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Chapter 49: Chapter 49
‘Are you ready?’ Lily asked, scuffing her boots on the snowy Hogsmeade road. James thought she looked nervous.
James caught her gloved hand and squeezed. ‘Yep.’ Lily glanced up at him, green eyes searching and nodded once. Her grip tightened on his hand and she spun on the spot. When James was able to clearly see his surroundings, he found they were in a very Muggle sort of street, lined either side with small, neat houses. ‘I thought you lived in Spinner’s End,’ James said, glancing at the “Privet Drive” sign at the end of the street.
‘We moved at the end of my fifth year,’ Lily said, a little uncomfortably. ‘After all that business with Severus.’
‘Oh,’ James said and then cursed himself for not having anything better to say.
Lily seemed to know what he was thinking and smiled. ‘I preferred it there,’ she said. ‘Everything here’s so...’
‘Muggle?’ James suggested.
Lily laughed. ‘I suppose so. I think that’s why Tuney loves it here. She even moved back in with Mum and Dad – she’d been staying with Vernon and his parents... Here we are,’ she said, stopping at the driveway of Number 4. ‘This is home.’
She led him up the neatly shovelled path and to the front door. She rapped her knuckles against it, a wary expression on her pretty face. ‘Petunia, get the door, please,’ a man called.
‘No, no!’ a woman called back. ‘I’ve got it!’ Lily rolled her eyes as hurried footsteps neared the door. Everything went quiet on the other side. James glanced at Lily, who made a face and pressed her thumb against a little glass circle in the door. There was a sigh from inside and then the door opened to reveal a middle-aged woman with freckled cheeks and Lily’s fiery hair. She blushed as her eyes met her daughter’s. ‘You must be James,’ the woman said. ‘Where’s the other one?’
James blinked. ‘Hello. Erm, yes.’ He glanced down at Lily who didn’t seem surprised at the lack of welcome. ‘James Potter,’ he said, holding out his gloved hand.
‘Sirius is "the other one", Mum,’ Lily sighed. ‘His Uncle died so he’s been sorting things out. He’ll be here in time for dinner.’
‘Oh,’ Mrs Evans said. ‘Well, it’s nice to meet you, James. I’m Heather. Lillian’s Mother,’ she said smiling. Her blue eyes fell on her daughter. ‘How are you, darling?’
‘I’m good,’ Lily said, returning a hug. ‘You?’
‘Fine, fine,’ Mrs Evans said, releasing her. ‘Come in, before it starts to snow. And watch your shoes; I don’t want slush on my carpet.’ The motherly fussing sent a pang through James; it sounded a lot like something his own mother would have said.
‘I can clean it if we do,’ Lily said, tapping the pocket where James knew she kept her wand.
‘Oh, no,’ Mrs Evans said. ‘You can’t use your magic for things like that! You need to use it for important things!’ Lily threw a helpless glance at James as they followed the still babbling woman into a small, bright and obsessively clean kitchen. A man with greying hair put down his newspaper as they walked in.
‘Lils!’ he said, his face lighting up. He got up and wrapped his daughter into a hug and again James found himself missing his parents. ‘How’s school?’
‘It’s good,’ Lily said, meeting her father’s eyes. He stared right back. James hid a smile. Clearly Lily and her father were similar to him and Sirius; they didn’t need words to communicate.
‘That’s my girl,’ he said, letting her go.
‘Harold, this is James Potter,’ Mrs Evans said as she dabbed at a spot on the already gleaming counter.
‘Nice to meet you, James,’ Mr Evans said shaking his hand.
The friendly tone in his voice seemed genuine, so James let himself relax as he grinned at Lily’s father. ‘Nice to meet you too, sir.’
Mr Evans laughed. ‘Potter did you say?’ he asked, looking at Lily who was blushing. James nodded a little confused. ‘Unbelievable. Aren’t you the kid who told me you’d marry Lils at the end of your first year?’ Lily’s face reddened even more, and James felt heat rising in his own cheeks, but he pushed his embarrassment away.
James wrapped an arm around his girlfriend’s waist. ‘A lot has changed since then,’ James said, his grin widening. Mr Evans raised his eyebrows. ‘I think she’d say yes, now.' Mr Evans laughed, and Lily pressed her face into James’ shoulder.
‘So you are getting married?’ Mrs Evans said breathlessly. ‘Oh, my! Wait until Petunia hears! Pet-’
‘-No, Mum!’ Lily said loudly. ‘We’re not getting married yet.’
‘But you’ve considered it?’ Mrs Evans pressed.
Lily sighed. ‘Yes, Mum.’
‘She isn’t forcing you into anything is she, James?’ Mrs Evans said, suddenly concerned. For some reason Mr Evans found this hilarious. Mrs Evans shot a withering look at her husband who coughed loudly, but subsided. ‘She isn’t trying to get you to marry her because Petunia’s getting married, is she?’
‘Heather,’ Mr Evans sighed.
‘Sorry, sorry,’ Mrs Evans said, tossing her sponge in the sink. ‘You can get married whenever you want to, Lillian dear.’
‘Thank you,’ Lily said curtly. James squeezed her gently and was rewarded by a small smile in his direction.
‘But don’t wait too long,’ Mrs Evans continued, apparently not hearing. ‘I want grandchildren while I’m young enough to deal with them.’
James was now feeling thoroughly uncomfortable and was very, very glad that he hadn’t been able to convince Sirius to come early; Sirius had thought it best to let James meet Lily’s family before adding himself to the mix. He could only imagine what his best friend would be saying, or at least, trying to say, through his laughter. Lily looked appalled and embarrassed. ‘I’m so sorry, James,’ she said, burying her face into his shoulder again. She suddenly glanced up at her mother, who looked ready to say something more. ‘I’m going to take James to meet Petunia,’ Lily said quickly.
‘Oh, yes. Give him a tour, won’t you,’ Mrs Evans said. ‘Oh, and send Petunia down once you’ve seen her. She said she’d come shopping with me.’
‘Sure,’ Lily called, leading James into the hallway. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said again, once they were alone.
‘It’s fine,’ James said with a smile. He planted a quick kiss on her lips to let her know that he meant it. Lily grinned and towed him up the stairs.
‘Tuney?’ Lily called, knocking on the far left door on the landing.
‘I told you not to call me that!’ a shrill voice said from the other side. Lily sighed. It was quiet and then, ‘What do you want?’
‘I’d like you to meet James.’
‘Hello,’ James called. Lily threw him an exasperated look.
‘Hello,’ Petunia replied, opening the door. She was blonde and bony, with a long neck and face. She was nothing like her sister, standing almost a hand taller and while she was pretty, it was in a cold, severe sort of way. Her beady eyes ran over him a few times. ‘Nice to meet you,’ she said stiffly.
‘You too,’ James said pleasantly, holding out his hand. Petunia didn’t take it.
‘Petunia,’ Lily said warningly. Petunia glared at her sister, drew herself up to her full height and then grabbed the tip of James’ fingers between two of her own and shook once, her eyes never leaving Lily’s. She let go quickly as if burned. James watched curiously. Perhaps it was a muggle thing. ‘Mum wants you downstairs.’
‘Shopping?’ Petunia sniffed.
‘That’s what she said.’
Petunia’s eyes flicked to James. ‘Bye,’ she said and flounced down the stairs.
Lily looked like she wanted to apologise, but James didn’t give her a chance. ‘Which one’s yours?’ he asked, glancing at the other three doors on the landing.
‘This one,’ Lily said, pushing open a plain white door. James couldn’t help but notice it was the room furthest from Petunia’s. It was an average sized room with a window on one wall and a large Gryffindor banner on another.
‘House pride?’ James murmured, grinning at the golden pillows on the double bed and the red cushion on the chair at her desk.
‘A bit,’ Lily said with a sheepish grin. ‘I miss Hogwarts in the summer.’
‘Me too,’ James said, crossing the room to look at the photos on her tidy desk. There was one of her and Mary at a Quidditch match – James could see himself and Sirius flying around in the distance behind her, one of Lily, Mary, Alice and Marlene by the Hogwarts Express at the end of fourth year – James hid a smile at the sight of his fifteen year old self, staring through the train window at her – one of her and Snape at what must have been Lily’s eleventh birthday party and several of Lily and her family over the years. He grinned at the sight of his four year old girlfriend, covered in flour and grinning at the camera with a younger Petunia. ‘Some of them aren’t moving,’ he said, shocked.
‘They’re Muggle photographs,’ she said with a smile. ‘They’re not meant to move.’
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘They just don’t.’
‘That’s a terrible answer.’
‘Too bad,’ Lily sad, eyes sparkling. James opened his mouth to point out that “too bad” was another terrible response, but Lily stepped forward and kissed him.
‘Lily!’ Mrs Evan’s voice drifted up the stairs. ‘Come on, love!’
‘Hold on,’ Lily said, disentangling herself from James arms. She walked over to the door and pulled it open. ‘What?’ she called.
‘I’m not going!’ Lily said back.
‘Of course you are. James won’t mind. He can come, or he can stay.’ James froze. He didn’t particularly want to go shopping; he’d never been to a muggle store before and doubted it would end well for him to do so while Lily’s family was around. He wanted them to like him, not think he was odd.
‘Mum,’ Lily said, her tone almost pleading.
‘Don’t start with me, Lillian. I hardly see you through the year and you’re only here for a two days. I want some time with both of my daughters.’ Lily said nothing. ‘Hurry up, Petunia’s already in the car,’ Mrs Evans said, her voice fading.
‘I’m not going,’ Lily muttered. ‘Honestly.’ She turned back to James. ‘Sorry about Mum.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want to go?’ James asked. ‘This is might be the only chance to spend time with her before the summer.’ He knew how important time with parents was now that his were gone.
‘Well, it might be nice, but Tuney’s going. And I’m not leaving you here by yourself.’
‘Your Dad’s here,’ James said, cheerfully. ‘I promise not to blow anything up, or set up a prank in your room.’ Lily bit her lip. ‘Go, Lils,’ he said gently.
‘Behave,’ she said sternly and then threw her arms around him. ‘Thank you.’ He kissed the top of her head and gave her a little push toward the door. ‘Love you,’ she said from the top of the stairs.
‘Love you too,’ James said from the doorway. ‘And I know we’re in a muggle area, but be careful.’ Lily blew him a kiss and skipped down the stairs.