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Chapter 14: Pushing the Boundaries
We’ll be home by 9pm or so. Sorry we couldn’t be around to welcome you home. There’s some Muggle money on the table, buy yourself some takeaways.
And the keys to the car are there as well, you’ve driven it with me a couple of times, you’ll be fine. If all else fails, confundus charm.
Oh, this is going to be interesting. Grateful that at least I have some time to calm down before my parents are home, I go into the bathroom, clean my face and consider my options. For a half-blood, I have shamefully little experience with Muggle purchasing, especially when it comes to food.
I glance at the time. Half past five. So, by the time I get into the car, drive around the street several times before I have the guts to tackle an intersection, drive around, find a place to get food, park somehow, get there, work out how to order said food, order it, count the money, wait for the food, get back in the car, remove car from park, get home and eat, it’ll be nine o’clock and I would have successfully killed all my home-alone time.
Let’s do this.
I take the money, shoving it into the pocket of my robes. Wait a minute. Robes among Muggles is weird. I could go in my school uniform without robes. Good idea, Rose.
I walk out into the street, locating the old red car, a Toyota Corolla, and fiddling with the keys to unlock it. Here we go. I climb into the car and try to orientate myself. What did I do when I went with Dad? I pulled this belt thing across, and it clipped in somewhere…here? No, uh, here? Yes! I think. And I put the key in this little slot, wait, what did Dad say? Make sure you push down one of the pedals before you turn the key…the left one, I think. So I’m doing that, and now I turn the key…Yes! It’s making a continuous noise! This is a good sign. Now, this big stick lever thing here, I push it up, I think. I do so, take my foot off the pedal, and the car lurches forward several times and lies silent. Shit! I broke the car!
Okay, okay, Rose. Think. You’ve done this before. How did Dad tell you to fix it? Turn the key! And push that infernal pedal down again. Now, the stick thing has to be in the top left corner, the position marked 1. That makes sense. I’m remembering! Yay! And then press down the pedal on the right, easing off the one on the left…I’m moving! I’m MOVING! Not very fast, but I’m moving and that’s good enough for me. Who needs Apparition? I’m driving a car!
I pootle out to the end of the street, making a snap decision to turn left. Now, what’s a food place some of the Muggleborn kids have mentioned? McDonalds, yes, McDonalds, I’ve heard Mum say it before as well. There are a whole lot of cars behind me, tooting. Dad always toots at people he knows, but I don’t know them. Maybe they’re just being friendly. I wave.
Ooh! Here’s the McDonalds! Now how do I get there? I turn right sharply, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, and drive around the carpark, wondering how people get out of the parks—there are other cars in front of every car. Maybe you go backwards. I’ll worry about that later.
I nose into a spot, hesitating. What do you do when you leave the car? The stick thingy was in the middle when I got in the car, so I return it to that position. I turn the key, and the car is silent.
I did it! I drove here! Seventy million points to Slytherin!
I take the money, lock the car, and enter the building. The aroma of fried something hits me, and I approach the end of what I assume to be the line, looking at the unbelievably bright pictures of burgers and wondering what on earth is in them. There seems to be a lot with chicken in the names. That’s good, I like chicken. What’s the difference between these damn things? I try to sneak a peek at other people’s trays, but their burgers are hidden by colourful cardboard boxes. The chips look good though. I’ll order some chips. And a burger. That seems to be the done thing.
“Can I help anyone?” a girl calls, looking bored.
“Me,” I call, scurrying forward to the counter. Now what? Do I just list what I want? “Uh, I want to order some chips and a burger.”
“Something with chicken in it.”
“A McChicken, then?”
“Yeah, if you say so.”
She gives me a strange look. “Small, medium or large fries?”
“Fries?” I repeat.
“Yes, some of those would be great.”
“Small, medium or large?” she asks slowly, as if my IQ is in the negatives.
“You have different sized chips? Well, I’ll just have normal then.”
“So, a McChicken and medium fries? Would you like that as a combo?”
“A combo?” I repeat blankly.
“Are you, like, on drugs or something?”
I figure it would just be easier to nod, and look like I know what she’s talking about.
“Hi, Rosie,” Mum says, coming through the Floo Network closely followed by Dad. “Get dinner all right?”
“I won’t pretend it wasn’t a mission.”
“Did you crash?” Dad asks.
“Well done!” he says enthusiastically. “Hermione, she didn’t crash! She drove by herself and she didn’t crash!”
“I’m pleased,” Mum says mildly.
“But…it’s a massive accomplishment,” Dad says, looking confused. “You don’t seem impressed.”
“Oh, I am,” Mum assures him in a tone that suggests otherwise. Dad shrugs, seemingly happy with her response.
“So what’s happening at the Ministry at the moment?”
“We’re hoping the Honour Guard doesn’t try anything until after Christmas,” Mum says. “A number of Aurors have declared their allegiance to DOWIAH, so we’ve let them go. I hate the prospect of effectively giving DOWIAH some of our finest wizards, but it can’t be helped. I don’t think they’ll join the Honour Guard, not with our suspicions of their darkness. But the DOWIAH army, definitely. Harry and Dean are co-ordinating One. Harry tells me you’ve agreed to coordinate the Hogwarts branch of it.”
“Yeah. I have no idea what I’m doing, but that shouldn’t be an issue.”
“You’ll work it out,” Mum says, a hint of pride in her voice.
“Where are we spending Christmas?” I continue.
“The Potters’. We were going to stay here but with just the three of us…” Mum’s voice falters and she chokes back a sob.
I don’t want to remember that there’s only three of us. It’s easier to pretend Hugo’s at a friend’s house, or staying on at Hogwarts for Christmas, being the duty prefect for Ravenclaw…Don’t cry, Rose.
The fireplace suddenly glows green, and Mum and Dad wheel around to face it, wands drawn. They lower them immediately when Aunt Ginny becomes visible, and a look of alarm crosses their faces.
“Ginny? What’s wrong?” Mum asks quietly.
Ginny hurries across the room into Mum’s arms, and Dad and I exchange panicked glances. Aunt Ginny’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, what’s wrong?
“I can’t stand it any more, Hermione,” she sobs into Mum’s hair.
“Can’t stand what?”
“Lily’s run away!” she cries. “She’s run away and it’s all my fault, I yelled at her and I don’t think she’s ever coming home…”
“Where is she?” Dad asks.
“I don’t know, you haven’t seen her, have you?”
“No, we haven’t. Rose, have you seen her?”
“Not since Hogwarts.”
Ginny steps back, furiously wiping her eyes. “She’s probably with the Scamanders…Don’t go after her, Ron…”
“Gin,” Mum says gently, “What happened?”
“She’s joined DOWIAH,” Ginny sniffles, “And I got upset, I told her she couldn’t go against us while she was living at home…And she just left, she Apparated, Hermione, she fucking Apparated, she’s never even had lessons…”
Wow. I’m a good eighteen months older than Lily and I only got my licence last week.
“Lily joined DOWIAH?” Mum asks.
Ginny nods. “And James too.”
Mum nods. “I’ll tell you what I can do. I’ll go and pay Luna and Rolf a visit, see if Lily’s there. I won’t talk to her, but if it’ll put your mind at ease…”
“She’s too smart to do something stupid, she’ll be there…But she won’t want to come home, she’ll be gone for Christmas…” Ginny starts crying again.
“Rose, can you go to the Scamanders?” Mum asks, guiding Ginny to the couch. “I’ll stay here with Ginny.”
“Sure,” I agree, taking a handful of Floo Powder from the tin beside the fire.
“Somebody’s in the fire,” Luna observes serenely as the fire glows green, picking up her wand and pointing it at the fire in a manner of curious expectation.
Rose appears in the fire, holding up her hands in surrender. She spots me, offers a wave, and turns to leave again.
“Hello, Rose,” Luna says.
“Evening, Luna. Just checking to see if Lily’s here.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because your mum’s sitting in our kitchen crying her eyes out over you,” she says matter-of-factly. “Well, I best be off.”
“Great,” I mutter once she’s left. “Now Rose hates me.”
“But she was smiling,” Lysander says, puzzled.
“She’s good like that.”
“Maybe you should go home,” Luna suggests. “Ginny misses you.”
I snort. “She doesn’t miss me. Mourns the loss of her mini-me, maybe.”
Luna looks at me with a trace of sternness in her soft blue eyes. “I miss my boys when they’re at Hogwarts,” she says, “And I know they’re coming home. I love my boys whether they believe in the same things as me or not, whether they join me in looking for Wrackspurts or stand aside thinking I’m insane. I love my boys even when they hate me. And Ginny is no different.”
“I’d love to believe that,” I say softly, staring at the fireplace as the flames flicker and dance. “But I don’t.”
“What would your mum say if she knew?” I ask Lorcan, idly playing with a piece of his hair. We’re sitting on his bed in pajamas, me snuggled up to him to ward off the December chill.
“The Honour Guard.”
“I don’t know,” he replies, “And I don’t want to think about it, so can we talk about something other than the Honour Guard?”
“Okay…What do you want for Christmas?”
“I’m already here,” I point out, resting my head on his shoulder.
“Not what I meant.”
My eyes widen and I pull away instinctively. “You can’t be serious.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? Don’t look at me like that, Lily. I’m not asking you to do anything.”
“You’re suggesting it.”
“Suggesting, not asking. If you don’t want to, then I won’t mention it again.”
“...I don’t know.”
When I first think about it, the idea is unthinkable. But why? Why, because that’s what the old Lily’s reaction would have been. The old, innocent Lily who did exactly what everyone expected of her. And the more I think about it, the more I want to. To prove that I’m somebody other than Ginny Potter’s daughter and Lily Evans’s namesake. To prove that I’m not governed by other people’s definitions of perfection.
And, I mean, I love Lorcan, so why not?
“All right,” Lorcan says, resignation in his voice, and I suddenly want him to ask again, to keep talking about it, so I don’t have to broach the subject. I may be a Gryffindor, but I’m a coward.
“Do you want to go to bed?” he asks, not quite meeting my eyes. He’s embarrassed; embarrassed for asking, and embarrassed by my reaction.
“No. Not yet.”
“I didn’t offend you, did I?” he asks suddenly, looking at me with earnest blue eyes. I love those eyes. “Because if I did I’m sorry…I’m a guy, and I love you. I had to say something.”
“You didn’t offend me,” I tell him, heart pounding, the apology in his voice only making me fall for him more. “I’m glad you brought it up.”
I point my wand at the door, swinging it closed and locking it shut.
“This is why.”
“Merry Christmas, Lily.”
I awake in confusion at the voice, momentarily forgetting where I am and how I got here, but as Luna standing in the doorway comes into focus everything comes back in a rush—the argument with Mum, Apparating, Lorcan…
Wow, Lorcan. Did that really happen?
Luna has apparently decided I’m incapable of speech, and drifts off to wake the boys in the same manner.
Shaking my head, I crawl out of bed, wrapping a blanket around myself and padding out to the kitchen.
“Merry Christmas,” Rolf says from the sink, pausing briefly at the end of the sentence as if trying to remember my name before deciding it’s not important. He then puts a hat on and departs out the back door. I think he’s scared of me.
I seek out Lorcan and find him in his room shrugging on blue robes.
“I don’t have your Christmas present here,” I say apologetically.
He comes over, kisses me softly and says, “You already gave me it.”
So we did. Good to know.
I’ve never spent a Christmas away from my family, and it’s strange to hear the conversation about various real and/or imaginary creatures as opposed to Quidditch and insults. Lorcan and Lysander don’t start a food fight with the gravy, and Luna doesn’t threaten them with ingenious hexes of her invention.
“Do you miss your family?” Lysander ventures to ask halfway through dinner.
“If I did, would I be here?” I ask. “I was just thinking how refreshing it is to have a Christmas dinner where people don’t end up wearing the food.”
“We’ve been there, done that,” Lorcan comments, grinning at Lysander. “It was a few years ago now.”
“That was a good Christmas,” Luna says happily. “Oh, look, it’s snowing.”
“I propose a war,” Lorcan declares. “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, who’s in?”
“Unfair!” Lysander protests. “You get Mum and Dad!”
“Oi, Lysander. Forgetting someone?” I ask pointedly.
“Yeah, but there’s still only two of us.”
“You underestimate my power,” I say ominously, relishing the words even in a joking context.
“I may sit this one out,” Rolf says, and disappears behind a bumper Christmas edition of the Quibbler that claims, among other things, that Aunt Hermione has a degree in political science from a Muggle university.
“She didn’t go to Cambridge,” I offer, peering at the headline.
“So Mum, you in for a snowball fight?” Lysander asks.
“Of course,” Luna replies, eyes lighting up at the prospect. “To the battlefield!” Out of nowhere she conjures a Ravenclaw flag and runs out of the house with Lorcan in hot pursuit.
“Tell me you can conjure a flag,” Lysander says, looking slightly desperate.
“I can give it a go,” I reply, leading the way out of the house and waving my wand. Yes, here we go.
“It’s a little small,” I say apologetically, handing the resulting Gryffindor flag to Lysander.
“No matter. Engorgio.”
We plant the flag in the snow about fifty metres away from the Ravenclaws and immediately set to work building a defence wall. Luna and Lorcan aren’t attacking yet; they’re focusing on building their base.
“Let’s do this. While we have the element of surprise.”
“Good idea. The wall should hold up all right. If not, it doesn’t matter.”
We begin firing snowballs at Lorcan and Luna, who protest and begin throwing more in defence. Within ten minutes our defensive wall has been destroyed, and we run forward for almost hand-to-hand combat; Lorcan and Lysander only inches apart, hurling snow into each other’s faces, down each other’s backs, into each other’s hair.
“Change of plan!” Lorcan yells suddenly, seizing my wrist and pulling me to him. “Lily and I against you two!”
“Challenge accepted,” Lysander says with relish, and he and Luna begin flinging snow at us with reckless abandon.
“Back it up,” Lorcan mutters, placing a hand on my shoulder as he steps back. I watch in awe as he raises his wand, and with a look of intense concentration draws up a swirling whirlwind of snow. The tornado grows, stretching up towards the sky, and as Lorcan brings his wand down in a sweeping arc so the tornado forms a ring around Lysander and Luna, spraying flakes of snow.
I had no idea he could do that.
With a low boom the spinning ring of snow explodes and Luna becomes visible, wand still outstretched, her eyes fixated on Lorcan.