When Lily reached the Rickety Walrus a few days later early in the morning, she was surprised to find it still dark. When she circled around to the side door, it was also locked. She tried knocking, but there was no answer.
She chewed on her lip. Annie had promised to get her a set of keys, but she hadn’t actually done so yet, so there was no legal way for Lily to get in.
The street was quiet; the only people she could see when she peeked around the side of the building were an old man shepherding what looked to be his grandchildren down the street and a bored-looking woman in a suit exiting her flat and walking in the opposite direction of the shop.
Lily withdrew back along the side of the building. After one last glance around, she withdrew her wand and tapped the lock. There was a faint click, and Lily hastily stowed the wand away again and slipped into the building.
She walked through the deserted kitchen and into the dim front room, where she saw a dark shape huddled over one of the couches. It was shuddering violently.
“Annie?” Annie lifted a tear-stained face, and Lily hurried over to her. “Annie, are you okay?” she asked urgently as she pulled the string to turn one of the lamps on.
Annie shook her head. In the light provided by the lamp, Lily could see that her eyes were red and puffy, and her lower lip was trembling nonstop. Even her hair was hanging limply across her shoulders. “I meant to get everything ready,” she said hoarsely, looking around the shop. “But then I just…”
She buried her face in the arm of the couch again. Her hair flopped into her face, and Lily smoothed it back. “What happened?” she asked, slipping her arm around Annie’s shoulders.
Annie shook her head. Lily was starting to get seriously concerned when Annie rasped, “We lost.”
Lily blinked. “We lost… what?”
Annie rubbed her eyes, which only made them redder. “Liverpool lost to Manchester United last night,” she said, and buried her head in her hands as she burst into tears.
Lily patted her back, feeling at a loss. She loved Quidditch, and the league had its fair share of rivalries, but she couldn’t ever imagine breaking down like this over a regular league match, no matter who the Harpies lost to.
“Was it an important match?” she asked after a moment as Annie reached for the tissues. She didn’t think that championships were decided in September, but she wasn’t at all confident that she was right.
“Every match against Man U is an important match,” Annie said, before blowing her nose. “And we haven’t lost a match to Man U at home in years.”
“Oh.” Lily was starting to understand a bit better. Losing a home match to a major rival was different; she’d been assuming Liverpool were away. “What was the score?”
Annie’s eyes welled up. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh,” Lily said. “Okay. That’s fine.”
Annie took a deep, shuddering breath. “1-5,” she said after a moment. “I think it’s the worst home defeat we’ve ever suffered at the hands of those bastards.” Her voice was positively venomous.
Lily wasn’t sure if Annie was being completely serious or exaggerating a bit, but she decided that it didn’t much matter. She didn’t know much about football, but she knew enough to know that that was a very decisive scoreline.
Annie straightened up, and for the first time, Lily noticed that she was wearing a very old and tattered Liverpool jersey. When she noticed Lily noticing it, she looked down.
“It was my dad’s,” she said. “He gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday. He was always a Liverpool fan, even as a kid.” Lily nodded, and Annie blew her nose again. “Only kid in his class to love Liverpool as much as Athletic.” She tossed the tissue into the bin. “He’s Basque, you know.”
“Athletic?” Lily asked curiously.
Annie snorted. “God, Lily, you are so clueless sometimes. Athletic Bilbao?” Lily shook her head. “They got to the final of the Champions League in May, and they’ve won La Liga the last two years out of five. They’re a great team. One of the only three Spanish teams to never get relegated.”
Lily settled for nodding politely. She had no idea what the Champions League or La Liga was, and she wasn’t quite sure that relegation meant what she thought it did. Now, however, did not seem the time to ask for an explanation.
“Last year it was Liverpool and Athletic in the final for the Champions League,” Annie added. Talking about her favourite teams seemed to be helping, so Lily tried to give her an encouraging smile. “One of the best football matches I’ve ever seen. The Reds broke the 2-2 tie with a goal in the 118th minute.”
“You should watch that,” Lily suggested. “If you have it. It’ll make you feel better.”
Annie thought about that. “Maybe,” she said. “I think I might go with the thumping Liverpool gave Manchester two seasons ago in the last league match of the season. She smiled. “Handed the double to Arsenal on a silver platter, of course, but that’s all right. Arsenal are a solid team. They deserved the league and the Champions league that year.”
That win Lily did remember. Her cousin Dominique had gone around dressed in her various Arsenal jerseys for two and a half weeks and had spent most of it humming Christmas songs. When Lily had questioned the appropriateness of Christmas songs in May, Dominique had informed her that Arsenal winning two trophies was like Christmas coming early.
Annie made a face at the shop as a whole. “I so don’t want to be here today,” she muttered.
“So don’t be,” Lily suggested. Annie stared at her. “Let’s go watch that match you were talking about. You can keep the shop closed for one day.”
Annie considered that for a minute. “I think I will,” she said after some deliberation. As Lily watched, she went over to the counter and pulled a piece of paper out of the drawer. She scribbled something on it and taped it to the door. “Come on,” she called, and Lily got up and followed her through the kitchen and out the side door.
“What did you write?” she asked, glad that Annie seemed too distraught to remember that she’d locked the door behind her.
“In mourning over the Reds, come back tomorrow,” Annie said as she turned the key in the lock. “Come on. Let’s go.”
After watching not only the Manchester United match but also the Champions League final in Annie’s flat, Lily was finally starting to seriously entertain the idea of joining Annie’s football team. On one hand, football would never compare with Quidditch… but on the other, Quidditch wasn’t exactly an option right now, and football seemed like it might be an interesting enough diversion, especially with Annie as a coach.
When the second match had ended, Annie flicked the tv off and looked over at Lily. “Thanks for humouring me,” she said. “You’re a good friend.”
Lily smiled, suddenly feeling a little shy. “No problem,” she replied. “It was fun. Maybe I will join your team after all.”
Annie’s face lit up. “Oh, you should,” she said excitedly. “Just come to a practice, you won’t regret it.”
“I’ll think about it,” Lily promised as Annie got up. “Do you want to watch another match?”
Annie shook her head. “Nah, I’m going to let you go. Thanks again.”
Lily was not quite sure how to say that she didn’t really have any interest in leaving just then, and after considering and rejecting several different ways of saying it, she gave up and followed Annie to the door.
“Anytime,” she said, and on impulse, gave Annie a hug. “Really.” Annie smiled at her, and Lily added, “I hope you feel better. Just remember, there’s always next time.”
After a moment, Annie sighed and nodded. “I know,” she said, leaning against the door frame. “It’s just so depressing.”
As a quick goodbye, Lily headed down the stairs and back to the flat that she’d been sharing with Edwin. She reached their landing just as he was unlocking the door, apparently back from his morning class.
He looked at her in surprise. “Hey,” he said. “What are you doing back so early?”
“Annie decided not to open the shop today,” Lily said as she slipped into the flat after him. “We went to her flat to watched football matches for a bit, but I think that she wanted some alone time.”
Edwin winced. “Right, the Liverpool Man U match. She must have been upset.” He collapsed onto the couch. “That was a rough match. Manchester won it cleanly, though. Liverpool can’t even blame the ref.” He looked at her curiously as she curled up in her favourite chair. “Does your lot follow football at all?”
Lily shook her head. “My cousin Dominique does, but she got into it because of her friend Hannah, whose father is muggleborn.”
Much to Edwin’s chagrin, he did understand the term muggleborn. After a moment of probably feeling a little horrified and disgusted with himself, he said, “So, what do you follow, then?”
“Quidditch,” Lily said. He just stared at her blankly, and she grinned, seeing a potential inroads with her cousin to make the wizarding world slightly more palatable.
Sure enough, when she’d finished explaining the game, he looked more interested than she’d ever seen him look about anything related to the wizarding world before. “That sounds…” He thought for a minute, trying to find the right words. “Huh. I’d like to see one of those matches, someday.”
She promised that she would try to arrange it, and after a few more minutes of talking about sports, they turned to MarioKart.
After two races, Lily found herself yawning. That continued on through the third race, and after she fell off Rainbow Road in the fourth one because she closed her eyes at exactly the wrong time, she excused herself to go take a nap. She hadn’t slept very well the night before, and not being on her feet was making it increasingly difficult to stay awake.
She awoke a few hours later to the sound of someone knocking on the door. “What?” she called sleepily, not feeling particularly inclined to get out of bed.
The door cracked open, and Annie’s face appeared from behind it. “Hey,” she said, and did an immediate doubletake. “Wow. This is quite… small.” She stuck her head back into the living room and called to Edwin, “Ed, you make your cousin sleep in your windowless closet?”
“Rent free,” Edwin called back, and she heard someone let out a laugh.
Annie rolled her eyes and turned back to Lily. “Can I come in?” she asked. Lily nodded, and she slipped into the room and pulled the door shut behind her. “Jesus,” she said after a minute. “It’s cold in here.”
Lily winced. Edwin was right – she probably should be taking the Cooling Charm off during the day… it was just still so sticky, and Lily absolutely hated sleeping without being under at least one blanket.
Annie crossed her arms. “What’s your secret?” she asked curiously. “I waste so much money running my air conditioner.”
Lily tried to think of a plausible explanation, but her mind had gone inexplicably blank. “Magic,” she said after a minute, and Annie laughed.
“Fair enough,” she said, and plopped down on the bed.
“So what’s up?” Lily asked, drawing her knees up to her chest.
Annie smiled. “I just wanted to say thank you for earlier. It was really sweet of you to sit through the matches with me.”
“It was fun,” Lily said. And it had been. She still thought that Quidditch was by far superior, and she rather wished she could introduce Annie to that, but she knew that that was not even remotely an option.
There was a moment of silence, and then Annie asked, “So do you seriously want to join my team?” Lily nodded, and Annie’s smile broadened. “Oh, I promise you won’t regret it. It’s really not high level, not like the team I play on. I’m sure you’ll pick it up in no time.” Lily smiled, too, and Annie threw her arms around her. “I’m so excited,” she squealed, and Lily began to wonder what exactly she’d just gotten herself into.
A/N: Yay, new chapter!
For those of you who are football fans, I hope you enjoyed the references. For those who aren't, I'll contextualise it for you in case you're interested.
The Liverpool/Manchester United rivalry is one of the most contentious is European football.
Athletic Bilbao are a Basque team out of Spain. As Annie mentioned, Athletic are one of only three teams to have played every season in the top league (the other two are FC Barcelona and Real Madrid).
Football fans will know that in the current day, there is no way that a Champions League final would include a Liverpool/Athletic match up, and that Athletic are unlikely to pull off one La Liga title, let alone two. However, this fic is set 13 years in the future, and a lot can change in that time.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and thank you so much for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you wouldn't mind leaving me a review. :)
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