The Evans arrived home at about at seven. Cinthy fixed a light meal for Paul, Lily, and herself since Petunia had elected to stay overnight with Agatha. Lily was relieved that she wouldn't have to deal with Tuney's unpleasantness until breakfast. After he'd finished eating, Paul hauled Lily's trunk upstairs to her room so she could unpack and go to bed.
Lily yawned as she unpacked her trunk. She took out the picture Sev had drawn of her last summer and put it on her nightstand where she could see it first thing when she woke up in the morning. She took Belinda out of her trunk and carefully laid her on her bed. She got undressed and into her pajamas, brushed her hair and her teeth and then got into bed. The next morning she was awakened by the delicious smell of her mum's cinnamon French toast, bacon, sausages, and fried potatoes.
"Lily, are you awake? It almost nine o'clock," Cinthy called. "I'm putting breakfast on the table right now."
"I'm awake, Mum," Lily called back. "I'll be right down." Lily quickly got on her robe and slippers on and then hurried downstairs. She was starving! She walked into the kitchen to find a sullen looking Tuney sitting at the table. She glared at Lily. Her parents had let her stay overnight at Agatha's house, but insisted she come home for breakfast to greet her sister.
"Morning, Tuney," Lily said with a wide yawn as she sat down between her dad and Tuney.
"Humph!" Petunia said in acknowledgement.
Cinthy set down a plate of French toast, another plate of bacon and sausages, and a bowl of fried potatoes on the table while Paul poured tea for himself and Cinthy. Lily picked up the pitcher of orange juice, poured herself a glass and set it back down.
"Pass it down," Tuney hissed. "Or don't they teach etiquette in that crazy school you go to?"
"Petunia, what did you, mum and I talk about before we left to pick up Lily?" Paul said in a warning voice.
"That I'm going to be nice to Lily while she's home," Petunia replied in a sullen tone.
"I'm glad you remember," Paul replied.
"Mum, this so good!" Lily said.
"My goodness," Cinthy laughed. "Don't they feed you at Hogwarts?"
"Of course, Mum and the elves cook really good and the amount of food on the tables at meals is more than enough, but it's just not home cooking."
"Well, thank you, dear," Cinthy replied. "From what you've written, those elves sound quite amazing so I'm pleased at your compliment."
"Mum, no matter how talented the elves are they can't ever compete with you."
"Agatha asked me about your school and I told her it was a school for possessed people who don't want to accept Jesus and be cured. I told her that Snape brat goes there too. She remembers him, his mum, and his stupid father. She said Mrs. Snape was a slut. Maybe she should have used her wand to make a red light appear in her front window."
"Petunia Charlotte!" Cinthy exclaimed in outrage. "I don't ever want to hear you call anybody that name again!"
"Sev's mum wasn't …whatever you called her and his dad wasn't stupid!" Lily yelled.
"They were too. Agatha's mum said she used to see men over there all the time while her husband was at work and him – anybody stupid enough to sit under scaffolding without a hardhat on deserves to be crushed by a block of cement!"
Paul slammed his hand down on the table causing everybody to jump. "Petunia Charlotte Evans, I've had enough out of you! If Mrs. Jones is saying those kinds of foul things then I don't want you going over there."
"They're good people, Dad. Agatha and her mum read ten pages of the Bible together every day!" Tuney protested.
"Well, they must not understand anything they're reading," Paul commented. "As for what you said to your sister just now – you will be confined to your room for two hours and you cannot use your phone to call anyone while you're there! Eileen was a good woman and Toby died in a freak accident."
"A freak accident just like her!" Tuney yelled pointing at Lily before running from the room wailing at the top of her lungs. They heard her bedroom door slam shut a few seconds later.
Cinthy shook her head at Paul when she saw he was going to say something else and gave him the 'we'll talk about this later in private' look. She turned back to Lily. "Are Potter and Black still bothering you?"
"Not since they cast the Flea Attack hex on us. Professor McGonagall took Potter's and Black's wands away for two weeks; they could only have them for class. Also the Board of Governors, Sev's grandfather is one of them, suspended the headmaster for a month after Potter and Black tried to hex Slytherin and hexed the Minister of Magic instead. Potter is the headmaster's godson and he lets him and Black run wild."
"You know we're not in favor of corporal punishment, Lily," Paul said. "But after yesterday I think that rude bugger needs to be turned over somebody's knee."
"I agree, Dad," Lily said. "We heard his dad spanked him in front of the Minister, but nobody really believes it happened." She got up from table. "Excuse me, please. I'm going up and get dressed."
"We're going to go and pick out our Christmas tree after lunch," Cinthy said.
"Good!" Lily said smiling. "That's one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time." She frowned. "I do need to go to Diagon Alley, too and buy Christmas gifts for my friends."
"I'm sure we can fit in a trip before Christmas, Lily," Paul assured her. "In fact, we can go on Saturday."
"I hope we don't run into Pothead and Black while we're there." Lily went upstairs, took a shower and got dressed. She decided to start on her homework because she wanted to have it completely done by the time she left to visit Sev. She worked diligently on it until her mum called her to lunch. Petunia wasn't in any better mood than she had been this morning; if anything she was even more sullen casting a dreary spell over everything. She refused to go with them to get their Christmas tree. "I'm too old to be doing childish things like picking out stupid Christmas trees and I'm old enough to stay home by myself."
"All right, Petunia, but you don't leave the house while we're gone and nobody's to come over either," Cinthy said putting the kibosh on any plans Petunia might have to see Agatha.
"Fine," she said flouncing off.
When Lily was in the car with her parents she made a sad sound and said, "Tuney's still mad at me because I'm a witch and she isn't."
"No, Sweetie that isn't it at all," Cinthy explained. "Petunia's just having a hard time at school right now. The group of girls she aspires to join won't accept her because we aren't wealthy like they are. Apparently they are the most popular girls in the school and pretty much run what's considered to be the 'in' clubs. She's angry because I refuse to pay fifty pounds for a particular kind of sweater and thinks if she has one they'll see her differently."
"They don't sound any different than some of the purebloods at Hogwarts," Lily said. "If they don't accept her for who she really is then they're not worth having for friends."
"That's what I told her, but it's hard to see it when you're fifteen."
"Are the Potters what's considered pureblood?" Paul asked.
Lily snickered. "Yes, but Sev's grandfather told him that the Potters are 'raw upstarts' because their family isn't even five hundred years old whereas the Princes can trace their roots straight back to Merlin."
"Yet Marius and Vesper don't act snobby like the Potters and that shows they have class and the Potters do not," Cinthy said.
They arrived at the Christmas tree lot and spent a half-hour going from tree to tree with Paul holding them up for Cinthy's and Lily's inspection. They finally found one that met all of their requirements so Paul paid for it and had it roped to the top of the family car. They arrived home, got the tree off the car and placed it in the garage, resting in a bucket of sugared water until Saturday when they were going to decorate it.
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Severus came down the stairs and walked into the dining room. His grandparents were already seated. "Good morning, Gran, good morning, Grandpa," Severus said seating himself.
"Good morning, Sev. Did you sleep good?" Vesper asked smiling.
"Yes, I think I was asleep as soon as I noxed the lights."
"Good morning, Sev," Marius said. A copy of the Prophet lay beside his plate. "I must say we enjoyed having tea with Paul and Hyacinth yesterday. They are obviously people of good character."
'They are, Grandpa; they've always treated me like their own son. Mum and Mrs. Evans were good friends. Anything interesting in the Prophet?"
"Nothing really remarkable unless you're interested on how the Potter's and the Malfoy's plan to spend their Christmas."
Severus made a face. "I don't know how they would have managed it, Grandpa, but I suspect Potter and Black had something to do with our emeralds disappearing."
"Hmm …" Marius murmured. "I know a second year could not manage to remove the locking charms on the hourglasses; even a seventh year couldn't, but there are criminals who could. I recall an old thief named Warty, who probably could remove it. He got hexed by a goblin after he opened one of their jewelry cases in their store in Diagon Alley and they have a charm that's similar to the ones on the hourglasses, but I don't know where Potter or Black could have met somebody like Warty." Marius rubbed his chin. "I think I'll send Black Leif to check out some of Warty's associates and see who they are and what they've been up to lately."
Mitzi and Arlo brought in breakfast and everybody was silent while they enjoyed the fine meal. Vesper took a sip of her tea. "Sev, I'm meeting your grandfather for lunch tomorrow and doing some shopping. Would you like to come with me?"
"If you don't mind, Gran, I think I'll stay here. I want to get all my assignments finished up before Christmas and before Lily's visit."
"That's fine, Sev, and I applaud your dedication." Vesper was secretly relieved as she had some Christmas shopping left to do for Severus. "Do you need anything?"
Severus thought for a moment. He did need a picture frame for the drawing he was doing for Lily for Christmas. "I do need a picture frame that's 11x14, Gran. Something simple; it's for the picture I'm drawing to give to Lily for Christmas."
"May I see it?" Vesper asked. "So when I'm looking at picture frames I buy something that will enhance it rather than detract from it."
Severus nodded and ran upstairs and got his sketch pad. He had redrawn his pencil sketch of the Pegasus, Ravenna, in colored pencil for Lily because she had loved the sketch when she'd seen it. He showed the sketch to his grandparents.
"Sev, this is lovely and it very realistic," Vesper praised him.
"She looks very lifelike, Sev," Marius added. "I'm happy you've inherited Eileen's talent for drawing although she mainly used hers for drawing herbs and plants. She had been planning to publish a potion book containing her drawings and notes."
"I wish she'd been able to," Severus replied wistfully. "I wonder if her notes for the book are still around."
"I'm sure they're probably with the things we took from the house," Marius replied. "We didn't look at anything at the time; we just put it in storage in the attic. Perhaps we can do it tonight."
As he had promised Marius, Vesper went up to the attic that night after dinner and looked through the boxes containing the things of that were taken from the house. Since the Mill owned the houses their workers lived in, another family was waiting to move in so Marius and Vesper had to pack things quickly without sorting or really looking through things. It was Severus that found the folder with his mum's handwriting on the front of it and thick with parchment covered in Eileen's small, neat writing. A few of the paragraphs already had pictures drawn illustrating the plants, but most did not. It looked as if Eileen may have only started working on it seriously shortly before she died.
Severus hugged the folder to his chest. "I promise I'll finish this in honor of her memory."
"You do that, Sev," Marius said, both he and Vesper giving him a tight hug.
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Lily was in bed when her mother knocked on the door and came in to tuck her into bed.
"Mum, can I ask you something?"
"Do you think I'm pretty?"
"I think you're beautiful, Lily and in a couple of years, you'll be turning all of the boy's heads." Cinthy looked at her for a moment. "I think I may have to buy you a bra before you go back to school."
Lily blushed. She had started her monthlies in October. Her mother had explained to her about what would be happening soon last summer and given her the products for when it did happen. She also explained about some of the other bodily changes that would occur along with it. Lily had noticed immediately when her breasts started to get bigger. "Mum, do you think Sev likes me – not as a friend, but otherwise?"
"My goodness," Cinthy said. "What brought this on?"
"Hogwarts has a Yule Ball every year for fourth years and up. It was on Saturday night. Alice and I were watching the older girls come down to meet their dates and they were all dressed up and looked beautiful. I didn't think anybody would ask me to go because I have frizzy hair and all these freckles, but Alice said Sev would because she could tell he was nutters about me."
"You know friendship often does develop into other things and Sev is getting to the age where boys start to notice the girls around them. We've always thought Sev was well raised, he's very intelligent and has excellent manners so if he does express an interest in you other than just friendship, I don't think we would discourage him."
"But he's so handsome he'll probably have bunches of girls chasing him and won't even notice me."
Cinthy laughed and kissed the top of Lily's head. "I wouldn't discount what Alice told you." She got up. "Goodnight, Lily."
Cinthy went into her bedroom and sat down at her vanity and started to brush her hair. Paul came out of the bathroom. "Everything okay with Lily? Seems like you were in with her longer than usual."
"Just some girl talk," Cinthy answered with a smile. "Our daughter is growing up."
"Not too fast, I hope," Paul answered, pulling back the covers and getting into bed.
"No, right on schedule I'd say," Cinthy answered. "But what are we going to do about Petunia? I couldn't believe what she said about Eileen at breakfast."
"I think we need to have a no holds barred talk with Mrs. Pussett. I think we need to lay down the law that she's not to be saying that kind of garbage around our daughter."
"And if she continues to spout it despite our wishes; Agatha will have one less friend," Cinthy promised.
"However that still doesn't solve the problem of Petunia's jealousy towards Lily," Paul said.
Cinthy sighed. "I never told you, but a few days before Lily left for Hogwarts last year I was cleaning Petunia's room and I noticed the corner of a letter poking out of the drawer of her desk. It was on the same type of paper as Lily's Hogwarts letter. I know I shouldn't have read it, but I couldn't imagine why Petunia would be receiving a letter from Hogwarts."
"What did it say?" Paul asked curiously.
"It was a letter from the headmaster. Apparently, and I don't know how she knew where to write him, Petunia had begged him to allow her to come to Hogwarts with Lily. He replied back as much as he would have enjoyed having both she and Lily, Petunia wasn't magical so she could not attend the school as it was set up only for magical people. He said he was very sorry and wished her the best of luck. It was a very nice letter, but it must have been a blow for Petunia."
"And Petunia blames Lily because she's magical or blames us because she isn't," Paul concluded.
"And that's not something we're going to be able to make right no matter what we do, Paul," Cinthy replied.
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Vesper was looking in Flourish & Blotts the next day. Conor stood far enough away to give her some privacy, but close enough to act if she was in any danger. She spotted a book the staff was just putting out on the shelf entitled, Famous Potion Masters throughout History. She picked it up, leafed through it and concluded Sev would love it. She stopped suddenly as an idea occurred to her. She was certain Lily probably needed a suggestion about what to get Sev for Christmas. She looked at the price of the book and saw it was 5 Galleons. That might be a little expensive for Lily to manage so she decided to pay half and advise Seaman Blott's he was to suggest the book to Lily for Sev and only charge her half price. She also bought a book called, Advanced Charms for Lily. Sev had told her that Lily excelled at Charms and had helped him go from an Acceptable to an Exceeds last year. She went on her next errand that was purchasing a frame for Severus' picture. She found the perfect one in the art supply store where she always bought Severus' supplies. She also bought some matting board that would make the colors in the drawing stand out. She had subscribed to three magazines for Dorian, Transfiguration Today, Quidditch International and Quidditch Illustrated although she was a bit doubtful about their February issue which always featured scantily-clad young witches flying on various new broom models. It might be a bit risqué for an almost fourteen year-old.
She had already bought Marius' gift, a complete set of 16th century Wizard Law books. She'd also gotten him some of his favorite teas, and a special gold pocket watch to denote his years as a lawyer.
When she met Marius for lunch she noticed right away that he was alone. "Where is Leif, Marius?"
"I sent him to do some investigating for me on that matter we discussed yesterday morning. If Potter and Black were involved with that I want to know so they can be properly punished."
"They should be expelled," Vesper said. "What about the problem with Ashburton and Bottsford?"
"They were told when their term is up; they are to offer their resignations or we would release their names and acceptance of Charles Potter's bribes to Minister Bagnold."
"Good! I cannot believe these Gryffindors anymore. They seem eaten up with hatred!"
"Well, you can blame Riddle and his followers, the majority of whom are former Slytherins, for that. Our proud house name may never recover!"
"Not as long as those wretched Potters have anything to say about it," Vesper said. After lunch Vesper finished her shopping. She stopped at Madam's Malkin's to buy the dress robe for Lily, but decided to get it in a sea mist green rather than the emerald green she'd been looking at previously. She had Madam Malkin add both a lengthening and expanding charm in the chest area of the robe. If she was any judge Lily was most likely going to be a well-proportioned young lady.
She finished her shopping by stopping at Slug & Jiggers to buy a decorative wooden box containing the most commonly used potion ingredients for both Sev and Lily.
When she returned home she checked on Sev and found him completely absorbed in his studies. Greymalkin was sound asleep on Severus' bed. She tip-toed back downstairs to hide her gifts before Severus could spot them.
Mitzi came into the room and announced, "An owl has come for you, Mistress. She is waiting in the kitchen."
"Thank you, Mitzi," Vesper said. She followed Mitzi out into the large kitchen where the owl sat patiently waiting on the sill of the window. The note it carried was from Lily saying she was going to be in Diagon Alley on Saturday morning and she asked for suggestions for a Christmas present for Severus. "Perfect!" Vesper said. She quickly wrote a note back, suggesting the title of the book she'd found and sent Lily's owl back to her. She also wrote a quick note to Seaman Blotts letting him know Lily would be in Saturday morning and sent it off with Callista.
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Lily loved going to Diagon Alley. When they entered the Leaky Cauldron, Tom greeted them cordially and opened the passageway for them. Paul and Cinthy were still rather astounded by the whole idea of a wizarding society living secretly side-by-side with their own. She took her parent's hands and dragged them in the direction of Gringotts. She had received their permission to withdraw a small amount from her saving account there. She had been saving up her allowance all year long, but it still wasn't enough to get presents for all her friends.
Paul and Cinthy waited upstairs while the goblin took Lily down to her vault. Lily came back looking a bit green in the face. "Are you all right, Lily?" Cinthy asked.
"I will be, but if I can sit down for a few minutes, Mum, Dad," she said.
"Of course," her father said.
"I did not like the ride down to my vault!" Lily said. "It's like being on a roller coaster only the track's not as wide as a roller coasters is and there's only one speed – very fast!" After a few minutes she felt better and went over to the Exchange counter to exchange some of her Muggle money for wizarding money. They went first to Flourish & Blotts to buy the book for Sev that Vesper had suggested. Mr. Blotts himself helped her and the best part was the book not even three Galleons! At Scribbulus Everchanging Inks she found all kinds of magical Christmas ornaments so she bought a Snitch ornament for Tav and Caddaric because they were seekers. It would fly around the Christmas tree. For Dorian and Frank she bought Quaffle ornaments that would also fly around their trees. For Remus, Irene, and Peter she bought new quills and colored ink, for Reg she bought an ornament that was an emblem of Slytherin House; she also bought one for Sev too. For Emily she bought a picture frame ornament so she and her mum could put her dad's picture in it and hang it on their tree, and for Jane she bought an attractive notebook she could write her Quidditch moves in so she could remember what worked and what didn't. After they left Diagon Alley, they went into Muggle London to a record store so Lily could buy Alice another Beatle poster. She bought a set of pretty barrettes for Petunia.
When they got home Cinthy made dinner and afterwards Petunia and Lily helped her clear up. Paul had brought the tree in and set it in its stand while they were straightening up the kitchen. Her parents brought the Christmas decorations up from the cellar, opened the boxes, and started to decorate the tree.
"Maybe you should have bought one of those magical ornaments for our Christmas tree, Lily," her father remarked. "It would have been interesting to see one of those …what did you call that gold ball with wings?"
"A Snitch, Dad," Lily replied as she threw tinsel on the tree.
"It would have been interesting to see it flying around the tree."
"Oh, right," Petunia said sarcastically. "So the neighbors could come over and think were all freaks."
"Petunia," Cinthy warned.
"No, Mum, it's okay. Tuney's entitled to her own opinion," Lily said.
When they finished decorating the tree, Paul plugged it in and shut off the lights. They all admired how beautiful it looked. Lily excused herself and went upstairs to her room. Guinevere was back from delivering the ornaments. She would send her out tomorrow morning with the quills and ink and finally the Beatles poster which was inside a cardboard tube and gaily wrapped.
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Severus and his grandparents were eating dinner when Black Leif reported back to Marius about what he'd found out. Marius told him to sit down and have some dinner and then report his findings.
"I found out this Warty has a younger mate, who lifts wallets and purses from magical and non-magical folks alike, and goes by the name of Mundungus Fletcher. He was attempting to peddle some uncut emeralds to Warty, but Warty wasn't having any of it. He took off like the hounds of hell were after him!" Black Leif said grinning. "If this Mundungus Fletcher is the person who stole the emeralds out of the hourglass then he's made a bad mistake because he's oversaturated the black market with the emeralds and nobody wants anything to do with them now that they know Magical Law Enforcement is keeping a close eye on things."
"Mundungus Fletcher? That a familiar name. I once prosecuted him for stealing Maude Aikenworth's purse. He was seventeen or eighteen at that time and I convinced the Magistrate to give him community service with Maude rather than imprisoning him. It wasn't one of my better decisions because he ran off and we never could find him again."
"But Grandpa, how will you prove he stole the emeralds at Potter's and Black's behest?" Severus asked.
"No problem there, young Master," Black Leif replied. "This Mundungus is the kind of person that would sell his mum down the river if it would save him from going to prison. Once MLE gets hold of him, he'll sing like a phoenix to save himself!"
"Even if he admits he did it at Potter's and Black's behest nothing will happen to them. Dumbledore will be back so they'll be untouchable again. He won't allow any punishment for them," Severus pointed out. "He'll just say it was a boyish prank and pat them on their heads."
"I can assure you, Sev that he won't be doing that. Aiding and abetting a criminal is a serious crime. To have stolen that many emeralds he had to be either let in some way every night by those two or he was staying within Hogwarts' walls with their connivance."
"We'll see, I guess," Severus said. Despite his grandfather's assurances, Severus didn't really believe Potter and Black would be punished. Dumbledore had enough power and influence in the Wizengamut to make the entire case vanish without a trace.
A/N: Hope everyone liked this chapter!