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Chapter 13 : Inevitability.
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“He didn’t.” I sighed, eating my dry cereal without much conviction. Every so often I would glance into the backyard, mainly because it was the only window in the room, but partly because I had no idea where he’d apparated to. Of course, despite the letters that had been flying from our houses in an unstoppable wave, neither of us had specified a time. Or maybe we had? The flight time between the two houses was enough that I forgot what question he was answering by the time I got his response.
I liked being back at home, but with the fact that enough time had passed for the snow to have melted away (now, all that was left was the traditional layer of Christmas-sludge and a new coating of frost each morning) and I still not seen James, nor any of my other Hogwarts friends, my patience was beginning to wear thin.
I hated that my life at Hogwarts and my life at home were so separate. It felt like Mum no longer had the strength to question me about magic – as if, now she was on her own, she didn’t have the strength to absorb a whole new world all on her own. Mary had lived amongst muggles, so she’d understood too, but with both of those links brutally cut it seemed I was isolated in a world of not-quite-being-understood. James visiting, even for a little while, had changed that slightly.
Anyway, I wanted to see him.
“Oh,” Mum said, glancing at the door with a worried expression “It’s just, Vernon’s coming over later and...”
“Yes of course,” I sighed, “he’ll be here soon.” Really, I had no idea. For all I knew James might not even be awake yet, it was only half nine – hardly early for the holidays. In my head I half wanted him to be awake and raring to go, but that was a slightly optimistic view of things. Mum turned her gaze on me, looking like she might be about to start trying to question me about life at Hogwarts.
Three times she’d attempted this, but whereas before she had somehow absorbed every little piece of information I’d given her they seemed to have all slipped away. Her previous understanding being replaced by perplexed expressions at the mention of ‘switching spells’ and ‘healing potions’ and my unwillingness to mention anything about the war meant that these conversations only reminded me of all the loss.
“I’m just going to... wrap up some presents,” I said quickly, offering her an attempt at a smile before desperately running to my room to escape. Anyway, from my box-room there was a tiny window out into the street.
I stood on my bed to crane my neck out of it, but it didn’t help. The only way I’d be able to gauge James’s arrival by looking out the window was if he’d flown here and was currently pressing his nose against my bedroom window and waving jovially. There was a fine mist accompanying the frost this morning, making it near impossible to identify any individual person on the street. Damn December.
I frowned and fell back on my bed. I’d wrapped my presents. With magic it had only taken a second and at the time I’d wanted it done as quickly as possible (it didn’t do to think too much about Christmas when there were a couple of very important people missing).
Instead, I pulled out my wand and twisted it through my fingers. Dumbledore had given us permission to take several books home from the library, and suggested some spells we might like to learn. I liked learning and the idea that there was something I could do to change things helped. All those evening cooped up in classrooms practicing spell work had helped me feel like I was back in control and the more I spent pouring through the library books and exploiting my magical skill the more I felt like myself again. Achievement reminded me of who I was and numbed the voice in the back of my head that was still mutely yelling about the dangers of becoming so damn needy.
“Expecto Patronum.” I whispered. A silver wisp of light burst from my wand. I stood up hastily, shut the curtain and locked the door. Despite having practiced the spell daily since I’d returned home (mostly after Mum and Petunia had gone to bed or before they woke up – at some point my bed at home had become the unfamiliar one, and it was difficult to sleep with the giddy anticipation of James’s next letter sitting in my stomach) I’d found the spell particularly tricky.
I bent down and reread the paragraph in the book, straining my eyes to focus on the instructions. The wand movement, the incantation and think of something happy.
That’s why. Again, the levels of pathetic that I’d stooped to was apparent, but it was much easier to feel happy with the knowledge that it was Christmas Eve and that James was coming to visit.
I’m going to see James today.
“Expecto Patronum.” I said, louder this time, and a rush of silver light burst from my wand and formed into something... a shape... a kind of horse? No, a dear. A doe... a bright silver doe. I stared at it, standing up and watching it carefully.
“Lily?” Mum’s voice said, and then my door burst open and the silver doe burst into the corridor and down the stairs. It was bizarre to see something so inherently magical in such a little muggle house, but I liked it – my two worlds, colliding.
Whatever my mother had been about to say turned into a surprised ‘oh!’ Even Petunia poked her head out of her door and blinked stupidly at the patronus. I wanted to laugh with triumph – who knew that I, Lily Evans, still had enough happiness within me to produce a patronus? After everything, maybe I could still be strong.
And maybe that happiness had been rooted in another person, but was that a bad thing? Was it really?
The doe burst into a silver cloud as my thoughts turned slightly less positive and it was only then that I realised exactly why my mother was calling. James, adorable bespectacled messy-haired James was stood in the doorway blinking up at where my patronus had been only second before with a grin. “Hey Lily,” he said with a smile, nodding up it me.
“Hi,” I said, rather eloquently, freezing at the top of the staircase for a good few minutes before I remembered that the usual etiquette associated with these situations was to actually go and greet the person at the door. With a hug, probably.
Although this decision to walk wasn’t exactly sped up by the fact that Petunia hadn’t yet retreated to her room and my mother was still standing by the doorway blinking excitedly between the two of us, as if expecting some great romantic moment.
“Hey, James.” I said, finally walking down the stairs and hugging him tightly.
“I see you mastered the spell then,” James grinned, “you’ve managed it quicker than Sirius and me.”
“Do you want a drink?” I asked, leading him into the kitchen feeling absurdly self-conscious about my tiny little home. He’d seen it before, of course, but everything was slightly different now.
“I would have come earlier; I’ve been up since six, but... I didn’t know if you’d be awake.” James said, leaning against one of the kitchen counters and smiling at me as I flailed about getting a clean glass for him.
I’d gotten up at seven, not that I was going to tell James that. Just because I was a pathetic moron didn’t mean I wasn’t planning on upholding the remnants of my dignity for a little longer.
“I missed you,” I mumbled (apparently my voice box wasn’t actually cooperating with the whole ‘dignity’ thing). “Is that stupid?”
“Maybe a little,” James said evenly, “considering how many letters we’ve gotten through.”
“True,” I said with another small self-conscious smile, “we’ve probably talked more through letters than we have all term.”
“Well, if you factor in the weeks when you were avoiding me,” I pointed out, “and the other weeks when you weren’t speaking to me.”
“And the weeks when you were in the hospital wing?” James suggested, a grin with a hint of him not finding it particularly amusing at all shining through. I faltered slightly.
“Don’t talk about that,” I said, “I didn’t tell my Mum. She doesn’t need to know.”
“Didn’t want to worry her?”
“Mum’s got big plans for dinner,” I said sharply, crossing to the other side of the kitchen with two glasses, “I hope you’re hungry.”
“As always, I can’t wait for some of Mrs Evans’s beautiful cooking.”
“Vernon’s coming over again. So don’t say anything about magic, okay?”
“Yeah,” James agreed, smiling at me over his glass, “I can probably just about manage it.”
“I don’t know if I trust you.” I muttered. James absent mindely played with the material of my cardigan, smiling up at me.
“I think you probably should.” He said carefully.
“If you insist,” I returned, loosing track of the conversations for a minute, “like I said, lot’s of food...” I nodded to the oven this time, were several large dishes were wrapped in silver foil waiting to be cooked. “You will be staying all day, won’t you?” I asked, suddenly feeling worried all over again.
“I’m here for as long as you want me.”
I very much doubted that.
“I’d show you the vegetable patch,” I muttered, sitting squashed up against James in the sitting room, “but it’s not much to look at right now – winter isn’t contusive to lots of carrots.”
“Maybe next time I visit,” James said with a grin, nudging me slightly with the shoulder that I was leaning on.
“Always.” James assured me with another grin.
“Lily!” Petunia yelled excitingly, bursting into the living room looking happier than I’d seen her look since the wonderful news of her engagement to Vernon Dursley. It seemed, for a brief moment in time, she actually wanted to see me. “Vernon’s come round with our Christmas present! He drove all the way up here, just to...”
“Our Christmas present?” I interrupted, shifting forwards slightly in my seat and blinking at her.
“Yes!” Petunia exclaimed, and then Vernon appeared in the doorway, looking more purple and bigger than ever – although it turned out that was because he was also attempting to carry in a large box which...
“It’s a television!” Petunia exclaimed delightedly. Even I sat up at that. “A television!” She repeated. By that point the huffing Vernon Dursley had placed the television on the floor and Petunia had thrown herself at him and kissed him enthusiastically.
I turned away slightly, grimacing at James for a split second until the moment was over and Vernon turned back towards us, bustling over.
“Good to see you again, Lily!” He said importantly, “and you to, James Potter was it?”
“Yes,” James said, getting to his feet and shaking Vernon’s outstretched hand, “good to see you again.” James added, looking very much like he was about to burst out laughing but just about managing to keep his face straight. I had to admit that the purple shade still tainting Vernon’s face was amusing, but I couldn’t deny that I was too caught up in the excitement about the television to find him amusing.
Petunia looked torn for a second
She’d made it clear that she hated James as much as she hated me, and she no doubt wanted Vernon to do the same, but... “And good to see you too, Petunia,” James smiled. She visibly winced. He grinned even more.
I elbowed him.
“Isn’t it exciting, Lily dear?” Mum asked stepping into the room and smiling at all of us. “Vernon spent all of his Christmas bonus on us,” I smiled at him appreciatively. “We used to have a television, James, but it packed it after the summer and we didn’t have enough... well, we couldn’t replace it until now.”
“That’s very generous.” James nodded.
“How are the wedding plans going?” I asked, this was big step forward for me – I had refused to talk about the stupid wedding since the conformation that it would be going ahead, and yet... It was truly wonderful of Vernon to buy us a television. Mum could watch it, maybe it would stop her missing Dad so much and... really, it was just a lovely thought.
“I still haven’t found my dress,” Petunia frowned. Vernon was lugging the television further into the room now. “But we’ve booked the church. Not the one up the road, that’s much too big – a small one. A little chapel.”
“Two of our friends are getting married, aren’t they Lily?” James said from the sofa.
“Oh who?” Mum asked excitedly. “Rachel? Alice? Ma..?” Then she realised her mistake and stopped suddenly.
“Alice and Frank, Mum, they won’t stop talking about it.” I complained, watching as Vernon huffed and puffed over pulling the television out of the box, then busied himself trying to get it upright.
“You couldn’t give me a hand, could you?” Vernon asked in James’s direction. His eyes lit up in fear.
“Oh James is terrible with electricals,” I said hastily, “they... they paid someone to install their television.”
“Nonsense!” Vernon exclaimed, “any man can set up a television, it’s part of the territory.” In that case I was entirely sure that James Potter was not a man. I was almost certain he had no idea what a television was. I’d be completely shocked if he did know. Still, he dropped to the floor and rather helpfully pocked the box containing the television as if this might help.
“If you could just plug that in the socket,” Vernon said distractedly. Petunia and Mum were now talking more about the wedding (Petunia keeping one of her beady eyes on James all the while). James turned around and stared at me with wide eyes. ‘The white thing’ I mouthed, nodding towards the wall. James looked back at it and considered the socket for a long time, and then the plug, then he decided to bite the bullet and attempt to plug the thing in.
I was creasing up behind him and now Petunia and Mum were paying attention to him too. Petunia looked horrified and my Mum seemed half amused and half utterly confused. I mimed turning it upside down. He sent me a bewildered expression, but managed it on the second attempt.
“I am a man then,” James said, obviously thinking that this was all you had to do. I shook my head at him, trying not to giggle. Thankfully Vernon seemed to think that James had been joking around, because he clapped him on the back and laughed.
“Your man?” James suggested in my ear, falling back on the sofa and putting his arm around me.
“Too cheesy.” I said in return, hiding my smile into his shoulder.
“Well,” James said after dinner, glancing out the window, “I best be off soon.”
“I’ll give you a lift.” Vernon said importantly, “where are you headed? How did you get here?”
There was a sudden tense moment in which Petunia started glaring at me.
“Train,” I said quickly, “he got the train here. It’s much too far for you to drive, Vernon.”
“I’ll give you a lift to the station. What time’s your train, James?”
“Er, half past.” James said hopefully. He glanced at me for support and I shrugged slightly and put my hands in my pockets. James looked adorably nervous but, surely Vernon was going to find out about magic at some point.
“Where are you from, then?”
“Vernon,” Petunia said loudly, “did you tell James about your new car? How you got it?”
“Oh, no.” Vernon said, “well, James -”
“But,” my Mum said quietly, taking the empty glasses from the table with a small smile and pouring herself another glass of wine, “shouldn’t you give James a lift to the station now, Vernon? Or else he might miss his train.”
“True, very true!” Vernon said loudly, “well, let’s go – are you coming along for the ride, Lily?”
“Yes,” I said quickly. It was probably best not to leave Vernon Dursley and James Potter alone together. Vernon made a big deal about putting on his large very ridiculous coat and telling James that he looked very northern because he hadn’t brought a coat (having just apparated down the street, he obviously hadn’t felt the need. To be honest, I didn’t think James owned a coat), to which James countered that we were the ones who were distinctly northern.
Petunia grabbed my arm, digging her sharp nails into my arm and pulling me into the utility room for a split second, “Lily, if your little boyfriend fucks this up for me I’m blaming you,” she muttered darkly, her nails still digging into her flesh, “if he says one thing to make Vernon suspicious then -”
“Then what?” I spat, ripping my arm from her grip and glaring at her, “what are you going to do, Petunia?”
“I hate you.” Petunia said simply, pushing past me and painting a sweet smile on her features in the corridor. I paused for a second, glancing down at my arms and feeling surprised at the crescent moon’s still present from where her fingernails had dug in. I blinked a couple of times and swallowed before following her out of the utility and back into the corridor, pulling my own coat off the hook and slipping it on.
“Bye James, Vernon,” My mum said with a smile, “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Mrs Evans,” James returned with a beam, “the dinner was lovely – thank you for having me over.”
Mum beamed in the doorway, clutching her glass of wine with a smile.
I followed James and Vernon out onto the street. The beer boys were still hanging around, despite it being Christmas Eve – sitting on the low walls and sipping from cans. They watched as Vernon led us to his car, once again narrating the story of the work bonus and the bank error in his favour.
“James, in the front,” Vernon said with one of his impressive grins, “I want to show you the gear box – reverse is in a bit of a funny place, helps with control you see...”
“James doesn’t know much about cars,” I said helplessly, slipping into the back of Vernon’s car and watching James’s expression in the mirror as he nodded along to a conversation he quite clearly new nothing about. It was a good job that Vernon Dursley was so in love with himself that he could uphold most of a conversation on his own and the more James simply let him talk the more Vernon seemed to approve of him. Petunia was going to be furious.
“We’re here, couple of minutes to spare.” Vernon said with a grin, “nice meeting you again, James. We’ll be seeing you soon, I expect.”
“It depends whether Lily will have me over again,” James returned, smiling as he got out of the car.
He glanced at the station for a second, made a deal of checking his watch before taping on my window. I rolled it down, smiling at him.
“This was nice,” James said with a grin.
“Yeah,” I agreed, blinking up at him. The cold December air was beginning to seep into the car, but I couldn’t care less – I didn’t feel cold.
“You’re coming over on Boxing day, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, Lily,” James said, leaning forwards and kissing me through Vernon’s back seat window. Before that moment, I don’t think I’d really appreciated how much I’d been leaning forwards to talk to him properly. Before I could react he’d stepped backwards and was waving me off, Vernon was putting the car into gear and we were driving back up down the street.
“Bye,” I muttered quietly in the back of the car, unheard by Vernon’s tirade about how James was a ‘stand up chap’ and how it was difficult to find a ‘decent sort of bloke’ these days. Boxing Day couldn’t come soon enough.
“James is quite good looking, isn’t he?” Mum said as the three of us sat around the kitchen table, our two guests finally having gone leaving our house feeling much too empty and a little too big, despite its tiny size.
“Is he?” I asked distractedly, sending a triumphant look at Petunia who still hadn’t recovered from Vernon declaring that James was ‘awfully decent’ before kissing her goodbye and driving back into the centre city where he was currently living, “I hadn’t noticed, really.”
“His hair,” Petunia said primly, “he looks like he’s lived on the street all his life.”
“We can’t all be as smart as Vernon Dursley.” I said lightly, drumming my fingers against the table with a small smile.
“Now, now,” Mum said, twisting her wedding ring round her finger distractedly, “they’re both lovely.”
“Vernon has a car.”
“James is excellent on a broomstick,” I returned, “captain of the team, actually. Star player.”
“What, some stupid sport,” Petunia said primly, “Vernon has a job.”
“Well, slightly invalid argument considering we’re still at school. But yes, Vernon does have a job – working with drills. James wants to be an Auror, Mum,” I said lightly, “fighting all the dark wizards.” Petunia blanched visible at the words ‘dark wizards.’
“Ridiculous job.” Petunia muttered.
“Dangerous, yes. Maybe a little more noble than drills?”
“Vernon and I are going to buy a house.” Petunia said.
“James’s parents are ridiculously rich,” I said lightly, “they live in a manor.”
“A manor?” Mother asked, her eyebrows shooting upwards, “goodness, Lily, no wonder he was so polite.”
“Well,” Petunia said, her eyes flashing sharply, “this wonderful James hasn’t asked you to marry him, has he?”
I didn’t answer that, suddenly struck by how absurd this conversation was: yes, James and I had managed to sort out a lot of things but I wasn’t entirely sure that we could classify our relationship as ‘dating’ yet, but both Petunia and my Mum seemed to have taken that assumption away from the day. James. It was such a confusing and perplexing dilemma as to defining the relationship, because I had no idea what the results of our last conversation really meant. A mutual knowledge of liking the other, perhaps? Embracing that former mentioned like in the form of many letters and visits to my house? And cheesy comments, absent minded kisses and conversations.
There Petunia was talking about marriage.
We’d have to properly talk about it on Boxing Day, I decided.
Out loud I said, “maybe not, but he will.”
And that was certainly something that I wouldn’t be repeating to James any time soon.
This chapter wasn't actually supposed to end here, but because I'm ill the motivation to write is lacking and I really wanted to put something in a queue soon. Thanks for all the reviews guys, I've responded to every review I've recieved this year and I'm working on the ones from before too. I've answered over 500 since 2012 started!
It's Azkaban month, so if your bored I'd love for you to check that story out. And, if not, it's TAOS month in March! Everyone get excited ;)
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