Of Heart and Home
It was customary for Lily to wake up the moment a fraction of light peaked through her window, but this morning was inexplicably different. Dawn had barely arrived when Lily awoke to the sound of clinking plates and sizzling skillets—sounds she was not accustomed to hearing from her room. She knew that her mother would be awake, but she was taken aback to hear breakfast being made so early. Brushing the thought away, she pushed herself out of bed, rubbing her eyes as she trudged downstairs. And what a sight she encountered there.
The first thing she saw was James, laughing at something her mother had said while he pushed scrambled eggs around the skillet with spatula. Her mother, meanwhile, was pouring muffin batter into tins, her eyes twinkling jovially. Half convinced that she was still dreaming, Lily didn’t even attempt to hide her incredulous expression as she looked between the two of them, waiting for one of them to notice her.
“Lily!” her mother finally exclaimed before letting out another residual chuckle. “Pardon me—James here was just telling me about the time he let pigs lose across Hogwarts. It sounded like quite a production!”
Lily shot James a less than amused look, crossing her arms. Oh yes, she remembered that incident… “What are you doing?” she asked bluntly, eyeing the stovetop warily. Even if her mother didn’t believe it, she knew that James had no experience working with kitchenware.
“Helping Carol here with breakfast, of course,” he responded with a triumphant grin, gesturing to the eggs.
“Can you believe he had never made scrambled eggs before, Lily? I simply had to remedy that,” her mother gushed as she placed the muffins in the oven, wiping her hands on a rag.
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” Lily muttered under her breath.
“Lily, dear, would you mind pouring some juice and helping James with the eggs?” Mrs. Evans continued smoothly, having missed her daughter’s comment.
“Of course,” Lily said as her mother bustled out of the kitchen. As soon as she had closed the door, Lily turned to James with narrowed eyes and crossed arms.
“What are you doing?” she demanded once again, her eyes shifting between him and the skillet.
“I told you—I’m helping your mom—…” he insisted, turning back to the stove with carefree innocence.
“You know that you don’t earn brownie points with me by winning over my mom, right?” Lily said with a raise of her eyebrow.
“I’m shocked and appalled that you’d accuse me of such an ulterior motive,” James gasped, a hand flying to his chest in astonishment. “I was up, you weren’t, and Carol needed help! Simple as that.”
Lily eyed him suspiciously, moving over to lean an arm on the countertop. “Furthermore, you never released pigs at Hogwarts.”
“You’re right—they were fire crabs. But I figured I shouldn’t say that, seeing as this is a Muggle household,” he said proudly, shooting her a toothy smile.
“Charming. So, I suppose you didn’t tell her that one of them set a first year on fire, then.” Lily pursed her lips as she eyed him.
“It was a Slytherin, if that helps,” James shrugged, to which Lily rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Besides, they were pigs in this version, and pigs don’t shoot fire. That would ruin my entire story!” he continued, giving her an expectant look.
Rather than arguing, though, she merely leaned over to look at the eggs. “Those are done,” she told him smoothly.
“How do you know?” he demanded, looking down in confusion at the mass of fluffy eggs.
“I just do,” she said, unable to stifle a chuckle. Grabbing the spatula out of James’ hand, Lily poked at them before handing the spatula back to him, ignoring the alarmed look on his face. “As I suspected,” she grinned, moving to grab a few glasses out of the cupboard.
“You just poked them! How did that tell you anything?” James asked skeptically, leaning down with distrusting eyes to inspect the eggs.
“Don’t get so close!” Lily shrieked, setting down the glasses and rushing over to James, pulling him away from the stove by his shoulder. “My mom would kill me if you set your hair on fire or something.”
James’ eyes widened immediately and a hand flew to his hair, grasping at the strands to ensure they were still there. Lily didn’t notice, though, as she grabbed an oven mitt and took the skillet off of the stove. She turned off the flame promptly and walked to the counter, scraping the eggs onto a ready plate.
When she glanced back, she saw the alarmed look written on his face and she sighed. “You’re fine now—the flame is out.” His face still held immense concern, though, and she let out a laugh before changing the subject.
“Well, do you want to hear what we’re doing today?” Lily asked, pulling the muffins out of the oven deftly.
“Sure,” he choked, lowering his hand to his side.
“The school down the street is on fall break as well, and they’re having a football game this afternoon with our rival school. I figured since you’re such a Quidditch fanatic, you’d enjoy that,” she said, setting down the pan and turning to him.
“That’s like… Quidditch on the ground, right?” he asked slowly, clamping his mouth shut as Mrs. Evans rushed back into the kitchen.
“Oh, good! You got the muffins out. Let me just set the plates and we’ll eat!” she said cheerfully and she swept to the cupboards.
“You’ll see,” was all that Lily said to James, a smile briefly lighting up her face.
They walked to the nearby school (much to James’ relief—he wasn’t sure he could handle the car again just yet) and found their way to the field. When they arrived on campus, though, James stopped abruptly on several occasions to stare at the school before him, leading Lily to grab him by the shirt and drag him along with her.
“Would you have gone to this school?” he demanded as he reluctantly followed her, straining the keep an eye on the meager brick buildings.
“Yes,” she said simply, glancing at him for a moment. “Why?”
“These buildings are so…Ugly,” he grimaced unpleasantly. “Who would want to go here if you could live in a magnificent castle? There’s no lake, no forest, no towers, no—”
“I’m not sure they get much of a choice,” she smiled, shaking her head at his disgusted face. When they finally rounded the corner to the field, Lily gestured in front of her. “Here it is!”
“There are so many people!” James exclaimed as his eyes scanned the stands and the pitch. It was true—they had gotten there relatively late, and the stands were nearly filled to capacity with spectators awaiting the game.
“Well, just think of it as Quidditch. The stands are filled for all of your games, aren’t they?” Lily mused as they made their way up to towards the bleachers. They hadn’t made it very far, though, before they heard Lily’s name shouted from a nearby stand. The two turned simultaneously and saw as four teenagers rushing towards them, each one waving frantically.
“Who are these people?” James muttered to Lily, shooting a half-hearted wave to them as they neared.
“My friends, of course,” she said, not bothering to lower her voice. “Great to see you guys!” She gave each of the four a quick hug, her face lit up with enthusiasm. “Adam, Lindsay, Bobby, Zachary—this is James! James, these are my friends from home.”
There was a chorus of greetings and James smiled uncomfortably, avoiding prolonged eye contact with any of them.
“Is he your boyfriend or something?” asked Lindsay, not bothering to avert her gaze on James.
“No,” Lily laughed as she shook her head. “Just a….Friend.” Part of her hated to claim they were the least bit friendly, but she knew she couldn’t relate his visit to school. Indeed, describing him as a friend was much easier than coming up with some clever substitute for Muggle Studies.
“Of course he is,” Adam smirked, rising an eyebrow as he watched James.
“You know, we keep meaning to take a trip to visit you, but it’s just so far away. There never seems to be the time,” Bobby said with disappointment, but Lily waved a hand dismissively.
“Don’t think twice about it—it’s so far away; I couldn’t bear to make you guys travel that far.”
They all laughed for a moment until Zachary began. “Well, Lils, it’s pretty packed where we’re sitting, but we should all catch up sometime. Are you free tomorrow?”
“It’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow, actually. Does Wednesday work?”
There was another round of nods before they agreed on where and when to meet. After a few more cordial words, they went their separate ways and Lily began to lead them to an empty spot in the bleachers.
“I didn’t know you had friends,” he began, clearing his throat immediately. “I mean… Friends here.”
Lily shrugged nonchalantly before responding. “I lived here year round for eleven years, and I’m here for several months in the summer. I’d be pretty bored if I didn’t keep in contact with a few people.”
“But they’re…Guys,” he said unwillingly, frowning as he ran a hand through his hand. “Who call you Lils. You never let me all you that!”
“Jealous?” Lily asked, turning to take in his expression before finally sitting down.
“Perhaps,” James grumbled, a pout forming on his lips. “They talked about visiting you… It’s not that far to Scotland, is it? Not that they could come if they wanted to,” James considered.
“Oh, they think I go to a boarding school in Switzerland.” He gave her a look and she shrugged before continuing. “I needed somewhere close enough to be reasonable, but plenty far away so that no one would ever really considered visiting. I thought Switzerland would be nice.”
“Ah…” James nodded contentedly. “By the way, were you planning on telling me that it’s your mom’s birthday tomorrow?”
“Oh… It didn’t cross my mind, I suppose,” Lily said simply, leaning forward on her elbows as she waited for the game to begin.
“We should do something for her,” James said inudden excitement, and she could nearly hear the wheels turning in his head as he wracked his brain. “Let’s bake her a cake!”
Lily leaned back and gave him a look. “That sounds disastrous,” she scoffed with a short laugh.
Before he had time to rebut, though, the two teams were running out onto the field. Thunderous applause echoed through the stadium, and James leaned over to Lily, eyes glued on the pitch.
“So…No brooms?” he asked hesitantly, clearly unable to comprehend how gameplay could proceed without them.
“No brooms,” Lily confirmed asshe clapped exuberantly, letting out a short cheer. “So they’ll line up and have a coin toss, and the winner chooses which goal they want to attack. The loser takes the kick-off,” she explained as she leaned towards him once again.
James said nothing, but watched in enthrallment as the ball was put into play and the teams were running across the field. With every kick of that little black and white ball, every change in direction, and every foul, James was wincing and cheering along with commitment that diehard football fans would envy. In fact, it didn’t escape Lily’s attention that he was balancing on the edge of the bleacher for the entirety of the first half.
“You wish you were out there, I suppose,” Lily asked casually, keeping her eyes on the game.
“More than anything. Except I’m not sure how I feel about this much running,” he considered. “Or bouncing a ball off of my head. Or having to dive into grass to stop a ball from getting into the goal. That doesn’t seem fun,” James scowled as his face contorted at the thought.
“But you’re willing to potentially fall hundreds of feet to the ground and have your classmates lob balls across the pitch with the intention of hitting you.” She would be more apprehensive about people hearing her, but everyone within her close vicinity was cheering emphatically.
“It’s different,” James said with a wave of his hand. Not a moment later, he threw his hands up in disgust as a penalty was called. “What is this—football or pansyball?” he exclaimed in horror. Lily couldn’t restrain a giggle at this, but she covered her mouth quickly. “What?” he asked, turning to her with raised eyebrows.
“I just think it’s funny how committed you are to a game you barely know,” she began, watching as he opened his mouth to object. “Not that it’s a bad thing!” she rushed before he could argue. “It’s…” She wracked her brain for the right word. Cute? Charming? Amusing? Fascinating?
“It’s…?” he pressed when she didn’t answer, turning and meeting her eyes.
She was immediately shaken out of her reverie as their eyes met and she cleared her throat. “Nevermind,” she amended, turning back to the game. For some reason, no matter what she did, she was unable to shake the butterflies suddenly fluttering in her stomach; and even worse, she couldn’t figure out if the feeling was out of nervousness, excitement, or both.
The game continued on, though, and they talked intermittently as they felt inclined. Lily and James alike were more than pleased when her team blew their rival out of the water, and the two of them left in an energetic mood. They walked home slowly, and Lily listened as James gushed about the game, his ardent desire to participate in the sport, and how lucky she was to have such a thrilling game to watch at her leisure.
It was an odd sensation, walking beside him. In fact, as they continued, Lily found herself hoping that they could delay reaching her home for as long as possible. And while she hoped that time would slow down for them, she would catch herself forgetting who was beside her. It couldn’t possibly be James Potter who she was strolling along the sidewalk and talking civilly with. No, she couldn’t actually be enjoying his company.
And yet, she was.
Huzzah! So, now that I finished another story out of HP genre, I can finally come back to this one. I hope you all enjoyed this chapter after my oh so long hiatus! Just a note—I am most definitely American, and I generally don’t use British vernacular or idioms, but when I use the word football in this chapter, it is equivalent to American soccer. I just couldn’t bear to use the Americanized word in the scene. :) Anyways, I hope to get another chapter out by the end of next week, so look forward to that. Cheers!
Until Next Time,