Chapter 16 : sixteen
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Unfortunately, Lily had other ideas for my weekend.
She stepped out of my fireplace mid-morning, followed by Maddie, whose exit was much less coordinated.
“I’ll never get used to that,” she coughed, as she brushed soot off her. I cleaned the floor with a quick Scourgify.
“Least you got the right grate,” Lily pointed out.
“Don’t.” Maddie shuddered at the thought of getting lost in the melee that was the Floo network, something that she and Kit had been lucky enough to avoid so far.
“I swear Kit’s parents were only connected to the Floo for emergencies,” I grumbled, as I followed them into the kitchen. They made themselves comfy at the large table, spreading out numerous textbooks, exercise books and – in Lily’s case – rolls of parchment.
“This is an emergency,” she replied darkly.
“We’re escaping Rosalind,” Maddie elaborated.
“What did you do this time?” I sighed.
“We didn’t do anything!” Maddie protested. “If she wasn’t such a nosy, greedy bitch-”
“She now has green hair,” Lily explained. “She ate one of those damn sweets of Aunt Angelina’s, didn’t she? Well, she hasn’t got a clue how it happened, of course, but she’s blaming it on me, thinks I mixed up some concoction in Chemistry which has dyed her hair. At first I flatly denied it, but then Mrs A reckoned that it was best that we just went along with it. Damage limitation and all that. She’s got Rosalind in her living room, trying to calm the situation and stop everyone from finding out it happened-”
“And meanwhile, we escaped through her kitchen grate,” Maddie finished.
Kit’s parents lived in a house in the grounds of Lily and Maddie’s school. Mr Atkinson taught maths, while Mrs Atkinson was in charge of the First and Second Years at the school. They had been told that Lily was a Squib before she’d started at the school, and were the only teachers apart from the Headmistress who knew. Their knowledge of the magical world had come in handy when Maddie and Kit had first found out about magic, as Kit hadn’t taken the news too well at first.
“Don’t people get suspicious that you visit them so much?” I asked now, as I sat down opposite Lily.
“Mrs A makes splendid tea,” she said.
“And besides, they have a back door for a reason,” Maddie added. “Anyway, what’s got your wand in a knot? I thought you liked seeing us?”
She always got great amusement from using wizarding phrases.
“Of course I do,” I said dryly, “but had it not crossed your mind that I might have plans today?”
“Do you?” she asked.
“Well, no, not particularly-”
“There we go then.”
“-but Carlotta was possibly going to pop round later.”
Maddie’s eyes lit up.
“I can meet her!” she said excitedly.
“That’s exactly what I don’t want,” I said darkly. “You’ll put her off. And you’re the bloody Muggle.”
“I’m not that bad,” she reasoned. “Besides, I’m one of the only normal people in this motley crew. You really think that she’ll prefer Al and Rosie?”
“I’m not sure which is worse, to be quite frank.”
“In that case, stop fretting over it and help me with my Muggle Studies,” Lily cut in.
“You don’t need help from me-”
“Hello, you got an O in it-”
“It’s easy, Lil! Common sense!”
“How is knowing the precise mechanics of a television common sense?” she said irritably. “Even worse, they want me to explain how the wizarding channels on it work! How is that Muggle Studies? Most Muggles don’t even know those channels exist!”
“I wish I could access those channels,” Maddie said dolefully.
“You’ll be able to when we move into the flat,” Lily reminded her. “There’s no way I’m going without the Quidditch channels.”
“How’s Kit going to cope, living with two girls?” I asked curiously.
Maddie stared at me.
“How’s he going to cope? How are we going to cope living with him, more like!”
The doorbell rang, interrupting the conversation.
“Is that her?” Maddie said excitedly, sitting upright.
“I bloody well hope not,” I muttered, as I got to my feet.
But Maddie was right.
“Can I just apologise in advance for anything my sister and her friend say?” I said as she crossed the threshold.
“Oh, are they here?”
“Fell out of my fireplace a few minutes ago. Literally, in Maddie’s case. And she has no concept of how to behave herself.”
I led Carlotta into the kitchen where Maddie was still sitting in the bolt upright position I’d left her in, her work already neglected.
“So this is Carlotta, is it?” She grinned cheekily. “I’m Maddie, nice to meet you.”
“And you.” Carlotta smiled slightly, and took a seat at the table.
Just then, Lily groaned in aggravation, her hands gripping at her hair.
“Lil, just don’t learn it!” I said. “It’s not important, I never learned it-”
“But if I only bother with the basics then I can only get an A!” Her tone was frustrated as she raised her head and glared at me. “And I need an E at least!”
“But surely if you get the A, then that’s higher than the E?” Carlotta frowned, looking confused.
“Wizarding grades,” Maddie explained. “They’re all weird. Your highest grade is an O, which is Outstanding. Then you have an E, which is Exceeds Expectations, then A for Acceptable which is the last pass grade. Then you have the fail grades, which are P for Poor, D for Dreadful and T for Troll.”
“Dad got a T in his O.W.Ls,” Lily said. Thinking of Dad’s failings seemed to cheer her up.
“Really?” Maddie said curiously. “What in?”
“Oh, that’s not even a real subject,” she snorted, waving an airy hand. “Remember when you read my tea leaves and told me I’d have ten children by the age of twenty-five? Or when you read my palm and told me I should have died nineteen years before? We were fifteen at the time!”
“Our family doesn’t have a history of being gifted at Divination,” Lily admitted. “But I still got an A in my O.W.L. And besides, it doesn’t mean it’s not a real subject. There are real seers around, you know. In fact, you do know, I’ve told you all about prophecies.”
“What work have you got then, Mads?” I interrupted, not wanting to become involved in a conversation about prophecies – I knew where it would lead and I didn’t fancy going down that route right now.
“Sports Science,” she sighed, turning back to her work.
“Oh, I give up on this shit,” Lily scowled, rolling her parchment back up. She pushed her Muggle Studies work to one side, and pulled another textbook towards her.
“What are you doing now?” I asked.
“You’re full of questions this morning,” Maddie chipped in.
“You’ve just rolled up at mine, uninvited, with shitloads of work; I’m allowed to be nosy.”
She poked her tongue out at me, before lowering her head back to her work.
“History, to answer your question,” Lily said.
“Can’t decide.” She shrugged. “What do you think is better, nineteenth century Muggle Russia or the second rise of Voldemort?”
“Neither,” I supplied.
“Voldemort, you know that like the back of your hand,” Maddie chipped in.
Once again, we were heading for a topic I didn’t want to discuss. This time, Carlotta came to my rescue.
“Do you ever get confused?” she asked Lily. “James said you do magical and normal subjects...”
“Are you trying to say that the magical world isn’t normal?” Lily said, amused. “I picked subjects that kind of link with each other, to make it easier, but they don’t tend to overlap. Chemistry and Potions, for example; Chemistry only involves Muggle elements, and Potions only involves magical ones, so it’s pretty hard to get them intertwined, though I have been known to write an essay about antidotes which involves adding magnesium. I was very tired at the time. It’s the same with Biology and Herbology; the overlap only goes so far, it’s quite hard to get them mixed up.
“Maths and Arithmancy is where it gets slightly more confusing because sometimes you can solve a mathematical problem using the magical properties of a number – but because I’ve had the Muggle methods drummed into me, I generally avoid that pothole. History is the bad one, though. Muggle and wizarding history is so tightly intertwined all the way back regardless of how much the wizarding world tries to hide. It’s linked so much more than you could possibly imagine. Because at the end of the day we’re all living in the same space, we’re going to run into each other no matter how hard we try to stay separate. So yeah, it does get very hard there. I have to get Maddie to proof read all my Muggle History essays before I hand them in, in case I’ve slipped in something about goblins or giants-”
“And I thoroughly enjoy it,” Maddie said glumly.
Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of someone falling on the living room floor, followed by a torrent of swear words intermingled with coughs.
“Kit,” Lily and Maddie both said at the same time.
Sure enough, he strolled into the kitchen moments later, with what would have been a nonchalant air were he not covered in soot.
“Scourgify,” I said lazily, pointing my wand at him.
“Cheers.” A now sootless Kit took a seat at the table. “Your floor might be a bit mucky in there, by the way. You really need to clean your grate, you know.”
“You sound like my mother,” I said, pulling a face.
“And she’ll be here soon if you’re not lucky. Well, if Lily’s not lucky, anyway.” He turned to look at her, smirking. “I’ve just heard about your little ... incident. Nicely done, except my mum’s just told yours about it.”
Lily groaned, her head falling onto the table.
“But we didn’t even do anything!” came her muffled voice.
“Mum has to tell your mum every time there’s a breach, you know that,” he reminded her.
“But I didn’t breach anything!”
“She breached our privacy!” Maddie chipped in. “Did you see her? Was she still green?”
“Green, was it? Nice. She was back to blonde when I saw her, she was in your boarding house when I dropped Imogen off, telling everyone how you’d done something freakish. Grace was defending you to the hilt, saying that you can’t possibly have done anything because how could you have changed her hair colour? Course, she then said to me and Immy that whatever you did was bloody genius.”
“Why does everyone assume it was us?” Maddie moaned, but she was grinning. “Good old Gracie. Sometimes I wonder whether we should tell her and Immy, Lils...”
“I wonder that sometimes too, but it’s too much stress. It was bad enough telling you two...”
“Plus they’re doing a good enough job at backing you two up without knowing about magic,” Kit pointed out. He turned to Carlotta. “I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet, that was very rude of me. You must be Carlotta? I’m Kit, Lily’s friend, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi,” she replied, smiling slightly. I wondered if she was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.
“Did Immy enjoy her breakfast date, then?” Maddie butted in, mockingly.
“She bloody loved it, I’ll have you know, Benny. Chicks dig a breakfast date.”
“Yes, well, I’d hardly refer to you as a chick – hey!”
He ducked, as she threw her pen across the table at him, but she was laughing.
“Oi! No missiles in my kitchen, Bennett!”
“You two are such children,” Lily sighed.
A loud pop indicated that somebody had Apparated into the other room.
“Oh, shit,” she muttered. Her face lost its colour.
“Lily Luna Potter, what have you-”
Mum came to a halt in the doorway, as her eyes fell on Carlotta.
“Morning, Mrs P!” Maddie chipped in, clearly trying to divert the tension. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
“Hi again, Mum!” I said brightly. “Back so soon? This is Carlotta. Carla, this is my mum, Ginny.”
“Lovely to meet you, Carlotta,” Mum said in a pleasant tone. She then turned to face me. “James, living room, now. And you, Lily.”
Lily grimaced, getting to her feet.
“I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?” Maddie said in a lighthearted tone, as Mum chivvied us into my living room. She shut the kitchen door firmly behind her, crossing her arms and looking at us with a severe expression on her face.
“I don’t know which of you to start with,” she said. “Does the Statute mean nothing to either of you any more?” She fixed her glare on me. “You’ve told her about us?”
“Who says she knows?”
“Cordelia’s chirping away and Lily’s got stacks of parchment and quills on the kitchen table. If you’ve not told her, then I want to know why she’s so content in that kitchen and not running a mile.”
I decided defiance was the best option.
“Yeah, she knows. And if she’s sitting in the kitchen contently, as you observed, then surely there’s no problem? She’s fine with it-”
“James, that’s not the issue! You think this is going to work out when you stop seeing her?”
“But it’s not like I meant to tell her! She found out, and I made the best of the situation-”
“And that’s meant to make things better?”
“Don’t be harsh on him, Mum; he’s already beaten himself up about it. Not to mention the lectures he’s gotten from Brigid and Rosie-”
“And as for you, young lady!” Mum turned on Lily. “You should know better! In fact, I thought you did. And now I find out you’re turning people’s hair green?”
“In fairness,” I interjected, feeling a need to stick up for Lily as she’d done for me, “it’s really not Lily’s fault. If Rosalind wasn’t such a nosy bitch, she wouldn’t have found the sweets and had one for herself-”
“It was Rosalind?”
“Well, why didn’t you say?”
Mum’s expression immediately morphed from angry to approving. It was at times like this that I was reminded she was Uncle George’s sister.
“What colour was it?”
“Bright green. We caught a glimpse of it as we made a mad dash to Mrs A’s kitchen to escape to here.”
Lily still looked slightly uneasy. The thing with Mum was, you never knew when she might snap. Luckily, we seemed safe for the moment.
“Well, she got what was coming to her. I will be having words with Angelina though. If she must have Squib testers, then she can supervise you when you’re testing them in future. I trust Maddie and Kit haven’t had any?” She raised an eyebrow.
“None at all,” Lily said smoothly. “Honestly, Mum, what do you take me for?”
“I won’t answer that.” Mum cast her eyes around the room. “Really, James, I only tidied up this morning and already it’s a mess! Look at your fireplace!”
“That was Kit,” I said, as she cleaned it up with a wave of her wand.
“And the rest of it?” she asked, pushing open the kitchen door.
“Cordelia and I were playing catch,” I admitted, following her back into the kitchen.
“I won’t ask what with.”
“That’s probably for the best,” I agreed.
“You’ll kill that poor pygmy puff before long,” Lily said, sitting back down next to Maddie, who had my teapot and six mugs in front of her.
“She’ll be fine. She’s a resilient little thing. She loves being thrown around, anyway.”
I fell back into the chair beside Carlotta’s. She was looking at the teapot with a fascinated expression on her face.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
“It’s ... singing...”
“Not very well, mind.” I frowned at its pitchy rendition of A Teapot Full of Hot, Strong Tea. “It used to be better, but it’s losing its touch. It’s forgotten a few numbers somewhere along the way, too. It needs a good refurbishment when Aunt Hermione or Uncle George have the time.”
“I asked it to sing American Pie for me, but it won’t,” Maddie said dolefully. “In fact, it hasn’t stopped singing Celestina since I took it out of the cupboard. It can’t quite-” We all winced at a particularly out-of-tune note – “reach the high notes any more.”
“I think it’s forgotten American Pie.”
Maddie looked devastated. She had spent days teaching my teapot that number – and had successfully managed to bore the entire Weasley clan of a song that most of us hadn’t even heard of beforehand. The teapot had then gone on to sing it constantly for weeks, until even Maddie grew tired of it – and took it upon herself to teach it a different song. In fact, she had taught it most of its eventual repertoire. Unfortunately, it had since forgotten most of it.
“But it’s a classic! How can it forget it?”
“There are a lot of lyrics for that poor piece of china to remember,” Lily pointed out.
“I think it only remembers Celestina now,” I added.
“It clearly can’t remember the notes though.” Maddie winced again as it hit another flat note. “Can we pour the tea out and shut it up?”
“I’ve got it.” Mum drew her wand and waved it at the teapot, which started to pour out its contents - it changed its tune to You Poured the Tea Right Out of Me.
“Aunt Hermione would tell you off, you know,” I said. “She’s always telling Rosie not to use magic unless she really has to.”
“Yes, but that’s because she doesn’t want her to become too content with the fact that she can use magic, and rely on it too much. I highly doubt that pouring out tea by magic will affect my ability to do so manually. Does everyone want?”
A chorus of yeses echoed round the table.
“Lily, get the milk,” Mum instructed.
Lily leaned back onto the back two legs of her chair – “don’t go moaning to me when you fall backwards and smack your head,” Mum said warningly - to open the fridge door and grab the milk jug out of it.
“This one doesn’t sing as well, does it?” Carlotta said warily.
“No, it does a dance accompaniment. It’s not very good at keeping its contents in if it’s dancing to a particularly upbeat number though.”
“It gets a bit over-exuberant with the dance moves for Y.M.C.A.,” Maddie added, watching it cautiously as it waltzed around the table.
The dance education of the milk jug had been Kit’s doing.
Mum set the teapot back down on the table, where it struck up a jazzy rendition of You Stole My Tea But You Can’t Have My Spout. The milk jug’s dancing became much more enthusiastic.
“For Merlin’s sake, Lily, pick it up before it throws the milk everywhere,” Mum said.
Lily reached out and snatched it up, then poured the milk into the mugs.
“Do you have sugar, Carlotta?” Mum asked her.
“Er ... what does the sugar pot do?” she asked tentatively.
We all laughed.
“Nothing, luckily.” I waved my wand and silenced the teapot, whose warbling was getting worse. “Do you want any?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.” She smiled faintly.
Maddie distributed the mugs to us.
“So, Mrs P, you must be very proud of your Jamesie here, getting picked for England!” she said.
I hid a grimace.
“England?” Carlotta turned to look at me, an expression of incredulity and awe on her face. “You didn’t tell me that!”
“That’s because it was just a training camp, nothing big-”
“I’d say it’s pretty big,” Lily interrupted. “Means they like the look of you.”
“And by all accounts, they were pleased with what they saw,” Mum added.
“Is that why you were busy this week?” Carlotta said curiously.
“We were all under a strict curfew. Bit boring, but-”
“It stops you from going out every other night like you have been for the past few weeks,” Mum cut in sternly.
“It was preseason! We could get away with it! First match is in a week, we’ll start knuckling down now.”
“I should think so too! Tornados first up isn’t exactly a gentle start to ease you in, is it? You’re just lucky it’s a home fixture.”
“That reminds me.” I Summoned some of the tickets that were sitting on the worktop. “There you go, kids.” I slid three of them across the table to Lily.
“Ooh, thanks! And I’ve got some for you too, hang on...”
She rooted around in her bag.
“Are you coming to the match?” Maddie asked Carlotta.
“You can if you want,” I offered. “Only trouble is, the pitch has anti-Muggle wards up, so you’d need to be able to overcome those to see it. We can have a go at that somewhen this week if you want?”
“It can be quite hard,” Maddie said. “You have to force your brain to believe that there is something there, and that you don’t have an important meeting at the bank or whatever it decides to come up with for you. But then, given that you’ve just been treated to a concert by James’ crockery, you shouldn’t find it too hard to convince your brain it’s all real.”
“It’s worth it, as well,” Kit added. “Quidditch is amazing once you get your head around it. And James’ team are seriously good. They’ve won the league three seasons on the trot!”
“And now you’ve got Cato Bagman...” Maddie sighed dreamily.
“What is it with you women and Bagman?” I said, aggravated.
“Oh, James, of course you wouldn’t understand, you’re a man,” Mum said.
“Not you as well,” I said, disgusted. “You’re old enough to be his mother! Really. And I have to see him in training on Monday!”
“I’ll go in your place?” Maddie volunteered.
“Who’s this guy?” Carlotta asked curiously.
“Oh, you haven’t seen him yet? You have not lived! He’s a Quidditch player; a Beater, so he’s very muscled-”
“So am I!” I moaned.
Maddie gave me a pitying look, before turning back to Carlotta.
“-and he is simply divine. There might be a picture of him floating around somewhere, actually ... yeah, he was on the cover of a January Quidditch Weekly, wasn’t he? Where will that be?” She got up and headed to the living room.
“I was on the Christmas edition,” I pointed out sulkily.
“Of course you were, darling,” Mum said in a soothing tone.
“A-ha!” Lily produced something from her bag and slid it across the table towards me. “Tickets for our seven-a-side. It’s a two day event but you’re playing the Arrows on the Saturday. If the game finishes in time though, make sure you come on the Sunday.”
“Two weeks time,” I observed, looking at the date.
“Bring Freddie and Brie if you want. And if they want, obviously. I don’t think Freddie quite gets hockey yet.”
“Oh, he’ll come. Loads of girls in short skirts? He wouldn’t pass up that opportunity. Don’t you worry, he’ll be there.”
“In that case, don’t bring him.”
“No, bring him,” Kit said. “I need all the male company I can get.”
“You don’t have to come, Christopher-”
“Found it!” Maddie pranced back into the kitchen, waving a tattered magazine round triumphantly. “It was in Cordelia’s cage. Either she too has very good taste in men, or you were hoping she’d eat it, James.”
“He is very tasty,” Lily pointed out.
Maddie slapped the magazine down in front of Carlotta, and Cato Bagman winked up at her. I scowled.
“Ooh, he is a bit of a dish, isn’t he?”
“I’ve changed my mind. You’re not coming to any of my matches,” I said flatly.
“It’s alright, Carla. We’ll smuggle you in.” Lily smirked at her. “Although there’ll be a lot of our clan there, everyone tries to make the first match of the season...”
“You’ll be fine,” I reassured her as she blanched. “None of us are that scary, really. Uncle Percy and cousin Molly can be a bit peculiar but on the whole, everyone’s fine. Besides, you’ve met a lot of the cousins already, in the Tav, remember?”
“I’d say Freddie’s the weirdest of the lot,” Maddie added, “and if you can cope with him, then you’ll be fine with everyone else.”
“He can be an acquired taste,” Kit agreed.
“I’m sure he thinks the same about you,” Lily said dryly, before swigging the rest of her tea. “Mum, write my History of Magic essay, will you?”
“What’s the question?”
“‘How was Voldemort able to regain power and followers so quickly in the year after his resurrection?’”
“Cornelius Fudge was an utter knob,” Mum said flatly, as she collected up the empty mugs.
“I told her to put that,” Maddie said, turning back to her own work.
“That may be right, but I doubt it will prove a thorough understanding of the course topic.”
“Just write in big letters at the top of the exam paper ‘My dad’s Harry Potter’, that will demonstrate a thorough understanding alright.”
“See if he’ll write it,” Maddie suggested.
“Are you kidding? It would just turn into an utter tirade about politicians.”
“If in doubt, blame a politician.”
“You have listened to Dad’s stories too much.” Lily pulled a face.
“They’re fascinating! And there are a lot of lessons to be learned from them. Like don’t trust politicians. Heaven only knows why you want to work with them...”
“Surely the best thing to do when you lack faith in an institution, is to join them and try to make a difference?”
Maddie stared at her for a moment.
“If the Wizarding world is relying on you to tidy up their political system,” she said, “then you’re all in trouble."
A/N: Quick disclaimer: I don't own any of the songs which the teapot sings; they're all variations of Celestina Warbeck songs which JK owns, naturally. Y.M.C.A is by The Village People and American Pie is, of course, by Don McLean.
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