A/N: Okay, so first chapter of the sequel to Turning Tables. I'll be honest, I'm nervous. So many of you were so kind about TT that I'm worried this will turn into a major disappointment for you, but I promise to do my best by it!
Any new readers, you will probably want to read Turning Tables first, otherwise you might be confused by one or two references and a couple of OCs (not many, but still). So go read then come back and join us!
We're starting off slow, with some fluff and a little angst. I'm hoping for weekly updates, but there's every chance it will end up being fortnightly since I anticipate slightly longer chapters than in TT.
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She mumbled and turned over, burying her face in her pillow. There was the sound of masculine laughter, and then a pair of lips pressed themselves to the patch of exposed skin just below her hairline behind her left ear.
'I'm sorry to wake you love, but it is half past nine.'
A warm hand slid round her to rest on her stomach, rubbing gentle circles into her skin. Lily sighed into her pillows and closed her eyes a little tighter against the light that was flooding the room. She knew she was waking up, but she wasn't going to give up on getting more sleep that easily.
'You're appalling at mornings you know sweetheart.' There was that voice again, accompanied by a mouth that brushed her ear gently even as it whispered to her. 'You're going to make a terrible wife; who's going to bring me breakfast in bed if you're not?'
She opened her eyes and her gaze fell immediately on her left hand which was resting on the pillow alongside her face. More importantly, they instantly focused on the simple gold and diamond ring that was still on her ring finger, exactly where James had placed it last night.
As if thinking of him had made it happen, the hand that had been tickling its way lightly over her stomach slid up to meet hers, and James' fingers brushed gently over the metal band that marked her as his. When she remained unmoving alongside him, he spoke quietly, a hint of sadness in his tone.
That got her to wake up properly; she rolled over until she was pressed up against him and pulled him into a rather desperate kiss. It seemed that this met with James' approval, because his arms snaked round her to pull her closer, and when she would have pulled back he made a low noise of protest and deepened the kiss a little more.
When he finally released her he kept her held close to him and rested his lips against her temple, and once she got her breath back she spoke quietly. 'No second thoughts James. I just haven't got used to it yet. It just…all seemed like a dream. Last night that is.'
She felt his lips curve against her skin. 'As long as it doesn't seem like a nightmare.'
She laughed, the euphoric feelings bubbling up again now that she was remembering everything clearly. 'It really, really doesn't.' She looked at the ring again. 'How did you get my grandmother's ring? I meant to ask you last night, but I got…distracted.'
He smirked. 'I remember.'
She swatted his bare chest lightly, and he laughed at her. 'Your mother gave it to me. Or rather, she slipped it into my trunk at Easter. With a note.'
Lily stilled. 'So, does she know..?'
'No.' James laughed. 'Actually, no-one knew. I was nervous enough without the extra pressure of having other people aware of what I was planning.'
He shifted position until he was looking her in the eyes, his thumb brushing soft strokes on her cheek. 'We've been together for months, but I swear you still make my palms sweat and my mouth go dry. I don't know if you'll ever stop having that effect on me. But it'll be nice to grow old together and find out.'
She kissed him again, just the softest of pressures, and felt herself sigh.
'No-one knew about last night, but your mum did know I was going to propose at some point though. So did your dad. And Padfoot.'
Lily giggled as her fingers traced lazy patterns on his chest. 'Why on Earth would you tell Sirius?'
'He found the ring and gave me a total grilling, the git. He made me promise he could be best man.'
Lily rolled her eyes. 'Merlin help you on your stag do then.'
James grinned in sudden relief. 'You're okay with it then?'
Lily smiled. 'Can't imagine anyone better. Just get Remus to proof-read his speech beforehand, hey?'
She let out a shriek of surprise as he rolled them both over until he was pinning her to the mattress, and he grinned down at her, his hair even wilder than usual, his eyes lit by a stronger internal glow than normal. 'It's surprising how alike we are sometimes.'
She reached up and tugged both her hands through his hair, feeling it slide between her fingers. 'I am nervous about telling people though.' She admitted quietly.
James twirled a lock of red hair around one of his fingers. 'Don't be. Everyone who matters will be happy for us, and everyone who isn't happy for us can bugger right off.' He twined the rest of his hand into her hair. 'If I was you, I'd be more worried about how loopy our mums are going to be over the planning. They'll probably be five hundred people there if we don't rein them in.'
Lily groaned. 'Don't. I'm still adjusting to the idea.'
James grinned down at her. 'Well, I suggested we elope once, and you were horrified. Bet you're thinking it sounds like quite a good idea now.'
She grinned back up at him. 'I don't care how or where we do it. Just be waiting for me at the altar, yeah?'
He grinned back at her and covered her mouth with his once more.
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'Wait, wait!' Lily tugged desperately on James' arm, pulling him to a halt in the hallway outside the kitchen. He turned to face her, took in her panicked expression and tugged her into the music room opposite.
He pushed her down on the piano stool and knelt in front of her, his hands resting on her knees as he encouraged her to take deep breaths.
'Okay.' When she had some colour back in her cheeks and no longer looked in danger of passing out he gripped her hands firmly and spoke. 'Okay now?'
She shook her head, her eyes still betraying her anxiety. 'No. NO. James, I can't do this! What are your parents going to say?' She grabbed the collar of his shirt with both hands and held tight. 'What are they going to say about their son – their only son, their pureblood son – marrying a muggleborn? What about the Potter name? And we're only eighteen, and just out of school, and…'
She trailed off, no longer able to coherently express her thoughts; she just sat there, wild eyed and staring at him. He stared at her as if he'd never seen her before.
Then he started laughing.
'Oh, Lily. Oh, sweetheart. You're bonkers you know that? Stark staring mad.'
He reached for her hands and enclosed them with his, trying to supress his relief; for a moment he'd been afraid that she had changed her mind about him. Now that would have horrified him; at least he could offer her some reassurance about this. 'My parents couldn't give two sickles about blood. They don't care about the pureblood Potter name, and neither do I. What they do care about, is me. And you make me happy Lily. And they love you – I'm pretty sure that if I didn't ask you, my mother would probably try and arrange a marriage between us.'
He looked down at their joined hands. 'And I know eighteen sounds young, but we're a bit different aren't we? We've had to grow up a bit too fast. And actually, it's not that young in the wizarding world.'
Lily looked up at him, and he shook his head gently. 'It's not. I know that it's considered sensible to wait a bit longer in the muggle world now, but magical people tend to marry young. We won't be the only eighteen year olds announcing a wedding you know.'
Lily took several more deep breaths and allowed what James was saying to sink in. He was right she knew; his parents had never been the type to obsess over their family tree the way Sirius' family had. Yes, the Potter's were purebloods, but that had never seemed to matter to them very much. And she'd always been welcomed into their home before. And eighteen wasn't that young, and they didn't have to get married immediately. She felt the hysteria drain away as she forced her mind to examine the subject logically.
When she looked up again and met James' concerned eyes she felt a surge of remorse for the worry she'd caused him that morning. So she leaned forward and kissed him, much to his relief.
He smiled at her. 'No problem. Dealing with minor mental breakdowns is probably in the fiancé job description somewhere.'
He stood and tugged her up to her feet. 'Time to face the music.' He led her out of the music room and towards the kitchen where his family were apparently gathered.
He pushed the door open to reveal his mother standing behind the stove brewing tea, and his father leaning up against the counter behind her as they laughed over some shared joke. He took a moment to appreciate their marriage, rock solid after more than forty years together. He wanted that, and Lily wanted that too, so he was firm in his belief that waiting for it was just unnecessary.
They stepped through the door, James tugging Lily along just slightly behind him. His mother was the first to spot them and her face lit up at the sight, something which reassured James tremendously.
'There you are the both of you!' Dorea turned to a cupboard to collect two more mugs. 'We wondered if you were planning on surfacing any time this morning.'
She poured the tea and passed mugs to Charlus, who handed them over with a wink; Lily flushed and immediately wished that she didn't blush quite so easily.
'You two left early last night.' Charlus smiled as he sipped from his mug. 'I suppose it was dull compared to the sort of parties you're used to frequenting.'
'I've no idea what you mean.' James was the picture of innocence as he reached past his mother for the sugar bowl.
Dorea smiled. 'We went to Hogwarts once too you know. Things haven't changed that much I'm sure. We had some very interesting parties in the common room.'
'Were you on the same house then?' Lily asked, her interest piqued. She wasn't sure why she'd never asked before ,but she'd been hit by the sudden realisation that she really didn't know very much about James' parents.
'No.' Charlus answered for them both. 'I was a Gryffindor, but clever-clogs here was a Ravenclaw.' He gestured a thumb at his wife. 'Luckily those two houses mixed pretty well, so we went to each other's parties. Although to be fair, it was only really the Slytherins that kept themselves to themselves.'
James snorted. 'Some things never change.'
'So where did you two slope off too?' asked Dorea. 'The house-elves said you didn't get in until almost twelve, but you left the party at half-eleven.'
'We went for a walk in the manor's gardens.' Said Lily quietly, and Dorea smiled at her.
'They're beautiful aren't they? Did you see the rose garden? It used to be quite famous when the Bletchley family still owned that manor. It's all been left to go a bit wild now I'm afraid.'
'We did go through there actually. It was lovely.' Lily's voice had definitely gotten quieter, and James knew that he ought to say something now.
'We stopped there for a little while as it happens. I had to ask Lily something important.' James put his mug down and reached for Lily's hand; it was trembling when he took it and he gave it a reassuring squeeze. 'I had to ask her if she'd become a Potter.'
He held up her left hand, exposing the ring to his parents. For a long moment nobody moved, then Dorea burst into tears, put her mug down hastily – slopping tea all over the sideboard – and threw her arms around James.
'You're getting married. My baby boy.' She released James and turned to Lily who was standing still and looking at her apprehensively. Dorea stepped forward and embraced her, and Lily felt tears prick the back of her eyes. 'Lily sweetheart, please tell me it was a nice proposal. Because Charlus spilt a drink all over me when he asked, and you deserve better than that.'
'Oi!' Charlus sounded indignant. Or as indignant as you could sound when bear-hugging your only son. 'I was nervous woman! And you said yes, so it can't have been that bad.'
'I was afraid you might keep talking if I didn't say yes and shut you up. You babbled Charlus.'
Lily laughed, feeling light-headed at the sheer relief pumping through her system. 'James didn't babble, if that helps. In fact, he was incredibly charming.'
'He gets that from me.' Charlus announced from behind Dorea. 'Move out of the way you total lunatic, let me at my future daughter-in-law.'
Dorea released her and she was immediately engulfed in Charlus' arms. 'I think James might be getting the better end of the bargain.' He whispered in her ear and she laughed.
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'So, did you tell your parents yet?' Marlene examined the ring closely as she spoke.
Lily nodded then realised that Marlene wasn't looking at her to see it. 'Yes, we went over earlier today. They weren't surprised at all, since my mother provided the ring and James apparently asked my father for his blessing.'
'His blessing?' Alice slid down alongside them, placing three butterbeers and a plate of cake on the end table and passing a bag of fudge along.
Lily smiled. 'Yeah. According to Dad, he essentially said that he wouldn't ask for my father's permission to marry me, because I can make my own decisions, but that he would like to know that my father was okay with it before he asked. I think Dad was sort of impressed actually.'
Marlene smiled. 'James has always been able to charm people. You are walking, talking proof of that.'
Lily twisted her head round to catch sight of her…Merlin, her fiancé…with Sirius and Peter, laughing over some shared joke as they worked their way through an enormous pile of snacks. 'Yes, I suppose I am.' She muttered under her breath.
'Anyway, onto important things: are you having an engagement party?' Alice pulled her legs up under her until she was perched cross-legged on the sofa.
'I don't think so.' Lily answered. 'We haven't really had much time to discuss anything really. I know James wants to put an announcement in the paper, but I'm not so sure we should do everything so…publicly.'
'Why not?' Marlene slumped back in her seat, fingers running through her long blonde hair as she attempted to organise it into a neat braid. 'James is a Potter, it's bound to become public knowledge at some point; at least this way you'd have control of when and how.'
'She has a point.' Alice agreed. 'I know you aren't much of one for the limelight, but maybe it would be better to be upfront and let people know the real story before some hag starts inventing one to sell newspapers.'
'I don't see why anyone would be that interested in me and James, but maybe you're right.' She glanced towards him again, and felt her lips twitch up as she watched him wave his arms vehemently as he argued with Peter about the possibility of the Wasps winning the league. 'And it would make him happy I suppose.'
She turned back to her friends and grinned at them. 'And it might distract him from the fact that I've picked my bridesmaids without asking him first.'
'Oh?' Marlene sounded a little disappointed. 'Who?'
'Well, it's not completely settled, because I haven't asked you yet.' Lily answered. 'But I'd probably never make it to the wedding, let alone up the aisle without you two, would I?'
Marlene and Alice stared at her for such a long moment that Lily was sure they were going to say no, but then they both pounced on her and the three of them ended up falling off the sofa as they indulged themselves in a convoluted three-way hug.
James looked up at the sound of his fiancée and her two best friends sliding off the sofa and couldn't help smiling at the sight. After her nervous hysterics of that morning, he was relieved to see that she was actually happy about the engagement, because no matter what reassurance she had given him, he'd been concerned that she was having doubts that she wouldn't admit to.
Sirius punched him in the arm. 'Stop mooning over your girlfriend and focus.'
'Bloody hell Padfoot.' James scowled at him as he rubbed his arm almost unconsciously. 'You've got some pent up aggression haven't you? And that's my fiancée, for your information. And I don't need to focus, I'm thrashing you.'
Sirius snorted and commanded a knight to move, giving it an approving nod as it crossed the chess board and beheaded one of James' bishops. 'You are not.' He said emphatically, leaning back in his chair and cracking his knuckles.
'Pete?' James didn't even look up from his contemplation of the board as his short friend came over and stared at the arrangement of their pieces; he deliberated for only a brief moment before speaking.
'I'd say…James is about three to four moves away from checkmate. If I was you I'd just drop your king now mate.'
Peter flung himself back down in his seat and continued to muse through James' collection of chocolate frog cards. 'Can I have your spare Agrippa?'
'Knock yourself out Wormy.' Replied James, smirking at Sirius. His best mate glared at him for a moment, then reached out and tipped his king over to signal the end of the game, ignoring the rather gung-ho protests from his pieces that they could still emerge victorious if he just put a little effort in.
'You're a bastard.' Sirius folded his arms across his chest and aimed a thoroughly bad-tempered scowl at James.
James sighed. 'Is this about me proposing to Lily?'
Sirius looked away and refused to answer, and Peter sniggered. 'Don't worry Padfoot, he'll still love you too.'
'Fuck off Pete.' Sirius growled, his posture stiffening up further.
'Padfoot, we went through all this, remember? Nothing is really going to change; you guys are still my best mates, we'll still go out at full moon, we'll see each other all the time. We're going to live together for fuck's sake, at least until me and Lils actually get married.'
'I know.' Sirius answered. 'I just thought, after we talked about it, that you'd decided to wait a bit, that's all.'
'Yeah, well.' James sighed, then resigned himself to having to explain his reasoning for Sirius. 'There didn't seem to be a lot of point; I know what I want, and it's what she wants too. I just figured, since we don't know how much time we've got, why waste any of it?'
No-one spoke for a moment, then Peter shifted uncomfortably in his seat. 'Bit morbid isn't it mate?'
'More realistic.' James' voice was quiet now, and he cast a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure that their conversation wasn't audible to the girls. 'Things are going to get worse before they get better; you're naïve if you think otherwise. I'm not going to live my life assuming that they'll always be tomorrow.'
Peter looked at Sirius. 'I really wish you hadn't started this line of conversation mate.'
James snorted. 'Let's just drop it for now shall we?' He stood up and stretched. 'Let's go harass the girls into sharing their sweets.'
The three boys moved over to the sofas to join Lily, Alice and Marlene, who happily made room for them, but argued violently against sharing their chocolate. They'd only been sat together for half an hour when an owl swooped in and landed on the back on the chair James had been sat in.
'That's Artemis.' Said Lily, glancing over at the owl. 'My parents must want me for something.'
'I'll get it.' James dropped a brief kiss on her temple and rose to collect the letter from Artemis. She gave him an affectionate hoot and rubbed her head against his hand, and he offered her a piece of cake which she took before swooping off. James threw the letter into Lily's lap then settled back down between her and Sirius.
Lily opened her letter, still laughing at the story Marlene was telling them, and her eyes quickly scanned through the page. James was the first to notice that she had gone rather quiet.
'Okay?' he asked quietly, knowing that she may not want attention drawn to her.
She gave him a wobbly smile. 'That depends. On how you feel about having dinner with Petunia and Vernon.'
'Lil, are you sure about this? It feels really strange, like it fits all wrong.'
She smiled at him and stretched up to straighten his collar and knot his tie for him. 'I'm sure James. It looks very smart, and we're going to a muggle restaurant, so you can't exactly get away with dress robes can you?'
'Guess not. I'm just not very comfortable in this.' James shrugged his shoulders into the jacket Lily was holding out for him and grimaced as he tried to settle it comfortably on his tall frame.
'At least you could afford an expensive suit that fits well.' Lily slapped at his hands as they tugged on the jacket. 'If you think this is uncomfortable, imagine wearing one that wasn't well tailored.'
'One of the many benefits of being rich then. Oh, I should let you know that I changed some galleons into muggle money for tonight, hopefully I brought enough. ' James stopped his struggles and tucked his hands in his trouser pockets. 'So how does it look?'
Lily took a step back and admired the way the dark grey suit fit. The pale blue shirt and tie complimented her dress - though that hadn't been intentional - and she thought that not only did he look handsome, but also adorably uncomfortable. It was good to see James Potter discomfited; he flitted through life with far too much ease in her opinion.
Still, it warmed her heart to know that he was putting himself through this for her; to try and improve her relationship with her sister. He was willing to completely put aside everything he knew, his entire wizard heritage, for this evening which was bound to be even more awkward for him than for any of the other parties involved.
She stepped forward and gave him a hug. He seemed surprised for a second, but it didn't take him long to wrap his arms around her.
'Anything for you Lil.' He tilted her back so that he could see her face and smirked at her. 'And I wouldn't thank me yet, we haven't made it through the evening without disaster.'
Lily smiled up at him. 'Well, thanks for trying anyway.'
James gave her one last squeeze then let go. 'We should go, or we'll be late. And I don't think that would put either your sister or her fiancé in the best of moods do you?'
Lily grimaced. 'No probably not. This is going to be bizarre.'
'I'm sort of looking forward to meeting him.' James said conversationally. 'I was actually a bit disappointed that I didn't get to meet him at Easter after all; you've painted such an image in my head, I'm extremely curious to see if he lives up to it.'
Lily stared up at him for one long moment. 'You're such a masochist.' She said finally before grabbing onto his arm. 'You ready?'
He gave her a lazy smile. 'I'm always ready for anything darling, you know me.'
She rolled her eyes and apparated them away. They landed in an alleyway, and Lily found herself slapping James' hands away as they tried to support her.
'Will you stop that?' she hissed at him.
Unrepentant, he grinned at her but did let go. 'You can't blame me for worrying, you've never been what one would call graceful when it comes to apparition have you?'
She raised her chin haughtily. 'I've gotten much better since I got my licence and can apparate myself thank you.'
James glanced up and down the alley as he responded. 'And thank Morgana you did pass that bloody test, because there's no way I would have been able to get us here. Where are we?'
'Guildford.' Lily answered shortly. 'The restaurant should be just down the street.'
She brushed a hand over her clothes and fiddled nervously with her jewellery. James reached out and caught her hand.
'There's nothing to be nervous about. We're having dinner with your sister and her fiancé. She agreed to it and picked the venue and everything, so really what can go wrong?' He wiggled his eyebrows in the most exaggerated manner he could manage and was rewarded with the faintest of giggles.
'You're right. Of course you're right. It's just dinner. I just…I wish Mum had told her about our engagement. I don't really want to be the one to tell her.'
'I'll tell her if you like.' James offered.
'No. No, I'll tell her. Just…don't say anything and let me do it in my own time?' The sentence became a question towards the end, and James nodded briefly before leaning down and giving her a quick kiss.
'Your sister isn't going to be mad at you for getting married.'
The words were meant to be reassuring, but Lily just snorted. 'You'd be surprised what Petunia can get angry about. I'm not even sure she knows what she's angry about half the time.'
Despite all the misgivings that were beginning to crowd in on her, Lily grasped James' hand and they walked together out of the alleyway and toward the expensive French restaurant that Vernon had apparently chosen, no doubt in an attempt to intimidate the two of them.
They stepped through the doors and gave Vernon's name to the maitre d' and were immediately shown to a table where Petunia and Vernon were just taking their seats. They looked up as the couple approached and Lily was pleased to note a brief flicker of a smile cross Petunia's face; she was glad that she'd forced James into an expensive suit and that they'd made the effort to be punctual. She was really hoping this dinner would turn out to be the olive branch that she'd been hoping for.
As James and Vernon shook hands politely, but with a certain air of suspicion she aimed a beaming smile at her sister, hoping that she knew just how much it would mean to her to be able to have a closer relationship.
This was not going well.
On second thoughts, that was a definite understatement. This was a disaster.
On the one hand, Vernon had been needling her and James since the moment they'd been seated at the table, but on the other, she could really do without James rising to the bait. The evening had become dedicated to one-upmanship, and Petunia's face had become more and more sour as the two men had aimed barbed comments at each other. She was now both incredibly uncomfortable and absolutely certain that this evening was going to end badly, and that in Petunia's mind the blame was going to lie solely with James and herself.
Right at this moment, Vernon was describing his car in explicit detail to a very bored looking James. Lily knew that James had very little knowledge of cars and machinery in general – where on Earth would he learn about such things, coming from a pureblood family? – and was well aware that he probably didn't even know what a Vauxhall Cavalier looked like, let alone have any appreciation of its apparent superiority to other vehicles.
Vernon's eyes narrowed on James, seemingly recognising the signs of boredom that were emanating from him.
'Well, Potter, what do you drive then?'
James raised his eyebrows and focused his gaze on Vernon's face, before reaching for his glass and taking a firm sip of his wine before answering. 'I don't, Vernon.'
'Don't what?' Vernon asked, his eyes betraying his confusion.
'I don't drive. Why would I? First of all, we don't really bother with cars at all where I come from so I've never learnt, and second, they're so slow! I'd be permanently frustrated trying to get anywhere at those kind of speeds.' James' tone was cool, and Lily winced internally; she was very familiar with that tone, and it meant James was trying very hard not to lose his temper.
She reached over and covered her hand with his, rubbing her thumb soothingly over his skin; the very last thing she needed was for James to lose it, since that would result either in him violating the Statute of Secrecy by hexing Vernon, or punching him, and she honestly couldn't say which was more likely since James had always had a proclivity for muggle-style violence when seriously provoked.
'Cars are going faster than ever before!' Vernon exclaimed, gesturing with the hand still holding his drink and splashing some of it on Petunia's dress. Petunia's scowl deepened, and Lily felt some of the hope that she could use this evening to reconcile with her sister slip away. Vernon was continuing his bombast about modern cars, complete with arm gestures to illustrate his points, and his face was growing redder by the moment.
'…I do seventy miles an hour on the motorway every day, how can you say that's slow, hmmm?'
Vernon stabbed his finger in the air for emphasis on his final point, and stopped speaking obviously anticipating a reply.
James responded in those same cool tones. 'Well, wizards usually travel by apparition, which is more or less instant from one place to another, or by floo, which takes seconds. So when you can cross the world in a matter of moments, strapping yourself into a metal box and using pedals to propel yourself along roads seems a little…pointless, wouldn't you say?'
'Ahh.' Vernon seemed oddly satisfied with that answer and the accompanying sarcasm seemed to have gone over his head; for a moment Lily was hopeful that they could put the obviously contentious topic to rest, but her hopes were dashed when Vernon continued speaking. 'So you all use public transport. Well, that's fine for a certain class of people I suppose, but it must be difficult not to have your own, individual transportation.'
James offered him a chilly smile. 'I didn't say I didn't have my own transportation, I just don't use it regularly as I find it inconvenient. But as you bring it up, I happen to own several very fine racing brooms. My favourite is my Comet 220 – just got it actually, to replace my old one – but I've also got a Nimbus 1001 – excellent handling, ash frame, very fast – and a Cleansweep 4, not so quick, but very steady…'
'I suppose you think that's funny do you?' Vernon interrupted James' monologue, his moustache twitching with anger.
'Not at all.' James responded. 'You brought the subject up, I was merely answering your question.'
Vernon snorted. 'Brooms! Load of tosh. I suppose people like you can't really afford proper cars and the such; can't be many jobs for your kind.'
'Actually there are a lot of magical industries and the like that are completely separate from muggle ones.' Lily spoke quietly, more upset than she cared to show at Vernon's lack of respect for her and James. 'We have our own healers, teachers, legal system. It's very similar to the way you do things actually, it's just separate. And based on slightly different principles I'll admit.'
She took an unsteady gulp of her wine and carried on talking, trying desperately to steer the conversation onto safer ground. 'James plans on going into law enforcement and I'm going to be an apprentice at an apothecary I think.'
'You haven't mentioned that before.' Petunia spoke quietly, and Lily aimed a grateful look at her sister.
'No, I hadn't really decided. You know me Tuney; always a bit indecisive. But I think I'm definitely going for it, it's what appeals to me most.'
Petunia returned her slightly wobbly smile, and James turned his hand over on the table so he could twine their fingers together. Vernon, on the other hand, huffed loudly.
'Well, I suppose an apprenticeship is better than nothing, and if you can't get anything else...'
'Lily had plenty of offers.' James interrupted. 'She's absolutely brilliant, and her grades will back that up when they're sent out in August. This is what she wants to do, and she doesn't have to worry about money, so the pay doesn't matter either, though I'm sure it's very generous.'
Lily gave him a small smile and squeezed his hand. 'I didn't actually ask about salary. The opportunity was enough, and it's not like I'm worried about money.'
James grinned at her and for a moment Lily hoped everything would be okay; Petunia wasn't smiling anymore but she didn't look upset, and she could see the tension melting out of James' posture. Her hopes were dashed by the sound of Vernon's loud voice, full of disdain and derision.
'I suppose you all claim benefits do you? No wonder you're not worried about money; I've always thought taxes were too high, and it's no wonder if ordinary decent folks like us are paying out to support all of your lot while they do naff all.'
James clicked his tongue against his teeth, and Lily could see his temper fighting with his better judgement. Petunia's eyes were flicking worriedly between Vernon and James, and Lily could see that her sister was as aware of the realities of the situation as she was.
When James finally spoke it was slow and deliberate, with obvious anger behind it that was nonetheless masked in politeness.
'Actually, our economy is separate to yours, so none of your taxes go to any of our lot. And as it happens, I don't worry about money because my family is one of the richest in the wizarding world. We have a large fortune, most of which is stored as solid gold at the wizarding bank but we also own rather a lot of land and property, as well as shares in some extremely successful businesses. So, unsurprisingly, we don't claim benefits.'
'Hmph.' Vernon folded his arms across his chest; his face had begun to turn puce with fury over the course of James' speech. 'Even if that were true – and I don't believe that swill for a moment Potter – I don't see how it relates to whether Lily will earn enough to pay her way.'
'Lily will never have to worry about paying her way Vernon, don't you concern yourself with that.' James snapped.
Vernon turned his eyes on Lily and sneered. She could see the anger building up in him, and the tension between the four of them was now ridiculously uncomfortable. 'Going to rely on your boyfriend for handouts? Not very practical in the long term you know.'
Lily felt James' fist clench round her hand, and she lifted her head to look Vernon directly in the face. 'Actually Vernon, when James and I are married, we plan on sharing everything. That would be appropriate for a husband and wife wouldn't you say?'
She heard Petunia's little gasp, and she turned her eyes to her sister, trying to apologise with a look for telling her like this.
'You're…getting married?' Petunia's voice was quiet.
'Yes.' Lily answered. 'I would have told you sooner, but I didn't want to put it in a letter, I wanted to tell you face to face and this is the first time I've seen you.'
'When…' Petunia stumbled over her words and cleared her throat before she began again. 'When did this happen?'
'Two weeks ago.' James answered for Lily, lifting his other hand so he could enclose hers in both of his. 'Two weeks ago I asked Lily to be my wife, and I was lucky enough that she said yes.'
Lily smiled at him and lifted her left hand to rest it on top of his. She heard Petunia gasp and she looked up at her sister, whose eyes were fixed on her ring.
'Gran's ring?' Petunia spoke quietly.
'Rose gave it to me.' James spoke again. 'She thought Lily would like to have it.'
Petunia stiffened up, and her eyes blazed for just a moment. 'Of course she did.' All trace of warmth and friendliness had gone, and Lily was baffled as to what could have caused this sudden change.
'So you're getting married.' Vernon's angry voice cut into the conversation again. 'Well congratulations. I hope you'll be very happy doing nothing with your lives and living off your magical fortune.'
'I'm sure we will be.' James answered defiantly. 'Though I'm not sure we plan on doing nothing exactly, we will be sure to enjoy our money. Thanks for your concern.'
Vernon snarled at him and rose from his seat, throwing his napkin down on the table. 'You're nothing but a pair of fantasists. We're leaving Petunia. Your sister is obviously not the sort we want to associate with.'
He stormed out, and Petunia began to rise slowly from her seat to follow him.
'Tuney…' Lily began, faltering when her sister raised a hand to stop her.
'Don't Lily. You had to provoke him didn't you? You know how he feels about your kind – how we both feel – and you insist on discussing it.'
'It's who I am Tuney. If you ask me about work, or home, or my friends, anything about myself the answer will always involve magic. I can't help that.'
'Maybe not.' Said Petunia as she too placed her napkin on the table and stood up. 'I suppose that means we'll just have to avoid talking to each other.'
Lily stared up at her sister. 'Tuney…'
'You'll have to come to the wedding. I don't want any awkward questions. But after that… I don't think we'll have much need to see each other.' Petunia's eyes were fixed on some distant part of the restaurant as she spoke, refusing to look at either James or Lily. 'Goodbye.'
She left, leaving Lily and James seated alone at the table. They sat in silence for a moment until a dry sob escaped Lily's throat. James spun to face her and took her broken expression; he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly, and the second they'd wrapped around her the tears began to flow.
He rocked her gently, ignoring the looks of the other restaurant patrons as he murmured soothing nonsense into her ear, and waving away the waiter who hurried over. When her breathing was even again he leaned back to look her in the eyes.
'I'm so sorry Lily. I should have had better control of my temper. I shouldn't have let him rile me up, I know it was immature…'
He hadn't gotten to end of his sentence before she'd buried her face in his neck again. 'Don't worry about it James.'
The words were so soft he had to strain to hear them.
'He was never going to give either of us a chance, not really. And Tuney is always, always going to pick him. So that's that.'
He wished so much that he could offer her some words of comfort, that he could contradict her and say that everything would work out between her and Petunia one day. But he'd be lying and they'd both know it, and there was no comfort in empty words.
And he wouldn't lie to her.
So he whispered true things instead; that he loved her, that her parents loved her and so did his, that she had so many friends and so much in her life that was good, and so many people who valued her.
And when she'd stopped crying, when her tears were drying on her face, he called the waiter over and settled the bill without question before leading her out of the restaurant and back to the alleyway, where he apparated them both away.
A/N: So they say starting is the hardest bit, so hopefully it's going to get easier (and quicker) to write as I get properly into the plot. I don't like writing the Dursleys, so I'm glad to have got this bit out of the way, but I did feel it was necessary to have it there. I also felt that since we'd had Lily's parent's responses to the proposal in TT, it was only fair to get James' parent's views here; and I love writing his parents, so any excuse.
I've tried to use canon facts where possible in this, but I'm aware that I'm not sticking quite to canon timescales for things like the dinner with Vernon and Petunia. Hopefully, you will all forgive me for taking liberties with the Potterverse :)
As always, I would love to hear what you think, so reviews will always be appreciated. I'm also on Tumblr if anyone wants to message me on there or whatever; there's a link on my profile.