Lily eyed the lion-head doorknocker suspiciously. She couldn't quite decide whether it was safe to knock. Normally she wouldn't hesitate, but not only did it belong to a wizarding family - who took it for granted that inanimate objects did not always behave the way they were supposed to - but more importantly, this doorknocker belonged to the Potters.
Mr. and Mrs. Potter were nice enough, but Lily was more concerned that her boyfriend, James Potter, might have modified the doorknocker as a joke. Even more likely was that Sirius Black, James' best friend and the biggest prankster at Hogwarts, would do something like that. He, Lily knew, was spending the entire summer at James' house.
Still, it would not do for Lily to stand on the steps of Lyonesse, the Potter's home, until someone noticed her. Her sister, who had given Lily a lift, was long gone. Lily wasn't surprised; Petunia despised magic in all forms. The only reason she had consented to give Lily a lift to Lyonesse was because that was the only way her parents would let her have a car for a week so she could go to Blackpool for holidays with her friends.
"You, er, aren't going to bite me, or anything, are you?" Lily asked the doorknocker. "I'm going to knock and I'd really appreciate it if you didn't."
The lion remained silent so Lily carefully raised her hand and rapped on the door. Much to her relief, the lion only purred contentedly at the attention. It was a few moments before Mrs. Potter came to the door.
"Lily!" she exclaimed, when she saw who was there. "What are you doing here?"
A little alarmed at the reaction, Lily said, "I know James told you I'd be here around noon, and I'm sorry I'm late, but Petunia, my sister, that is, left a little later than I thought she would. I hope you weren't waiting."
"Oh, I wasn't," Mrs. Potter told her, opening the door wider and helping Lily with her trunk. "In fact, James actually told me you weren't coming till tomorrow, so I wasn't expecting you yet."
Lily stopped abruptly, almost dropping her end of the trunk.
"Here," Mrs. Potter said kindly, taking out her wand. "Let me take that."
"I told James today, the 27th," Lily said, letting Mrs. Potter charm her trunk into floating a few feet above the ground.
"Somewhere along the way your owls must have got crossed, because James said you wouldn't be here until tomorrow."
"I'm sorry," Lily apologized. "I didn't mean to come by unannounced."
"Fiddlesticks," Mrs. Potter said firmly, leading Lily up the main staircase. "I just don't have your room made up, that's all. And that won't take two shakes of a wand to do."
She set Lily's trunk down in a room painted a rich forest green. Smaller than Lily's room at home, it was still a good size. The bed was bare, but Mrs. Potter quickly remedied that by conjuring up some bed sheets and a white and green patterned quilt. Lily looked around the room. With a dainty dressing table in one corner, a full-size mirror on the wall and a small set of drawers nestled by the bed, it was a pretty little room and she liked it instantly.
"My room's just around the corner," Mrs. Potter tittered away cheerfully, "and James and Sirius are both up on the third floor. Remus and Peter will also be sleeping there when they come, but we thought it best if you sleep down here."
"Thank you," Lily said.
"James and Sirius are out, unfortunately, doing Lord knows what. I don't know what time they'll be back."
"That's okay," Lily said. "I'll find something to do until then. I can unpack."
"Actually, if you wouldn't mind, I've been meaning to talk to you and I can't do it while James is around," Mrs. Potter said. "Come down to the kitchen with me, will you? I've got something in the oven and I don't want it to burn."
Wondering what her boyfriend's mother wanted to say to her that couldn't be said in front of James, Lily followed Mrs. Potter into the kitchen. Even though she had only been to Lyonesse once before and didn't know her way around it very well, Lily could have easily found the kitchen on her own, simply by following the delectable aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting from the room.
Mrs. Potter opened the oven door and looked at the pie inside with a critical eye. "Ten more minutes," she announced, shutting the door again.
"It's my baking day today," she explained when she saw Lily look around at the counter, which was covered with cookies, pies and pastries of all imaginable sorts. "I thought that since all of James' friends were going to be around, it was best to stock up beforehand."
"Do you need any help?" Lily asked, more out of politeness than anything else. Cookies, she could manage all right, but anything more complicated than that, she either ruined or burned.
Thankfully, Mrs. Potter said that she was fine. She sat down at the table and motioned for Lily to do the same.
"Now keep in mind that I'm not condoning this," she began. "But I was your age once, and I'm not so old yet that I don't remember what it was like."
She paused, but Lily didn't know if she was expected to say anything, so she patiently waited for Mrs. Potter to continue.
"Your parents are Muggles, aren't they?"
Mystified, Lily nodded. She was sure that Mrs. Potter already knew that and wondered why she had asked.
"I'm not sure what they use, and, no offence to them or to you, but I'm sure they aren't as reliable as our methods. I couldn't talk to James about this, obviously. I love my son, but he is a man, and men rarely think about responsibility and repercussions under those circumstances."
"Er, what circumstances?" Lily hated to interrupt, but she feared that if she didn't, she would never know what Mrs. Potter was trying to tell her. "What are you talking about?"
Mrs. Potter blinked. "Why, birth control, of course."
Lily felt herself go red and knew that if she looked in a mirror, her face would be darker than her hair. "I'm not - I mean, we're not - James and I - " she stammered.
"I'm glad to hear that, dear," Mrs. Potter said. "I didn't mean to imply anything, but you and James have been going out for a year now and sooner or later, you will. And as much as I'd love to have grandchildren, I'd like it if both you and James were out of Hogwarts first, at the very least."
"But we can't - not at Hogwarts - the rules - " Lily was still struggling, and losing the fight, to be coherent.
"Like anyone cares about whether it's against the rules or not. You're forgetting who my son is. I've received more owls about James than I thought they sent."
"Sirius has had more," Lily said weakly.
"I don't doubt it. Alone, they're bad enough, but when they're together . . . " Mrs. Potter shook her head. "They've been quite the handful."
"He's been here all summer, hasn't he? Sirius, I mean."
"Yes," Mrs. Potter answered. "We thought it would be better than letting his poor grandmother try to deal with him. I've had him over often enough before, what with his parents - " She visibly cut herself off and there was an awkward pause. "But I won't speak ill of the dead," she finished stiffly.
Lily would have liked to know more, but she didn't think it would be tactful to ask. She knew very little about Sirius' home life before his parents had died, mostly because neither he nor James would speak of it. From what she did know, she gathered it wasn't ideal. Luckily, the buzzer went off, breaking the uncomfortable silence. Lily noticed that the timer had switched from 'almost ready' to 'hurry up and get this pie out before it burns!'
"You do like blueberry, don't you?" Mrs. Potter asked Lily, taking the pie out of the oven. "James said you did."
"It's my favourite," Lily confided.
"Good. It's too hot now, but we can have it after dinner. Well, then," she said, setting the pie onto a cookie rack so it could cool off, "I have something for you. Wait here."
Mrs. Potter left the kitchen, coming back a few minutes later with a fine gold necklace with a small talisman on it. She handed it to Lily.
"This is very pretty," Lily said. "Thank you."
"It also prevents conception," Mrs. Potter told her. "Wear it as often as you can, preferably always. It's one of the most effective talismans that I know of. In fact, when you decide you are ready to have children, it often takes two or three months for the effects to wear off. However," she added, growing sterner, "if you and James do find yourself having sex and you haven't been wearing it for at least a week beforehand, there is a charm that I can teach you that works almost as well. It's very easy. Non concipio."
"Non concipio," Lily repeated dutifully.
"You don't even need a wand for it. But as I said, the necklace works the best. Although the charm's reliable enough, it doesn't always work. And if you want to be extra careful, you can use more than one method at a time, including any James might know."
"Thank you," Lily said, still very embarrassed. That had been just about the last conversation she had ever expected to have with Mrs. Potter. She hadn't even had it with her own mother, who didn't believe in pre-marital sex and thought abstinence was the only acceptable form of birth control.
"It's no problem, dear," Mrs. Potter assured her. "Besides, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Here, let me help you with that." She took the two ends of the necklace from Lily and fastened the clasp.
"Thank you," Lily said again, tucking the necklace under her top. She didn't want anyone, especially James, to see or recognize it.
"You're welcome," Mrs. Potter said kindly. I know what it's like, not knowing what to do. My mother decided that that wasn't something a proper young lady knew. I'm just lucky my grandma didn't agree with her and gave me this necklace when I was a bit younger than you."
"Is it very old, then?" Lily asked.
"Yes. It's been in my family for generations. The old ones work best, you know. I wouldn't trust anything you could buy in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade these days."
"Maybe I shouldn't take it, then," Lily said, her hands going to the back of her neck. "I mean, if it's been in your family for so long."
"Fiddlesticks," Mrs. Potter said. "If I didn't give it to you, who would I give it to? I don't have a daughter and it certainly won't do James any good."
"If you're sure," Lily said doubtfully.
"I'm sure. I'd be offended if you didn't take it."
"Okay, then," Lily said, neatly folding her hands on the table.
"Would you like some tea?" Mrs. Potter offered. "Something to eat?"
"Tea would be nice, but I'm not very - " Lily was interrupted by the sound of a door opening and then slamming shut.
Both women turned in the direction of James' voice. "Mum!" he cried. "We're back."
He and Sirius came straight into the kitchen, probably tempted by the wonderful smells of the baked goods. They both went to the counter immediately, not even noticing Mrs. Potter or Lily.
"Mmm," James said very eloquently. "Cookies." He took two and stuffed them into his mouth.
Meanwhile, Sirius had gone to the pie. "Is this blueberry?" he asked. "I love blueberry."
He was just about to stick his finger into it to test the filling when Lily said sternly, "Don't you dare, Sirius Black. The pie's for dessert."
James choked on his cookie, a few crumbs falling out of his mouth. "Lily? What are you doing here?" he asked thickly. His mouth was still full of cookie, so it was hard to understand what he was saying.
"I've come to visit you, remember?" Lily said acidly.
"Yeah, but you weren't supposed to come until tomorrow."
"No," Lily disputed. "I said today."
"No." James shook his head. "I know you said tomorrow. I distinctly remember reading the 27th."
Sirius, who had been trying to sneak a taste of the pie while Lily and James were arguing, started to snicker. Even Mrs. Potter looked amused. Lily, though, was dumbfounded.
James, looking around at them, demanded, "What?"
"Prongs, you twit, today is the 27th," Sirius said in his usual tactful manner.
"No it isn't. Today's the 26th. Tomorrow's the 27th, the day Lily was supposed to come."
"Check the calendar, you idiot." Sirius hit him upside the head and James, unable to let that pass, punched Sirius in the shoulder. They probably would have started brawling if Mrs. Potter had not stepped in.
"Enough," she said with a surprising amount of steel in her voice. "James, today is the 27th and Lily is here. Sirius, it's an easy enough mistake to make. I seem to remember you trying to go to the Friday dance on Thursday night a couple of weeks ago."
"And James said the same things to me then that I said to him now. I was just returning the favour," Sirius said, unperturbed.
James had gone over to the calendar, still unwilling to believe he was wrong. When he got the final confirmation, his cheeks flushed slightly. "Sorry," he apologized. "I really thought you weren't coming until tomorrow."
"And the letter I send you yesterday, saying I'd see you today didn't give you a clue?" Lily asked.
James shrugged. "I just thought you were confused."
"You just thought I was confused," Lily repeated in disbelief. "Unbelievable."
"How thick are you, Prongs?" Sirius asked.
"Shut up, Padfoot."
"Shut up, Padfoot."
"I said, enough," Mrs. Potter repeated, a finality in her voice that neither James nor Sirius dared to challenge. "Why don't you go show Lily around the house, then owl Remus and find out when he's coming."
"He's coming tomorrow, mum," James said in a tone that suggested that he had already told her that several times and was sick of repeating himself.
"Now, would that be one of your tomorrows, or a normal person's tomorrow?" Sirius asked with the innocent look he had perfected in his first year.
"Oh… right. Perhaps I should send an owl to Moony."
"And just what do you know about a normal person's anything, Sirius?" Lily asked.
"Very funny Lily." Sirius said. Unfortunately, that drew Mrs. Potter’s attention to him. He had been inching his way closer to the pie, trying for a third time to taste it.
"Scoot," she said, but not angrily. "All of you. Out of my kitchen before I set the ghoul on you."
They left, but not before James and Sirius pilfered a dozen cookies right from beneath Mrs. Potter's nose. As they were climbing the stairs up to the third floor where James' room was, happily munching on cookies (James had very graciously offered Lily one of his own), Sirius commented, "You know, it's so much easier getting food from the house elves. They can't give it away fast enough."
Saturday, July 14, 2001
The characters don't belong to me. You all know that. You all know that they belong to the wonderful author that we all know and worship, J.K. Rowling.
Likewise, I'm sure some of you recognize Lyonesse. I'm sorry; I just couldn't help myself.
Thanks to my beta readers for helping me whip this into shape.