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Chapter 2: Green
I’d always been an ‘action’ person. As soon as I had an idea, I jumped up immediately and never rested until it came into fruition. I could never see what the point in waiting and planning things out was. Unfortunately, I was also reckless. And recklessness + action man = selling the Marauder’s Map and getting expelled, which let me tell you was not one of my cleverest ideas. But that never stopped me, which would probably be my undoing one day. In fact, it already had been my undoing.
I was just pulling on my coat later that Saturday morning, preparing to go out and chase some dreams (in…Diagon Alley), when Hugo burst through the front door. He saw me and grinned.
“Finally been let out of your room, huh? The whole family’s going crazy trying to decide what to do with you now.”
“Well, let them go crazy. I have my own plans,” I smiled.
“Where are you off to?”
“Flat hunting.” Hugo gaped,
“Flat hunting? As in flat I’ll-live-in-and-wash-my-own-socks flat hunting?”
“What other types of flat hunting are there? I’m not getting on a horse and throwing spears or whatnot through obscure apartment windows.” Hugo laughed briefly,
“You do realise that you’re underage, penniless and have no qualifications, right? Anyone mad enough to sell you a flat practically sentences you to a life of eating dirty socks.”
“Being underage won’t stop me,” I scoffed at Hugo’s superior look. “And why would I want to eat a sock? If all else fails, I’ve heard that grass has certain nutritious qualities.”
“You’re never going to get away with this.” I glared at him,
“Why not? Now either come with me so I can use side-along apparition, or go jam a daisy up your nostril and practice those yoga techniques I taught you so painstakingly at Hogwarts.” I smiled sweetly, then threatened Hugo with acupuncture until he apparated me to Diagon Alley because now I thought about it, I really couldn’t get there any other way.
After his initial hissy fit of outrage, Hugo came round to the idea of being stuck with me for a bit. “So, what are you exactly…looking for?” he asked.
“No idea.” That was a lie- I knew exactly what I was looking for. The picture was hovering in the back of my mind, a perfect dream that was more likely than not, going to remain a dream.
A classic farm building appeared in my mind; a blossoming rose garden at the front and a swinging chair sat next to a gently flowing river. Lilies and roses were everywhere, in vases and flowerbeds, in the hair of the small, red-headed girl who was practising skipping by the front door. A thin line of smoke furled from the old brick chimney, and butterflies basked in the greenhouse nearby. The sun was shining brightly.
That was what I was looking for. It wasn’t crazy, or massive, or unachievable by a long shot. But I loved it, because it was me. And one day, somehow, I would get it. It was a beautiful picture though, and that worried me. Beautiful things tended to get destroyed.
We came to a row of magical estate agents next to each other. They all had pictures of houses in the windows and were basically identical apart from their names. I didn’t know where to start.
There was a pretty farm for sale in the window display of Malcolm & Son, in a village called ‘Bosford’. The writing underneath was a long description of how ‘perfect’, ‘exquisite’ and ‘wonderful’ the farm was. I pointed out the price to Hugo. 2, 500, 000 was all that was shown. “That’s in knuts, right?”
“Um, no Lils. That’s two and a half million galleons.” I blinked. Surely a little farm wasn’t worth that much? And okay, maybe it was exquisite and perfect, but I could’ve sworn we paid less than that when we moved to our big ‘Potter’ manor.
“Why is it so expensive?” I asked in horror.
“Stock markets change,” Hugo shrugged. Um, okay…
Hugo had moved along, examining pictures of the smaller, cheaper flats and houses. “What about this one?” It was grey and ugly; I wrinkled my nose. “Well, what’s your budget Lily?”
“Err, I don’t have a budgie Hugo…” He rolled his eyes.
“No, a budget is how much money you have to spend.” I fiddled with my hair,
“Can’t I get one of those mortgage things?”
“Ye-es, but you need to put down a deposit first.” This was going way over my head, and Hugo could obviously see that from the blank expression on my face because he smirked. How fandabydosy- my favourite cousin now thought I was majorly stupid. I wasn’t; I just lived in a drifty world of wacky ideas and careless mental sarcasm that sounded funnier in my head than out loud. So I walked into Malcolm & Son to avoid replying to Hugo.
A bunch of people were sitting at desks in the estate agency, surrounded by flapping memos and speaking down telephones at the same time. I marvelled at the strange combination of magic and muggle, hovering in the doorway until Hugo walked past and grabbed the attention of an important looking man. He coughed.
“We would like to buy a house,” Hugo started, then corrected himself. “My friend here would like to buy a house.” The man glanced at us and popped some gum into his mouth, his jaw chewing slowly.
“Yeah, I’d like a lot of things too, kid. We don’t always get what we want.” Then he walked away and I decided that he needed a bit more spiritual connection in his life. Why had I even contemplated coming in here? Of course no-one would sell a couple of teenagers a house. I grabbed Hugo’s arm and pulled him out.
“What, you’re just giving up?” Hugo asked as we got outside, astonished.
“But you never give up on anything! Have you forgotten Hogwarts already? You’d organise massive parties despite a Butterbeer shortage, tickled Albus and James black and blue until they let you use the invisibility cloak. Worked ridiculously hard on your yoga business, which was doomed from the start by the way.”
“Of course I remember Hogwarts,” I sighed. “But that was at school. This…this is real Hugo. And big.” I graciously ignored his comment on my yoga business.
“Hogwarts was real too, and don’t you ever forget that! Just because you’re not there anymore doesn’t mean it’s not a part of you still. Come on, Lily. I’ve no idea why I’m even trying to encourage you but at least let’s try the next shop down.”
“Okay…” I shrugged, without much hope. Then I realised that while they might not sell a house to me, they could sell one to Hugo. Hugo was seventeen! “Hugo! Pretend we’re engaged.” Hugo’s eyebrows got lost in his hair as he took this in.
“We’re cousins, Lily. First cousins!”
“I know that,” I tutted. “It’s an act. You’re of age, so they can legally sell you a house. Then I’ll just pay you back!”
“And how does being engaged come into that?”
“I’ve just always wanted to pretend to be engaged,” I grinned. Hugo looked doubtful.
“I don’t have enough money to buy a house, but I could rent a flat. And you have to pay every knut and galleon back. I’m not made of money!”
“Of course I’d pay you back! What kind of girl do you think I am?” I think I heard him mutter ‘one that gets expelled from Hogwarts and engaged to their cousin’ but I couldn’t quite be sure.
The ‘engaged’ idea was rather fun, really. I just beamed the whole time while Hugo did all the talking. I occasionally gushed over how excited I was to be moving into our own place together, and complimented the estate agent.
“That’s a very fascinating tie you have there, Mr Thompson. Is it 100% silk?”
“It is indeed, Miss. That’s a very nice…hair band.” And then I laughed a rather sickly sweet laugh, thinking about taking up a job as an actress.
It was getting past lunch time, and we’d been talking to Mr Thompson for about an hour, having things explained to us and being shown flat after flat after flat. None of them were cheap enough or expensive enough, and the in between ones had rat problems and gas leaks. Eventually, Hugo took a brochure and said we’d come back after lunch.
We wandered amiably down Diagon Alley eating the cheapest chips we could find (I think these chips had actually invented the saying ‘cheap as chips.’ Only 5 knuts for two bags!) and having a good laugh at Mr Thompson’s expense.
“Thanks for all this Hugo. Maybe being expelled won’t turn out too bad after all,” I said through a heartfelt mouthful of ketchup-chip-grease.
“Yeah…” Hugo looked at me a little sadly. “I wish you hadn’t been expelled though. The rest of seventh year’ll be boring without you around.”
“Ah yes, your spiritual yoga teacher, butterfly geek, cardigan knitter, orange juice consuming-“ Hugo stuffed a chip in my mouth.
“Yeah, yeah. We won’t miss you that much!” We sat down at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlour and pulled out the shop brochure to have a closer look. It fell open at the middle page, and a sweet, flower-covered building caught my eye. It had one bedroom, bathroom and kitchen/living room, and was going for only 15 galleons a month- the cheapest so far.
“Look!” I exclaimed, “Why do you think it’s so cheap? It looks cute.”
“Maybe it’s to do with a dodgy neighbourhood…” Hugo pulled out his glasses to read the small print describing it in more detail. “It says it’s in a place called Eglentine Copse.”
“Where’s that?” I enquired, certain he didn’t know but asking anyway.
“Not the foggiest.”
“I’ll ask Thompson.”
“Eglentine Copse?”Thompson had a strange lisp so it sounded like he was saying ‘egg and thyme coughs?’ which made me think of diseases. “I’ve never heard of it before.”
“Can you check it for us please? Hugo asked politely. I’d told him to keep his glasses on as it made him look about ten years older. He was mildly offended.
Mr Thompson typed something into a computer. “It’s in the middle of Wales. Tiny place- not even on the map.” He glanced at us, “Would be nice and quiet though. Plenty of wildlife and stuff.”
I looked at the picture of the flat again. When I put my nose to the page, I saw that the flowers in the hanging basket were lilies. And I knew that it was the place for me. Cheap Beauty. “We’ll take it,” I pounced.
By the time we got home, I realised that I probably should have told my parents I was going out, even if I’d withheld the exact specifics of what I was doing. I was sort of so much in their bad books at the moment that their bad books were called ‘Lily Potter’ and told the story of my life inside them. I didn’t want a large skull and crossbones dotting the ‘i’ too, but I think we may just have reached that point.
Mum was white with fury when Hugo and I walked into the kitchen. She didn’t speak. I don’t think she could speak. Dad banged his cup of coffee down angrily, slopping the contents over the table, and Mum didn’t even blink an eye at the spillage- which made me realise how grave this was.
It was probably not a good idea to mention how I was moving to Wales at that moment. But I was Lily Potter, and I did reckless and stupid things with no regard for the consequences.
“Mum. Dad. I’m moving to Eglentine Copse!” Then both collapsed into chairs, giving up on me completely.
A few days later, Hugo and I had finalised everything and I was packing my room up. Mum and Dad were still trying to dissuade me and, more importantly, Hugo from going through with the whole thing. But Hugo was of age and could do what he liked with his money, and I was his favourite cousin who he was buying a flat for. We were tight, bruv.
To be honest, I don’t think my parents cared any longer. I’d always been one of those odd sort of kids who’d stick their hands into a bee’s nest and eat the honey if Mum had denied them sweets that afternoon (true story). I wouldn’t back down from something once I’d decided to do it, no matter how many times I was being stung. I suppose I hadn’t actually been a naughty child, just strangely determined. And Mum and Dad knew that I would never really stop being…me. If I wanted to move to Wales, I’d move to Wales if it killed me.
I picked up my crumpled Hogwarts robes from the back of the cupboard, running a finger over the Gryffindor emblem. I didn’t really know what to do with half the junk in my room- I didn’t want to just throw it all out in the blink of an eye, because this stuff was my childhood. But I couldn’t take my Hogwarts robes with me into my new life. In the end, I stashed most of the stuff in the attic of the manor. God knows there was enough room here.
I was shoving my many yoga books and sweatpants into boxes when there was a knock on the door. “What?” I called out, and Albus sidled into my room, holding something square and book-shaped (I think it was a book). He looked around at the stacks of boxes and chaotic piles of socks strewn across the room, and sighed.
“You’re really moving, aren’t you.”
“I am.” He handed me the parcel, and I tore off the wrapping paper. It was a book (told you!).
“What’s this?” I asked, opening the front cover. I hadn’t been able to understand the title because it was in another language.
“A Welsh dictionary. Took me forever to find!”
“Ah, thanks Al! That’s really sweet.” I busied myself with hugging him and then placing the book carefully into a box.
“Are you nervous?” Al asked. The question took me surprise. It wasn’t the fact that I hadn’t even thought about being nervous, it was more the way Al was actually being quite sensitive about something. Al just wasn’t sensitive- he was tall and hyper and a gangly Quidditch assistant. He didn’t do feelings.
“I-I hadn’t really thought about it. Why do you ask?”
“Well, when I tried to move out straight away I couldn’t do it. Didn’t last a week on my own- couldn’t even turn the washing machine on by myself. And I was only a few streets away. You’re moving to a different bloody country at age 16!”
“Well, you know me. Adventures are my lifeblood.” I forced a smile
“Life isn’t an adventure.”
“It is if you want it to be,” I retorted, but his words struck home. I was moving to a different country.
“It’s not normal to be moving out at 16,” Hugo added. That’s what Mum had said too, but it sounded scarier coming from Hugo, my brother. The person who’d shown me how to use a magical lock pick, and all the secret ways you could climb onto the castle roof.
“It’s not normal to get expelled,” I said glumly. “Nothing about my life now is normal. I should be in school with my friends, playing Quidditch and gossiping like a normal teenager. And instead-“ I looked down at the boxes by my feet, feeling tears prick the back of my eyes in a moment of crumbliness. “Instead I’m moving to Wales! Where it always rains and dragons run around firing out leeks. I’m going to be all alone, with new neighbours and shops and a different language…”
“And you’ll have to cook for yourself, get a job, wash your underwear. Grow up about 5 years prematurely,” Albus added in, painting a completely different picture in my mind from the beautiful farm. Instead, a grey flat loomed ahead through sheets of dark rain. Faceless old men talking Welsh pushed me around, and daffodils wilted from the weight of the water.
It was a depressing scene, and suddenly I was crying and my silly, adorable brother didn’t know what to do, so he called Mum. And Mum was there, hugging me for the first time since I’d been expelled. The scent of her perfume and the feeling of her arms around me made me feel like a scared first year all over again. And I cried even harder, burying my face in her shirt. Then Dad joined the hug, and Albus. Even James, who was far too old and awkward for such things, patted my head gently.
“I don’t want to move to Wales!” I blubbed into my hand.
“Shh,” Mum whispered, stroking my back. “You’re not moving anywhere.”
Author’s Note: I bet you’re all thinking ‘WHA-?!?’ And I don’t blame you guys! So, do you think she’ll move or not? Has she got the guts- can she leave her family? Up next: some dodgy weather, bright colours, teapots and the surprise of Lily’s life.