My alarm started beeping madly at half past seven. Quickly shutting it off, I leapt out of bed like a mad thing and ran around my room trying to find a pair of shorts and a top before either of my brothers made it out of bed and managed arrive and do something to me before I was even dressed – this was not an irregular occurrence, unfortunately, and I had to be ready to fight back!
It was then that I remembered that they were both gone – they had left, once again, for Hogwarts.
I was free – and the plan must be started!
So after this fast, slow, fast morning so far, I arrived downstairs in record time and slid into my custom seat at the breakfast table just as the toast popped up. Mum placed some in front of me. Smiling angelically, because it’s not good to get on Mum’s bad side, I chomped on it as fast as I could, almost choking (crumbs are so annoying), until Dad stuck out a hand to slow me down.
“Hey, Lils” he said gently, “what’s the rush? School doesn’t start for another few days, remember?” He smiled, and I grinned back, swallowing before answering.
“Yeah, I know. It’s just that Hugo and I have plans to make and I need to go find him so we can start before either Aunt Hermione leaves for work or Auntie Audrey arrives at one of our houses…” we simultaneously pulled the same distasted face, and Mum sighed with the same expression too.
“Honestly,” she said, sitting down next to me while neatly chopping an apple, “I swear that woman will be the death of me! I mean, she cannot seriously expect one of her sisters-in-law to have her over every single day. It was bad enough when Molly was gone, because she had Lucy to think about still – although she just lumped her off with you. She needs her own friends,” Mum frowned, while Dad nodded as he finished last-minute jobs around the kitchen. Mum had this week off so she could stay with my school’s timetable, as did Aunt Hermione. Dad and Uncle Ron had to work their five days as normal.
Dad was looking worried as I gulped my orange juice as fast as possible, and sat down again for a minute, jacket half on, as I drained my glass then hopped off my chair to go wash it.
He sighed. “Lily,” he said in that worried voice that adults use when you have done something they haven’t really come across before and feel they need to investigate, “are you ok? You shouldn’t feel lonely because Lucy and Louis aren’t here anymore, you know.”
Mum and I snorted at the same time, but she carried on from Dad anyway.
“You shouldn’t feel unwanted, or that you have to go out with Hugo every day, honey. There are only a couple of days when your Dad or I are not home, and I’m here all this week, ok? You can just stay in if you want to.” She looked kind of concerned. I suppose this sudden release of child pressure must be making them over-compensate on me. But seriously, I needed to have this talk later – I was already late.
Pulling on my shoes as fast as I could (we were going to the tree house, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered), I quickly said “Yeah, chill, Mum, Dad. I’ll be fine. Erm… I kind of have to go now, but we can talk later? Bye!”
I was out the door and running down the path before Mum even had the chance to tell me off for being rude and presumptuous. But it was 8:02 – Mrs. Boring could arrive and sweep me into her unwanted clutches at any minute, even at Hugo’s. We had to be long gone by that point.
I had kind of wanted to have the tail end of that conversation with Mum and Dad, but it could wait. We would be having plenty of family time now that Dad didn’t have shift work anymore and it was just me again, with Hugo’s lot too.
I always enjoyed doing things as a smaller group, although I loved the entire Weasley clan too. It was just easier to talk when there were less of you, and you had gotten rid of unwanted Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws.
I ran the small distance down the lane, past the hedge, and dodged through the gate into Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s house-path. I ran straight round the back, because it would be simpler and open, and only finally stopped when I stepped over the threshold.
Honestly, running after Hugo has made me quite fit – I wasn’t even panting.
It was a bit perplexing to find the kitchen empty of anyone though. Confused, I called out “Aunt Hermione? Hugo? Uncle Ron?"
Only Aunt Hermione appeared, her bushy brown hair tamed in a ponytail similar to mine. She was quite relaxed, and smiled when she saw me.
“Hi Lils. How are you? Is your dad off to work yet? – I need to get Ron off, sleepy head.” I nodded, and she promptly shouted “RONALD! Get down here NOW!” so loudly I would have jumped back outside if I wasn’t used to Aunt Hermione’s sudden shouts. Fortunately, I was expecting it, so I didn’t even flinch.
“Anyway, it’s lovely to have you here, as always. But why so early? Audrey, I presume?”
I nodded again.
“Yep, and normally I would just chance her, but Hugo and I have a lot to do today, as I’m sure he knows… plans to lay, that sort of thing. Erm, is he in the treehouse already?” I had one foot out the back door already, eager to go, but Aunt Hermione’s eyebrows were raised considerably and her face twisted with slight sympathy. Oh no, he hadn’t….
“He’s still in bed.” It was my statement, not a fact, and said in a very dangerous and dark voice. Voldemort had nothing on me.
She nodded weakly.
I stomped past her, through the kitchen and into the hallway, saying “Oh, he’s so going to get it this time!” pretty angrily. I distinctly heard Aunt Hermione mutter, “Serves him right. I hope this teaches him to get up on time…” as I stormed up the stairs at an alarming speed, passing Uncle Ron by on the way.
“Oh, Mo-” (giant yawn,) “-rning Lily,” was all I got from him as I jumped past him onto their impeccably clean cream carpet.
Sorry, Aunt Hermione – my mucky shoes left brown footprints right over it, and she COULD just do a scourgifying spell, right?
I ran down and around the corner, halting only when I came to Hugo’s door. I paused, and put my ear to the door, checking to see if he was actually up or not. Alas, he was breathing deeply, so I straightened up, braced myself and threw myself through the door.
It smacked into the wall as I hurtled towards Hugo’s bed and hovered over him, whispering, “You have exactly three seconds to get up, or you will pay dearly”.
Of course, he was properly sleeping, so my warning wasn’t heard, and I stripped the blanket off him. All that Hugo did was roll over sleepily and make a face.
I grabbed a jug of ice-cold water from his table and started to trickle it down his leg, starting from his feet upwards. When it reached his knees, Hugo shivered, opened his eyes and yelped. I was standing pretty close, with my menacing face on, teeth bared and eyes slitted.
He shuffled backwards, but I just raised my eyebrows at him and chucked the rest of the jug over his head and torso.
“Argh! Lily!” he shouted, grumpy himself now. “What was that… oh, shoot.” He had seen the time, and sense.
“Up. Now.” I yanked him up by one arm and forcefully pulled him downstairs, him trying to reason with me behind. I was hearing none of it.
“It’s your own fault!” I threw over my shoulder as we ran into the kitchen. Aunt Hermione was standing there, trying to suppress a laugh as I threw a clean T-shirt and pair of shorts at Hugo from off the clothes horse, and sent him into the cloak room to get dressed fast, or else, while I collected supplies.
Meekly, Hugo obeyed – which is always best in these decisions. I have, apparently, inherited Mum’s temper.
I was stomping round the kitchen letting out tormented sighs as I ransacked it when Aunt Hermione let out a giggle. In way of explanation, all I got was “He’s so like Ron.” Well, if sleeping habits are anything to go by, yes.
Once the rucksack had been filled (which was pretty fast), I banged in on Hugo, who was fortunately shoving on shoes. Wordlessly, I dragged him into the kitchen, and quickly garbled, “Tell Mum I’ll be back later to talk with her. We’re coming back none too late,” to Aunt Hermione, and we were off.
The day had officially started.
As Hugo and I ran across his back garden, we looked at each other and knew where we were going: the tree house, the code name for which we would not use unless by ourselves, because otherwise that would give it away. Only Rose and Al knew its exact location, although our parents knew vaguely where it was, and a couple of our cousins knew there was one.
We preferred to keep it secret, though. It was us who had found it.
I remembered that day, as Hugo and I put on the burst of speed through the tiny orchard, and prepared ourselves that way to vault the fence. It went without a hitch.
We had been only seven or eight at the time; it was the year James had left for Hogwarts. Hugo and I had ‘accidentally’ wriggled through the hedge at the back of my garden and found ourselves in a large, golden field behind it. We had never realised it was there. Dotted around in this seemly endless field were small copses of trees, with lush green grass and cool shade underneath.
Through the next few weeks, Al, Rose, Hugo and I had investigated this field as far as we could, but somehow there was an invisible line we didn’t want to cross, to the larger copses of trees. For weeks, we stared at where we would go, from the safety of one of the smaller groupings.
Then, one day, Rose was sent out on a dare. We watched her stumble through the corn until she hesitantly reached the (seemingly huge) copse… and disappeared. After an hour, she didn’t emerge, and I was sent in after her (the boys were too cowardly, whereas I got over my fear enough to try to save Rose).
It was a whole new world in there: so cool after the hot sun, with lush, almost damp grass underfoot and a gentle breeze swaying the leaves in the trees. They were trying to talk to me, and I could almost make out their words…
The whole tiny wood had a magical feel to it, and all my fear vanished the second I set my foot in it.
All anyone would want to do was lie down or explore, but I had to find Rose. I wandered the length (only 107 strides) of the gathering, but I could not find her. I had called her, hating to dispel the beautiful air with my scratchy voice, but we had to find Rose!
After a few hours, I was starting to see ‘markers’ and points of interest in the wood, which helped me to know very roughly where I was; that giant stump was at the very middle of the forest, that ‘Devil’s Snare’ – like tree at the start of the south-eastern more boggy patch, the lightning-struck tree the very right-hand arm of the western group, the tree with a giant hidey-hole ‘rip’ on the left.
Then, just as the sun started to dip beyond the horizon, I fell upon her, quite literally, by accident.
It was a deep ditch on the north-eastern ridge, and I tripped into the two-metre deep ditch when someone called my name and I was entirely taken by surprise. After only hearing your own voice for hours, it is a little confounding.
Of course, the shouter was a weak Rose, who had sprained her arm and was unable to get out. Now, I was stuck too. She had heard my calls, but had already used up most of her voice shouting for us the first hour or so she was in here by herself. We were in a royally sticky situation; the sun was setting, and the adults would soon get extremely worried and be directed over here by our cousins. Then we would be banned from sneaking out here again, and our glorious wood could never again be visited!
Through a mixture of brute force, tree roots and Rose’s knees to stand on, I made it out. But Rose was still stuck.
Then, as we quietly talked about what to do, there was a sound behind me. I spun around, but it seemed like there was nobody there. I was seriously panicked now – it was dusk, and the house would be pretty distant already, without us coming out the wrong side and heading for miles in the wrong direction.
Then, I was so worried and inwardly pleading for help, my first signs of magic happened.
Blue sparks appeared around me, and a broomstick I had somehow summoned flew into my hand. I recognised it as James’ old one, from our house.
Gleefully, I hopped on and landed in the ditch, before helping Rose on very carefully, and slowly making my way back across the cornfield, toes skimming the tops, heading towards the bright lights and home. We were safe, and so was our secret!
We had agreed to give away as few details as possible.
The adults were pretty cross as we came home – even Dad – but they were glad we were safe. They had assumed we were in that field anyway, and we had arrived back just as Al and Hugo were about to spill that we were in a magical wood. The secret remained safe.
As I leapt over another dirt-clod, I remembered the day when we discovered the actual treehouse. That was an entirely different story, and a long one best kept for slow afternoons (but it had been me and Hugo, playing Sardines, who had found it and remained undiscovered for a day and night. This was when we decided stored needed to be kept here).
Albus had eventually spilt to Mum that we had found a treehouse, and we were angry with him, but it only made them more lenient (fortunately for him). They didn’t question us anymore, and were satisfied. The fact that they didn’t even know which copse it was in, let alone what the wood held, didn’t seem to bother them – extremely out of character, but if the point gave, who were we to question it?
As we finally came to our actual wood, Hugo and I slowed down. This was the point where all the adventures started, where it was our world that nobody could access. We were king and queen of this domain, and while Al and Rose were rulers too, we had made more changes (for the better) in the last year, and intended to make more too. They were mere prince and princess, while we… we were all-knowing scamps in this place.
I took a deep breath, and prepared to plunge in. We had gone in less over the summer, because Lucy and Louis had always been tagging along, but now, it was time to perform the Rite of Entrance.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, stretching out my arm to touch the bark of the Pathway Tree, when a voice rang out:
“Who goes there?”
My eyes snapped open and shot sideways, but it was just Hugo calling out. I huffed loudly.
“Hugo! You really scared me there!” I shot at him angrily. “AND you almost interrupted the Rite of Entrance!”
He shrugged, seemingly not bothered. “It just seems… different, you know? Like we’ll get up there and find all our stores gone, with someone else’s jumper and lunch on the floor, or something.” He frowned, uneasy. I knew what he meant though – the magic seemed interrupted or changed in some way, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I shrugged, and tried to sound optimistic. “Well, we won’t know until we get there. I’ll perform the Rite!”
I quickly did the special symbol on me, then the tree, then Hugo, then the cross on the tree. The sun seemed to come out, and get brighter, once it was done, and I sighed in relief.
“Let’s go.” We ran straight into the wood without looking back.
It was only a few moments later that we then arrived after the usual obstacle course had been cleared. I swung up the wooden planks nailed into the tree in no time (I didn’t really feel like the rope, branches or various other ways).
There were seven planks, then a large bough across (which was pretty useful, to be honest) and another five, before you nearly hit your head on another branch. You then had to pull yourself up onto it, and swing your legs around into the small room you find there…
When Hugo and I found it, it was like I said – an entire accident. We were trying to hide from Albus and Rose, who were trying to find us in this wood. It was a few months after discovering it, and James had just entered second year. We were pretty frantic, because we needed a fast hiding place as they were quite nearby.
Then, Hugo tripped and fell into some low branches that were bending down from above. He quickly picked himself up and was fine, but from higher branches, a pale blue nylon rope came tumbling down softly. It had obviously been looped up above, but been dislodged by the shaking lower branches, and fallen down right at my feet.
It was as if it was a sign from Merlin!
Without even hesitating to tug on it and check it was safe, I grasped hold of it in my hands and pulled myself up to rest my feet on the first large knot, before carrying on up. The physical labour was hard on my soft arm muscles, but knowing that this was a sure-fire way to win had me going.
The rope was looped and knotted around the first large bough, but we were quite far-out here. Fortunately, the rope carried on upwards and after a moments’ rest, I carried on climbing up with Hugo right behind me. We had a wordless agreement to see where it went.
In fact, when we sat on the second large branch, it actually went on a little higher, but only to the next branch a metre or two above us, where it stopped and was wrapped tightly and secured with a very fascinating and seemingly changing knot, as if you might learn how to undo it if you just looked at it long enough…
Well, we were pretty pleased when we were sitting there, and promptly high-fived each other, and settled down to wait. After about ten minutes of ‘boredom’ (pah, we didn’t KNOW boredom, compared to later), Hugo apparently doubted our resolve to stay up this tree and forced an unwilling me to enter into a pact in which we had to stay up this tree until they found us or DIE!
I agreed, stupidly.
When dark had fallen, I was feeling a lot less brave, and more than happy to just give up and go home. We had won, after all!
But Hugo insisted, and just about convinced me to stay up here. “We won’t be able to find our way down the tree, let alone back home!” He said. And in truth, it was too late now. We had to stay put…
I was ridiculously hungry. I had missed two meals, and a Weasley (or Potter, whatever) never misses one, let alone two! We weren’t going to get breakfast either.
“Look, Hugo,” I whispered, leaning into him, “Can we get down in the morning? I don’t know how to sleep in trees, and I want breakfast!” I had my pleading face on, but his remained blank.
“Lily. I am not going to break this most serious vow we have made! It was practically an Unbreakable!” he said sternly, and I shrank back. You died from Unbreakable Vows, I knew - and although I knew that this one had not been magically sealed, it still had death in it, didn’t it?
I was so scared! But I couldn’t be the weaker one. Lily Potter could be bossy, rude and controlling if she wanted. But she was never weak. I had to prove that to Hugo, or I would be getting jip for it for the rest of my life.
“Fine”, I snapped. It was just another adventure, and what was the fun in hiding behind Mummy’s apron all the time anyway?
Even then, I refused to be a left-behind.
But how was I going to sleep in this scary wood with nothing but leaves underneath me, when I was already sleepy? How was I going to make it?
If only I had known what was metres away!
*So… this is the first chapter! I wasn’t sure where in all this to stop it, as the “Who goes there?” line was meant to be the last, but I felt that it takes long enough for each chapter to go up (love to Validators for the shortness in comparison to what it could be, though), so why not add in another 1000 words? ;)
Hope you like it! I know that not much happened, but I started rambling a bit, and we’re almost at the start of Lily’s Grand Plan – I wanted it to have a whole chapter to itself, and although this chapter was originally meant to be just that, I had gone too far already.
What kind of chapter length do you prefer?