Disclaimer: Hi, I'm J.K. Rowling! -wakes up from dream- Oh, wait. We're just a couple of losers who spend our lives fantasizing and writing about characters who DON'T EXIST. So no, we don't own Harry Potter, and while we're on that topic, we don't own the movie Starstruck either (although we did steal its title. MUAHAHAHA).
Catch a Falling Star
"Lily! Get your stupid cat out of my room!"
At the sound of the enraged shriek, Lily glanced up from the suitcase she was packing and sighed in exasperation. Under any normal circumstances, she would have ignored her sister's whining in a sadistic bid to prolong her suffering - this time, however, the image of her poor cat trapped in Petunia's hot pink chamber of death was too awful to ignore.
She let the pair of jeans that she had been holding fall into a heap on her bed and trudged down the hallway in annoyance. The sight that awaited her when she reached Petunia's room would have been comical, had it not been so disturbing:
Her sister, flustered and furious, was shaking a woollen blanket violently while a ball of black fur clung on for dear life, hissing and spitting.
Lily's jaw dropped in horror. "What are you doing?" she yelled, storming into the room and trying not to wince at the onslaught of pink. She snatched the cat away from her sister and held him to her chest, where he began to purr contentedly.
Petunia took a deep, calming breath as she folded the blanket and placed it neatly back on her bed. "That freak cat was getting fur on everything," she said through gritted teeth. "I had to get it off somehow."
Lily shot her a glare and turned around, retreating back down the hallway with the cat cradled in her arms. "Aww, poor Harry," she cooed, scratching his chin. "Was Petunia being a meanie?"
"It's not like he can answer you!" Petunia shouted condescendingly at her back.
Lily ignored her sister. She smirked and put her ear up close to Harry's whiskery face. "What's that?" she said loudly. "You think she's a know-it-all snob with horrible decorating skills?"
"Ha ha," Petunia deadpanned at full volume. "You're so funny, Lily. Really, I'm in stitches. Now go away!"
Lily made a face at her sister's stupidity. "In case you hadn't noticed, I am going away!"
Petunia said nothing in response, but Lily could just imagine her pulling a face at nobody in particular as she mimicked Lily under her breath. Somewhat satisfied at having gotten in the last word, Lily kicked the door shut behind her and let Harry jump down into the disarray on her floor; he found a discarded sweater in the corner and curled up on it, completely at home and probably resting his eyes after all that retina-burning pink. Lily couldn't blame him.
Arguments like the one poor Harry had just witnessed weren't uncommon in the Evans household. In fact, if a week passed without a shouting match between Lily and Petunia, it was an indication that something was seriously wrong. The neighbours would probably have reason to call the police.
Lily and Petunia had never been terribly close. Growing up, it had become evident that the girls were about as different as was humanly possible; in fact, Lily still found it hard to believe that they shared the same DNA. Petunia, in all her blonde-haired, manicured glory, was a perfectionist in all aspects of life. She ate the right things, wore the right clothes, networked with all the right people - hell, she even made sure to blow her nose with just the right tissues. Lily, meanwhile, couldn't care less about half the things Petunia devoted her time to. This was reflected in her comparative shortness of friends, her curvier figure, and - the thing that annoyed Petunia most - her chewed, often dirt-encrusted fingernails. But with her bright red hair and endless source of energy, she had a fierce determination and a passion for living that most girls her age lacked.
All things considered, it was no wonder they had so much trouble seeing eye to eye.
Lily was distracted from her packing once more when her stomach growled with the intensity of a small earthquake, causing Harry to lift his head in alarm. It was so loud, in fact, that Lily wouldn't have been surprised if Petunia had heard it all the way from her bedroom.
Fighting with Petunia always made her hungry, she realized, as she deserted her suitcase yet again and ventured downstairs to find sustenance. She took the stairs two at a time (more out of habit than anything) and made a beeline for the kitchen, where she found her mother checking the cupboards and working on a grocery list. No doubt she was thinking about further healthy supplements she could introduce into the household - although, at this point, there was little left to supplement. Teresa Evans was a health fanatic, to say the least, and (with Petunia's wholehearted support) had introduced her family to a strict nutritious eating regime some years ago. For Petunia, it had been a dream come true - for Lily, it had been a sad goodbye to steaks and a reluctant hello to tofu burgers. Not the most agreeable of lifestyle changes, but still, she'd learned to cope. And as she navigated the kitchen and found all the fixings for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, she couldn't say she minded all that much.
"Almost packed?" Teresa asked her daughter. She'd just closed the last cupboard and was adding a few final touches to her list.
"Kind of," said Lily, licking off the knife. "Petunia's been a bit distracting, though."
Her mother sighed. "I wish you girls would try a little harder to get along."
Lily, who had this conversation with her mother at least once a week, rolled her eyes. "Mom," she groaned as she shoved the peanut butter back into the pantry. "You know that's never going to happen."
Choosing to ignore this response, Teresa slipped the completed list into her purse and gave her daughter an admonishing stare. "Just make sure your suitcase is ready to go," she told her pointedly. "I want us to get an early getaway on Monday – traffic can be terrible at this time of year."
Every year, the Evans family took a trip to their lake house to celebrate the start of summer. Every year, Teresa Evans swore up and down that they would be making an early getaway. Every year, they were lucky if they managed to leave the house by noon.
"Mmphkay," Lily replied through a mouthful of peanut butter. She set her sandwich on a plate and took it into the sitting room, where she flopped down on the sofa and used the remote to turn on the TV. As usual, it was blaring some boring news channel with a reporter trying to make everything sound more dramatic than it really was. This time, however, the subject matter piqued her interest - sort of. Within in the first few headlines, she caught the words "Valentino DeMort" and "public humiliation", four simple words that combined to make her heart leap. Serves him right, she thought viciously, but then a face appeared on the screen that promptly killed her moment of joy.
Actually, four faces. All of them were infuriating, but only one had the power to make Lily's blood boil.
"You might know The Marauders for their best-selling albums, their devilish good looks, or simply their irresistible charisma and charm," said the reporter as the TV flashed between scenes of the four boys signing t-shirts, smiling for cameras, and doing all that other stuff that was rock star protocol. "But one thing's for sure - if you don't know The Marauders, you've surely been living under a rock."
"Somebody needs to hit your head with a rock," Lily muttered darkly. Unintentionally, her grip on her sandwich tightened until peanut butter came oozing out of the edges.
She hadn't even noticed her mother enter the room until she heard her voice from by the doorway. "Isn't that the boy Petunia likes?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "Likes?" She aimed a cynical look at her mother. "Worships, mom. Acts like he's a bloody god or something."
But Teresa wasn't listening. "Language, sweetie," she cautioned distractedly as she slipped out the door. Then, much to Lily's horror, she called up the stairs, "Petunia! That boy you like is on TV!"
Lily was horrified. "No! Don't call her down! She'll-"
"OUT OF MY WAY!"
Before Lily even had time to react, Petunia had bounded down the stairs and bolted straight through the kitchen, completely ignoring everything and everyone in her wake as she gravitated like a magnet toward her "beloved". They were currently showing clips of one of the Marauders' recent gigs; two of the boys were strumming away on their instruments, running all over the stage, looking like a couple of idiots on crack. A third was abusing a drum set further downstage, while the final member swayed girlishly and shook his tambourine like it was some sort of fine art.
Petunia squealed when the camera zoomed in on the lead singer and guitarist. "James!" she cried out. She rushed forward, dove over the sofa - knocking the sandwich out of Lily's hands in the process - and plonked herself down inches from the screen. She reached up with longing fingers to touch the image of his face, sighing with adoration. "James Potter... Someday, you're going to realise that we're meant to be together."
"Good," growled Lily, who was trying to control her anger as she peeled the remnants of her afternoon snack off her now-stained t-shirt. "Then you can marry him, take all his money, and BUY ME A NEW SANDWICH!"
Petunia turned around with a very serious expression on her face. For a moment, Lily had the strangest feeling she might be about to apologise - but instead, all she did was further prove her state of delusion. "You may joke about it, Lily," she said, somehow managing to keep a straight face, "but you won't be laughing when we actually do get married."
"Actually," said Lily, "I will. I think it'll be hilarious when you handcuff him to the altar and hold him at gunpoint while he reads out the vows you wrote for him."
"Shh!" Petunia ignored her and turned her focus back to the TV, where, much, to her dismay, the scene had changed. Instead of the Marauders, there was a tall, broad-shouldered man in his forties with a mean expression and hair that fell to his shoulders. He wore a leather jacket despite the scorching summer weather. In this particular clip, he didn't appear to be too pleased about being caught on camera. He looked livid, absolutely outraged - like one of his malicious, money-grabbing plans had failed and, for once in his life, things hadn't gone exactly as he wanted them to.
Lily regarded his deep frown with a strange sense of satisfaction. If there was one person she loathed more than The Marauders and their pathetic music, it was Valentino DeMort. Indisputably one of the world's most powerful business tycoons, the Russian multimillionaire was both the brains and the brawn behind one of the most rapidly growing superstore chains that the world had ever seen. Val-Mart, his self-titled megastore, had rapidly grown into a destructive empire of low prices and equally low employee salaries that was hell-bent on crushing both smaller businesses and endangered woodlands to the ground in its quest for world domination.
Okay, so perhaps it wasn't all quite so dramatic. In Lily's mind, however, Valentino "The Devil" DeMort was practically on the verge of spontaneously combusting and strolling around with a pitchfork in his hand.
"Just hours ago, Valentino DeMort celebrated the opening of the newest Val-Mart superstore in London – but a distinct flaw in the ceremony did not go unnoticed by the eager crowd."
Lily focused her attention on the television again, which was currently displaying a large and rather angry throng of people gathered in front of a colossal building.
"It's no secret that DeMort is one of the least popular public figures in our nation – something he was maybe hoping to change when he announced that The Marauders would be playing at the opening ceremony of his London megastore," the reporter declared, and Lily felt a surge of disgust flow through her. It was just like them to promote such a horrible cause. "The heavily publicized concert was the main draw for the majority of guests today, but unfortunately for them, they never got to see their idols. In a surprising turn of events, The Marauders failed to make an appearance at the ceremony, leaving hundreds of devastated fans in their wake. Sources claim that DeMort was angry at the betrayal, but whether or not this was some sort of protest remains to be determined. It would seem that the Marauders have disappeared off the public radar for the time being. When contacted, none of their agents or other officials could were able to disclose the exact whereabouts of these four talented musicians. The verdict is unclear at this stage, but from the looks of things, we have a band on the run."
The story was clearly over, but apparently, the news station had seen fit to play a slideshow featuring The Marauders, backed up mysterious-sounding music. Internally, Lily scoffed at this; it wasn't as if they were dead or anything.
Petunia, she noticed, was still gaping at the screen, blinking stupidly. Lily was surprised she wasn't in hysterics by now. Almost as if her thinking this had acted as a prompt of sorts, Petunia had a delayed reaction and suddenly shrieked, the ear-splitting sound causing Lily to wince. "What?" She looked horrified. "Disappeared? How on earth can they just be gone? How... how could they just ABANDON their fans like that?"
Lily raised her eyebrows and surprised herself by saying, "Are you kidding, Petunia? Standing up Val DeMort is like the one decent thing they've done in their entire career."
Petunia whipped around and fixed Lily with a death glare. "Of course, you wouldn't understand," she said coldly, before getting up and storming away like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. "This is HORRIBLE!" she heard from the top of the stairs, right before the sound of a slamming door.
Rolling her eyes at her sister's antics, Lily turned back to face the television. The slide show had come to an end, freezing on a black and white picture of the Marauders as the final notes of music played, and Lily couldn't help but examine their faces with newly-found admiration.
Wait a second. Admiration? No, that wasn't possible. The Marauders were arrogant, annoying, assholes - and a thousand other things starting with "a", but "admirable" wasn't anywhere on that list. Startled at the fact that she had considered it even for one second, Lily snatched up the remote and pressed the "off" button, and with a click and a flash of light, the Marauders' faces disappeared.
Somewhere in the outskirts of Gryffindale, the soft hum of a car's engine stopped abruptly and gave way to silence.
The car was not fancy in make or aesthetics; it was plain, black, and just big enough to fit the four teenage boys who sat nervously on its worn-out seats. It wasn't all that fast, it was boxy rather than sleek, and its paint job could probably use a touch up. Or a miracle. In short, it was the last kind of car one would expect to be driven by four multimillionaires with some of the most recognised faces in Britain.
That was precisely why it was so perfect.
Sirius had been less than thrilled when James, who tended to be the voice of authority in the band, had pointed to it in his uncle's auto shop and said, "It's perfect," when it was, in fact, the farthest thing from perfect since Peter's attempted solo career. But it only took a little reminder of how dire their situation was - and permission to name it "the Maraudermobile" - before Sirius was shutting up and sliding gingerly into the passenger seat.
None of them were particularly fond of the Maraudermobile. It was uncomfortable and made horrible noises when pushed to go faster than a snail's pace. Having recently departed from a life of luxury, these rock stars had high standards. The car met none of them.
And yet, when they'd finally reached their destination and James pulled up next to the curb, nobody seemed to want to leave its confines.
"Well," said James, "this is it."
"It" referred to a few different things: "it" as in the end of their journey, and time to find out whether or not this had really been a good idea after all; "it" as in Gryffindale, the town they'd chosen for its seclusion and tiny population; and finally "it", the Leaky Cauldron, the dingy (and somewhat questionably named) hotel they'd just pulled up to.
"I don't like it," said Sirius in a low voice the moment he glanced out the window.
"Of course you don't," scoffed Remus from the back seat. "It's two and a half stars, at most. And you're a princess."
"I am NOT a bloody prin-"
"Can we eat?" Peter put forward this question in a tone which made it clear that he had not been listening to a word of his friends' banter.
James regarded the pudgy boy through the rear-view mirror with an incredulous expression. "Seriously, Pete? We're about to meet our doom in a piece of shit hotel and all you can think of is food?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "This is Peter we're talking about - If there were an earthquake, he'd be sitting in the middle of it, stuffing his face."
"That's not true!"
Three sets of eyebrows rose simultaneously and three sceptical expressions were shot in Peter's direction. "Pete," said Sirius bluntly, "remember the earthquake last year when we were in LA?"
Peter looked puzzled. "There was an earthquake?"
"Yeah," said James. "The rest of us were busy trying to stop all our shit from breaking, and you were too engrossed in your hot dog to notice."
Sirius burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter and Peter opened his mouth to protest, but Remus cut in, bringing them all crashing back to reality. "Guys, seriously, shut up. Are we going inside or not?"
James cast another dubious look at the questionable-looking establishment. "Do we really have a choice?"
"Well, we could always go back to London," Sirius pointed out, and then chuckled darkly.
Like a bucket of ice water over their heads, his words sent a chill through the air. This sinister reminder, however, seemed to be exactly the reality check that they needed to proceed - not five seconds later, the four boys were out of the car and making their way toward the heavily fingerprinted glass door of the Leaky Cauldron. Despite their hastily-invented disguises, they walked with their heads down and tried to keep a low profile as they entered. This proved somewhat difficult when Peter, despite watching all three of his friends go through the correct door, somehow managed to walk straight into the adjacent glass pane and fall to the ground in a heap. While Remus and James glanced shiftily around at the few people present in the tiny lobby, Sirius hoisted Peter up by the back of his jacket and muttered (his voice so low that nobody else could hear), "Way to draw attention, Wormtail."
Trying to keep the nervousness out of their tread, the Marauders moved toward the front desk with purpose. When the receptionist looked up over her horn-rimmed glasses, James cleared his throat and said, "Uh, we'd like to request a room for four, please - for one week. Preferably with separate beds."
The receptionist failed to offer so much as a nod or a smile before turning to her outdated computer screen and tapping in a few numbers. Her eyes roamed up and down the screen for a few moments, and then she turned back to the Marauders, her face as hard and expressionless as ever. "We've got a vacancy on the fourth floor. D'you want it?"
The Marauders couldn't help but be appalled by her lack of eloquence. James, however, tried to keep his disgust from showing as he replied "That would be great," with a tight smile.
After a few more clicks and taps, the woman extracted a yellow sheet of paper from her desk drawer and spent a ridiculous amount of time painstakingly copying down the details. As they waited, Sirius tapped his fingers on the peeling linoleum that covered the desk in impatience and Peter gaped indiscreetly at every person who passed through the lobby.
Finally, the receptionist set down her pen. "That'll be four hundred pounds," she said brusquely. "And I'll need to see some I.D."
The Marauders exchanged uneasy expressions. As many experiences as they'd had with hotels throughout their career, none of those had involved giving any sort of identification. They were rock gods, after all. Anybody with a functioning brain would recognise them.
Unfortunately, this was one situation where they could not, under any circumstances, be recognised. Giving this receptionist something with their names on it would be suicide; everything they'd been through - the escape, the horrible car, the treacherous drive to get here - would be for nothing. If they didn't think of anything, well... to put it simply, they were screwed.
They tried to convey their thoughts through facial expressions, but, judging by the looks of helplessness and "I got nothing" going around in their little telepathic conversation, each Marauder was just as confused as the next. When they realised that there was, in fact, nothing they could do, they all began to panic. Glancing around the lobby, every pair of eyes was suddenly menacing, every person who passed by was on the verge of recognising them and revealing their secret, and the whole room took on an eerie, sinister feel.
"Uh, on second thought," said James, beginning to back away from the desk (the others followed suit, clearly thinking exactly what he was), "we don't need the room. Thanks anyway."
And they were out the door in a heartbeat.
"Crazy, crazy, crazy," James muttered to himself as the four of them piled back into the Maraudermobile. When the last door had swung shut, he took to expressing these sentiments more loudly. "We were bloody CRAZY to think we had any chance of hiding from him. SHIT!" He pounded his fist violently on the dashboard and then proceeded to drag the same hand through his already ruffled black hair, looking thoroughly distressed. "Even in a town this small, we can't go anywhere without telling people who we are. What the hell are we supposed to do?"
"Calm down, mate," said Remus in a low tone.
"Calm down?" James demanded, turning to stare at his friend with wild eyes. "Fuck, Remus! Do you know what he does to people who betray him? If he finds us, we're as good as dead!"
In the long moment of silence following this statement, the bleak outlook of their predicament began to creep in. Peter and Remus exchanged hopeless glances in the back seat while up front, Sirius stared out the window with a melancholy frown on his face.
After a few minutes, when James' ragged breathing began to slow, Peter dared to speak up.
"So... where do we go now?"
Lily was busy chopping carrots for dinner when she heard the doorbell ring.
Her mother, who was on the phone with a colleague, called out from the other room. "Could you get that, Lily dear?"
Petunia was still locked away in her bedroom (she'd claimed she needed time to "deal" with the aftermath of this afternoon's shock) and Mr. Evans had not yet returned from work, so Lily had no choice but to comply. She couldn't say she minded, though. It was a welcome - if only temporary - reprieve from the monotony of kitchen work, throughout which all she seemed to be able to think about was the ordeal with the Val DeMort and the Marauders. It was all so... strange. And unbelievable.
No, she didn't want to dwell on it. And besides, speaking of her father, that was probably him at the door right then, home early from the office. Lily's mood lifted considerably at the thought.
But it wasn't Mr. Evans. Instead, Vernon Dursley stood in the doorway, his hands shoved deep into his pockets as he peered nervously at her through his thick-framed glasses. When he saw that she wasn't Petunia, he exhaled heavily and pushed past Lily into the house.
Lily was used to this reaction. Vernon tried to hide it, but anybody would be a fool not to pick up on his obsession with Petunia Evans. Lily, for one, had known for many years now. Vernon lived across the street, and he'd been friends with the Evans sisters since before they'd started school. But at some point, he'd begun blatantly ignoring Lily and focusing all his affability on the taller, slimmer, pale-haired sister, who, ironically, treated him like a piece of dirt. Lily always made an effort to be kind to Vernon, even though she often wondered what he could possibly see in somebody as annoying as Petunia, but Vernon barely even looked at her anymore. To him, she was just another medium of communicating with his "future wife", especially when Petunia was avoiding him and sent Lily to do her dirty work. While that part wasn't very enjoyable, Lily didn't really have anything against Vernon - after all, they'd been good friends once, and to be honest, the whole thing kind of amused her. She got a kick out of watching Petunia squirm under Vernon's adoring gaze.
"Is Petunia home?" Vernon asked, trying to sound casual but failing. His voice was desperately hopeful.
"Err, she is," said Lily tentatively, "but she's... not really in a state to talk right now. Can I take a message for her?"
Vernon looked exasperated and shook his head quickly. "No, no, that won't do. I'm going blackberry picking and I wanted to see if she'd join me. Are you sure she won't talk? Where is she?" Vernon began to make his way further into the house, and Lily followed him, hoping he wouldn't go up to Petunia's room. Alas, he headed straight for the staircase - so Lily grabbed the back of his jacket and stopped him in his tracks.
"Sorry, Vern," she said when he turned around and regarded her with a startled expression, as if noticing for the first time that she was actually there, and not just some incorporeal being acting as his conscience. Lily wanted to roll her eyes at this, but instead offered an apologetic smile and continued to explain. "Petunia's really upset right now. But if you want," she offered, "I'll go with you instead."
Vernon shook his head stubbornly. "No, no, I need Petunia. Where is she? Why is she so upset?"
Lily tried not to be insulted by his shameless dismissal of her offer. "She's sort of... grieving over her beloved."
She should have known not to say it, but she couldn't help it - the only thing that came naturally when she spoke of Petunia's obsession with James Potter was ridicule. In this case, her choice of words was unfortunate; Vernon's eyes lit up with rage and his usual pallour deepened to an unflattering shade of purple as his hands balled up into fists. He looked like he was going to explode.
"Her beloved?" he growled, obviously trying to sound menacing but - again - failing quite miserably. "Not that Potter bloke again? I swear, I'll grind him into dust! That egotistical, girl-stealing swine... He and his mates think they can just go around butchering the beautiful art of music... but I'll show him! I'll-"
"Okay, time to go," said Lily, unable to feign patience any longer. Vernon didn't seem bothered by her kicking him out. He let her steer him by the shoulders back to the front door, muttering furiously about the Marauders all the while. Once he was out the door, Lily gave a little wave goodbye. "See you, Vernon," she said, but he didn't even turn around to acknowledge her as he walked across the lawn.
Lily closed the door and sighed; all this drama was beginning to drive her crazy. She couldn't wait to get out of here.
"Please tell me you're joking."
Sirius' tone was positively murderous as he stared at the decrepit barn in front of him, horror-struck.
James rubbed his temples. After unintentionally driving the Maraudermobile into a ditch, they'd been left without a mode of transport and, more importantly, without sufficient concealment from any prying eyes they might run into, save for their feeble disguises. So they'd opted for the next best thing - a forest of tall pine trees. After traipsing through much of it with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a couple of guitar cases, they'd soon found themselves completely and utterly lost. Finally, James had stumbled upon a piece of open land, at the edge of which sat the tired-looking barn. It was pretty shitty, but it was probably the only option they had at this point. "Got a better idea?" he questioned flatly.
"Yeah, here's one: it's called 'Let's not sleep in a pile of animal crap tonight'."
Remus rolled his eyes and muttered "Princess," just as Peter burst out from a cluster of trees, looking disoriented. "There you guys are!" he gasped.
James regarded him with raised eyebrows. "Where've you been?"
"Got lost," he muttered, crossing his arms over his rather prominent gut. "You could have waited up, you know!"
Remus shot the boy a look of complete bafflement. "Pete, we were like, leisurely strolling the whole way here."
Peter opened his mouth, but before he could defend himself, James called out "Oi, guys! C'mere!" He had opened the decaying door of the barn and was flagging them over.
In an instant, all four boys were staring through the doorway and into a darkened, hay-strewn space.
It was a building of simple design, without much in the way of contents. The small, rectangular room was dingy and lit only by sunlight filtering in through the holes in the roof. With a floor covered in dirt and who-knew-what-else, discarded wooden crates and bales of hay lining the walls and a (probably unreliable) wooden ladder leading to a modest upper level, it wasn't much. But did they have any other choice?
"See?" said James. "It's not that bad." But even he wasn't convinced as he spoke these words, and after a quick look around the place, the other Marauders returned to their original state of disgust.
"Not that bad?" Sirius said incredulously. "Where do you suppose we're going to sleep, then?" He took a step inside to scope out potential "beds", but stopped a couple of metres in and sniffed the air. "Bloody hell. What is that?"
James, who had followed him inside, gave him a firm pat on the shoulder. "I don't know, mate, but you'd better get used to it. This is home - at least until we come up with a better idea."
Sirius groaned. Peter, still panting from the trek through the forest, lumbered through the door and sat down on the nearest bale of hay. Something made a squelching noise as he did - and though Peter didn't seem to notice this, the others grimaced at the sound.
Remus was the last to enter. "Yeah," he said as he took his first step in, and sighed. "Home, sweet home."
Petunia stayed in her room until dinnertime.
It took a fair amount of convincing to get her to stop moping around and come downstairs, but somehow, the draw of grilled cod and garden salad finally won her over. (Lily really worried about her sister's sanity at times.)
Still, as she sat at the table with the rest of the family, Petunia merely picked at her food. Her expression was perpetually glum, her eyes fixated on her plate, her chin rested in her palm as she poked her fork for the umpteenth time into her fish fillet.
The moment the table was cleared, she disappeared into her room once again without so much as a word. While her parents seemed concerned about this behaviour, Lily found the entire situation to be quite comical. When you really thought about it, it was completely ridiculous for someone to get so worked up about the supposed disappearance of someone they didn't even know. She tried to share this belief with Petunia, but her sister responded with a look so witheringly vile that it was a miracle Lily didn't crumble to the ground in a pile of ashes right then and there.
Shortly after dinner, Lily found herself wandering back into the kitchen for a snack. The meagre selection of fish and lettuce at dinner had left her stomach feeling very dissatisfied, and she had a hankering for an ice cream cone (although, given the state of things, a bowl of yoghurt and berries would probably have to suffice). The moment she stepped through the doorway, however, there was a frantic crinkling noise and the sound of a cupboard door slamming, and she found herself face to face with her father. He was standing next to the pantry with a guilty expression on his face, which was merely enhanced by the fact that his cheeks were stuffed full of food.
Upon seeing her there, Bob Evans let out a sigh of relief and swallowed. "Ah, Lilybear. I thought you were your mother." With a sheepish laugh, he pulled the pantry open again and reached up to the very top corner, where he and Lily kept a secret stash of what they liked to call 'real food'. "I should've known it was you – you've always had amazing junk food radar."
Lily's mouth began to water as he pulled down a package of salt and vinegar chips. "Gimme!" she squealed, launching herself at the bag and stuffing a handful of greasy goodness into her mouth. "Mmm… saturated fat," she moaned, delving in for another handful.
Bob laughed, and his green eyes – so much like Lily's – lit up, giving his face a boyish glow. "Better save some for tomorrow," he advised, pulling the chips away from his daughter's greedy hands and stowing them back in their hiding spot. "I think your mother's making boiled tofu again."
"Ew, barf," said Lily, scrunching her face up in disgust.
Bob chuckled and ruffled her hair affectionately. "That's my girl."
Later that evening, Lily was on her way outside to complete her nightly task of topping up the cat's food and water dishes. It was unfortunate that Teresa happened to choose this exact moment to send Petunia out with the garbage and recycling; the two of them ended up heading out the door one right after the other.
Petunia refused to hold the door open for her sister, but Lily expected no less. She had a hand free to catch it before it swung back and bowled her over. Petunia headed around to the back porch and down the steps; Lily followed at a distance. What was also unfortunate was that they were headed in the same direction - although, to be honest, that was actually Petunia's fault. A couple of months ago, she'd complained about how gross it was that Harry ate his "slimy meat food" in the same room where the Evans family consumed their meals. Being a people-pleaser (well, more of a Petunia-pleaser), Teresa had fulfilled her daughter's request and had Harry's food dishes moved out to the shed behind the house. (Lily found this incredibly unfair; had she complained that Petunia clipped her toenails in the same bathroom where Lily brushed her teeth every morning, it would have been a similarly ridiculous argument. But would it have been acknowledged? Absolutely not.) Of course, the garbage bins just happened to be lined up along the side of the shed. Lily hadn't trusted Petunia around garbage bins since an unfortunate incident three years prior involving Lily, Petunia's surprising lifting strength, and... well, a garbage bin.
Lily kept her distance and hoped that they could get through this little excursion without exchanging a word. That was probably the safest option for the both of them. Petunia, however, had a different idea. As soon as Lily opened a can of salmon to put in Harry's bowl, Petunia sniffed disgustedly and complained, "Eww, gross! Get that stuff away from me!" even though she was nowhere near her.
Naturally, Lily couldn't just stand there and tolerate her unfounded grumbling, so she smirked, pulled the lid right off the salmon and strolled over to Petunia. "No, seriously, it smells great! Try some," she said, shoving it under Petunia's nose and watching her sister's expression change from irritated to horror-struck.
Petunia screamed, swatting the can out of Lily's grasp and causing it to tumble onto her front. Pink salmon cascaded down Lily's tank top.
"Oh, that's just brilliant," said Lily, her voice dripping with sarcasm as she assessed the damage and grimaced. "That's two of my shirts you've ruined today. And now Harry's getting dry food for dinner."
As she headed back into the shed to find alternate food for the cat, she heard Petunia mutter, "Serves you right. Both of you." She ignored this remark and filled up Harry's dishes, wishing as she did so that it was Petunia who was forced to eat her meals in the shed, and not her comparatively warm-hearted cat.
Since Petunia was terribly slow with the garbage, using a hand wipe to open the lid and standing back as she gingerly dropped each bag into the bin, Lily was the first to finish her chore. She walked briskly on her way back to the house. It was a far jaunt, their property being so large, but she was halfway there by the time she heard the lid of the recycling bin fall shut; Petunia gave a little yelp, presumably alarmed at the waft of "garbage air" that was emitted as this happened.
Lily rolled her eyes. As she did this, she caught a glimpse of something at the far end of the property. Across the field, behind a couple of oak trees, was the old barn house, neglected over the past decade or so and half-deteriorated by years of harsh weather and a lack of maintenance. Lily hadn't visited the barn since she was very, very young. Even then, it had been intriguing and frightening, a temporary fixation to satisfy Lily's curiosity. She'd taken Petunia back there one summer's night, lured her in, closed the door on her and run back to the house. Apparently, Petunia didn't have very good navigational skills in the dark, because she hadn't been able to get out until she'd been retrieved by her father and carried back in tears. Lily was grounded for three weeks. Petunia was scarred for life.
Needless to say, nobody had ventured back to the barn ever since.
So it was strange, now, that as Lily glanced inadvertently in that direction, she saw a miniscule light shining at the back of the field.
She stopped in her tracks and narrowed her eyes, wondering if she was hallucinating. Nope, it was definitely there. A shiver swept through her at the sight of it, but at the same time, she was fascinated. Just like when she was a child, she felt drawn toward the barn by an eerie sort of curiosity. It was almost pitch black out by now, but really, how bad could it be? Without giving it another thought, Lily deposited the water bottle she'd used to fill Harry's dish and began to walk purposefully in the direction of the mysterious light.
"Wh-where are you going?" Petunia asked suddenly. In her voice was a combination of annoyance and anxiety; annoyance at the fact that Lily was doing something strange and impulsive, and anxiety, no doubt, because she was being left alone in the darkness in the middle of their vast yard with nothing to protect her but a plastic recycling box.
"Like you care," Lily said dully.
"You can't leave me here alone!" Petunia's voice was so high-pitched, so grating, that Lily cringed and was forced to stop once again.
She swivelled around, made a duh sort of face at Petunia, and said, "Well then, you're going to have to come with me, aren't you?"
As expected, Petunia froze up and adamantly shook her head. "NO. No way am I going back there. Not in a million years."
Lily turned around exasperatedly and continued to walk across the field. "Then for goodness' sake, Petunia, shut your pie hole." She quickened her pace.
A couple of seconds, and then, predictably...
Petunia hurried along behind her; evidently, her fear of being alone in the dark had won out over her reluctance to visit that place again. Lily couldn't say she hadn't expected this, but she wasn't particularly pleased at having acquired a companion. As they crossed the darkened field, drawn toward the light in the corner, Petunia jumped at the tiniest noises, kept glancing around as if something was about to jump out at her at any moment, and at one point actually grabbed onto the back of Lily's shirt in her panic.
"This is a really bad idea," Petunia hissed as they approached the closest tree to the barn. "You're not just going to lock me in there again, a-?"
Lily shushed her impatiently and dragged her behind the tree. She was focused on the voices she'd just picked up on, drifting toward them from inside the dilapidated building. There was the unmistakable sound of male laughter, the occasional girlish whimper, and one voice that was deeper than all the others, speaking in a slow, spine-chilling monotone.
Imitating one of the voices in the barn, Petunia whimpered. "I told you this was a bad idea!" she whispered. "You're going to get us murdered! Who knows what could be in there - it's probably a serial killer on the run, or a monster, or a-"
Lily had had enough. She pivoted on her heel, slapped a hand over her sister's mouth and fixed her with a harsh look. She tried to keep her voice low, but it was difficult to suppress her rising anger. "Shut your goddamn mouth, Petunia, or I swear, I will put you out there as bait. Do you understand?"
Wide-eyed and stunned into silence, Petunia nodded hurriedly. Lily pulled her hand away and gave the barn one last glance from her lookout point before stepping out from behind the tree and beginning to tiptoe across the remaining stretch of lawn.
With Petunia close behind, Lily approached the barn. When she was less than three metres from the door, she began to pick up on distinct bits of conversation.
"And then the werewolf creeps up behind the unsuspecting traveller, and... BANG!" Somebody shrieked at this; next to Lily, Petunia jumped. "Snaps his neck!"
"Oooh, I'm scared," said another voice mockingly. "Honestly, these stories suck. Where did you get them from - Pete's bedtime story collection?"
Lily didn't hear anymore, because Petunia had begun to tug urgently on her arm.
"What?" she hissed as quietly as possible.
For once, Petunia showed some common sense and kept her voice to minimal volume as well. Her eyes, however, told Lily that she would have spoken much louder, had they not been in such a situation. "I know that voice!" she whispered excitedly. "I would know that voice anywhere!"
Lily shot her a confused look, but decided not to ask questions. Instead, she took the final few steps that led her to the barn door, reached out tentatively for the handle...
...And, in one swift motion, threw the door open.
The voices stopped abruptly.
Four boys sat completely still in the centre of the barn, their faces frozen in various expressions. They were gathered together on a cluster of hay bales; one, with shaggy black hair, held a flashlight to his chin and had his mouth open in shock. To his left, a rather pudgy boy looked scared out of his mind, and the other two wore similar looks of horror, as if they'd been caught in some despicable act.
But they hadn't done anything terribly wrong. What had caused Petunia to shriek - and Lily to go rigid from head to toe - had been the mere sight of their four faces.
Four faces which were startlingly familiar.
A/N: Hi, and welcome to the story! We hope you enjoyed the first instalment. A little background information for you...
In case you were wondering, we're not Gollum - there are actually two of us. We swears it. If you don't believe us, go check out RainbowCrystal and PrincessEarth. (Actually, even if you do believe us, go anyway. We need the readers.)
We were inspired to write this story after we watched the Disney movie "Starstruck" (don't judge us). Being the Harry Potter freaks that we are, the first thing we thought when we saw the interactions between the main girl and her sister was "ZOMG! It's Lily and Petunia!" So, naturally, we blew that out of proportion until a story emerged. Having said that, the resulting plot actually has nothing in common with Starstruck at all - except for the title.
As you might have noticed, this story doesn't involve any magic at all (aside from the magic of looove, that is). We're sorry if that bothers you, but we're trying to create as many parallels between this universe and the magical one as we can. You'll see.
We'll do our best to update frequently. Seeing as there are two of us, that shouldn't be too hard. Oh, and, you know... LEAVE A REVIEW OR DIE. Just had to get that out there... :)
Liz and Sam