Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
"I had nothing to offer anybody but my own confusion." – Jack Kerouac
"You want me to what?" Teddy stared in horror at his godfather, his typically controlled hair flashing through so many colors that Harry could barely recognize one before it changed. Harry ran one hand across his face. Teddy had been his last shot – everyone else had outright refused. At least his godson seemed to be considering it. Actually, he seemed too stunned to refuse anything.
Harry sighed and explained, "Ginny and I are visiting James in Africa for the summer. Albus is traveling with the Cannons, Hermione is doing some sort of research, and Ron and George are planning on spending the entire summer locked in the joke shop. Ginny and I need someone to look after Lily."
"Lily's sixteen now, isn't she? Can't she stay home? Or with Hermione's kids? Why isn't she going with you and Ginny?" Teddy's voice was tight with his effort to avoid offending his godfather.
Harry shook his head. "Rose told me that I had to trust Lily and that if I forced her to live with anyone she'd be unbearable, and Hugo is Lily's age – if I asked her to stay with him, she'd think that I trust him more than her."
"But you do, don't you? Look, Harry, I understand your problem, I do, but I don't know why you're here. Do you really think this is the safest place for your daughter? If you don't trust her to stay on her own in England, why in Merlin's name would you trust her to stay with me?"
"Look, Lily's not a bad kid. She won't bother you at all, and she doesn't know you like she knows the rest of the family, so she'll listen to you. Probably."
Teddy rolled his eyes. "If she's not a bad kid, why are you so interested in sending her away? I haven't seen her since before she went to Hogwarts! If you want her to be surrounded by creatures that scare her too much to let her get too out of control, why not send her to Charlie?"
Harry glared at his godson. "I'm not asking you because of where you are, Teddy. I did ask Charlie, and he told me that it'd be fine with him, if I could talk to the Ministry and work out some way for Lily to be able to do magic before she turns seventeen in August. He thinks it's too dangerous if she's unable to do magic around the dragons." Harry shrugged. "But I'd rather she follow the law and wait until her birthday."
"Which brings me back to my original question: why don't you trust her?"
"She's," Harry hesitated, "Ginny and I found some stuff a few months ago… we wouldn't be able relax if she were home alone. She's…well, you remember her, Teddy. She's always been a bit wild."
"Right. And you think that sending her here is a good idea? Here, where nearly everyone turns into an animal once a month. You don't think she'll cause trouble and hurt herself and my friends?"
"She's not an idiot, Teddy. She'll behave better here than she would at home, because she'll be nervous around you at first and because this is a serious place, where trouble means actual trouble rather than just punishments that she's been getting out of since she was five."
Teddy considered his godfather for a moment. Harry's hair was more tangled than usual, and his silver framed glasses did little to conceal the purple shadows under his bloodshot eyes. He needed a break, of course he did – he was a workaholic, had been for as long as Teddy could remember. And he obviously hadn't wanted to come here, begging Teddy to look after his apparently uncontrollable sixteen-year-old daughter. Teddy sighed. He had survived much scarier propositions; he could certainly handle three months with Lily. "Fine, I'll take her. But make sure she knows how dangerous it'll be if she disobeys any of my rules."
Harry smiled, and some of the lines engraved on his face disappeared. "Thank you, Ted." As he stood to leave he added, "Lily's really…well, she's different from Al and James, but she's still wonderful, you know?"
Teddy bit back an involuntary snort of disbelief and nodded, standing to shake Harry's hand. "We'll be fine," he told his godfather, although he himself wasn't so sure of how true that statement was.
"You're going where?" Ris Parkinson lay across her best friend's bed, her head hanging over the edge so her lime green hair swept the floor inches from where Lily was digging through the space under a floorboard.
Lily pulled a canvas packet from its hiding place and peeked inside, nodding at the sight of glittering beetle eyes and tossing it into a pile of similar packages beside her trunk before responding. "To stay with Dad's godson, Teddy, in some Grecian forest. Apparently, they don't think I'm responsible enough to stay on my own."
Ris groaned. "Do you have any idea how boring this summer's going to be without you? Why didn't you tell me earlier? I would've gotten my mum to talk to yours and we could have arranged for you to stay with us."
"Sure, except you're planning on spending the whole summer at Hugo's." Lily reached for a glass bottle full of swirling green liquid and shook it slightly. When the powder at the bottom didn't spread up through the liquid, she sighed and dropped it back in the space. "And they don't trust me to stay with Hugo, either."
"But they didn't need to know that I'm staying with Hugo. And why won't they trust you to stay with his parents? Or your Uncle George?"
"They all refused. I'm too much trouble for anyone to handle." Lily almost managed to keep the bitterness from her voice.
"What?" Ris jerked to a sitting position. "When have you ever given your family reason to think that?"
Lily shrugged. "Mum may or may not have found some potions in my wardrobe after winter holidays."
Ris's gray eyes didn't leave Lily's face, although the red-haired girl remained focused on sorting through her hidden ingredients. "And you didn't tell me this because…?"
"Well, I didn't think it was really a big deal. I thought they'd gotten over it. I mean, there were only two left over, thank Merlin, just two bottles of Dream Drops, so they thought that I was using them myself."
"Why is that a good thing?"
Lily laughed. "Imagine if they knew I was brewing these potions to sell to people, that you and Hugo and I had invented them. Anyway, I tried to convince them that they weren't any different from Uncle George's daydream charms, but they think potions are much more dangerous since they're ingested. Dad compared them to some Muggle drug, pot or crack or something."
Ris sighed. "So now they think you're like a Muggle druggie? What possessed you to leave them in your wardrobe?"
"I forgot I hadn't sold all of them when we went to the Leaky that night. I explained to Mum and Dad that they weren't like drugs, but they wouldn't listen to me. Dad kept going on about some nonsense gateways and Mum just looked at me like I had betrayed her. But they don't know that you and Hugo are involved, so that's okay." Lily shrugged. "Besides, at least they're not forcing me to go visit James with them. Can you imagine how incredibly boring that would be?"
"What makes you think staying with this Teddy will be any different?"
"Well, James and Al both like Teddy. The last time the family saw him I was traveling with you, but they all had a good time. They said he was cool. And when I was ten I basically worshiped him."
Ris rolled her eyes. "Oh, great, James, Al, and your ten year old self love him. May I remind you that when you were ten you also thought that spinach was the best flavor of Bertie Bott's and that thestrals were cute?"
"It's not like I could even see thestrals, so I don't know why you're still holding that against me. I'm trying to be positive about this whole deal, Ris. Will you just let me?"
"No, because a positive Lily is a stupid Lily, and you can't afford to be stupid. Especially since you're clearly bringing your entire stock of ingredients with you. Do you actually think you'll have time to brew any potions while you're there? Or that this Teddy won't know what you're doing?"
Lily scowled over her shoulder as she tucked scarves and jeans around the jars at the bottom of her trunk, so the glass wouldn't shatter and spill expensive (and rather disgusting) potions ingredients all over her things. "Maybe he will and maybe he won't. I don't want to risk leaving stuff at home and then have it turn out that I could have spent the summer working on our stock for next year. Besides, even if I can't make anything for PWP Potions, I could still work on my technique by brewing, like, shrinking solutions or something."
"You're joking. You'd want to spend your summer over a bloody cauldron making standard fourth year potions?" Ris shook her head, "No, don't answer that. I know you're crazy. I know you're a nerd. I should really stop being surprised by it."
"Just remember that my nerdiness has helped make you a fortune," Lily tugged a pile of neatly folded clothes towards her and began arranging them in her trunk. "Now, enough about me and my potions obsession – what are you planning on doing this summer, aside from my cousin, because I do not want to hear about that."
"That reminds me," Ris laughed and rolled off the bed, snatching a bottle of the passion-red Touch Explosion from Lily's hiding place before kicking the floorboard back in place, "I really just came by to pick up one of these, Hugo and I are out." The potion had been the first that Lily and Hugo created for their joint Potter-Weasley Potions back in fourth year (soon changed to Potter-Weasley-Parkinson Potions), and although they had adjusted its contents over the last two years, the potion remained their company's most successful. A half-bottle enhanced the sensation of touch, so any feather-light brush across the skin was pure, pleasurable agony. Or so Lily had heard – she herself had still never tested it.
She glared over her shoulder at her best friend. "Sure, sure, and you won't miss me at all this summer."
"We'll miss the fact that you make a shitload of this stuff but never actually use any of it." Ris tucked the potion inside her bag and walked to the door. "See you tonight at Hugo's, right?"
"I'll be there," Lily promised, waving one hand over her shoulder as Ris closed the door softly behind her. Lily scowled into her neatly packed trunk and reached for her wand, tossing it in on top. Merlin knew why she was even bothering to bring it, it wasn't as if she would be able to use the bloody thing before the last week of the holidays, and by then her parents might have rescued her from this unjust exile. She sighed. No matter what she had told Ris, she was not looking forward to spending the summer with her father's strange godson and his reclusive friends.
She wasn't what he had expected. He had expected…well, okay, so the last time he had seen her she had been ten. She had been full of fire and velocity – she had jumped from one person to the next, a bundle of arms and legs and freckled affection. When Harry had muttered that nonsense about finding some stuff – obviously drugs – in his daughter's room, Teddy hadn't really had to stretch his imagination to see that ten-year-old all grown up, to imagine all that fire and passion poured into the teenage body of a girl who liked to party.
He had not expected ice. The girl who stepped out of the large fireplace in the kitchen, with her long red hair bound in a perfect braid down her back, her skin pale and her freckles barely visible, her makeup light and her eyes cool, she was not the natural extension of the ten year old he remembered. The dark jeans and the button down white shirt, the silver necklace and the simple emerald ring – they were not the outrageous clothes he had imagined. She flicked at the ash that clung to her sleeves and raised her gray eyes to meet his with an expression that looked an awful lot like derision. This girl was not wild, and her presence in his home was all the more terrifying because of it. In his line of work, Teddy had gotten used to the unexpected. But he did not like it.
"Hi." Lily's voice was level, not at all the young, high pitched squeals that he remembered.
Teddy forced a "Hi," from his own mouth and stepped across the kitchen, pulling his god-sister into the most-bloody-awkward hug of his life. It barely lasted a fraction of a second before she patted him on the back as if soothing a child and pulled away.
And because she was a Potter, and no matter what Harry said or what Teddy saw, Lily was polite, she said, "So, thanks for taking me in. I know that you probably didn't want to."
Teddy was shit at lying. Trust Lily to force him to do it within two minutes of her arrival. "Don't be ridiculous, of course I wanted to. It's always nice to have a fresh face around here." She rolled her eyes, but at least he had tried, he reasoned as he flicked his wand at her trunk and began levitating it toward the narrow stairs opposite the fireplace. "This is the kitchen, obviously, there's a living room through there, and the basement's there," he waved his free hand at the two wooden doors set in the far wall. He led the way to the top of the cramped staircase and gestured down the short hallway to the farthest door, "That's your room, the one in the middle's the bathroom, which we'll have to share, but I promise I'm not terribly messy. This is my room." He nodded to the door closest to the stairs as he passed it, still levitating Lily's trunk ahead of him. He opened the door to her room and motioned for her to enter, which she did with some trepidation. It was small, as she had expected, with a few hooks for clothing on one wall and a small bed made up with a red quilt against the other. He set the trunk at the foot of the bed and turned. "I'll leave you up here to get settled. Do you want tea, or anything?"
"Coffee, if you have any?" She was already scanning the room, her eyes darting beneath the bed, examining the wooden floorboards, searching for a hiding place.
Lily watched Teddy leave. For some reason she remembered a slightly bookish Gryffindor, a young man completely infatuated with her cousin Victoire, a metamorphmagus whose hair never remained one color for longer than ten minutes. But this older Teddy's hair had been dark brown the entire time they were talking, with little strands of gold showing up every once in a while, whenever the light hit just right. His eyes hadn't skittered between black and gray, they were brown – warm brown, comforting brown, lovely brown. And when he had hugged her, she had felt strength in the arms that wrapped around her waist, solidity in the body that pressed against hers for an instant before she pulled away in discomfort. And it was odd, she thought as she flipped her trunk open, that she had pulled away from him because she wanted to press closer. Because she wanted to press her nose against his neck and inhale the scent of his soap and the faint smell of smoke, she had wanted to spread her hands across his back and lean her head against his shoulder. And that was positively ridiculous, because she hated being touched. She had for years, and everyone at home knew it. Her parents forced hugs on her every once in a while, but lately even they had stopped. So when this guy, who was basically a stranger, hugged her she should have burst straight out of her prickling skin and ran in the opposite direction. She figured that her reaction had something to do with the fact that the smoky scent lingering on his skin was the smell of a pewter cauldron just singed by flames burning beneath it, the smell that met her every time she began a new potion. That was it – he smelled like home, so obviously she wanted to get closer to him. He was certainly not attractive.
Just because she couldn't use magic didn't mean she couldn't keep her wand with her, so she plucked it from her trunk and slipped it into her jeans pocket as she looked around the room. The single shelf set above the hooks on the wall wouldn't even fit half her clothes – it seemed that she would be living out of her trunk this summer. She returned to the kitchen after hanging up a few sweatshirts and the two robes that she had brought with her to find Teddy pouring instant coffee into a mug.
"Sorry I don't have a coffee pot. Only a few people round here like the stuff."
Lily shrugged as he handed her the red ceramic cup. "Instant's fine. Don't worry about it."
Teddy gestured for her to sit down at the table, but she remained leaning against the counter, clutching the warm coffee in her hands and inhaling the dark steam as he watched her. They stood in awkward silence for what felt like ages before Teddy finally spoke, "How much has Harry told you about what I'm doing here?"
Lily grinned. She had been expecting this conversation the minute she came through the Floo, and was actually rather impressed that he had managed to hold off for so long. "We all know that you're working on a cure for lycanthropy."
"Right." The lack of emotion in her voice surprised Teddy – usually people were either disdainful or impressed with his chosen vocation. "But has he told you what that involves?"
"Lots of experiments, I'd imagine." Lily shrugged. "But he did tell me about the town, about how it's a type of refuge for werewolves." She risked a sip of the coffee and just managed to swallow the bitter liquid down without grimacing. "I do have some questions, though."
"Of course." Teddy had expected questions. He had expected her to ask whether it was safe to live there, whether the people acted wild when they weren't transformed, whether she'd have to leave when they were. Whether he'd make her interact with them. Those kinds of questions.
"Are you experimenting on all of them? Or did only a few volunteer? And I assume they all take Wolfsbane Potion at the full moon – who brews it?"
He stared at her. "You're not worried about being in a town inhabited entirely by werewolves?"
She laughed. "They're only dangerous once a month. And I imagine you don't go out running with them on the full moon."
"So, how do the experiments work?" Lily repeated. "And who makes the Wolfsbane?"
"Right, sorry. We've figured out a way to store Wolfsbane Potion – that was the initial goal of my research, actually. One of my friends from Hogwarts came out here and we spent the entire summer brewing the stuff, so now we've got enough to last the town a while. I tend to make more whenever I'm fed up with my experiments." There was a tightness around her lips that suggested she was getting impatient, so he hurriedly explained, "And no, not everyone is involved in them. I've currently got three volunteers – Josef, Anastasia, and Tomas. They come by during the full moon and I give them the potion and put them in three separate rooms in the basement. And then we wait."
"You don't give them the Wolfsbane?" Lily asked, then shook her head. "Of course, you can't. That Potion would interfere with the experimental one and then you'd never know what the results meant. So I'm taking it you haven't had much success?"
"Try none," Teddy responded. "Anyway, the point is, this can be a dangerous place to be, what with potions accidents and werewolves and a lot of bitter people. So you need to listen closely, Lily. You're not allowed out of the house during the full moon, and you are not allowed in the basement. Ever."
"What's in the basement? Other than when your friends are over during the full moon, I mean."
"It's where I brew the potions."
Her eyes were cold. "And why don't you want me down there?"
"Don't take offense, it's just, this is my work, you know? And there're sometimes rather dangerous accidents. I've got a system and if it gets messed up…well, I don't know what I'd do."
Lily sighed, "Fine."
"Okay, then." They remained silent for a few minutes, and then Teddy said, "I'll take you around to meet everyone when you're all set." He nodded to her coffee mug, and she tipped the drink back into her mouth and gulped it down.
"Ready." She grinned at him.
Lily followed Teddy outside through the small living room, where an overstuffed sofa and a ratty armchair sat in front of a large fireplace and overflowing bookshelves covered the other walls. The gray gravel of the front path led across a shaded yard into a deep forest. "We're pretty isolated out here, for obvious reasons," Teddy explained as he stepped off the stone path onto a dirt road and headed through the trees. "This is what we call Main Street, although obviously it's not really a street. But there's the store," he pointed as they passed a small stone shack with a wooden porch tacked onto the front, "the market," another stone building, without the porch, "and the pub, where everyone spends their evenings." This building had a wooden sign carved with a howling wolf hanging above the door. Teddy gestured Lily toward the entrance, and she glanced at him.
"Do they know who I am?" It was the first time since she had tumbled from his fireplace that Lily sounded unsure of herself, and Teddy was grateful for the slip, for any sign of emotion.
"They know you're my godfather's daughter. They don't know who my godfather is."
Teddy pushed the door open and when Lily muttered "Thank you," he suspected she didn't mean just for holding the door.
"Sure." He followed her into the building as the group of people crowded around the counter turned to look at them.
"Teddy!" A tall man with dreadlocks and dirt smeared across both cheeks stood from his stool, waving wildly. "Look who's finally coming out in the daytime. I was just saying to Julia that I thought you might have turned into a vampire, the amount we see you outside of that cottage of yours."
"And I was just telling him that we should let you do whatever you want, seeing as how you're trying to figure out how to save all of our sorry wolfy arses," a small blonde woman added.
"Who's this?" An older man stood behind the bar, filling a glass with amber liquid, and his eyes were trained on Lily's face.
She gripped her forearm as the collective focus shifted from Teddy to her, and she tried to stop fidgeting under their stares. "Oh, you're Lily, right?" The blonde one, who Lily figured was Julia, asked.
Lily forced a smile to her lips, forced her eyes to meet the other woman's. "Yeah. It's good to meet you all."
They all stayed seated, eyeing her as if waiting for her to react in some way. This was an unconscious test, she knew, something they'd all do when they met someone who knew about them. It wasn't intentional, the way they were watching her as if they might need to attack her – it was instinctual, forced by years of people judging and cursing and hating them. So she stepped forward, across the room, away from Teddy, and held out her hand to the man who had first spoken when they entered.
She hadn't thought he'd pull her into a hug, but then she never really expected hugs. "Hello, Lily. I'm Tomas."
And then the others were hugging her too, and she tried not to act as if she hated having them touch her, but she must have failed miserably because when Julia released her she whispered, "Nice show, but you're horribly tense."
Teddy came to her rescue. "She acted that way when I hugged her, too. Apparently they're still as anti-touch over in England as they were back in the Middle Ages." The others laughed and Lily found herself seated at a stool, with a Diet Coke in front of her and the people shooting questions at her as if they needed to know her entire past immediately.
The inevitable question came from a gray-haired witch Teddy had introduced as Tanya, who had left Hogwarts more than forty years before. "What house are you in?" She looked genuinely curious, which confused Lily for a moment before she remembered that no one here knewher. She was used to that question being phrased a different way. People always asked, "You're a Gryffindor, right?" or sometimes, "How do you like being in Gryffindor?" She couldn't remember the last time someone had thought of any other house as a possibility for her.
Over the years, she had learned the proper way to respond to this question, in whatever presumptuous way it was formed. She had learned that if she hesitated before speaking, if she smiled, if she apologized, they'd think that she was ashamed of being who she was. She had learned that she had to meet the questioner's gaze, that she had to keep her voice steady, had to keep her face clear of the defensive anger that ran through her veins, and that when she spoke the word she needed to ignore the inevitable double take, and try not to be offended when the questioner's lips curled in distaste. Try not to blast them to pieces when they apologized, like they were sympathetic to her bloody plight or something equally ridiculous. But even now, as she said "Slytherin," she couldn't keep the coolness of a slight challenge from her tone.
Teddy turned to look at her in surprise, and she wondered what her father had told Teddy about her in the last six years, if he hadn't known that rather important bit of information. But the others nodded, and Tanya smiled. "You lot still got a nasty reputation around school?"
Lily shrugged. "Nasty enough. Not particularly deserved, but we use it to our advantage." The grin that curved her lips might have been a little forced, but the people surrounding her chuckled, and then the man behind the counter – Cole – asked her what she did for fun and they were through with the uncomfortable questions.
When they left the bar three hours later, Lily had a decent sketch of the town (if you could call it that) structure. Cole owned the bar, and therefore was the de facto leader, and Julia was his girlfriend, Tomas kept things lighthearted and Tanya added some much needed seriousness to the group, while the scarred Stanley overcompensated for his disfiguration by being overly loud and obnoxious, and the pretty Trish was absolutely silent.
As they left the pub Teddy said, "That was the main group, but we've got about a hundred living here. A lot of werewolves have spent their lives being shunned, so by the time they get here they're more content just being on their own, or hanging out with one or two others. Those," he jerked his head back at the small building, "are the obvious exception."
Lily smiled. "They're fun. I was wondering though, why weren't Anastasia and Josef there? Tomas is one of your subjects, right? I kind of thought that they'd all be at the center of that group."
"Why?" Teddy pushed open the door to his cottage and Lily followed him inside as he waved his wand at the fireplace in the living room and cheerful orange flames sent shadows flitting across the walls.
"Well, I mean, to commit yourself to an experiment like yours – it takes guts. And that type of guts, well, the really brave people are usually outgoing, aren't they?" It was certainly a true statement at Hogwarts, anyway. Gryffindors were forever getting into trouble because they just would not shut up.
Teddy laughed. "Like I said, it's all a bit strange here. But these people, they're dedicated to not being werewolves anymore." He tossed his coat over the couch and crossed the room, heading into the kitchen. Lily followed slowly. "Think about it. Those ones in the pub, they're mostly resigned to their fate. They've learned to make the best of what's happened to them, they're mostly over being bitter about it. The ones who really want a cure, who are willing to go through horribly painful transformations, to die over and over again for a cure, they're the ones who haven't adjusted at all. That's what Anastasia and Josef are like – they're the most reclusive people in town. It's Tomas who's really the anomaly."
Lily nodded slowly. "That's sad, though. Do you ever think you want to leave here, go somewhere happier, even just for a little while?"
Teddy shook his head. "This is where I belong. It's where I've chosen to live, and I like it here. They're good people, for the most part." He eyed her critically for a moment, a slight smile curving his lips. "So, Slytherin, huh?"
She rolled her eyes. "Merlin, I would have thought that someone would have filled you in on that sometime in the last six years. Are you sure they never mentioned it?"
"I think I'd remember. One of the great Potters, defecting to the house of all evil. What'd your dad say when it happened?"
Lily laughed. "He and Mum sent me an owl saying that they were proud of me no matter where I was, of course. James was the real problem. I mean, Al was all, 'I don't get it, Lil, the Hat lets you choose.' But in the end he let it go. James, though. He might be why Mum and Dad never mentioned it to you – he still likes to pretend that I'm not a Slytherin." She tugged at her braid, uncomfortable with Teddy's attention fully focused on her. "It wasn't like that at first, though. He dated a girl from Slytherin for a while, and then she slept with one of my friends, and when I didn't desert him immediately…well, James thought that I chose my house over my family." Lily smiled sheepishly. "Which I guess I kind of did. Anyway, he decided to do the same."
"So that's why you're not visiting him with your parents? I was wondering."
"Yeah, that's why." She examined her fingernails for a brief moment, then added, "I'm not ashamed, you know."
"Not ashamed of what?" Teddy had pulled some containers from the icebox, and he directed his wand toward the cupboard, and seven different spices came whirling from it.
"Of being in Slytherin." She kept the defensiveness out of her tone this time. "Or of being a Potter."
Teddy nodded. "I never thought you were. About the Potter thing, though." He looked at her for a long moment. "I got the impression that you didn't want anyone to know who you were, and I fully understand. Actually, it's best if no one does know who you are. I've kept my godfather's identity a secret, and my father's, as well."
"A lot of the werewolves who live here, they weren't on our parents' side in the war. I mean, you've heard all the old stories, right? About Greyback and all the werewolves that sided with Voldemort, because he offered them more freedom, or some other bullshit like that."
"Yeah, I've heard them." Lily thought of the scars that spread across her Uncle Bill's face, that creased whenever he laughed, thought of how Vic and Dom and Louis used to curse kids who mocked their disfigured father. "So some of the werewolves here sided with him?" A lot of her friends' parents had too, but that didn't mean that Lily was any nearer to understanding the motivation behind such a choice.
"Most of them either supported Voldemort or avoided the whole matter altogether. It's not as if any of them have lingering hard feelings – they admit that he was a madman easily enough – but they might expect us to. And I need them to trust me in order to continue working out a potion." He looked thoughtful for a moment before adding, "And you'll probably have a better time here if they're not afraid of you."
She nodded. "Not that I can really picture any of them being afraid of me. Angry, sure. But afraid? It doesn't seem likely."
He grinned. "You were good with them. If you had come in glaring, they'd have been afraid of what you could do to them and this place, if you chose to. They might've disguised it as anger, but it would have been terror." Teddy poured some salt from one cupped hand into a pot on the stove and directed a stirring charm at the simmering stew. "I'm actually surprised with how well you handled it all."
Lily shrugged. "They're just people who're used to being judged. No different from you or me, if you get down to it. Of course I was good with them."
"Of course you were. You know, when you first came out of that fireplace, I thought there was no way you could be a Potter – you seemed so different from the rest of your family. But you keep saying things that make it clear there's no way you could be anyone else."
Lily wasn't sure whether to be pleased or disgusted with this simple assessment, so she chose to remain silent, watching as Teddy ladled the stew into two bowls and sent them, along with a salad and two butterbeers, floating toward the table.
After taking a few bites of the sadly mediocre stew, Lily offered, "I can help out around the house, you know. Cooking, cleaning, whatever. I don't want to be a burden at all."
Teddy laughed. "Not a fan of my whatever's-in-the-icebox-stew?"
"Honestly? Not particularly. But I really do want to help out." Otherwise she might go insane with boredom, especially since he didn't seem inclined to allow her near a cauldron for the whole three months of summer. She wondered if it was possible to go through brewing-withdrawal. It probably was.
"That'd be great, then. I've gotten used to less-than-passable cooking, though, so I might die if you make something that actually tastes good."
Lily grinned. "Well, I am a fantastic cook. You should probably watch out."
Teddy grimaced as he took another bite of stew. "At this point, I think that if you cooked even a tenth as well as the Hogwarts house elves, I might worship you."
"Better erect a shrine in my honor, then." Lily's voice was bright, cheerful, and Teddy wondered for a moment where the ice had gone, and then he asked about Hagrid and Lily began telling him a story about some creature the man had somehow bred called a flesh-eating flobberworm, and he was laughing too hard to even think about anything other than the smile on her mouth or the glint of humor in her eyes.
One week later Teddy's jeans were starting to feel a bit tight around the waist. As poor as his own cooking was, it had apparently been an effective weight loss technique. With Lily cooking three solid meals a day, he found that it was impossible to not be full. And sometimes a cake pan overflowing with heavenly chocolate cake or an apple tart or delicious cookies would appear on the counter and he couldn't stop himself from snatching some whenever he passed through the kitchen, which also happened more often than usual. He left his potions more and more frequently, anxious to be sure that Lily was fine, that she wasn't too bored, until she snapped at him for interrupting her reading or note-taking or baking or, one day, tea with Tomas, and sent him scurrying back to the basement.
He came upstairs Sunday evening to find Lily and Anastasia laughing in the kitchen – Anastasia, who only left her house on the full moon – standing in his kitchen talking to his god-sister.
"Hey, Teddy, try this." Lily tossed him a roll, and he bit into the still-warm dough, moaning involuntarily as cinnamon flooded his taste-buds.
"See?" Lily spoke to Ana, "I told you they were brilliant." She turned back to Teddy. "She brought them over as a welcome gift. Aren't they wonderful?"
Teddy nodded, Ana's actions rendering him just as speechless as the deliciousness of the cinnamon bun.
"You should stay for dinner." Lily grabbed a pot from the stove and simultaneously tugged the oven door open, pulling a bundle of tin foil from the rack with practiced hands.
"Oh, really, I should be getting home. I just wanted to come say hi, before I invade your home on the full moon." Ana was already backing toward the door, her slender fingers weaving explanations through the air, her gray hair swinging forward to hide her scarred face.
"Nonsense. Come, sit down." Lily gestured at the table. "Please."
"I'd do what she says, Ana," Teddy regained his ability to talk. "I've learned that she becomes insufferable if you don't."
"Are you sure? I didn't mean to impose." But the woman had crossed the room and sat at the table.
Lily laughed. "You're not imposing; I always make more food than we could possibly eat. Besides, I bet that Teddy will be glad to have someone other than me to talk to."
"Yeah, you get pretty boring to be around after, like, ten seconds." Teddy joked, rolling his eyes as Lily sent him a fake glare over the plates that she was carrying to the table. It was funny, though, that he wasn't sick of Lily yet. They'd spent more time together over the last week than Teddy had spent with anyone in years, and yet he found himself wanting to see her more, to find out what she thought about different decisions he was making with the potions, to ask her opinion on his experiments. But he refused to do more than consider that – he didn't want to get her involved in something that he sometimes thought even he was too young to deal with.
Ana visibly relaxed during dinner; Teddy had never seen her talk so easily, had never noticed the way her eyes sparkled when people spoke to her. Maybe, he realized as he crunched into a sliced cucumber, he had never seen because nobody had ever really talked to her. Maybe everyone had just assumed that because she didn't make the first move, she didn't want to talk with anyone. Everyone had assumed that she wanted to be on the outskirts of the group.
But from the way she was talking to Lily, as Teddy tried to think of something clever to say, they had been wrong in their assumptions. She was talking just as much as Tomas and it wasn't like she was boring.
He tensed when Lily asked toward the end of the meal, "So what made you decide to join in on Teddy's experiment? From what he tells me, it's kind of painful."
The older woman grinned. "'Kind of' is the understatement of the year. I went through my whole childhood being chained up when I transformed, I've never taken Wolfsbane." Teddy bit back the shocked noise that rose involuntarily in his throat at that. Her life had to have been a series of nightmares. She continued, either not noticing or choosing not to respond to his reaction, "So when I came here, and I learned that I could either take Wolfsbane or join Teddy's experiment, the decision was easy. I could go on as I had been, except I could actually make a difference by transforming. I don't know what I'm missing, you know, so the transformation doesn't bother me as much as it could. Besides," and she smiled, a real smile that Teddy had never expected to see on her face, "Teddy's 'Transformation Rooms,' as he calls them, are kind of fun, once you get past the actual turning-into-a-wolf bit."
Teddy laughed. "Yeah, well, I did ask a werewolf to design them for me."
"And it shows." Ana turned back to her food, then asked Lily, "So what're you really doing here? Just keeping Teddy company in the summer?"
Lily shrugged. "My dad sent me here so Teddy could look after me while they're visiting my brother. I didn't really want to come, and Teddy didn't really want me to come, but turns out we're positively made for each other." She winked at him over her bottle of butterbeer. "Right, love?"
"Soul mates. Knew it from the moment I saw you." He and Lily laughed, but Ana remained silent.
"You know, when you get to be my age," she yawned, covering her mouth with a hand streaked with ridged scars, "You see so many things you don't expect that the unexpected becomes commonplace."
Lily raised an eyebrow at her. "You sound like my Divination professor. Except I don't think you're batshit crazy."
"Well, that's nice of you. I don't think there are many people who would agree with you there." She pushed back from the table. "Would you like help cleaning up?"
"Oh, no, we're all set." Teddy stood too. "Thanks for staying, Ana."
"Come by again whenever, all right?" Lily looked slightly uncomfortable as she began gathering the dishes. "And I'm sorry if I offended you at all. I sometimes don't think before I talk." The apology sounded strange coming from her lips.
"Oh, I don't offend easily. I'm just getting tired – my bedtime was an hour ago. Please, Lily, you stop by." She glanced at her watch, "Before eight, that is. Teddy can tell you how to get to my house."
Teddy nodded as Lily said, "I will. Thank you."
Ana waved before disappearing out the door. "She's funny." Lily turned to the sink, flicking it on and pouring too much dish soap into the stream running from the faucet. Teddy had noticed that she enjoyed playing with the foam, blowing it into little mountains and valleys and sending it puffing through the kitchen toward him when he tried to read at the table. "You said she's more reclusive than the others, though?"
"Usually," Teddy said, flicking his wand at the dishes as Lily set them in the dish rack so they dried immediately before he put them away. "That was the most I'd ever heard her talk. I was surprised to see her here."
"I think she was nervous about meeting me for the first time at a full moon. Which is ridiculous, but it was good to meet her." Lily yawned, tugging the plug from the sink and watching as the suds sunk against its stainless steel sides. "I wanted to show you something."
"Sure." Teddy settled at the table, his books spread out in front of him, and Lily crossed the room to the table by the oversized fireplace, where scattered slips of scribbled-on parchment revealed that she still hadn't returned any of her parents' Floo calls. For the past week she had managed to be taking a walk or in the shower or behind her locked bedroom door when they called, and Teddy had given up trying to force her to call them back. She lifted a notebook from the table, completely ignoring all the messages from her family, and returned to the table, sitting down beside him and sliding the spiral-bound notebook across its surface to him. He lifted it and raised an eyebrow at her.
"I've been doing a bit of reading, from your collection," she nodded toward the living room, "on lycanthropy. And I started taking notes, since a lot of those books looked as if you hadn't had the time to even open them. I thought this might help you. The first part's got potions ingredients and their known effects on werewolves, the second part talks about different reactions, and the third is a summary of the centuries it took for Wolfsbane to be developed. Which you might know already, but maybe not in as much detail. The process is bloody fascinating."
Teddy stared at her for three breathless seconds. Then he laughed. "You know it's summer holidays, yeah?"
"I like reading, all right? Leave it be." Lily scowled at him, and he shook his head, still chuckling.
"Sorry, Lils. You're right, you're right, that's rude of me." He grew serious, flipping more slowly through the notebook. "This will be really useful. Thank you."
"I can help more, if you'd like," she offered hesitantly. "I mean, do more specialized research, or whatever."
"Yeah," Teddy murmured without thinking, already drawn into her notes, "Yeah, that'd be a big help, actually."
Lily grinned, already plotting her transition from researcher to potions brewer, and stood up, ruffling Teddy's brown hair as she headed toward the stairs. "I'm going up to take a shower, and then I think I'm going to go to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
"You know," Teddy called, glancing at his watch, "if you wait two more minutes you'll be able to talk to your parents when they Floo call."
Lily sent a laugh over her shoulder. "Hmm, yeah, tell them I'll get back to them."
Teddy rolled his eyes but didn't say anything. Water began rushing through the pipes above him at the same moment that the fire flared green and James's face appeared in it. "Mum and Dad asked me to Floo, since they're out for dinner." He spoke to Teddy's feet before Teddy managed to cross the room and drop before the brown-haired Potter.
"Good to see you, too, James." Teddy said, and James flushed guiltily.
"Sorry. Hi, Teddy."
"You in a rush to be somewhere?"
"I've got a date in a few minutes. Can you just tell Lily to actually call us, this time? I think Mum and Dad are starting to worry, and I don't feel like dealing with them."
"I've been telling her, but I'll try again." Teddy sighed, shaking his head. "You'd better get going, don't want to miss your date."
"Yeah." James hesitated. "Teddy?"
"Is Lily okay? I mean, really? I haven't been the best brother in the past, but the way Mum and Dad are worrying about her…well, she's still my sister, you know?"
Teddy nodded. "Yeah, she's good. And I'm not just saying that. She seems happy, James. I think she's just grateful for the break from your parents, to be honest."
"Yeah. Yeah, I could see that. Thanks, Teddy." And then the fire was back to its ordinary color. Teddy rubbed his face tiredly and got to his feet, glancing at the books piled on the table before heading toward the stairs. He'd give himself an early night, he decided. He deserved it, he was sure. Who knew, maybe he'd actually have a breakthrough this month.
He reached the top of the stairs at the same time that Lily left the bathroom, hurrying through a wall of steam toward her bedroom. He stopped moving, staring for the briefest instant before she disappeared into her room. How had he not noticed before how absolutely gorgeous she was? Her pale shoulder blades, the freckles that disappeared beneath the line of the towel, the way her legs went on to infinity – how had he not seen how perfect she was?
Because, a little voice murmured, as he shut the door to his bedroom and leaned against it, shutting his eyes and trying to force away the images that danced in his imagination, he wasn't supposed to look at a girl eleven years younger than him, at his god-sister, at Harry's daughter, and think anything at all about her. Except, maybe, that she was goddamn intelligent. And had a nice laugh. And a smile that could take your breath away. And…oh, fuck it. Teddy collapsed on his bed, pulled a pillow over his face and cursed his mind for being so unbearably twisted.
And when he woke up two hours later, from a dream where those endless legs were wrapped around his waist and those smiling lips were pressed against his neck and those freckles were receiving the attention of his teeth and his tongue – well, he would have wished for a way to Scourgify his mind, if the images it had conjured weren't so (disgustingly) perfect.
He tugged out his wand and shattered a vase holding a single Charmed flower that Ginny had sent him for his twenty-fifth birthday, not caring if he woke Lily up. It was her fault that he was awake and bloody pissed after all, completely her fault for being so unknowingly desirable.
Lily was already awake when she heard the crash from down the hall, and she considered going to see whether he was okay. But when no further noises came down the hallway, except for a few shouted "fuck"s, she figured everything was all right. Besides, she was stretched on her stomach, her head stuffed beneath her pillow, her eyes shut, trying to force images of Teddy from her mind.
It was just, she reasoned, that all the guys at school were either bastards or related to her, so she couldn't have thought about any of them like this. And yeah, that was a cruel generalization, but whatever. There had to be a reason, other than the fact that Teddy's body was bloody perfect (and okay, not that she'd gotten a glimpse further than his tanned forearms when he rolled his sleeves up and his fairly extraordinary arse in his unfortunately loose jeans, but that was enough), and the fact that his eyes sent thrills through her veins and his laugh made her stomach twist in a pleasant but annoying way. So she settled on him being different.
But then, Tomas was different. Very different, and he was also undeniably attractive, and she didn't feel a thing for him. Bloody Teddy and his bloody forearms and her bloody inability to sleep. She rolled out from under her pillow and scrabbled beneath her bed for a moment before she tugged a glowing violet sleeping potion – one of PWP's finest – and tossed it back in one long gulp, sliding the bottle back beneath her bed before crawling back beneath the covers and finally dropping asleep.
Teddy was in the basement the next morning when she woke up, a note tacked to the door saying that he'd be down there all day, probably, so she might want to go out and find something to do. She shot an angry glare at the closed door, wishing for the millionth time that she could just open it and walk downstairs and just watch him work. Even that might be enough to cure her need for potions.
And maybe, she realized, maybe she could. She could just open the door and go down the steps and watch him work. Because, well, what was stopping her? The fear of being found out? She had her father's (then James's, then Al's, and now her) invisibility cloak upstairs in her trunk, so really, why not?
Her decision made, she gulped down her coffee and dropped the mug in the sink, then took the stairs two at a time and tugged the cloak from the bottom of her trunk. She swung it over her shoulders and silently offered thanks for her lack of height as she hurried back down the stairs and very, very cautiously opened the door to the basement.
The stairs descended sharply, hitting the cement floor about a foot before the wall, so Lily knew she hadn't run the risk of Teddy seeing the open door. She slipped onto the first step and silently shut the door behind her, then crept down the stairs until she could see the basement over the railing.
Teddy stood with his back to her, a cauldron stewing in front of him and a long table covered with ingredients to his right. A whiteboard covered the back wall, blue with Teddy's messy scribble, and shelves made up the other two walls – potions ingredients in glittering glass containers created a backdrop for Teddy's work. Four doors were set in between the shelves, and Lily figured that they led to the "Transformation Rooms." Several other cauldrons sat around the space, each labeled with a number hovering above its steaming potion.
Lily considered herself an able potions maker. But Teddy – Merlin, when Teddy worked, it was as if he was channeling magic. His hands, as they sliced the caterpillar, were controlled, controlled and lovely as his right hand carefully segmented the creature and his left collected the pieces and sprinkled them into the potion. And then he turned to a bottled liquid, which Lily thought was dandelion milk, but she couldn't be sure, and plucked the cork from the top with his talented teeth and dribbled just a few drops into the cauldron before setting it back down and rolling his shoulders back as he stirred the potion, once, twice…she was completely mesmerized.
He stopped after seven clockwise and six counterclockwise stirs and reached for a handful of cherries, which he began chopping. He was muttering to himself, something like, "Stop bloody thinking and fucking concentrate," which made no sense to Lily but she agreed with the sentiment when she realized that he had grabbed one of the pits when he collected the juicy pieces from the table and was about to toss it into the potion. She made an involuntary noise, a cross between a gasp and a "fuck", and he whirled around, his hand squeezing the cherries so the juice dribbled over his fingers.
His eyes scanned the staircase. "Who's there?" And then he scowled. "Lily, I swear to Merlin, if you have your father's invisibility cloak…"
She wondered if she could slip back upstairs without him knowing, if he would assume that he had just been imagining things. And then he was at the foot of the stairs and there was no way she could escape, so she sighed and shrugged the robe from her shoulders.
He didn't look particularly surprised when she appeared on the steps, but he did look horribly disappointed. And angry, angrier than she had seen anyone since her mother and father confronted her about the potions over winter hols. His lips were pressed in a narrow line, his eyes dark, dark brown, his hair darkening rapidly, and his hands clenched, juice running from his left, looking almost like blood as it fell thickly to the floor.
Lily inhaled deeply. "You were about to put a cherry pit in. Which, when combined with segmented caterpillars and dandelion milk, would have exploded."
He opened his left hand glanced down at it, frowning at the pit that was stuck to his palm. But when he raised his eyes to hers again he looked, if it was possible, even angrier.
"Go upstairs, Lily. Don't leave. I will meet you up there in five minutes." He turned without looking at her again, and she exhaled slowly, her clammy hand clutching her invisibility cloak as she slowly went back up the steps and into the kitchen.
At least neither of them had died in an explosion. But as Lily remembered the fire burning in Teddy's voice, the livid spark in his dark eyes, she decided that wasn't much of a consolation.
A/N: I appreciate reviews!