Chapter 1 : The House
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It was mine. All mine.
The satisfaction was overwhelming, threatening to stifle, to suffocate. There I stood, alone, but happy on my own front lawn. It was official. My grass, I was marring with some cute new shoes I had bought just yesterday in celebration of this thrilling turn in my life. I, Lily Evans, owned property.
The lawn- not exactly perfect with quite a few dry patches of grass here and there, and the dirt mingled in around the edges- led up to a quaint two-story cottage. That was mine, too. Located off of a secluded dirt road and just grazing the edging of a thick batch of woods, it had a good amount of privacy- which would come in handy as the area was not squared off to only furnish wizarding folk; there was a Muggle town about ten to fifteen miles away, so the harder it was to get to, the better off I was.
It was made of brick, which was the first feature that attracted me to it in the first place. I saw it in a Muggle newspaper I had picked up one morning on my way to some Healing classes. The constant row between Abigail and I had finally peaked, and since she was renting our apartment out to me, I took the initiative to find my own place before she finally plucked up enough courage to kick me out.
Anyways, it was brick. I had always thought brick houses were rather charming. And, sure, the roofing was somewhat warped, a few of the windows had been shattered, and the chimney was missing a few of the bricks up top- and, uh, the actual house was curiously enough missing a bit of brick- but all that could be fixed with some wand work and perhaps a little bit of manual labor.
I walked around, just taking everything in. Off to the side, nearing the backyard, was an old tire swing. The fraying edges of the rope hinted at its once popularity, and two randomly resting- quite beaten up- tires a few feet away made obvious that the swing had to be disassembled and reassembled more than once. I wasn't sure if I should keep the swing or not; Lord knows I'm not the most coordinated person.
The backyard was, I admit, maybe just the tiniest bit junky. Whoever owned this house before had recently passed away, and I didn't know too much of the details, but the man's familial relationships were rather strained. After he passed, someone had sold the house, but they didn't bother fixing it up too much. Weather-worn toys and pieces of a jungle gym were strewn about haphazardly all over the massive backyard, and what little plant life was present had long since stopped clinging to its veins of survival. I beamed at the sight and turned back around to the front.
In my hand, I gripped so tightly a key to unlock the front door. With pride bubbling over, I fit it into the lock and turned the doorknob. I'd been in the house once before to have a look around with a Muggle real estate agent, and the same musky scent overwhelmed my senses again. I stepped in, neglecting to close the door in hopes of airing the place out. It was just as I remembered.
Upon entering, I was standing in a small entryway. I trudged along a few feet and turned to the left to focus my attention to the living room. It was empty, void of any furniture. All the walls were painted a neutral off-white color, and the floors in each room- except for one bedroom and the restroom- were made up of some dark wood. The living room was no exception. It was- like the rest of the rooms- rather small, but also very cozy. One larger window facing the front of the house, two smaller windows on the wall I was now facing, I easily found myself daydreaming of which color and style curtains I could place over them. They'd certainly have to match the couch I would be picking out tomorrow . . .
Catching myself falling into a blissful trance, I turned my attention away from my living room and walked a few more steps to the end of the hall to reach my kitchen. This room was slightly shabbier than the rest. Some of the previous owner's old appliances had been left behind, such as the stove that looked like it had survived a few too many beatings with a bat, a mint green refrigerator with the door hanging precariously up by one hinge, and a toaster with a frayed cord. The floor consisted of linoleum. I made the assumption that it had once been white, but now had numerous yellowish stains all around. I saw all these problems as opportunities. My mom, who would never have dared been called ostentatious- but rather, modest and humble- raised me to believe that the best things in life were revealed through hard work and patience.
So, this was my chance. This house was-
“What the hell is that God-awful stench?”
My jaw set instinctively. I had only owned the house for a little over an hour ago, and already I felt a strong protectiveness for it. Glancing over my shoulder, I shot Sirius Black a look that would silence any normal person.
Catching my glare, he said, “Don't give me that look, Evans. Surely you smell it, too.”
“I think it's coming from in this room, but I don't see anything here except-”
“Except the rotting walls,” soft-spoken Remus Lupin cut Peter Pettigrew off, who was holding his nostrils shut by his thumb and index finger. “It looks like the previous owner used some odd type of wood to cover holes smashed into the drywall.”
The group had been busy that morning meeting with some of the press, so I decided to go off on my own to buy the house. It was supposed to be a surprise- me unveiling the cottage, so to speak. They weren’t meant to arrive until later in the evening, when we could properly christen my new home with firewhisky and pizza.
“This place is a dump,” Sirius informed whoever chose to listen, stuffing his hands into his pockets in a matter-of-fact way.
“Stuff it, Sirius. I like it,” I retorted, wrinkling my nose at him.
“How much did you pay for this place?” he asked.
“I paid what was asked,” was my tactful reply.
“Already, I can tell you've been swindled,” responded Sirius, leaning against the entryway to the kitchen.
“What's it any business of yours?” I said lightly, smirking haughtily at him.
“It's very much my business. You see, as I'll be over here to eat and all, I'd rather not share my food with roaches and termites.”
“I haven't the energy to figure out where you got that mental notion,” I answered, my eyes wandering around my kitchen in an adoring fashion. “And my house doesn't have roaches and termites.” I crossed my arms over my chest defensively.
It was suppose to be an intimidating gesture, but Sirius missed it as he instead stared intently at something to the right of my face. Quirking an eyebrow, I began, “What? What are you-?”
“Lil- ugh, what is that smell?” came the distant voice of one who was notorious for making my heart go all aflutter: James Potter.
“What's that on your shoulder there? A cockroach, I think,” remarked Sirius, pointing.
My eyes widened and I let out a yelp, brushing my hand continuous over my shoulder, “Off, off. Get it off!”
James came rushing in. “What's wrong? Are you alright?” he asked amidst Sirius' hysterical laughter.
Realizing I had been tricked, I pointed a disgruntled finger at Sirius and warned, “Sleep with one eye open, you prat.”
Instead of reacting the way I wanted, Sirius' entire face lit up. “Does that mean you're letting me shack up with you?”
“Like hell,” butted in James, playfully punching Sirius' shoulder as he passed by him to my side. Along with making my heart flutter, James also managed to always weaken my knees. Luckily at that moment, he had his arm tucked cozily around my waist. “Get your own Lily.” Then, he nuzzled my neck.
Sirius regarded us critically for a moment before wrinkling his nose and shaking his head. “No, thanks. Can't stand that mushy rubbish.”
My face reddened as Peter and Remus meandered into the kitchen, Remus whistling softly. James was elevating his means of attraction, now using his lips and teeth. I felt my knees wiggle involuntarily. “James.”
He murmured, but didn't stop his actions. “Prongs,” Remus said. That stopped him; James slowly lifted his head. “You could at least wait until we're gone.”
“So,” I said brightly, “what do you guys think?”
“Of this dump?” asked James, glancing around.
I shot him an annoyed glare. “You're as bad as Sirius.” Stomping my foot childishly, I said to them, “You haven't even seen it all!”
“Right,” Remus quickly agreed, hoping to prolong an argument. Over the past six months since that cold December day when James formally asked me to date him, I had grown to know the guys further than my short stay with them at the Grape Vine. The memory of that day still brought on a clumsy conglomeration of memories and feelings. We had our disagreements, all five of us. I was still a little wary, not having known them for very long, and for that same reason, they were a little wary of me.
Their concert had thrown me off-guard. I'd asked James about it in private, after I had shared a very memorable dinner with my dad and Black Magic, why they had gone that night without their charms and enchantments. He had told me that they were still disguised to everyone in the audience. Professor Dumbledore had suggested a form of the Fidelius Charm to be placed on each of them. Their identities, he said, were safe with the secret-keeper: Sirius Black.
“He introduced himself to you as his real self. He, at one point, told you Remus was Remus, Peter was Peter, and I was-”
“I heard him through the door when I was eavesdropping!” I had cut James off in the middle of his explanation, my embarrassment at actually listening in on them slowly fading.
“Right. So, you saw each of us how we really are. And you'll always see each of us how we are.”
“Not that it'll matter but . . . I won't ever tell.”
He had smiled and kissed me. “I know.”
The information James told me had left me with a lot of questions, but I never asked them. If I thought too much about everything they had gone through in the beginning stages, I'd never stop wondering how everything worked out; for it wasn't often one could become so popular in both the magical and Muggle world.
“Right,” Remus repeated, clapping his hands jovially together. “Well then, Lily, why don't you give us the grand tour?”
“Okay,” I responded earnestly, hooking my arm around James’ waist and guiding him out of the kitchen. The rest followed suit as I led them down the hallway and up the stairs, chattering like overzealous first years explaining all the excitement and luster of Hogwarts to their parents. I tried to ignore scoffs from Sirius and whimpers from Peter as each step moaned under our weight. “Look, look, right here . . . I think I’ll make this one my bedroom cause, see, it has its own master bathroom. And look! See when I open this window? Yeah, I can hop out it and there’s a tiny balcony-” I demonstrated, waving at them from the outside.
James and Remus both started. “I… er, Lily, I don’t think the structure is really quite strong enough,” said James, wincing at every groan and creak he heard coming from underneath my sneakers.
“Yeah, come on back in; we’ll reinforce the foundation tomorrow,” Remus assured me, and then continued in a low murmur to Peter beside him, “Assuming any of this is still standing…” He leered skeptically up at the ceiling, full of cracks.
As soon as I stepped back in, James walked up to me and took both my hands in his. “Lily, I’ve told you before, I’d be happy to let you stay at my flat. You don’t need to stay here.” Sirius, Remus, and Peter all wandered off, having been present far too many times when James and I couldn’t agree on something.
I gave him an exasperated look, and tried to add in a glare, but I couldn’t. He was so adorable when he worried. “No, James.” I wrapped my arms around him- he quickly imitated the gesture- and brushed his nose with mine, “I like this place. It’s amazing to think about; I have a house.”
“But, Lily,” he tried again.
“I’m staying,” I interrupted firmly.
James sighed, then said, “At least-”
We both jumped and I let out a startled shriek as a large chunk of plaster fell from the pitiful ceiling, smashing to the ground centimeters from our feet.
Swallowing as James held me tighter, I squeaked, “Maybe I’ll just stay with you for a few nights…”
A/N: Sorry it took so long to get this out. But, truth be told, I’m not entirely certain where this story will go… so I’m not quite sure when the next chapter will be out.
Thanks for reading!!! I’d love to hear feedback.