Be a good girl and visit with your cousins please?"
"If I must."
"And easy on the wine... you're still underage here."
"You don't look pretty anymore."
"A sacrifice I'm willing to make."
Lily made a face but leaned over and kissed her mum on the cheek before pulling away.
(Teresa and The Prophet)
The Daily Prophet reception room was a long stone hall that buzzed with activity when the Marauders entered. Two hulking wizards stood on either side of the double doors, but they didn't speak to the visitors, and James sent Sirius a warning look, advising him to resist the urge that Sirius assuredly had to quip at them as the four boys passed. High, arched windows lined the chamber walls, and owls swooped in and out freely, while the witches and wizards within went about their business, paying the birds little heed.
A receptionist stood behind a tall desk in the center of the room. She was a pretty blonde, and the moment the Marauders spotted her—directing a wizard towards the lift—Sirius cleared his throat and brushed his black hair back from his eyes.
"I think it's fair to say that I've got this one," he said confidently. The others rolled their eyes, but followed him to the desk nonetheless. "Hello, there," greeted Sirius, and the witch looked up at them. Her eyes barely touched on Sirius, however, before flickering to one of his friends.
James suddenly realized the reason the girl had looked a bit familiar.
All eyes—including the blonde's—were on James now, and this time, he did not exactly like it. "Going to introduce us, mate?" asked Sirius pointedly.
"Please, Sirius, I was only two years ahead of you lot," interrupted the witch sharply. "James and I dated for a month in my seventh year."
"This won't end well," muttered Peter.
"Of c-course." Sirius cleared his throat. "I remember now. Rebecca?"
"Teresa," chorused James and the girl herself. She folded her arms.
"I'm surprised you remember."
"Of course I remem..."
"And do you remember why we broke up?"
"Definitely won't end well," agreed Remus, nudging Peter.
"If I say 'yes', will you not repeat it?" asked James hopefully.
Teresa ignored him; "We broke up, because after we had gone out on two dates and snogged like twenty times, he continued to ask out Lily Evans!"
Sirius affected shock. "Prongs, I cannot believe that you would do something like that to a lovely woman like this."
"Stuff it, Padfoot, or we'll take a look at what you were doing when we were fifteen."
"Literally and figuratively," offered Peter. Sirius made a face.
"Fine." He turned to Teresa. "I'm sorry my mate is a git—and he really is, but it was a matter of love, and..."
"Save it, Black, it was two years ago," interrupted Teresa. She sighed and rolled her eyes. "I've moved on. What do you lot want?"
"We're looking for Clarence Byron," Remus spoke up, sidestepping James and bringing himself to greater prominence. "We were told he works here now."
"He does, yes," Teresa confirmed. "He writes a column on practical magic on household items. And I can take a message for you, but only authorized individuals are allowed upstairs."
"I thought you said you've moved on!" complained Sirius. Teresa glared at him.
"I have," she said severely; "However, in light of recent events, The Prophet is following certain protocol, and I have to adhere to that."
She referred, of course, to the unhappy culmination of the Week of the Demands. The Marauders exchanged looks; James remained extremely uncomfortable with the situation, but Sirius was fairly desperate. "Can you at least tell us if he's in today?"
Teresa shifted her weight, obviously considering her options. At last, she replied: "I'm not supposed to say. But I can tell you that Mr. Byron runs a weekly column due Saturday evening and that a Saturday afternoon such as this one would be exactly the time that someone in that position might want to spend at the office."
"That means 'yes,' right?" Peter muttered to Remus, who nodded.
"Alright, then," began Sirius slowly. "Can you take a message for us?"
"I would be able to send up a note, yes," replied the witch. "And Mr. Byron would receive it the next time he is in the office."
"Which is today, right?" Peter asked once again, and Remus, again, nodded.
"Brilliant," said Sirius. "Might we have some parchment and a quill?"
Teresa provided the necessary items, and the Marauders moved to a small sitting area near the door. James wrote the note, which was short and simple, addressing Clarence Byron, explaining that they knew of him through Byron's Bewitched Commodities and Harvest Lane, and politely stating that they would be willing to compensate him if he might do a bit of magic for them regarding an object purchased in his former shop.
When James had finished writing, Remus and Sirius delivered the note to Teresa again. She took the note, placed it in a black plastic tray on her desk, and tapped the tray once with her wand. The note disappeared at once.
"How long before he responds?" Peter wanted to know. Teresa merely shrugged.
"It might be five minutes; it might be an hour," she replied, rather indifferently. At that moment, a folded square of parchment appeared in the tray, but when Teresa picked it up, she was quick to dispel the evident hopefulness of the four guests. "It's not your reply," she said. "Mr. Byron doesn't send messages with the tray. He'll send a messenger. You had better take a seat." She directed them once again to the waiting area, and the Marauders sat down again.
Minutes slipped by, and while many people passed through the hall, entering lifts, receiving owls, or stopping for a word with Teresa the receptionist, no message arrived for the Marauders.
"How long does it take to write 'yes' or 'no?'" Sirius complained, after a quarter of an hour had disappeared uneventfully. "Quite rude, this Clarence Byron."
Remus absently watched as a tall, wiry wizard stepped out of a lift and approached Teresa. "Maybe he hasn't read the note yet. He might be busy, you know."
"Rubbish," muttered Sirius. "People here just waste time is all. Look at that bloke..." He nodded towards the older wizard at reception; "he's got time to pop downstairs and chat up Teresa, hasn't he?"
"Listen," began James, calling their attention away from the little scene; "we don't even know if this Byron chap can help us. Maybe he hasn't got a clue how the mirror was made."
"But Glauff said that he practically ran the shop for years," argued Sirius; he pulled the still functioning mirror from his pocket. "And he worked at that pretentious Harvest Lane place, too; he must have some idea."
"If he doesn't," said Peter, "we might still be able to fix it..."
"I thought Prongs had already tried..."
"He did. But when we get back to Hogwarts, we'll have the whole library."
"That's true," Remus agreed optimistically. "If you lot could figure out how to help me with my... problem..."
"Furry little problem," James corrected, grinning.
"Yes, that. If you could work that out, I'm sure you could..."
"But we're not going back to Hogwarts for more than a month," Sirius interrupted. "And the mirror has to be fixed now..."
"Why?" asked Peter.
"It just does," said Sirius firmly, and no one saw much use in debating the point.
Nearly twenty more minutes passed before, at last, Teresa called the boys to her desk again. An ugly, goblin-like creature had bustled up to her desk with a scrap of parchment and a few grunted instructions.
"Mr. Byron asks that you not bother him anymore today," said Teresa, as the goblin departed for the lift again. "In fact, he's asked that he receive no more interruptions for today."
"He can do that?" Sirius demanded. "He's a sodding columnist, not Minister of Magic!"
"Security's tight," said Teresa simply. "You boys had better go. Owl him if it's important."
"But..." began Sirius, only to be interrupted as James grabbed his arm.
"C'mon, Padfoot," said Remus. "We'll think of something else, okay?"
Sirius relaxed, albeit reluctantly, and followed his friends as they started for the door. "What do you reckon?" he asked in an undertone. "Pop back to the Potters', grab the Invisibility Cloak..."
"We're not going to break into the Daily Prophet building," Remus replied, whispering loudly. "That's mad. A reporter..." He stopped, and the boys grew quiet as they passed the two security wizards by the exit, "...A reporter," Remus resumed, "was killed here last week. They have every right to be cautious."
Out on the street, the stiff July air was just short of suffocating, and Sirius scowled at his friends. "We're not going to do anything dangerous—we just want to talk to this prick! Right, Prongs?" He turned to James for support.
"I dunno," began his friend slowly; "Moony has a point, and we've been at it for almost five hours..."
Sirius stared incredulously at the pair of them. They were all loitering near the front doors of the Prophet building. Sirius turned his eye to Peter. "Wormtail?"
"We've been all over the country," Peter said quietly; "I don't see why we don't just go back to Dervish and Banges tomorrow and have the bloke make up a new set of mirrors..."
"We can't just make up new mirrors!" Sirius protested. "These belonged to Mr. Potter! Surely, he'll..."
"I think Dad has a few other things on his mind at the moment," James pointed out.
"But these are the mirrors!" pressed Sirius. "They're the first decent bit of loot we had! Before your old man gave up the cloak, Prongs, we had the mirrors! Before the map, before the nicknames, before we'd given up on ever getting Remus a girlfriend!" He appealed to humor, but James hesitated still. "Prongs."
"Padfoot," began James, "I want to have the mirrors repaired, too, but we can owl this Byron bloke like Teresa said, and..."
"You're giving up?"
"I'm not giving up; I just said we could..."
Sirius, however, would have none of it. He threw up his hand in exasperation. "Honestly, we're supposed to be the sodding Marauders, and a few scary looking wizards by the front doors have got you quivering in your socks..."
"Padfoot, calm down," said Remus briskly. "We've been apparating and walking and searching all day, and it's not unreasonable to..."
"Rubbish, Moony, you're just..." But Sirius was cut off, as a wizard exiting the newspaper building behind them ran into him almost head on in his rushed departure. It was the man that Sirius had accused of chatting up Teresa earlier, and he did not stop, despite having nearly knocked Sirius to the ground. Without muttering so much as an 'excuse me,' he ducked passed the boys and hurried up the road. "Bloody git! Watch where you're going!" Sirius hollered impatiently after him, but the man did not stop. "Wanker," he added under his breath. He started to address the other Marauders again, only to be disrupted by yet another wizard tumbling through the Prophet doors.
"Terribly sorry!" this second interruption squeaked; he did not take off at once, either, but shouted to the retreating figure of the first wizard, while waving a large pocketbook: "You've forgotten your briefcase! Mr. Byron! Your briefcase!"
The Marauders started at the sound of the name. "'Byron' did you say?" James asked, bypassing the others to speak to the man.
"Yes, yes," squeaked the wizard. "He left it behind, and he hasn't finished his..."
"He's Clarence Byron?" asked Remus quickly.
"That's right, but..."
The four Marauders looked at once down the road to the first wizard, who had stopped some distance away. The moment eye contact was made, however, the wizard turned and set off again, sprinting as best his aged legs could carry him. James grabbed the briefcase.
"I'll bring it to him," he said brightly and then took off in pursuit. Sirius, Remus, and Peter followed.
James ducked around passersby and pedestrians, only barely avoiding some and almost upsetting a table outside Florean Fortescue's. Byron was quicker than he looked, however, and, though the road met its end, James's primary concern was that Byron would apparate away before he could catch him. He quickened his pace, pushing through a queue that had formed outside Gambol & Japes. Emerging on the other side—with more than a few witches and wizards snapping at him for his rudeness—James briefly lost sight of Byron; he stood on his toes, peering above the crowd for the grey-haired wizard he chased. He spotted him again, hastening around the corner by the junk shop and ran after him.
The Marauder knew for a fact that there was nothing but a brick dead end on the other side of that particular corner, and he felt sure that by the time he reached it, Byron would have apparated. Yet, when he rounded the corner, there stood the ancient wizard, wheezing dramatically, trapped between James and the stone wall.
Byron took a step back.
"I know what you're up t-t-t-to!" he stammered, panting and clutching his abdomen. "It w-won't work! I haven't any money! Not really!"
James could not possibly have been more confused. "What are you talking about?" he demanded. Sirius arrived then, with the other two not far behind. "Why were you running from us?"
"Why were you chasing me?" countered Byron.
"Because you were running!" James retorted, frustrated.
"James considers other people running... as a personal challenge," Remus remarked; he, too, was breathing heavily from the chase.
"What do you want with me?" Byron asked. He straightened up now, evidently hoping to regain some dignity.
"We just wanted to talk to you," said Sirius. "I'm Sirius Black—this is James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. We wanted to talk to you about an object you sold to Pron—James's dad... from Byron's Bewitched Commodities."
Clarence Byron's wrinkled face relaxed almost at once. "Byron's Bewitched is closed. All sales are final," he stated solemnly.
James rolled his eyes. "Obviously. But—c'mon, show him your mirror, Padfoot." Both James and Sirius withdrew their respective mirrors and presented them to Byron. "We don't want any trouble or money from your or anything..." He handed over Byron's briefcase as a gesture of good faith; "didn't you read our note?"
"I did," muttered Byron. He looked at the mirrors dispassionately, barely noticing the cracks in one. James actually thought he might simply have been looking at his reflection. "I thought you were... well, I thought you were after money. You said you wanted me to do a spell, and..."
He trailed off. "And what?" Peter asked curiously.
"I reckoned you were threatening me," finished Byron with a sigh.
"I am so lost," muttered Remus.
"Well, we weren't threatening you," said Sirius, folding his arms. "James's dad bought these at Byron's Bewitched. They're two-way mirrors, and Glauff at Dervish and Banges said you might be able to repair them... or tell us what spell was used to make them work, so that we could fix the glass and re-cast the charm ourselves..."
Byron cleared his throat. He tried to hand back the mirrors, but none of the Marauders would take them.
"Boys, I—I remember selling dozens of these sorts of mirrors, years and years ago, but I didn't make them. There were loads of other wizards at the shop and elsewhere who made the objects we sold. I couldn't possibly..."
"But you worked there," said Sirius quickly; "And people brought damaged things in for repair, didn't they?"
"I recommend you get a new set," said Byron, ignoring the question. "I'm sure you could find a nice pair of two-way mirrors in Dervish and Banges or Borgin and Burkes, or any number of..."
"We don't want a replacement!" James spoke up loudly. "These are the Marauders' mirrors, and these are the ones that are going to be fixed!"
"What marauders?" asked Byron timidly, but James cut him off.
"We stood in lines at the Ministry of Magic, and bribed an old bloke at Harvest Lane, and tolerated this ungodly weather trying to find you—you have a whole sodding column about these types of things! You must have some idea how to fix it!"
Byron dropped his gaze. "I am terribly sorry, boys," he murmured, and he sounded sincere, "but there really is nothing I can do for you. If I could, I certainly would, but... I simply cannot."
"You can't even try?" asked Remus.
"It wouldn't make any difference if I did."
"What does that mean?" Sirius wanted to know.
"N-nothing. Simply that... that I'm unable to assist you."
Byron attempted to sidestep the Marauders. "Please, boys, there is nothing..."
"Wait a minute." James obstructed his path, comprehension dawning on him. "Why didn't you apparate away just now?"
Byron halted. "E-excuse me?"
"You ran away from us..." James continued; "you thought we were threatening you for some reason, and you ran away... you could have apparated, and it would have been impossible for us to follow you."
The older wizard made no reply, so James continued.
"And you ran left instead of right... but if you'd gone through the Leaky Cauldron, you would have been in muggle London in a minute, and it would have been a cinch to disappear there. But you went left... you went towards the other exit..."
"There's another exit to muggle London?" asked Remus curiously. James nodded.
"It ends up in the sewer though, so the only rational reason to use it would be... if you couldn't use the other entrance."
"Why wouldn't you be able to use the other entrance?" Peter asked.
James did not remove his eyes from Byron, but Byron himself continued to stare at his toes. "That's a good question," the Marauder muttered. "Why wouldn't you use the entrance through the Leaky Cauldron?"
Remus caught on as to what his friend was trying to say. "Because you need magic! You need to summon the archway!"
The Marauders all looked at the now pale-as-Snape Byron. "Are you a squib?" asked Sirius.
"That's why he thought we were threatening him," said James. "Because all the note said was that we wanted him to do a spell... he thought we were taunting him...!"
"He thought it meant blackmail!" Remus added enthusiastically; "I knew I should have written the note; you word things all wrong, Prongs."
"Neither here nor there," disregarded James. He took a step closer to Byron. "Are you a squib?"
For a few seconds, Byron said nothing. Then, his lip began to quiver, and, moments later, he was bawling—not just a few, dignified tears, but an ocean of fluids, soaking his face and giving the impression of a stretched, wrinkly baby. The Marauders only stared at him.
"That was unexpected," said Sirius.
Remus handed Byron a handkerchief. They all waited.
"I-I-I'm s-s-so terr—terribly tired of all of this," wept Byron into Remus's handkerchief, shaking his head pitifully. "Sixty-one years I-I-I-I've been l-l-lying to ev-everyone about... about wh-wh-what I am!"
"Which is," Sirius began, "just to be clear—a squib. Right?" Remus elbowed him. "What? I just want to make sure we know what kind of identity crisis we're getting involved in!"
Byron seemed only to barely hear them. He nodded weakly. "Y-y-y-yes. I-I-I've b-b-b-b-barely got any magic blood in m-m-me at all!" With that, he dissolved into sobs for several minutes. James approached him, patting him awkwardly on the shoulder and wincing, while the others stood uncomfortably by, wondering whether it wouldn't be best just to make a quick exit while they could.
At last, however, Byron regained some control of himself. He eventually reached the hiccup stage, and another inelegant five or ten seconds passed in silence.
"Alright, then, mate," sighed James. "Let's... get some tea or something."
"I'm putting gin in mine," Sirius muttered rebelliously.
(Common and Cotton)
"At my wedding," Eden Hayes definitively stated, "I'm going to have the bridesmaids each wear a different color. And the ceremony will definitely be outside; it's just so much more... natural..."
Lexi, who sat to the left of her sister, rolled her eyes at this statement. "At your wedding, Eden? By that time, I suppose they'll be able to have the whole ceremony in space. We'll have flying cars."
"Swot," retorted Eden. She reached over and, with her fork, stole a bite of Lexi's slice of wedding cake.
"Hey! Get your own!"
Lily laughed at her two cousins' antics, taking another bite of her own whiter than white cake. At last, Eden reluctantly agreed to fetch a new slice for her sister, but only on the condition that she not be forced to make the journey solo.
"C'mon, Lily," she pleaded. "Please, please, please, please don't make me go alone!"
Lily inevitably relented, smiling and shaking her head, as Eden looped an arm through one of hers and strutted towards the cake table.
"I saw you dancing with that friend of Vernon's," Eden began teasingly, while they joined the queue for cake. "You make a lovely couple."
"Don't try to be funny, E," Lily replied, trying to look disapproving.
"I'm just saying—I saw potential there, Lily. You have to move on opportunities like that one."
"Ha, ha, get your cake, before I introduce you to him."
"That is an awful idea."
Moving through the thick crowd collecting along the perimeter of the dance floor was more than a little difficult, even after Eden had picked up her cake. Since the roundabout route necessitated by the crowd brought Lily to the bar anyway, she decided to stop for champagne, and Eden moved along back towards their table without her.
"It will be a moment," the bartender informed her. "We have to open another bottle."
So Lily waited, watching the dance floor idly. The bride and groom shared the slow dance, and enough people oh'd and ah'd that Lily supposed Vernon must be sufficiently pleased. She maintained her stare for only a few seconds, and was about to turn back to see about her champagne, when Lily heard her sister's name, muttered in an undertone somewhere not far off.
Marge Dursley stood near the bar with a glass of something amber clenched between her thick fingers, and she was speaking to someone that Lily thought had been introduced to her as an aunt of Vernon's. Everything, from her expensive, celadon suit dress to her permanently repulsed expression supported this theory.
"You mustn't blame Petunia," Marge was grunting to the possible aunt, as she took another large swallow of her drink. "She's a nice girl, and Vernon could do worse."
"Yes, but really," the older woman replied (Lily moved surreptitiously closer), "Cotton table cloths... they might as well have had fold-away chairs!"
"It's that mother of hers' doing..." replied Marge; Lily gasped, and the bartender handed the still stunned girl her champagne. "A nice enough woman, I suppose, but... well, I understand she let's the younger daughter run very much wild..."
"The ginger girl?"
"That's right. Goes to Catholic school I hear."
"God, what is England coming to?"
Lily's knuckles were now white, as she gripped the champagne flute stem with an ever growing urge to smash it over someone's head. However, had the conversation ended there—even though Marge and her aunt had called Lily wild and mocked the perfectly nice cotton tablecloths, even still, had the conversation ended there, the whole thing might have passed without notice, and Lily might have sat down with her cousins again, fuming, but otherwise none the worse.
Unfortunately, Lily heard the next part of the exchange.
"Of course, some of it is to be expected..." the aunt continued. "Isn't it right that the father worked in an assembly line for some years?"
"Yes," confirmed Marge. "He died some years ago, but I understand that he was very common..."
Lily heard nothing more in the next two seconds, nor did she notice much, except the heat rising in her face, and the distance between herself and Marjorie Dursley diminishing exponentially. With knee-jerk-like speed, Lily had emptied the contents of her champagne flute onto Marge's red face.
"My goodness!" gasped the aunt, while the dripping Marge stood, mouth agape, unable to muster any kind of response for several seconds.
"You can just shut up about my mum and dad, you sagging, irrelevant hag!" Lily snapped to the older woman, before rounding on Marge once again. "And you are an awful woman! You are cruel, and rude and... and..." But her mind suddenly went blank: "fat!"
Marge and the aunt were still recovering from that one, Lily was still fuming, and a few bystanders continued to listen in for more, when Eden reappeared and, grabbing Lily's arm, guided her away. Only when she sat down at her cousins' table again did Lily snap out of her anger induced haze. Eden handed Lily her own glass of wine.
"Your need is greater than mine, Red."
(Tea and Ice Cream)
James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Clarence Byron sat at a booth in Florean Fortescue's. The Marauders had ice cream, and Mr. Byron had tea while he related to them his doleful tale.
Clarence Byron was born what he called "practically a squib," with about enough magic talent in him to summon a few sparks, though not nearly enough to cast any actual spells. His father owned the shop in Hogsmeade, but realized early on that Clarence would be no proper wizard, and attempted to, or pretended to, at least, educate him at home. What he had lacked in talent, Clarence had apparently made up for in effort: he memorized spells, studied magical theory, and learned every written and unwritten rule of practical magic. If he had been a wizard, he might have been a brilliant one.
Also, he was quite clever with numbers. As his father got on in years, Clarence took over more and more of the business—managing accounts, selling products, etcetera. Anything that required magic (repairs included) were delegated to other employees. Despite relative success, a few years after Leander Byron at last retired, Clarence decided to close the shop. By that time, there were only a handful of people who knew or remembered that he was a squib at all—his wife, his father and mother, and one employee at Byron's Bewitched... an elderly chap, who loyally covered for Clarence if the situation called for it. This man's name was Pierson Peasegood.
"Pierson Peasegood?" echoed James.
"Ridiculous," agreed Sirius.
"No... well, yes, it is, but... I dunno... doesn't it sound familiar to you?"
At any rate, Clarence decided to close the shop, and he felt comfortable in doing so, because he had already secured a position at Harvest Lane. There, no one knew he was a squib, and he had to work significantly harder to conceal his secret. His lies ceased to be omissions and became blatant falsehoods. However, Pierson Peasegood had come with Byron to Harvest Lane, and he continued to cover for Byron. If the squib was commissioned to fix something, he would claim it required overnight attention, at which point either Pierson, or even Byron's wife, Lorraine, would perform the repairing spells. Even still, the vast majority of his role at Harvest Lane was administrative.
Finally, about six months earlier, the pressures of Harvest Lane and the deceit it necessitated became too much. The wizard at that establishment had misinformed the Marauders; Byron was not sacked, but resigned himself. He took the job at The Prophet because all that was really required there was thorough knowledge of magical theory. Unfortunately, the higher profile generated through this new occupation had made Clarence somewhat nervous as of late, which was why he interpreted James's note as blackmail. He had come downstairs to see the apparent blackmailers himself, but, finding he didn't recognize them, decided to send them away and make a quick exit of his own.
And that more or less brought things to where they now stood (or sat), in Florean Fortescue's, with ice cream and tea.
"You've really convinced everyone that you're not a squib?" Sirius asked, incredulously, when the story was finished. "How do you get around apparating? I mean, surely people wonder why you don't pop in and out, like normal people do."
"I've told everyone I'm an apparaphobe," murmured Byron sadly. "It's excruciatingly humiliating, but it's... it's better than the truth." He uttered the last word with distinct contempt.
"Apparaphobe?" asked James.
"Apparaphobia is the fear of apparition," said Remus. "It's rare, but some wizards are mortally terrified of apparating. Do you use portkeys, then?" he added to Byron.
"Yes. And muggle transport, too, sometimes," replied Byron.
Then, there were a dozen more questions about the logistics of the thing, and Byron took them all, a little confused by the Marauders' combination of amusement with and admiration for his answers. When, at last the questions about Byron's life had been asked and answered, James swirled his spoon through his forgotten bowl of ice cream and asked the question that had brought them there to begin with: "What about the mirror, then?"
Automatically, they all glanced at the two mirrors, sitting on the table, shining in the warm lighting of the parlor.
Byron sighed. "It is... it might have been possible that I could determine what method of bewitchment was used on these mirrors..." He picked up the broken one, studying it, "but the papers from my father's shop are gone, and without them... well, without them, it would require magic to answer your questions, and obviously, I cannot help you with that." He noted the boys' severe disappointment with this, and felt compelled to add: "I have recommended already that you explore other options... new mirrors are surely available..."
"We're not interested in new mirrors," Remus said calmly.
Byron sighed heavily. "Well, boys... if there was someone who could almost certainly repair these mirrors... it would be Pierson Peasegood."
"The bloke who worked with you at Harvest Lane?" asked Peter, and Byron nodded.
"Yes, yes. He was a brilliant wizard in his day... I've known him since I was a boy."
"Brilliant," said James enthusiastically. "So where can we find him?"
"I have no idea."
Sirius raised one eyebrow. "But you said you've known him since you were a boy?"
"I have," said Byron. "But he retired from Harvest Lane some time before I departed, and we rather fell out of touch."
"But you must have some idea how to reach him? An address?"
"He used to live with his daughter, but she went to America some time ago," said Byron. "Really, I haven't a clue where he is. You might try owling him, if he hasn't gone with his daughter and her husband. P-E-A-S-E-G-O-O-D."
The Marauders exchanged looks.
"Those are your options, boys," Byron went on. "I know that they are not, perhaps, exactly what you hoped for, but they are extremely optimistic. You ought to be glad."
Remus gave a perfunctory, "Yeah."
Soon after that, Byron finished his now tepid tea and informed them that he really did have to go. With thanks and sincerity, the Marauders promised that Byron's secret was safe with them, although Remus pointed out that, as he had been terrified to the point of fleeing at the sight of four innocuous teenagers, Byron might be doing himself a favor in revealing the truth about his magical abilities.
Then, Byron was gone, and the four Marauders were left alone.
"What time is it?" James asked presently, and it was Remus who replied with "Five minutes to six."
James frowned thoughtfully. "Do you reckon the post office is still open?"
"Why?" asked Peter.
"They might have an address for this Pierson Peasegood, right?"
"I think there is some kind of directory," muttered Sirius. "Five minutes to six, did you say, Moony?"
"Then we had better get going..."
Two minutes later, the Marauders appeared in Hogsmeade for a second time that day, this time, outside of the post office. With only minutes remaining till closing, they hurried inside and up to the counter.
The witch there raised an inquisitive eyebrow, not quite without threat, because surely she did not want to be detained much past six o'clock.
"Do you have listings?" asked Sirius hurriedly. The witch, a fifty-something with spectacles, nodded.
"Pierson Peasegood," said Remus. "We're looking for Pierson Peasegood. Could you find out of if he's listed?"
"One moment," said the witch. She turned and hobbled into a small office behind the desk.
"Cross your fingers, mates," said James, running one hand through his hair.
"She's going to have it," Sirius muttered. He leaned over the counter, practically bouncing on his toes with excess energy. "I can feel it. This is it."
James grinned; "Y'know, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I've heard this name before... Pierson Peasegood... maybe he's some old pureblood I've met..."
"We'll find out soon enough," said Remus. They waited, and the post witch returned a minute later.
"There is no listing for a Pierson Peasegood."
"What?" asked Sirius disbelievingly. "Are you sure? P-E-A-S-E-G-O-O-D?"
"Quite sure, young man," retorted the witch. "There was only one 'Peasegood' and that was 'Aphrodite.' If you wish to send a seeking owl, you may do so..." She paused and checked her watch, "tomorrow. The owl office is now closed."
"Can you send seeking owls abroad?" asked James hastily. "To America, for instance?"
"You must have an address for all international mail sent with our owls," said the witch. "Although, if you wish to send a request to an American office, we can do this. Tomorrow. Nine a.m. Goodbye."
And she said it with such finality that Dumbledore himself would not have questioned her.
(Chats and Chances)
Mrs. Evans found her youngest daughter in the corridor off the reception hall, sitting on the carpeted floor, with her back against the wall as she nursed a black coffee. The mother made her way towards Lily with a slow, deliberate gait, and when she sat down beside her, there was warmth in her soft blue eyes.
"I heard what happened," Mrs. Evans murmured. Lily looked fearfully up at her. "Lil, you didn't think no one would notice, did you?"
"Has Petunia heard?"
"No, I don't think so. She's been a bit busy."
"I suppose it's inevitable that she finds out eventually," grumbled Lily. "But I hope she doesn't hear tonight, at least."
"She and Vernon are changing now," Mrs. Evans told her. "They'll be leaving soon."
Lily only nodded. "I'm sorry, Mum. I didn't... I didn't want to make a scene, but she was just... the things Marge was saying..."
"What was she saying?" Mrs. Evans asked, and when Lily did not reply at once, she added: "I paid for that champagne you know. I ought to know why it's being thrown in people's faces."
Lily smiled weakly, sighing. She leaned her head against her mother's shoulder; "Marge was just... just saying the usual things... calling me 'wild' and chalking it up to that 'awful R.C. school' I attend..."
"I know, Mum. I ought to have just ignored her, but I just... just lost my temper for a moment."
Mrs. Evans wrapped an arm around Lily's shoulders, rubbing her bare upper arm and resting her own head atop her daughter's. "I know it isn't easy, love... and that... that woman had no right to speak that way. Really, if that's how she is going to behave, I ought to have a word with..."
"Oh, Mum, no," Lily interrupted quickly, pulling back. "Please, don't... it's... it's better if we just forget about this whole thing."
"Mrs. Evans," Lily cut her off, faux stern, and her mother caved.
"Fine," she said, sighing. "But I'm not inviting Marge to Christmas."
Mrs. Evans smiled. "I really ought to get back... and you have to say 'goodbye' to your sister yet."
"Right," muttered Lily, while Mrs. Evans got to her feet. Lily followed her into the hall, where there was an air of imminent departure as everyone prepared to see off the bride and groom. Lily set down her coffee, and Mrs. Evans directed her youngest to the room where her eldest prepared. Lily inched towards it, hoping that Petunia would emerge before she arrived.
No such luck, however, and when Lily reached the door, she was obliged to knock.
"Come in!" came Petunia's hassled voice from within. Lily opened the door, slipped inside, and closed it quickly behind her. The bride had changed into a blue sundress, matched with a patterned cardigan and espadrilles, and she stood before the mirror, replacing her diamond stud earrings with less fancy ones. She looked more exasperated than surprised at the entrance of Lily.
"I just wanted to say 'goodbye' before everyone else got to," said the younger girl softly. Petunia huffed.
"I heard what happened."
The blonde sent her a pointed look; "With Marge."
"She had it coming," muttered Lily mutinously, dropping into a vacant chair.
"God, Lily, could you be any more self-centered? This is my wedding, and you embarrassed me in front of my new family!"
"She was insulting your old family, Tuney!"
Petunia rolled her eyes, but seemed to be having trouble with her earrings.
"How did you hear anyway?" Lily wanted to know.
"Marge told Nancy, and Nancy can't keep her mouth shut about anything," snapped Petunia. "I can only be grateful we already took photos, or we'd have to completely redo Marge's face..." She continued on a mild rant about the inconveniences that Lily's temper spurred, but it soon became a hazy, hollow muddle of incomprehensible sound. Lily understood the mood if not the words of the message.
Petunia had always cared a great deal about appearances. She had always cared about rules and order and the niceness of things. She had always liked neatness and required control, but she had not always been shallow.
"Lily?" Petunia's voice broke through Lily's reverie, as though she had repeated the name several times.
"You weren't even listening," scoffed the bride; she had finished with her earrings and was now picking up her handbag. "Of course! I said, what did Marge even say about you that threw you into this little temper tantrum?"
Lily hesitated. Petunia waited expectantly, hands on her thin hips, with her wedding band and engagement ring sparkling in the yellow light of a lamp.
"Does it matter?" Lily asked at last. Petunia scowled.
"I have to go now," she announced, pulling her handbag onto her shoulder.
Petunia looked at Lily, a quietness in her expression that the latter had not seen for a long time. "Yes?"
"It's... it's just that I don't know when I'll see you again," Lily murmured.
Petunia lingered in indecision for a few moments. "We both chose our paths," she said at last. She gathered up her the last of her belongings and was gone a few seconds later.
Lily didn't follow; she could hear the others outside and moved to the window, where she could see Vernon's car awaiting the married couple. She did not watch, but Lily heard the rumbling of the car, the cheering as the bride and groom drove away, the laughter and the voices of well-wishers, and, at last, gentle music of the band in the hall.
(Peasegood and Payment)
Defeated and hopeless, the four Marauders sat in a booth at Florean Fortescue's once again, and even a second (in Sirius's case, third) serving of ice cream could not raise their spirits. Sirius made soup in his cup, watching the chocolate, vanilla, mint, and strawberry swirl together with a dismal expression on his face. For a long time, they were all quiet.
"Listen," Padfoot began at length; "even though it didn't work... thanks for coming along today. I know you lot didn't want to."
"That's not true," said Remus quickly. "We did complain a lot, but even now, if there were anything we could do to fix the mirrors, you know we'd... or at least, I would be on board for it."
"Me too," agreed Peter.
"Obviously," said James.
Sirius nodded. "Thanks, then."
They all nodded gloomily in reply. Still, while none of them were precisely thrilled by the anticlimactic end to the afternoon, none was more upset than Sirius.
After a while, Remus decided he wanted a butterbeer, and so he rose to order one at the counter; Peter went with him, and James and Sirius were momentarily left alone. James picked up his own mirror, carefully running his finger over one edge of shattered glass.
"I'm sorry I broke it," he muttered, not looking up from his jagged reflection.
"It's not your fault," replied Sirius, sighing.
"I threw it at a wall."
"I almost took out Adam McKinnon's eye with the debris..."
"It wasn't your fault," Sirius reiterated. "You were angry with me. It was my fault." He picked up his still intact mirror from the table. "It was all my fault—I suppose that's why I wanted to get it fixed so much." He frowned. "But you're right... we can always get replacements... maybe even a full set of four or something."
James nodded slowly. "I guess so," he muttered with some hesitation. He finally looked up from the mirror. "Everything isn't going to go back to the way it was right away."
Sirius appeared a little surprised.
"You know what I mean," James went on. "Eventually, it'll be normal again... but we're going to go back to school too, and... things are going to be different there for a while. With Moony, and Snape knowing..." Sirius averted his eyes quickly. "It's okay, you know," continued James. "What happened is... it's in the past."
"I know," muttered Sirius at last. "That's not what's bothering me."
He hesitated a moment: "It's... it's just that, you threw the mirror at the wall because you... you must have been pretty sure that you were never going to forgive me. Right?"
"Well... I reckon I figured if we could fix the mirror, then it would... disprove that."
"But I did forgive you... it's already disproven."
"I know, it's just..." Sirius shrugged, somewhat embarrassed, "there's concrete evidence that you hated me. There isn't any concrete evidence that we're not enemies anymore..."
James sighed heavily. "Why does it sound like you're trying to get me to sleep with you?" he puzzled, and Sirius laughed at that. Remus and Peter returned with butterbeers; they had wisely decided to buy drinks for their fellow Marauders.
"What's so funny?" Peter asked, sliding back into the booth.
"Padfoot's trying to seduce me."
"And suddenly his need to fix the two-way mirror is so much more than a thinly veiled metaphor," said Remus, shuddering. "Drink up, slags."
James and Sirius picked up the dark glass bottles that Remus and Peter had purchased for them. James raised his butterbeer in toast, and the others brought their own bottles to meet his in the air at the middle of the four.
"Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs," said Peter, and they "Cheers'd" on that.
"Well," began Remus, once they had all drank, "I still wish we'd been able to find this Pierson Peasgoode bloke."
"I still think it sounds familiar," said James, causing Sirius to roll his eyes.
"You've probably read a book he wrote or something, Prongs. Anyway, how in Godric's name would we find him? Especially if he's moved to America..."
"It's pretty unlikely," Peter agreed. "But you can always get new mirrors."
"Yeah, yeah," muttered Sirius. "It looks like that's the last option. At any rate, I can tinker around with these—I am about fifteen times cleverer than you lot."
"Rubbish," chorused James and Remus.
Sirius grinned and took another drink of butterbeer.
They enjoyed their drinks in moderate quiet for a while, until Peter, listening to the song that played over Florean Fortescue's magically magnified wireless, observed: "This is a pretty good song."
"It's The Goblins' latest one," said James.
Sirius looked at him. "No—this is the Hobgoblins."
"What are you talking about?" interjected Remus "This sounds like Hate Potion."
Sirius and James snorted. "This sounds nothing like Hate Potion. It's obviously the Goblins."
"The Hobgoblins!" Padfoot protested. "The Goblins would never stoop to such an obvious hook."
"Clearly you didn't hear their last two albums."
"Listen to his voice! It's all... wobbly! It's Hate Potion!"
"It's not Hate Potion!" James and Sirius retorted in unison, and the latter added: "I would know! At the pub, we've got the wireless in the afternoons, and this song comes on every other hour..."
"It's Hate Potion! The Hobgoblins bloke couldn't hit half of these notes!"
"They have potions for that, Moony."
"It's Hate Potion!"
"It's the Hobgoblins! Prongs..." Sirius turned to James, "listen to it—it's obviously the Hobgoblins..."
But James wasn't listening to anything. He had dropped out of the conversation several contributions ago and was lost in thought.
"Prongs?" asked Remus, raising his eyebrows. "You okay?"
"Hello? Earth to Prongs?" said Sirius, waving his hand in front of James's glazed-over eyes.
"Oi, Prongs!" Peter called out, and James started suddenly. He swatted Sirius's hand away, and looked up at the other three, a grin starting to grow on his face.
"What's up, Crazy?" asked Sirius, amused.
Inexplicably, James started to laugh.
"What?" Remus demanded. "It's Hate Potion, right?"
James only shook his head. "No, no, no," he muttered, waving away the question with a complete lack of concern. "I... I know who Pierson Peasegood is."
"You do?" said Peter. "Who?"
But James ignored that, too. "I know who he is, and I know where to find him."
"You do?" asked the other three together.
James nodded, his grin growing. "And so would you, Padfoot," he added to Sirius, "if you ever listened to anything anyone else says."
"No need to get personal," retorted Sirius. "Who is it?"
James began to laugh again. He stood up on the seat of the booth and stepped over Sirius's legs, hopping onto the floor. "Come on, then!" he called to the others, starting for the door.
Sirius, Remus, and Peter exchanged bewildered looks, but hastened after their friend. James paused by the exit. He turned and hurried to the counter. The song on the radio had just ended.
"...And that," said the fuzzy voice of the announcer, "was the latest from Hate Potion..."
"Knew it," said Remus victoriously.
"That's one for Moony," said James, jogging back to his friends. He slipped between Sirius and Peter, pushing the door open. "C'mon then!"
"Where are we going?" asked Sirius, as they pursued.
"To find Pierson Peasegood!"
"If he's still there, yes!"
But James only continued to grin enigmatically.
They ended up in the Leaky Cauldron, which buzzed with the Saturday evening crowd, and still no one but James had any idea what they were doing there.
"What are you doing here?" asked Donna, who was still at the bar, now accompanied by Tom himself. "You don't work tonight, Black."
Sirius shrugged. "Ask the madman..." He pointed to James, who was skimming the crowded bar with his eyes.
James ignored them both. He located his target, seated in the usual spot, white hair as wispy as ever, as he sipped at a large goblet.
Pip started, surprised by the enthusiasm with which his name was uttered, and turned to see James practically push someone else out of the way to gain standing room next to the ancient wizard.
"Pip!" James repeated breathlessly. "Your real name... it's Pierson Peasegood, isn't it?"
Pip's surprise grew. "That's right, m'boy, now..."
"Have you been here all day?" asked Remus. "That can't be healthy..."
"That's what I keep saying," Donna contributed, filling a butterbeer order for a witch nearby.
"This isn't the time," James pointed out. "Pip, do you know a bloke named Clarence Byron?"
Pip—or Pierson—raised one crusty eyebrow skeptically. "Who wants to know?"
"I do. Me. James. Potter. I've been in here with you every day this week."
"Righ', righ'," muttered Pip. "Yes, I knew Clarence. Worked in his ol' man's shop most o' my life..."
James beamed. He took the mirrors from his pockets and placed them on the countertop. "Did you ever sell anything like this?"
Pip picked up the items, holding them close to his eyes and studying them with great interest. At last, he broke into a yellow, crooked-toothed smile and nodded; "'Haven' seen 'em in years though... used t' sell dozens o' two-way mirrors like 'is one, back at Byron's. Lov'ly wan' work 'ere, and... horntails and hippogriffs, it's broke!"
"Observant," muttered Remus.
"Yes, that's our problem," said James. "No one seems to know the spell that was used on it... we were hoping..."
Pip didn't seem to be listening, though. He set the mirrors down on the bar. Humming under his alcohol laced breath, he drew what appeared to have once been a wand: a thick, worn stick, with little hairs sticking out in several places. He fumbled with the wand for a moment, mutters and ahems occasionally interrupting this hum.
At last, he paused and was still, just long enough to say: "Too m-many people about. I'll step into the loo." And, taking the mirrors with him, Pip did just that.
"He's going to make them worse," said Sirius once Pip had gone. "He's an old drunk, whatever he was when Byron knew him; he can barely walk straight most days, much less fix the mirrors!"
"How did you know it was that bloke?" Peter wanted to know.
"He's always telling stories about 'the old days,'" replied James distractedly. "'Mentioned his name was Pip. He was retelling some story today, and if I'd listened, I'd probably have remembered right away. You don't really think he'll make it worse, do you, Padfoot?"
Donna, however, was the one to reply; "He can't even cast a proper cooling charm, and he thinks it's the Ministry of Magic's fault. I don't know what those mirrors are, but if they mean anything to you, I would fetch them before he finishes vomiting."
James's eyes widened, and the Marauders simultaneously started after Pip. They had not taken three steps, however, before Pip reemerged from the washroom. He strolled over to the bar again and requested another brew, before setting the mirrors down. Donna filled his order, and James picked up both mirrors; the glass surfaces now appeared identically smooth and intact.
"That's it?" asked Sirius incredulously, looking over James's shoulder. "Do they work?"
"'Course they work," said Pip, with an indignant sip. "Out-o'-date spell used on 'em to begin with. I wiped 'em clean, mended the glass, and put a new charm. I reckon they'll work nicely even if one cracks again."
James did not quite know what to say; he handed the mirror he recognized as Sirius's to his friend and held the other up, as though examining his reflection. For a moment, James Potter stared back at him, hazel eyed and bespectacled and all.
"Sirius Black," he said, and then his own image faded, to be replaced by the other Marauder's.
"Good Godric, they work!" said Sirius, his voice echoed in the looking glass.
"Wait a minute," interjected Remus; "Padfoot, you try summoning Prongs."
They both set down the mirrors and then picked them up again to wipe them clean, and then Sirius uttered James's name, bringing James's reflection to his mirror and Sirius's to James's.
"They work!" Peter repeated excitedly.
Sirius turned to Pip. "I will never call you a drunk to your face again," he vowed. The Marauders laughed, and Donna rolled her eyes. Pip seemed pleased though.
James returned the mirror to his pocket. "I should... pay you or something," he said to the older wizard, not exactly sure how to go about doing this.
"Nah..." Pip took another swallow of his liquor. "I'll only spend it on drinks."
"That's true," Donna contributed.
"Don't you have work to do?" Sirius wanted to know.
"I'm off in ten minutes," she retorted. "And I'm manning the bar."
"That's it," James concluded. "I'll pay Pip's tab for today. How much?"
"Wait a minute," Sirius cut in. "That's not fair... I should chip in."
"But I broke it..."
"But it was my fault..."
"Thirteen galleons," said Donna. Both wizards looked at her and then at Pip.
"Thirteen galleons worth of drinks?" James demanded, fishing about in his pocket. "How are you not dead yet? Or... destitute?"
"I might still call you a drunk to your face, Pip," Sirius agreed.
James emptied all his galleons onto the bar top and counted them out. "I've only got nine left on me," he said. "I could pop home..."
Sirius threw two galleons into the mix. "Besides that, I've got ten sickles and..."
Remus and Peter each contributed another two galleons; "For the rest of the evening," explained the former.
"Thanks much, gent'men," said Pip, nodding to them casually. "And I'll 'ave another, Miss Donna."
"Miss Donna," chuckled Remus.
"I'm calling you that from now on," said James.
Donna glared at them.
"I think we should have celebratory butterbeer," said Peter.
"Agreed," agreed Sirius.
"And how will you pay for it?" Donna wanted to know, preparing Pip's drink, as well as that of another patron at the other end of the bar.
The Marauders frowned. "She has a point," James allowed. "Maybe I will run home..." This time, the suggestion was taken up with more enthusiasm.
When James returned to the Leaky Cauldron about a quarter of an hour after he had left it, the scene was largely the same, with a few notable exceptions. Donna's shift had ended, and a wizard that James didn't know worked the counter with Tom. Miss Shacklebolt herself, meanwhile, had taken a seat at a table with the other three Marauders, and there were two other witches with them.
It was a second before James realized they were Mary MacDonald and Marlene Price.
"Price, MacDonald," he greeted, confusedly taking the available chair at the now crowded table. "Fancy meeting you here."
"We came to meet Donna," Marlene explained. "She's agreed to help us with our Transfiguration summer work..."
"How philanthropic," James remarked.
"Not really. She's charging us a galleon apiece," said Mary.
"Time is money," Donna stated with dignity.
Marlene snorted. "Anyway, Sirius here said drinks were on you, so that's why we hung around."
James noted that they all had butterbeer. "Thanks, Padfoot," he said sarcastically.
"Not at all. Now..." Sirius took a swig of butterbeer and then cleared his throat: "Where was I?"
"You had just figured out who Pierson Peabody was," said Marlene.
"Peasegood," James corrected. "And you did not figure that out, you liar."
"Shut up, Prongs. It's my story."
"But you're lying."
"Relax, Prongs," said Remus dryly. "In this version of the narration, he's already dueled a ogre and tortured someone for information... I don't think anyone but Sirius believes he's telling the truth."
"Stop ruining the story," snapped Sirius. "So, Pierson Peabody..."
"Peasegood," said James.
"One more word from you, Prongs, and I'm writing you out of the story."
(Wreck and Debris)
Lily and her mother were the very last to leave the hall. While her mother collected up any items that needed to be taken home (or returned to their absent-minded owners), Lily meandered through the remains of what had been, ostensibly, an excellent party. Intact left-over food was to be wrapped up and probably frozen, along with the cake, and a few personal items had to be taken, but most of the debris was to be dealt with by employed others.
"I hope you were able to clear everything up with Petunia," Mrs. Evans called from across the empty hall. "You know I don't like it when you two bicker..."
Lily strolled idly to the table where a dozen plates of sliced and wrapped cake lay, ready to be transported to the car. She wished vaguely that she could explain that this disagreement extended far beyond who stole whose hairbrush or whether the Osmonds or the Carpenters were better.
"Don't worry, Mum," she replied. "Everything's cleared up."
Mrs. Evans would, inevitably perhaps, find out the truth later on, but Lily thought she might as well assuage her mother's fears for tonight at least. It had been a very long day.
They worked separately in silence for some time, before Mrs. Evans said: "You can go along home whenever you like, Lily. Your own way, I mean. There's not much left to do here."
"No, I'll go home with you," replied the daughter. "I'd rather you didn't drive alone."
(Lennon and McCartney)
The tables around them emptied and filled and emptied and filled, and the four wizards and three witches in the Leaky Cauldron chatted on. It was beginning to look as though the Transfiguration summer work plan was to be abandoned all together. As the hour approached nine, Sirius suggested they cease dawdling and get something "real" to drink.
"Alright, alright," said Marlene, getting to her feet. "I'll get a round. Does anyone not want beer?"
"Price," scolded Sirius, "if you're going to say ridiculous things, please don't insult us in the process."
Marlene rolled her eyes, but, laughing started towards the bar.
"I'll give you a hand," said James, following her.
When they had ordered their drinks, they hung around, waiting for Tom, and Marlene—casting an eye in the others' direction—said: "It's good to see you lot back together again. It was just unnatural not having you joined at the hip."
James smirked. "Well, we are fairly important people."
The Marauder considered letting it drop, but felt compelled to add: "I never did thank you for... y'know... talking to me last week. Trying to convince me to see sense."
"Are you thanking me now?"
"Consider yourself thanked."
"Consider yourself welcomed." Marlene hesitated. "About the other part of the conversation... what I said about myself..."
"I'm pretty good at secrets."
Marlene smiled gratefully. "Consider yourself thanked."
They returned to the table with the drinks, and Sirius—after taking a deep drink of beer—asked: "So, Marlene, Mary... where's John Lennon anyway?"
The girls looked at him, bewildered. "John Lennon?" Mary repeated.
James nodded. "George, Paul, Ringo," he translated, waving his hand to indicate that Sirius meant them. "So where's John?"
Marlene caught on. "You mean Lily?"
"Wait a minute," Remus interrupted. "Lily's not John. Obviously, she's Paul."
"Lily's not Paul," argued Sirius. "Marlene is Paul."
"Really? I thought I was Ringo..."
"If Marlene is Paul, can I be Ringo?" Mary wanted to know. "I like drummers."
"If Lily is Paul, who is John, then?" James demanded.
"Donna," said Remus.
"I am decidedly okay with that," Donna announced.
"No, Donna's George," said Sirius.
"Why is Donna George?"
"She's scary and always looks kind of angry."
"That's mean," said Marlene. "George is probably a really nice bloke."
"Thanks for the back up, Price."
"No, no," said Remus. "Lily is Paul, Donna is John, and Marlene is George."
"Why am I George?"
"You just said he was probably a really nice bloke!"
"I'd still rather be Paul!"
"Wormtail," said Sirius, turning to Peter. "Settle the score. Is Lily John or is she Paul?"
Peter frowned thoughtfully. "John," he decided at last.
Remus groaned. James and Sirius grinned victoriously, and Marlene punched the air.
"I am so Paul McCartney!"
"As long as I'm Ringo," concluded Mary with a shrug.
"Alright," said Sirius. "Now that it's established, where is the Nowhere Man at?"
"Her sister's wedding," said Marlene.
"Oh. That's today?"
"Shouldn't have to bloody go at all," said Donna bitterly. "You don't kick someone out of your wedding and then make them attend."
"Evans got kicked out of her own sister's wedding?"
"Well that's unfortunate."
"Honestly," muttered Mary.
There was a moment of silence, as each of her classmates considered the unfairness of Lily's situation. It was Marlene who broke the silence.
"Donna, what time is it?"
"Ten minutes to nine. Why?"
Marlene smiled broadly. "I have an idea, George."
"Agrippa's sake, she's not George, she's John...'
"Moony, you don't have any idea..."
"Lily is so Paul..."
(Home and Away)
The family Cortina—with a sigh of finality—switched off at the turn of Edie Evans's key, and, as the headlights died, the two remaining Evans women sat in the dark car for a few seconds.
"It was a wonderful day, wasn't it?" asked the mother, a sentimental smile visible on her face, even in the minimal light.
Lily tried to smile. "Yeah. It was nice."
Patting Lily's hand one last time, Mrs. Evans opened her car door, and both women embarked upon the laborious—or at least tedious—task of unloading the car. Were it not for muggle neighbors, Lily would have completed the job with a quick spell, but the summer sun set late, and patches of pale grays and blues up above retained just enough light to make Lily wary of using magic out on the street.
When, at last, the car was empty and the kitchen and sitting room were considerably less so, Mrs. Evans poured herself a glass of water and announced that she was going to bed.
"Mum, it's barely nine," Lily pointed out, laughing.
"Yes, yes, I'm old, make your jokes now; I'll be dead soon."
Lily rolled her eyes, kissing her mother on the cheek anyway. "'Night."
Lily heard rather than saw the dispatch of her mum's footsteps on the stairs and then the closing of her bedroom door. Exhaling heavily—due purely to exhaustion—Lily toed off her shoes and left them on the kitchen floor before grabbing a slice of cake and relocating into the sitting room.
She had every intention of switching on the telly, but she suddenly realized that the effort involved in such an act exceeded her capacity at the moment. Instead, Lily tucked her legs underneath her, snuggled up to a pillow, and took a bite of cake.
"Merlin, that's good," she said to the dark room, and she took another bite.
About halfway through the consumption of the cake, Lily began to compose a little song—an ode, if you will—to said food, and it was this that she was humming when there was a knock on the front door. Lily frowned at the interruption. She debated ignoring the inconvenient caller all together. However, there were only a few bites left of cake, and she swallowed them quickly, brushing crumbs onto the plate.
Then, sighing, she dragged herself off the couch—her feet ached a little—and slouched to the front door. She was almost certain the visitor would be their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who frequently telephoned or dropped by at what she considered all hours (in reality, a few minutes past nine) to request that Lily or her mother check her backyard for imagined hooligans (who were never actually there).
As a result, Lily was rather surprised to see not Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but Mary MacDonald and Marlene Price standing on her front porch.
"We're here to kidnap you," said Mary.
Lily stared, bewildered. "What?"
"We've come to kidnap you," Marlene reiterated.
Mary nodded proudly. "And we brought reinforcements."
"What do you...?" But she soon saw what Mary meant anyway; the brunette pointed out to the strip of grass closest to the curb, where Donna stood, leaning against a car parked on the street, with four boys—Remus Lupin, James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, she realized a moment later. "I don't understand."
"We never properly celebrated your birthday," said Marlene. "And Mary and I promised to make it up to you at your half birthday. Remember?"
"And we all kind of want to get sloshed," Mary added. "Which really preceded the whole 'half-birthday' thing. That was actually a bit of an afterthought."
"We were already on your street before we remembered it," Marlene admitted.
Lily tried to keep up. "I just got back from my sister's wedding, and..."
"Oh, do you mean the wedding you were just kicked out of?" asked Mary innocently.
"The wedding of your only sister who thinks you're a freak to a man that loathes you almost as much as you loathe him?"
"Were there any cute groomsmen?"
"No, and why are you trying to make me miserable?"
"Because we want you to come with us!" whined Mary.
"Why would that make me come with you?"
Marlene frowned. "Oh. Did we not mention that yet?" She turned and called over her shoulder: "Potter! Come here!"
James reluctantly got to his feet and jogged over to them. He was carrying a paper bag. "What it is then? Is Evans being a wet blanket?"
"Show it," ordered Marlene.
"Very funny—you know what I mean."
James did. He grinned and pulled a bottle out of the paper bag.
"In a big way."
"And the Marauders know how to get by muggle drinking laws," added Mary.
Lily considered the three of them for a moment and then the other four out by the curb. At last, she shrugged. "Just... let me go tell my mum..."
They sat in a ring; James next to Sirius next to Marlene next to Mary next to Peter next to Remus next to Donna next to Lily next to James, with the tequila passed between them.
How they came to sit there, at the deserted, streetlight soaked top of a multi-storey car park is a long and complex tale, best summed up in Lily's current, half-incredulous, half-laughing exclamation of: "I can't believe we were thrown out—I've never been thrown out of anywhere... except a wedding, of course."
She took a swig of the liquor and handed it off to Donna, who, wiping off the rim with the sleeve of her shirt, shook her head and vowed: "I am never going anywhere with you idiots again!" She meant, of course, the Marauders.
Sirius laughed, not really believing her. "We've never actually been chased down the road like that," he admitted. "But you have to admit, Shack—it was pretty funny."
"It was not funny!" Donna protested; she took a drink of the tequila. "It was... humiliating!" But even she had trouble convincing herself, and she handed the bottle over to Remus.
"Do you often get thrown out of pubs?" Marlene wanted to know, dropping her head onto Sirius's shoulder in her more advanced stage of intoxication.
"Are you kidding?" asked Remus dryly; "That's what they do to pass time."
"Honestly," agreed Peter, taking the bottle in turn; "that stunt was fairly tame. You should see them run 'Horatio.'"
"'Horatio?'" echoed Mary curiously. "Who's that?"
"'Horatio' is a game that these prats like to play to get thrown out of pubs," explained Remus, rolling his eyes.
"You're not exactly an innocent bystander, Lupin," Sirius pointed out; the bottle was handed to Marlene, but he took it from her. "You're two shots ahead of the rest of us, Price," he replied to her protesting pout. "And you'll thank me in the morning."
"What a gentleman," mocked Donna, while Sirius took a swig and presented the bottle to James.
"So, on average," Lily queried casually, leaning back against the palms of her hands, "how many pubs would you say that you're thrown out of... y'know... per week?"
"No more than one," said James solemnly, and the redhead laughed, taking the bottle from him. "Didn't know you were such a drinker, Snaps."
"Tonight I earned it," Lily replied; following her first gulp with another, before once again handing the bottle along. Curious, James looked at her, bathed in the orange light of the streetlamp, but he had no chance to inquire, because Marlene took that moment to announce that she was going to race Mary to the end of the lot, and both girls scrambled to their feet, scuffling towards the distant wall.
"We should probably make sure no one goes tumbling over any precipices," said Remus wisely.
Acknowledging the truth of this, the others also rose; Remus jogged after Marlene and Mary, while Sirius, Donna, Peter, Lily, and James followed at a slower rate.
Lily stole the bottle back from Donna and lagged somewhat behind the others, until James too fell back, watching her somewhat suspiciously as she took another swig.
"Alright. Spill it," he ordered, smirking.
"Spill what?" asked Lily, confused.
"What happened at this wedding? You must have done something... did you trip and everyone saw? Spill wine on the bride's gown? Lose the ring?"
Lily scoffed. "I didn't do anything embarrassing, Potter."
"I'm not..." But she broke off, because the grin on his face was just too all-knowing. Sighing, Lily relented. "I called groom's sister fat to her face."
James's expression immediately lit up, unable as he was to contain the amusement this inspired. "You didn't..."
"Don't laugh," Lily scolded.
"Well was she?'
"Was she what?'
Lily rolled her eyes. "Yes, very, but that's not the point! I feel... well, I don't exactly feel bad. That cow had it coming, but I shouldn't have attacked her physical appearance... it's very low. I should have called her ignorant and mundane and stupid, but... but she was just standing there... all pink and chiffon-y and ugly and mean, and I couldn't think of anything—oh, stop laughing!"
"What did she do?" James wanted to know. "It must have been bad to earn such a reaction from Saint Lily."
"Don't call me that. And... she badmouthed my mum and dad."
James's eyebrows shot up. "Wait a minute; this bird was at your sister's wedding, trashing your mum and dad, one of whom is deceased, and all you did was call her fat?"
"Well... I threw champagne in her face."
"You should have smashed the glass over her head!"
Lily chuckled in spite of herself, but James remained resolute.
"I'm serious! That's what I would have done!"
"Well... I called the woman she was talking with... this aging aunt, I guess—I sort of called her a 'sagging, irrelevant hag.'"
James stared at her for a moment and then began to laugh again. Something about this Lily found to be irresistibly contagious.
"Sod off, Potter—I ought to feel guilty!" she said through giggles. James only rolled his eyes.
"Rubbish. You have nothing to feel guilty about."
Lily did not reply; instead, she turned her eyes to her friends. Sirius was making a dramatic show of pretending to rescue Marlene, which she, evidently, found exceptionally amusing. Lily frowned thoughtfully.
"James..." she began slowly. "You don't think...?"
James followed her stare to two of their friends. He shook his head. "I don't think so."
The wizard hesitated; "I just... reckon that Marlene is... better suited towards someone else."
Lily did not press the point. Rather, she tweaked the topic slightly; "Sirius and Remus told me about your epic journey today."
"Did they?" asked James, amused. "How did I miss that?"
"You were buying drinks."
"Ah. And did Sirius slay any dragons in this version of the account?"
"No, but you battled a troll..."
"I was included this time? How fortunate!"
"Oh, yes, Sirius talked you up quite a bit."
"Decent of him, considering last time he told the story, he threatened to leave me out entirely."
Lily smiled, and they reached the end of the lot, where the others had congregated. "We're playing Ten Fingers," Marlene declared, having freed herself from Sirius's grip.
Remus sighed. "This is what we get for teaching her drinking games."
Except, when they had sat down in a row on the asphalt, leaning against the wall edge of the top level of the multi-storey car park, with the bottle continually passed down the line, the structure of "Ten Fingers" quickly degenerated into drinking and saying whatever popped into someone's head.
"Never have I ever... snogged Remus Lupin," said Mary, taking a drink of the tequila, because the rules had stopped applying a long time ago.
"Mary, don't deny it," joked Remus, taking the bottle from her. "We can't hide our love forever." He took a drink and laughed. "Never have I ever... killed someone."
"That you know of," said Sirius.
Peter took the bottle. "Never have I ever snogged a bloke."
"That you know of," Sirius repeated. He took the bottle in his turn and swallowed a large gulp. "Never have I ever... cooked my own supper." He shuddered at the mere thought. Marlene rolled her eyes.
"Never have I ever... dated Miles Stimpson." She took a drink. "Wait—no. I did that. For three fucking years." She took another drink.
"Bitter, much?" scoffed Donna.
Marlene stuck out her tongue. "Never have I ever shagged Charlie Plex."
"You bitch." Donna took the bottle. "Never have I ever sung Gloria Gaynor into a hairbrush."
Marlene snatched the bottle back. "Never have I ever pretended to be sick, because I forgot to study for an Ancient Runes test."
"Never have I ever had my boyfriend snog Carlotta Meloni!"
"Never have I ever been hexed by Cassidy Gamp!"
"Never have I ever not eaten bread for a week, because I'm weirdly insecure!"
"Never have I ever..." Marlene paused. "What do you mean 'weirdly insecure?'"
"Oh, c'mon," snapped Donna. "You own a mirror. You can't actually think you're morbidly obese."
Marlene stared at her.
"This just got interesting," said Sirius. "Are you two going to snog now?" Donna kicked him.
"Thank-you," said Marlene to Donna eventually. "And I'm sorry I brought up the Cassidy Gamp thing."
"It's okay," replied Donna. The lot of them were quiet for a moment, and then Mary started a conversation with Remus and Peter, and James turned to Lily.
"I think they are going to snog."
"Shut up and grab the bottle," Lily ordered, grinning, and James did so.
"Never have I ever called someone 'fat' and thrown champagne in their face," he said, taking a gulp.
"Never have I ever made up pet names for my supposed 'just friends.'"
"Never have I ever... painted my fingernails," said Sirius.
"Never have I ever... jumped off a multi-storey car park!"
"What? I don't intend to!"
"Never have I ever... flirted with an elderly person."
"Never have I ever... thrown apples at muggles on Boxing Day!"
"Never have I ever actually celebrated Boxing Day..."
"Never have I ever... wait, no, I've done that..."
And it continued on in that fashion for some time. But then, eventually, the tequila bottle—though bewitched to hold a lot more than appearance suggested—began to run low, and the hours grew late, and the sentences (as edifying as they had been to begin with, of course) became less and less coherent, until, at last, yawning and stretching, Mary declared that she was going to go home.
"I'll go with ya, love," slurred Marlene, draping herself over her friend's shoulders.
"Neither of you should be apparating," Remus scolded, getting unsteadily to his feet and helping the two witches up as well. "C'mon—we'll go down to the street and call the Knight Bus."
"Never have I ever ridden on the Knight Bus," yawned Marlene. She looped her arm through Remus's and dropped her head on his shoulder; "Is it fun?"
"She is so going to vomit," sighed Lily, watching the three retreat. Peter trotted after them.
"Wait a minute; I'm coming, too!"
"I'm going, too," said Donna, primarily to Lily. "I work at noon tomorrow, after all."
"What time is it now?" Lily asked curiously. Sirius checked his watch, squinting to read it.
"Almost two. Or three. I don't know. Not early."
"Exactly," agreed Donna. She patted Lily's shoulder, and then followed after the other four towards the descending stair.
Sirius clapped James good-naturedly on the arm. "I'll see you tomorrow, mate."
"Yeah. 'Night, Padfoot."
Sirius saluted vaguely, nodding to Lily, and adding in a dignified farewell: "Your highness," before apparating away.
"I hope he doesn't splinch himself," she remarked, but the alcohol in her body prevented her from being too very worried about it.
"Nah, he's better drunk," said James. "C'mon..." He draped an arm over her shoulders. "I'll walk you to your door."
Lily and James appeared in the little patch of trees near the park where she had once played with Severus. Moonlight suited James Potter just fine, Lily reasoned, when they stepped out into the sand, and the white glow illuminated a part of his face, reflecting off one lens of his specs. It was a moment before Lily realized that she was staring and looked away.
"Which way then, Snaps?" James asked cheerfully, strutting out onto the grass and looking out at the rows of houses.
Lily giggled, inexplicably amused by the sight of James—James Potter, Hogwarts nemesis of once upon a time—standing in her ordinary, muggle neighborhood. He had been there earlier, of course, when the others had all shown up to "kidnap" her, but she'd been so distracted then that the thought had not really occurred to her.
She joined him on the grass, grabbing his arm and pulling him towards the street. "This way," and she guided him, looping her arm through his rather than letting go. Anyway, it was easier to walk with the support.
"Aren't you cold?" James wanted to know, as they strolled along. He eyed her exposed, freckled arms, and she laughed again.
"Firewhiskey, it so happens, is a coat made of wool," Lily replied.
"It's a nice dress," he told her. "You look like a sunflower."
"I like sunflowers," mused Lily inconsequentially. Yes, the yellow must really have been good for her.
They stepped into the street in order to cross, and Lily, overcome by the sudden urge to twirl, let go of James's arm. She spun around like a ballerina, and only stopped when she nearly tripped over the curb. Laughing, James hurried up to her, steadying her.
"Hey, I can take care of myself," Lily said, tossing her hair with faux indignation. "I have... reasonably good balance, you know."
"You've been drinking," said James.
"So have you," accused Lily. She hopped onto the sidewalk again and pulled James along with her, this time taking him by the collar of his shirt. "This way, Potter."
"I'm coming, Evans."
Very soon, they stood in front of Lily's house; the porch light was on. "Mum's gone to bed," Lily said. "She turns on the light when one of us is out but she doesn't want to wait up."
"Oh," said James. "So this is where the Her Majesty summers."
"It's no castle," Lily allowed. "But I rather like it."
"Castles are overrated," agreed James; he led the way to the door, and they stopped on the top step. "I would know... I live in one."
"So do I," pointed out the other. "Hogwarts."
"Well... aren't you at least excited about your holiday next week?"
James had once again brought up his impending trip to the coast earlier with something less than enthusiasm, and he now shrugged.
"On the beach at night alone, as the old mother sways her to and fro, something, something, something," chanted Lily, facing James, arms folded across her chest. He grinned.
"Do you always recite poetry when you drink?"
"Do you always... Hey..."
James arched one eyebrow, stepping subtly forward and cocking his head to one side. "What are you talking about, Snaps?"
Lily nodded towards the porch light. "Orange. You look orange." She giggled again, and James snorted.
"You're toasted, Snaps."
"Well so are you! I bet you couldn't even... couldn't even..."
"Couldn't even what?"
"I dunno! Do something really simple that only sober people could do! Snap with both fingers!"
James raised both hands to eye level and began to snap, causing Lily to laugh. "You're ridiculous," she told him. "Stop it."
"No," teased James. "You wanted me to snap, and I'm snapping."
"Shhhh," hushed Lily, glancing towards the upstairs window where her mother slept. "James, stop it!" But she wasn't really angry.
"Nope. I am snapping, Snaps."
Lily grabbed both of his hands with her considerably smaller ones, trying to hold them down, to little success until James relaxed his arms. The victorious Lily smirked up at her defeated adversary, only to realize that she now stood quite close to him. The toes of her shoes brushed the rubber tips of his trainers, and she still held his warm hands in hers. The space between their noses was primarily due only to the height difference; James stared down at her, and she stared back, the smile not quite faded from her lips...
Her lips, which were, incidentally, dangerously near to his.
This sobered Lily at once, as did the unexpected seriousness of James's expression. Neither of them smiled now; it was almost as though all the air had been sucked out of each, and, for a second, they both held their breath.
James had really, really, really nice eyes.
And he was about to kiss her.
No, she was about to kiss him.
Oh, what did it matter?
They were both moving closer and closer, diminishing the infinitesimal space between their lips. Lily wasn't conscious of closing her eyes, and she didn't close them all the way, anyway, but her lids dropped, and suddenly, she wasn't seeing James, but feeling him. Her purse fell to the sidewalk; her hands had moved to his shoulders, then his neck. She stood on her toes. His breath warmed her where it touched—her head was angled, tilted just to respond to the angle of his, and she wasn't sure if she actually felt the brush of his lips or if that was only the anticipation... Imagination, maybe, because she'd wondered for so long what it might be like, and...
Lily opened her eyes.
"We've been drinking!" she sputtered far too loudly.
She stepped back, removing her hands from James and lacing them together behind her back, as though afraid they might act without her permission. James took a step back too, looking like he'd had the wind knocked out of him, as he ran one hand through his thick hair.
"I'm sorry," Lily apologized frantically, picking up her purse again. "I didn't... I should have..."
"No, no, it's fine," said James quickly. "I mean—you're right. Obviously."
He was processing.
Lily wondered if it was actually possible to die from sheer humiliation. And the way her heart was beating—that couldn't be healthy.
"I m-m-mean," she began, pushing her hair away from her flushed face, "it's just... it's been a really... emotional day..."
"No, yeah, I should probably go..."
"Yeah. I mean—you don't have to, but it's late, so you probably want..." (Stop talking, idiot!)
"Lily, calm down, it's fine—nothing... y'know..."
"Happened," she finished for him. "Right."
He turned to leave.
"Goodnight!" Lily called after him, her voice unnaturally high. He faced her again, swallowing.
James once again started down the path to the sidewalk, but Lily—still quite flustered—felt the need to say something else... explain...
He halted once more, and when he looked at her, the wizard seemed considerably calmer. Lily, meanwhile, was about to hyperventilate.
"I'm—I'm sorry," she awkwardly reiterated. "I mean, I just... I can't..."
"Lily," he cut her off, and his voice sounded... strange; "it's fine. Like you said—we've been drinking."
Then he left. Lily went inside.
Mysteriously unhappy with the "intoxicated" explanation for what had just happened (Almost happened, she mentally corrected), she closed the front door behind her, falling unsteadily back on it and breathing deeply to calm herself. She brought one hand up to her forehead in a moderately successful attempt to cool her burning skin. What—what exactly had just (almost) happened?
What a day.
She sighed heavily.
A/N: Okay, I'm not crazy, and I know that Lily and James aren't real people, but I swear to Billy Joel, when I was writing that last scene, they WANTED to make out. Like, there are legit versions of this, where they just make out. And even though I went into this chapter KNOWING that they weren't actually going to kiss... even though I started the scene knowing that they couldn't, I kept writing it otherwise!
So, what I'm telling you is that the keyboard on my laptop is clearly a shipper.
For some insight into who will NOT be hooking up with whom, see the blog. Link in my profile.
Thank you to EVERYONE who has read and reviewed this story. It means so much to me. I cannot believe that I am 26 chapters in... that I actually wrote these scenes that have been in my head since LAT began! I'm really excited to continue writing as long as you'll continue reading, and though I completely suck and have not had time for review responses, please believe me when I say that I am very, very grateful for all of the feedback.
Much love to anyone who catches the "Shaken, Not Stirred" references.
Reviews are cinnamon rolls.