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Chapter 3 : Rock 'n' Roll High School
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Disclaimer: I own no part of Harry Potter as a series and make no profit whatsoever from writing this. I also love The Clash, to whom I attribute the title of this piece.
Rock 'n' Roll High School
"Tea?" Lily offered, hovering near the countertop of the small kitchen.
"No, thank you," Wendy answered, quickly. She shrugged off the motor-cycle jacket she'd been wearing and draped it over the top of the barstool before sitting down.
"Coffee? Or juice?"
"No, thanks," she said, her brow wrinking with incredulity.
"You'd best pick something," James tipped, as he walked out into the entry hall, "Or she'll offer you everything in the whole damn kitchen."
"Um," Wendy articulated, "Can I just have a water, then?"
"Coming right up," Lily answered, opening the cabinet and pulling out a jar that looked like it had once held preserves of some kind.
"Hey!" she exclaimed quickly, "You remembered! I wrote about that such a long time ago."
"But I always thought it was neat - that the restaurant did that. And then, when we got our own place, James and I needed glasses and I thought about you in Alabama with your mason jar cups. And I just started collecting them. You'd be surprised how quickly we go through jam here."
"James brings his friends around for breakfast every Saturday. They eat like they've never seen food before. It's disturbingly barbaric."
"I heard that," James called from somewhere that Wendy assumed was a bedroom.
"Good," Lily shouted back, setting the jarful of water down on the counter with a soft clink.
"So," Wendy began, searching for something to say, slding the jar across the counter from one hand to the other.
"So," Lily repeated. "Your visit is kind of unexpected."
"Yeah," she agreed, grateful for the supplied topic, "I didn't really know it was going to happen myself."
"What did happen, Wendy?"
"Um," she said again, sure she was dazzling Lily with her wide vocabulary. "I'd actually rather not talk about it. Suffice it to say that I am here, and that London is a wonderful city from what I've seen of it so far, even if I did almost step out in from of a car today because they're all on the wrong side of the street."
Lily's eyebrows shot upward to be hidden by her wispy bangs, "Our cars are on the wrong side? I should think you are mistaken.We do happen to have a longer history as a country."
"And we happen to have several of the most recognized car makes in the world. Don't dispute it. You know I lived in the Motor City for a while."
Lily nodded, "The one with the Lions as the mascot of their soccer team?"
Wendy laughed and shook her head quickly, "No, the mascot of their football team. As in American football."
"Oh! I guess I must've read that one wrong."
"Nah. I was probably ambiguous again. I su'pose it happens to the best of us. Didn't you say that your school's mascot was the lion?"
"Sort of," Lily dodged, planting her hands on the counter on either side of the sink.
"What does 'sort of' mean?"
"Well," Lily stalled, nervous about telling Wendy too much about Hogwarts, "my school was split into separate dormitories and each one had a mascot. It was a sort of competition to be the best."
"And was the lion house the best?"
"Always," James chimed in, dropping a packed bag on the floor with a loud thunk.
"Going somewhere?" Wendy asked, raising her eyebrows inquisitively.
"Oh. I'm covering the sports training for work, but not until the weekend. You don't get to, what was it, 'kidnap her before she's stuffy and married'?"
"What do you do? Lily never really told me." Wendy polished off the last of her water and clinked it down on the counter.
"Erm," James said, seemingly searching for words.
"Here, let me get you some more water," Lily interjected, seizing on the tiny excuse to change the subject.
"I'm a journalist - I cover sports for the paper," James supplied, choosing his word carefully.
Wendy fiddled with the ring on her right thumb, pulling it off, twirling it and putting it back on, "Oh really? What are you covering now?"
"Football, the British kind," Lily informed her quickly.
Wendy smiled at the reference to their previous conversation. James merely looked confused and nodded in affirmation.
"I'm going to go see Remus and Sirius."
"Sure, honey, have fun."
"I will, and you -" he broke off, pointing directly at Wendy, "don't get her into any mischief today. You wait until I'm gone for the weekend. I'm definitely not bailing anyone out of jail."
"I won't, scout's honor," Wendy promised, saluting loosely for good measure. It was an odd mismatch, but somehow it worked.
"Good," James affirmed and he stepped out the door, snapping it shut behind him with authority.
"I have something to show you," Lily mentioned suddenly, as if she'd just remembered its existence. "Come on."
Wendy followed her friend, crossing the entryway and hovering at the door to Lily and James's room, unsure as to whether her friend's comment constituted an invitation to enter. Lily, unfazed by this, walked right up to the wardrobe, pulled open the cabinet portions and started whispering things softly to herself. She reached both hands in quickly, murmured something that sounded like an old Latin word and withdrew an impossibly large box. Wendy wasn't sure how it ever could've fit into this particular bureau to start with. From where she was standing the top of the box seemed as though it was higher than the shelf covered with clothes that resided directly above it. Shaking her head, she tried to free it from considerations of the improbable - thinking about this was making her head hurt and that was the exact opposite of what a person with jet-lag needs. Besides, it was probably just some weird perspective thing.
"Come and look," Lily ordered, gesturing at her find. She reached inside and pulled out a stack of papers, splaying them out on the floor. Wendy plunked herself down next to her penpal, smiling at the collection in front of her. It was, quite possibly, everything she'd ever sent to that solitary address she knew by heart over the past eight years. There was a picture of her at age ten, smiling up at the camera from where she sat, just barely in reach of the waves, which she remembered rolling in and tickling her toes. And another picture - this one showed her in about eighth grade, with that whole awkward, I'm still growing into my long limbs thing. She'd been posing uncomfortably on this stone wall, where her father had insisted she sit to have her picture taken. She looked stiff and artificial, and at the time, she remembered that she felt the same way. And then there was the picture that meant the most to her. She was standing out in front of their apartment building in New York City, wearing her favorite sunglasses and a big bright smile. Next to her in the picture was her grandfather, or as she'd called him the past couple of years, Gramps. He was wearing his customary collared shirt with a tie and a waistcoat. The only thing that was casual about him was the way his arm was slung over her shoulders. He was smiling as brightly as she. It hurt to look at it for too long.
"I can't believe you kept all of this, Lily," Wendy murmured softly, "There must be a hundred letters here."
"Don't tell me you don't have mine."
Wendy looked guilty and then reached a hand in her right pocket and withdrew a tightly bound pack of envelopes, "But it isn't nearly so many as you kept, Tigerlily."
"That's not important. My mum is one of those who keeps everything. She's got a certificate from when I was eight that says I'm great at addition."
Wendy chuckled, twirling the rings on her right hand, "And are you?"
"Pretty good at it. But I'm actually best at Pot- erm - Chemistry," Lily affirmed, faltering and then nodding matter-of-factly. Something about the whole thing was a little bit weird, but Wendy shook it off; it was probably just a word slip.
"I'm so glad you came, Wendy. I'm glad I got to finally meet you."
Wendy looked up from the jewelry she was playing with and met her old friend's eyes, noticing their deep green hue for the first time.
"Yeah," she smiled, "Yeah, I'm glad to meet you too."
The next dawn came and went, James took his packed sports bag and gave Lily a big, affectionate kiss and Disapparated to go to work for the weekend. Lily got up early to get to work early to get her things done so that she could leave early to meet Wendy for lunch. Sirius got up early to fix one of the Muggle cars that had been dropped off the previous afternoon and entailed a very work-intensive repair. Remus got up early so that he could make coffee so that Sirius wouldn't be such a bear about being up early to fix the Muggle car with the work-intensive repair that would actually bring in a lot of revenue to their small shop.
And Wendy? Wendy slept until noon. She was lying there, face-down, much as she'd been when Lily first called her when there was a knock on the front door. She mumbled something about stampeding elephants and rolled over, covering her eyes with her arm.
There was another more insistent banging at the door and a female voice calling her name. "Damn," she cursed, rolling out of bed, slamming her feet down on the floor and stomping down the hall. She tugged the Ramones t-shirt down, forcefully so that it covered to mid-thigh and opened the door.
Lily pushed her way in immediately. She was babbling like a brook, going on about something that had happened on the way over that involved a pigeon and a double decker bus. She paused a moment to catch her breath to go on and gave her friend a fleeting glance and then stopped. She took in the tosstled unkept hair, the wrinkled t-shirt with no pants, the dark circles.
"Oh, Wendy, I woke you. I'm sorry."
"Naw, that's okay, I should have already been up. I thought that I had set the alarm, but I think now that I must've forgotten or maybe thought I set it and didn't actually or just plain slept right through it. I'm actually quite notorious for over-sleeping. I never really made it to school on time last year. I had detention every day for two weeks straight once - I've never been so bored in my life. But at least I got time to think away from the dad." Wendy's face twisted into a grimace at the memory of it.
"Wow. That was coherent for just having gotten up," Lily commented, raising her eyebrows in surprise.
"Yeah. I know. I've always been that way. Once I'm up, I'm up and there isn't much that can make me go to sleep again. Believe me, though, it has disadvantages when I accidentally wake up at three'o'clock in the morning," Wendy was shuffling down the hallway, headed back toward the kitchen. She turned her head toward Lily, "Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you," Lily answered politely.
"Should I continue offering things, or will you think I'm rude if I just trust that this particular no means no?"
"Oh, haha. Make fun of my hospitality, why don't you? See if it's offered again soon."
Wendy smirked but continued walking past the kitchen, down all the way to the guest room. It was small, dominated by the bed which had a white scrolling iron head board. There was a suitcase at the foot of it, but there weren't any clothes. Lily somehow sensed that her friend wasn't the type to have already put them away. She actually expected to find them strewn all over the floor just the way James had been accustomed to before Lily had moved in with him. Instead, Wendy had folded her jeans and plain black t-shirt and placed them over the small chair in the corner's arm. Her motorcycle jacket was hooked over the open door to the closet. There weren't any clothes in there either. Lily suddenly understood, though. Sitting there on the shelves were dozens of records and at the bottom, there was a guitar case, leaning up into the corner of the closet.
"I figured they'd cost more to replace then my clothes, so I brought 'em with me instead. Besides, they actually mean something to me."
"Well, you've succeeded in being unique. I'm not sure I've ever heard of anyone moving to England with just a record collection and a guitar."
"And a work visa. I'm going job hunting when the weekend's through." She gestured at the newspaper by the chair, which Lily now noticed had job openings circled in navy blue ink.
"Well, that's good, I suppose. But you're only staying for the summer, right?" Lily prodded and she looked from the paper up to her friend. Some of the things she'd circled were for long term jobs only, the kind that couldn't be trained for and accomplished in the course of a few months.
Wendy just shook her head. "I don't actually know how long I'll be around. I haven't decided if I'm going back yet."
Lily crossed the room and plunked herself down on the edge of the bed, "Are you ever going to tell me what happened?"
"Maybe," sing-songed Wendy, drawing out the syllables like a petulant six-year-old, trying to get her way. "Why should I tell, Lily?"
"Because..." she trailed off, looking for a reason to give her friend, "Because."
"I hate to break this to you, Tigerlily, but 'because I said so' only works when you've got about twenty years seniority on the person you say it to," Wendy pointed out, turning the record player on, letting it spin up to speed and placing the needle down carefully on the black vinyl. The Ramones flared to life - the thud of the drumbeat snapping a fast, bouncy rhythym in the previously quiet room.
"Because sometimes it helps to tell someone," Lily blurted as the idea came to her.
"Um. I'll probably tell you. Just not now. Now, we really need to go shopping."
"What?" Lily looked truly at a loss. She evidentally didn't believe that her friend could want to or ever actually would want to go shopping.
"Um. All my clothes are in America? Remember?"
"Oh. Right," her pen-pal responded fragmentedly, grabbing her practical black purse and heading for the door.
Wendy changed quickly and then, she turned around, opened the lock combination on the guitar case, popped it open and stuffed a couple of rumpled bills in one of the numerous pockets of the studded leather jacket. She closed the case with a satisfying click and when she'd turned around, she found Lily openly staring in surprise.
"Where did you get all that money? Wendy - you didn't do anything illegal?"
"Why was that your first thought? Honestly. Just what kind of ragamuffin do you think I am? I earned this money, playing my guitar on the weekends. You'd be amazed what the tourists of New York will tip someone playing a good song in the tunnels of the subway. It makes them feel like natives, I think. Which is funny because natives just kind of ignore you and keep walking."
"Oh," Lily said again, feeling silly that she'd ever been concerned. But it was a lot of money in one place. An idea occured to her. "Did you buy your own plane ticket?"
"Ah. Clever. Not telling, Tigerlily," Wendy tapped the side of her nose in that I-know-something-you-don't-know way. "C'mon. Let's blow this popsickle stand." Her timing was very convienient - the song ended just as she finished talking. She reached over and picked up the needle from the record and turned the player off. Then, she swung from the room to the hallway and picked up what Lily had already learned was her characteristic swaggering walk.
"You know, if you just answered a couple of questions..." Lily began, following behind her quickly as Wendy had had an unfair head start.
"No, Lily. Stop pushing, okay? Why are you so worried about this anyway? Can't you just be happy that I got to come at all?" There it was again, that trace of petulance, that whining childish tone. Clearly, Lily was striking at nerves and hitting all the wrong ones. Wendy perked up suddenly, as though just remembering something exciting.
"I got the tickets! I almost forgot. I got tickets to The Clash. They're having a concert not too far away from here, actually, so I thought, why not? I hope you don't mind that I got you one too."
"For when?" Lily asked, tentatively excited about this prospect. She'd never been to a punk rock concert before, but Sirius had dragged James to one not so long ago and they'd both come back happy, exhilarated and maybe just a little inebriated. Besides, she'd even heard some of The Clash on the radio and though she didn't have a strong opinion either way, and that was better than a negative one.
"This Friday," Wendy answered, looking nervous about the short notice. "But you have to come. This is educational, Tiger. You've got to keep up with your education, even if you are done with that fancy boarding school of yours. Consider this rock 'n' roll high school - and I'll be your professor. You told me that you called all your teachers 'Professor So and So', right?
"Right and you're in luck because James is going on a training session with his team this weekend - so I'm definitely free. This is going to be cool, I can tell. This way, actually," she corrected, pointing down a street she knew to have more clothing shops on it. "I'm excited."
"And so it should be, Tigerlily. And so it should be."
"Well?" Sirius said, looking nervously at Remus who'd just finished running the numbers from his ledger again.
"We're actually over this month again."
"Yes!" Sirius celebrated, "I knew it! I knew we were going to make a profit in this business. Didn't I tell you, Moony? Didn't I say that we were going to start earning money now that we've got all of our capital invested in equipment?" Sirius leaned back in his rolling chair and folded his hands behind the back of his head. They were seated in Sirius's small office; it was barely large enough for two chairs and there were papers scattered all over his desk and a rag blacked with blobs of grease that was wadded into a ball on a nearby table.
Remus, for his part, simply nodded. He was seemingly really occupied with something.
"Oh," Sirius concluded at the end of the thought that he'd never voiced. You're thinking about the full moon, he thought, making eye contact with his friend. That was one of the reasons Sirius had managed to convince him to come and work here, after all. The hours were really flexible when your boss knew about a certain furry little problem and was one of the only people who cared enough to try and help out with it. It was also one of the reasons that Remus was willing to put up with Sirius when his moods turned bear-ish and he was hard to deal with.
"But that's a good sign, right? Three months that we're actually beginning to have a profit margin in? I mean, we're pretty much through with the start up costs and we're building our customer base. And we're even pulling in some wizarding vehicles in addition to the Muggle ones and those are easier to charge a lot for, because of the time it takes to find a problem with a flying car's engine. Nobody really wants to take the chance on it going bad, you know?" Sirius had just kept going and going, half trying to engage his fellow Marauder in the conversation but more to reassure himself that it wasn't really that crazy to have started a business on the money he'd inherited from his Uncle Alphard at the tender age of seventeen.
"Remus? Hello?" he waved a hand in front of the werewolf's face. "Snap out of it, pal."
"Oh. Sorry," Remus replied, "I must have just gotten a little bit lost in thought."
"A little bit? You're thoughts must be as snarled as the Forbidden Forrest. I don't think there's such a thing as a little bit lost in there."
"It won't happen again," Remus assured him confidentally. "Anyway, this figure is before I crunch the numbers of Mrs. Golden's radiator job, which is likely to boost it even more."
"So, it's safe to say that we're still in business next month?"
"Yes. We'll be paying our bills and maintaining the roof over our heads."
"The roof is the best part," Sirius said, squinting up at the skylight, trying to determine if the little shower clouds had gone away. It was hard to tell this time of year if it was going to rain or just spend the afternoon threatening to over and over again with little bits of thunder and overcast skies. The bottomline in this case was that it wasn't actually possible to find out whether it was going to rain from the skylight because of the layer of grey grime that had somehow managed to affix itself upside-down to the inside of the window.
"Scourgify!" Remus incanted, seemingly reading his old friend's mind. The invisible force of the spell blasted the dust and whatever else there was away. It was a dark and stormy night - or at least it looked that way in what should have been broad daylight. The clouds, a grey portent of future rain, loomed ominously for Sirius like the full moon loomed for Remus. They both looked a little pale. Ever since his first transformation into his Animagus form, Sirius had been affected differently by the weather. Frustrated after months of thinking he was mental for feeling so oddly, he'd looked it up. Apparently, the barometric pressure dropped before a storm and now that his senses were more acute, he could feel it. It was like one's ears popping from altitude, both uncomfortable and eerie.
"Storm's coming," Sirius commented softly, watching the drift in the clouds overhead. "We'd best start heading back home."
"So that's it then? We're calling it?"
"Yep," Sirius answered, noting the time, "It's officially a day. And only twenty minutes overtime. I wonder what it'll be like to work normal hours someday."
"Don't hope too hard. It might never happen," Remus tossed back at him over his shoulder.
"Pessimist," Sirius accused, giving his friend a light shove. Remus wobbled a little but regained his balance. "Sorry. I forgot for a second about the pre-moon jitters. Are you okay?"
"I'm not bleeding," Remus smiled back, holding in a laugh.
"So you're fine!" Sirius laughed, thinking about that time in fifth year that Professor McGonagall had been attempting to console Remus when he found out about the restrictions on werewolves entering the Healing profession because of their tainted blood. It was thought that if their blood came into contact with someone else's that person might become a werewolf and though it was never proven, most accredited schools used that as a criterion to shut people out of their programs. Remus had been so down in the dumps that week and with the full moon coming, he really couldn't afford to be any weaker than the lunar calendar made him. Sirius remembered how Remus had stumbled and fallen down a flight of stairs simply because he wasn't really watching where he was going. When he'd run down to the bottom, he found his friend crumpled into a little uncomfortable looking ball.
"Are you okay? Are you bleeding?" Sirius had panted, a little out of breath from charging down the stairs to help his fellow Marauder.
"N-no," Remus responded a little uncertainly.
"Then, I'm fine," Sirius chuckled in a somewhat falsely cheery tone, helping Remus up and performing a few quick magical preventions of rising bruises. "And you're fine too. Bleeding or otherwise."
Sirius knew how badly Remus had wanted to be a Healer, but the truth was that his business was one of the very few magical ones that would tolerate the likes of Remus Lupin. It was a good thing for them that their customers were mostly Muggles, who didn't know about lycanthrophy, or wizards with flying vehicles, who were free-thinking enough not to care. Maybe someday he'd get his wish, but with the way wizarding politics had been leaning lately, Sirius doubted it.
"Goodnight, pal," he called to the werewolf, just before that characteristic crack of Apparition carried his friend off into the night. Sirius then concentrated on the three d's as they'd been taught in school. Transportation had never been his specialty. When he was little, he'd driven his parents mad by constantly mispeaking while using Floo powder. They'd chased him halfway round the world and back. Now, he'd hardly passed the Apparating test. Give him an advanced theorem in Transfiguration, and he was your man. Ask him to make a Portkey and he dissolved into a quivering mass of flesh. It was just so nerve-wracking, to develop the kind of concentration required to not leave a foot behind.
He thought for quite a while, standing in that dim alley behind the shop, before he slowly raised his wand and disappeared as his friend had. He loathed that feeling of being pulled through the tiny pipe from one side to another. It was so claustrophobic in there, and he'd always been advised not to try and breathe until he got to the other side, which was no easy task given that the moment felt like it lasted forever.
Sirius trudged up the stairs to his Uncle Alphard's old place, the one that had been left to him in the will. It had taken nearly the whole inheritance to open up the shop, so Sirius had been left with this gorgeous flat and next to no furniture. He pushed open the front door. Within, one could see the beautiful wooden floors, polished by the house-elf with a kind of oil that never seemed too slick and never seemed to fully wear off. But in the rather large kitchen, breakfast nook and living room, the only piece that showed anyone lived there was a worn navy blue sofa he'd bought at a rummage sale. The bedroom was equally sparse, with a mattress lying directly on the floor and a heap of clothing where a dresser should be.
"Home sweet home," he muttered, kicking off his boots. He flicked on the only other piece of furnishing in sight, a Wizarding Wireless. He'd missed the beginning, but his favorite program was still running- it was a mix of Muggle punk and a few wizarding bands. He'd caught it just in time for the end of one song and the start of another.
"And this is The Clash with Rudie Can't Fail."
Sirius smiled to himself and set about trying to make himself dinner. All in all, he thought, today hadn't been a bad day.
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