Over the course of the next few weeks, Annie being signed to a top team became something of a running joke. It seemed to Lily like every other time she walked in the Walrus, Annie told her that she’d been signed.
The first time, Lily’s heart jumped into her throat before she saw the tell-tale smile tugging at the corner’s of Annie’s mouth. Since then, she’d learned not to take Annie seriously.
It was for that reason that Lily’s only reaction was to laugh when she was met with, “I’ve been signed,” as she ducked under the counter one morning.
“Liar,” she said easily, and Annie grinned back.
“One day I won’t be,” she countered. “Then you’ll need to tell me all your secrets.” Lily snorted, and Annie jerked her head toward the back. “Come on, we need to change the water. I need your brute strength.”
Lily exchanged a quick hello with the girl sitting behind the till on her way to the back, but inwardly, she was cursing herself for being so idiotic about refilling the jugs early on.
In some ways, it would have been a relief to share her secret with Annie. At least then she could use her wand.
But even Lily knew that breaking the Statute was probably a pretty bad idea. Among other things, it would mean having to go home and face her brothers joking about who was going to land in St. Mungo’s next and her cousins talking about the nest of acromantulas here or the dragon pox outbreak in France or whatever it was this week.
As far as Lily was concerned, ignorance was bliss sometimes.
When Edwin heard about their agreement, however, he didn’t seem to think it was funny at all. In fact, he seemed downright alarmed.
“Lily, do you know how close she is to that?” he said one evening just as they were finished with Rainbow Road on MarioKart.
Lily just shrugged. This wasn’t a conversation she really wanted to have with him, and since reading the dragon pox book, he’d warmed considerably to the Wizarding World and was much more willing to talk about it. At this point, Lily was really starting to miss the days when he’d flinched whenever she pulled out her wand to make the water boil faster or to clean up the table.
“Do you?” he pressed, and she sighed. Edwin, she had discovered, could be a lot like her brother Albus sometimes. They were both like dogs with bones when they really latched onto something, and Edwin seemed to have developed an obsession with this entire thing that she couldn’t really understand.
“I don’t know,” she hedged. “Look, I’ll make something up. Or something.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Or something?”
Lily bit her lip. “Well...” she drew the word out, and his eyebrows rose. “I- er- well, I was thinking of maybe just telling her the truth.”
Edwin stared at her for a second before rubbing his face. “Lily, aren’t you not supposed to do that?” he asked tiredly.
“Not technically.” He let out a snort, and she amended the statement. “Oh, fine, have it your way. No, I’m not.”
“So why would you?”
Lily knew that her cousin was only trying to help her. She knew that he was doing a lot for her just by allowing her to indefinitely invade his space, free of charge. She even knew that his newfound fascination with the wizarding world was probably ultimately going to do their living arrangement a lot of good.
But right, she was having a hard time listening to the part of her that was telling her not to go off at the only family member she had who she was still talking to right now.
“It was just a thought,” she muttered.
Edwin stared at her for a minute, and then put his controller down on the table. “Lily,” he said gently, and she looked away from him, her eyes falling on the loop Princess Peach and Toad were still making around the map. “I don’t want to be mean,” he continued, apparently unperturbed that she was refusing to make eye contact. “I’m glad you like my friends, and I’m glad that getting away from your family seems to be doing you a bit of good.”
This conversation was quickly taking a turn that she didn’t like at all. She wished she hadn’t said anything. “What’s your point?”
He sighed. “Look, it just seems like a really stupid idea to me to break your law. I don’t know how the wizarding world works, but it seems like that’s probably a pretty important one.”
“I said it was just a thought,” she said irritably as Toad went over the edge and began to fall through space. “I won’t, okay?”
He didn’t say anything, and she finally looked back at him. He seemed to be considering his next words carefully. After another moment, he said, “If you miss your world that much, maybe you should be thinking about going back.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “I don’t want to. I don’t want to deal with it all.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to deal with lunch with my great-aunt tomorrow, but she’s coming to town and I kind of have to,” Edwin responded. “There are a lot of things that I don’t want to do. Being an adult means doing them anyway.”
It was times like this when Lily was uncomfortably reminded of how young and inexperienced she was in comparison to everyone around her. They’d all been on their own for a few years now, and she... well, she’d gone between Hogwarts and her parents’ house.
“It’s just really stressful,” she said. “I told you about it, you know why I wanted to get away from all the visits to St. Mungo’s and the doom and gloom stuff in the Prophet and-”
“Yes,” he interrupted. “I know. But sooner or later, you need to stop hiding.”
She flushed. He was as good as calling her a coward, and she didn’t like that at all. She was a Gryffindor. She wasn’t a coward.
“Fine,” she snapped. “I’ll leave. Maybe Annie will let me stay with her.”
Edwin considered her for a moment. “Lily,” he said finally, “I’m not kicking you out. I’m just saying that I don’t think you’re being fair to your family. They must be worried sick.”
“Well, they’re not being fair to me, either,” she countered angrily. Even to her ears, the comeback sounded immature, but it was also true. Her father and her brothers and her cousins all didn’t think anything of going on about the latest dangerous situation confronting them at the dinner table, or over tea, or even during Christmas. She knew what they all did for a living, but she was tired of being confronted with it day in and day out. Didn’t he understand that?
“Yeah, well, sometimes that’s life,” he said. His voice was a little harsh, and she winced. “Lily,” he continued, softening his tone a little, “I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I just-”
She got up quickly. “I have to go,” she said.
“Anthony and Jack will be back with the food soon,” he pointed out, and she shrugged.
“I’ve lost my appetite.” She strode toward the door, ignoring her cousin’s attempt to talk her out of it. Tears were beginning to rise in her eyes. She hated crying in front of people - and anyway, she’d had enough of people yelling at her to last a lifetime.
On her way down the stairs, she bumped into Anthony and Jack, who were both carrying large bags that smelled strongly of curry.
“Where are you going?” Jack asked curiously as she brushed by them. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“I’m fine,” she said in a strangled voice. “I’m just going to take a walk.” She continued down the stairs, and she heard a quick, muffled conversation between the two boys before one of them started down the stairs after her.
She didn’t stop, but after a moment, Anthony caught up to her. “Hey,” he said. “What’s going on?”
Lily shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself. She didn’t think she could speak without bursting into tears, and they were already beginning to make their way down her face. She didn’t want to make it worse.
He sighed as they started down the steps of Edwin’s building, and after a moment, he reached out and grabbed her elbow. “Stop,” he said, and reluctantly, she did. “What’s wrong?”
He glanced around. It was just starting to get dark out, and the only people around were a man pushing a baby carriage further up the block and several older women hobbling down the street, presumably on their way to the church around the corner. “Come on, let’s sit.” He sat down on the steps, and after a moment, Lily joined him. “What’s going on?” he repeated.
“Edwin and I j-just had a fight.” Her voice caught in her throat.
He looked at her for a minute, and then produced a tissue out of his pocket. She took it, dabbed her eyes, and then blew her nose. “About what?” he asked.
“He just...” Lily trailed off.
“He just?” Anthony prompted when it became clear that she wasn’t going to continue.
“He thinks that I’m not being fair to my family,” she said after a moment. “And that they’re worried about me.” She hesitated for a moment, but when she glanced at him, his brown eyes were sympathetic, not judgmental. “He also thinks that I need to grow up.”
Anthony considered that for a moment. “Yeah,” he said finally. “That sounds like Ed, all right.” Lily stared at him, and he looked up at the fading orange sky. “Look, he’s my mate and all, but sometimes he’s a bit thick.”
Anthony shook his head and looked back down at her. “Well,” he started, “the thing about Ed is that he’s... well, he’s very responsible and sure of himself, you know?”
“So he doesn’t always understand it when people don’t do the responsible thing.” Anthony put his arm around her shoulders comfortingly. “I mean, yeah, he’s right, you are being a little irresponsible and immature right now.”
She snorted. “Thanks,” she said, but she wasn’t really offended. It was clear that Anthony didn’t actually mean it - at least not the way Edwin did.
He grinned. “But that’s okay. Lily, we all act like that sometimes. Edwin’s just a responsible, straight-laced freak of nature.”
That got a true giggle out of her. “He kind of is, isn’t he?”
Anthony nodded. “Hate to say it, but...” He screwed up his face for a minute in thought. “Actually, wait, no, I don’t hate to say it. It’s true.”
“Thanks,” Lily said after a moment.
“Feel better?” he asked.
“A little.” A loud laugh cut through her thoughts, and she jerked her head around to find the source. There was a family she vaguely recognised as living in the building across from Edwin’s climbing out of their car further down the street. As she watched the two boys begin to argue about whether they would watch the Chelsea game or the Arsenal game, she felt a brief sense of longing.
She missed her brothers sometimes. Despite their stupid obsessions and careers and all of the stress and tension they always carried with them, she missed them.
And she especially missed what they all used to be.
“What?” Anthony asked, and she shook her head to clear it.
“Sorry,” she said. “I just... I was thinking about my brothers.”
He nodded wordlessly. “You miss them, huh?”
She glanced over at the family again, who were climbing the steps to their house. “Yeah,” she said softly. “I do.”
He shifted, and after a moment, he produced another tissue. She took it and blew her nose again.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him. “I feel much better now.”
“Good.” He smiled back, and after a moment, he leaned in to kiss her.
A/N: Little cliffhanger for you. :P
I've said this in previous chapters, but just to cover my bases, MarioKart is a real Nintendo game that's been made for a lot of different consoles, and Princess Peach and Toad are both characters you can use in many of the versions. Arsenal and Chelsea are both London-based football clubs.
I hope you liked this chapter, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts if you would be so kind as to leave me a review. :) Thank you so much for reading!
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