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Chapter 1: Of Cabs and Galleons
Of Heart and Home
“Ladies and gentlemen, please sit down! Sit, sit! Now, really, put that down!” The entreaties came from the Muggle Studies professor who was attempting with all his might to manage the chaos ignited by his students as they filed in noisily. “Please, we have some guests today who I am quite excited about!” The students quieted down as they moved to their seats, watching him in anticipation.
James Potter settled into his seat, slinging his bookbag over the back of his chair. Silently, he fixed his eyes on the professor at the front, ignoring the underclassmen mingling around him.
“Now, if you’ll recall, I told you all about an extra credit opportunity for those of you who were interested. I am thrilled to finally announce what I have planned for those of you who have chosen to participate.” Turning towards the door, a wide smile on his face as he hollered, “Come on in!”
One by one, students of all ages filed in, nodding to the professor as they moved to stand in a straight line at the front of the classroom. None of them caught James’ attention until one redhead entered the room at the end of the line, a wide smile on her face. Suddenly, it wasn’t hard to figure out who these people were—a line of Muggleborns. The stakes had raised and James became alert, his eyes shifting between the professor and Lily as he waited for some explanation.
“This week marks our annual fall break, and I’ve asked those of you who were interested to keep that time open.”
James’ heart began to beat faster as he saw Lily’s eyes scanning the room jovially until the moment her eyes met his. Her smile faded when their eyes finally locked, until a few seconds later when she averted her eyes distractedly to the professor. Did she know that he had signed up for this extra credit opportunity? Obviously not…
“You won’t be disappointed, ladies and gentlemen, because these Muggleborns in front of you have offered their homes to you. You will go home with them for the week and experience the life of a Muggle. The experience is truly invaluable…”
James stopped listening altogether as the professor bantered on, laughing sporadically at his own jokes. It wasn’t until he heard names being called out when his attention was sparked once more. When he noticed that same genders were being paired together, he noted the relief that flooded Lily’s eyes. He could only imagine what was going through her head at this moment, though it was clear enough that she was dreading the possibility of being stuck with him for a week.
“Now, I know that I paired like genders together for comfort, but unfortunately, we had an uneven number and I figured that of all the students, Mr. Potter and Ms. Evans would be fine together. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sure you two spend plenty of time together as Head Students already!”
Stifling silence held the room as his classmates looked around at each other uneasily. James’ eyes flitted up to Lily’s, who stood at the front of the room with her jaw held tight and eyes trained straight ahead.
“I’ll give those of you who are participating a few minutes to speak to your partners before we begin class,” he continued, oblivious of the tenseness that filled the classroom. Students stood up and moved around quickly and James slowly pushed himself out of his desk, shuffling over to Lily.
“You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” Lily muttered as soon as James came within hearing distance of her, a look of disdain on her face.
“No, I didn’t,” James insisted, putting up his hands in defense.
“First Head Boy and now this!” she exclaimed, gritting her teeth together. “Why did you even sign up for this? Don’t you have better things to do over your break?” she continued quickly, a bit of her anger giving way to desperation.
“Well, no… My friends are all going home for the week, but my parents are on leave in Russia right now—don’t even ask—so I figured this would be a good opportunity,” he told her simply, shrugging as he finished.
“You knew this was the extra credit project, didn’t you? I bet the professor told you and—…” Lily persisted with narrowed eyes, but James interrupted her halfway through.
“No, I had no idea what we were doing. Would you like me to switch with someone? I really would if you wanted to be with someone else,” James told her, motioning to the second and third year students surrounding him.
Lily surveyed the room skeptically, sighing a bit to herself. “Why are you even taking this class?” she asked quietly, frowning.
“I found Muggles interesting, and I figured this would be a good class for my profession.”
“Auror?” she asked incredulously, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
“Lily, Muggles are everywhere, as you of course know. I’m going to have to interact with them daily, so I thought it would be best to have a better understanding of their culture,” he replied. “Now, would you like to switch?” he asked obdurately.
“No, no,” Lily said with reluctance, shaking her head. “I don’t want to cause problems. I agreed to this, after all,” she reasoned, looking down at her feet uncomfortably. After a moment, Lily looked up decisively and began speaking once more. “We’re leaving tonight after dinner,” she informed him cordially, nodding once.
James was caught somewhat off-guard, but nodded in affirmation hesitantly nevertheless. “Will we be Apparating?” he asked her slowly, raising an eyebrow.
Lily’s disposition changed as she restrained a laugh and shook her head. “Uh, no,” she answered, a smirk bubbling onto her face. “We’re going to a completely Muggle town. We’ll be taking the train and then a cab. I assume you know what a cab is?” Lily asked, raising an eyebrow in question, though she continued before he could respond. “They’ll be providing carriages to the train station tonight. Just meet in the Front Hall and we’ll go together from there.”
“Right…” he murmured, his eyes a bit wider than usual. “Should I bring any specific clothes?” he asked suddenly, furrowing his brow.
“Anything but what you’re wearing now,” she said, eyeing his uniform. “Think Muggle,” she told him, a barely condescending smile coming to her face. “I’ll see you then,” she said finally, nodding in farewell before she turned swiftly, exiting the room before the professor began reeling in his students to begin the lesson. James stood still as he watched her turn down the hall until he finally slinked back to his desk, sinking into the stiff chair.
James ambled down to the Front Hall, suitcase in tow, as soon as dinner had finished. Lily was already there, though she had no suitcase with her. All she had were a few books under one arm as she stood, tapping one foot on the ground impatiently.
“Come on!” she called across the hall as she saw him struggling down the stairs. James jumped in surprise before he began to hurry down the stairs, his suitcase slamming loudly against each step as he did so.
“You could be a little less disruptive,” she chastised him when he finally neared her.
He ignored this comment, though, and looked her up and down in confusion. “Where’s all your stuff?” he asked her quickly.
“You forget that we’re going to my house. I have plenty of things there already,” she told him simply, turning to head out the door without another word.
They didn’t have to walk far before they reached the carriages that would bring them to the train, though James found himself straying quite a bit behind Lily as he struggled to lug his suitcase through the dirt and rocks. The carriage ride was short and silent, and before long, they had reached the train and settled in their seats. The ride stretched out for hours and was filled with a tense silence that he dared not interrupt. Even as they reached the platform and began walking out of the station, James remained silent and followed obediently. When they finally stepped in the cab, he was surprised to hear her voice again as she mumbled an address to the cab driver.
Without looking at James, Lily put on her seatbelt and told him quietly to do the same. Fumbling with the strap, he examined the metal on the seatbelt, curiously following Lily’s movements. As soon as he heard the click, the car lurched and James grabbed the arm rest, his eyes widening. “Is this normal?” he muttered under his breath to Lily.
Lily gave him a sidelong glance, unable to keep from smiling. “Yeah, it is,” she replied almost inaudibly.
They turned a corner and James immediately fell against Lily, who let out a shocked gasp. Her eyes darted to the rearview mirror, where she saw the cab driver looking back at them quizzically.
“This kid never been in a car?” he asked gruffly, furrowing his brow.
James opened his mouth to speak, but Lily spoke over him rapidly. “No, he hasn’t. He’s from a remote town in Yugoslavia, actually. No cars there,” she told the cab driver seamlessly, flashing a charming smile to him before looking over to James expectantly.
James cleared his throat, looking to the cab driver as he mumbled, “Zauvjek sam tvoj!” Lily’s eyes widened and she looked back to the cab driver, but he looked pleased enough and set his eyes on the road once again.
Silence emanated once again until they finally came to a stop in front of a small house. When James observed Lily fumbling through her pockets for a few bills, he reached in his own and grabbed a handful of galleons, bending forward to hand them to the cab driver.
The driver looked down at the gold with a grimace before looking back at James. “What the hell is this? Gold? That’s not legal tender here, you moron,” he spat.
Lily quickly grabbed the gold from his hand, replacing it with a stack of pounds. “I’m sorry about him. Have a good night,” she rushed, dashing out of the cab and indicating for James to do the same.
Once they were safely out of the curb, watching the cab speed off, Lily shot an incredulous look at her fellow Gryffindor. “Galleons? Are you bloody serious?”
“No, I’m James…” he defended automatically, but Lily narrowed her eyes at this.
“That joke got old in second year. And how did you know Yugoslavian?!” she continued, raising her eyebrows expectantly.
“That was Yugoslavian?” he responded, surprised at himself. When Lily only scoffed in reply, he looked up to survey her house. It was dark, but he could tell that it was modest at best. Nevertheless, it held a cozy feeling that he had never experienced in his home…Manor, really.
“Yeah, I don’t live in a mansion,” Lily said when she observed his looks.
“No, no,” James immediately amended, shaking his head adamantly. “I really like it,” he continued, looking back towards the house.
“Well, come on. My parents will be waiting.” Lily looked at him, about to continue speaking, but she stopped herself suddenly and instead walked towards the house.
James watched her in fascination as she ambled to the front door, reaching just above the door jamb to grab at something that wasn’t visible to him. She retrieved a key and shoved it into the door knob before opening the door with a twist of her hand. Replacing the key about the door, she entered and called out, “Mom, dad!”
It smelled like her… That was the first thing James noticed when he entered the house. It had that distinct smell of lavender intermingling with roses that he knew to be hers. Smiling to himself, James closed the door behind him and took in the rest of the house. He spotted a family portrait on the wall and strained to see it, but before he could discern the figures, he saw Lily’s parents coming from what looked like the kitchen.
“Lily!” her mother exclaimed, holding out her arms to give Lily a hug. Her mother released Lily after a moment and turned to James, smiling brightly. “And you must be the student staying with us. I’m Mrs. Evans, but you are welcome to call me Carol.” If Lily resembled either of her parents, it was her mother. They had the same red hair, facial structure, and pale complexion, though she got her green eyes from her father to be sure.
“Nice to meet you Carol,” James responded, unable to keep a smile off of his face. “I’m James Potter.” He saw something flash in Mrs. Evans’ eyes as they flickered towards Lily, but only a second later, he found himself in an embrace.
“It’s wonderful to meet you, James,” she told him, releasing him and taking a step back.
Before he could glance over to see Lily’s reaction, her father was in front of him, holding out his hand. “I’m Mr. Evans,” he said simply, a terse smile on his face.
Shaking his hand, James introduced himself once again. “James Potter. Nice to meet you.”
“Now, have you two eaten? I know it’s late, but I can whip something up if you would like!” Carol said jovially, but Lily shook her head quickly.
“No, we had dinner at the castle. We should probably just head to bed tonight,” she insisted, still avoiding James’ eyes.
“Well, I’ll see you two in the morning then. We’re so glad to have you here, James,” Carol gushed, her eyes twinkling with cheerfulness.
He had barely said, “Good night!” before Lily had grabbed his arm and begun to lead him up a narrow set of stairs.
“Your parents are nice,” James commented once they reached the top of the flight.
“Yeah,” was all she responded as she continued walking, stopping in front of a door at the end of the hall. “This is your room. Mine’s across the hall, so don’t do anything stupid.”
Lily turned away, placing her hand on the knob to open her door before she stopped abruptly, turning back to him momentarily. “Good night,” she told him with all the civility she could muster, even going so far as to smile a bit.
“Good night, Lily,” he responded, gladly returning her smile.
With that, Lily turned the knob and entered her own room, closing the door behind her. James did the same and dragged his suitcase into the room behind him. With a sigh, he flopped down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling restlessly.
This would certainly prove to be an interesting week.
I promised another story, and here it is! I’m really excited for the things I have in store for this and I hope you’ve enjoyed it thusfar. I want to say upfront, though, that I know there is no fall break in the Hogwarts school year, but I figured I would take a bit of artistic license for the sake of the story. Let me know what you think, and I’ll see if I can get out another chapter soon!
Until next time,