I was beginning to hate weddings. Seriously. Most everyone loves a wedding- the excitement, the anticipation, the love, the flowers, the cake, the dancing, the everything. It was all very adorable and fluffy, and to be honest, it made me want to vomit at some points. Don't get me wrong, the first two or three or five or even ten weddings I attended within the past twelve years were fun and charming and all of that, but now that I'd lost count of just how many weddings I'd attended in the past decade, I was beginning to grow a bit tired of them. But this is what happens when one has sixteen cousins and two brothers, not to mention friends.
Today's lace and satin shindig was for my cousin Angie, short for Angelina, who was marrying a rather attractive Muggle named Nigel Jones. I hadn't met him before today but he seemed perfectly nice and was very easy on the eyes. Go Angie. Of course, he was also probably slightly insane because he was willingly marrying into the Weasley clan, a feat that most people didn't undertake unless they were possessed, whether by love or by spell. But I was happy for Angie. Really, I was.
The ceremony part of Angie and Nigel's wedding had been short, which was the way I liked them. My best friend, Ashtyn, is Catholic and her wedding had been an hour and a half long complete with a full mass. Weasley wedding ceremonies were never that long. Now we were well into the reception part of the wedding and it was more like a sense of deja vu than an actual party, considering it was quite similar to the receptions of my various other cousins.
I practically jumped out of my seat at the sound of my name. For the past ten minutes I'd been staring at my third slice of cake, knowing I really shouldn't be eating it, and ignoring everything around me. Mum says my habit of tuning out the outside world is going to get me sacked from a job one day, but that has yet to happen. Tossing my fork onto my plate of half-eaten cake, I looked up to see that my brother, James, had just sat down across from me. He had that look on his face that meant he'd had at least three firewhiskeys.
“James,” I said. “Enjoying the drinks?”
“Very much,” James said with a grin. “Enjoying the cake?”
“Very much,” I said. “Have Angie and Nigel left for their honeymoon yet?”
“Nope,” James replied. “They're on the dance floor. So where is... Shane?”
“You mean Sean?” I asked with a groan. “We broke up last week.”
“Ah, right,” James said and took another sip of whatever it was he was drinking.
Sean and I had gone out for nearly five months before I figured out what his baggage was. I had a real skill of dating blokes for long periods of time only to discover that there was something about them that just made me cringe and need to break up with them immediately. For Sean it was the fact that he was not actually a Healer like he said he was, but in fact he'd been pretending to have his brother's career at St. Mungo's. In reality, Sean specialized in bumming Galleons from his brother and living on various people's couches until they kicked him out. I'm sure you're wondering why it took me five months to figure that out, but hey, everyone makes mistakes, right?
“What was wrong with him?” James asked.
“He was pretending to be his brother,” I said flatly.
“Classy,” James said. “You sure know how to pick them, Lily.”
“Shut up,” I muttered. “You're not one to talk.”
James was a perpetual bachelor. I didn't think he'd been in a relationship for longer than six months and even that was a stretch. Mum always says he's the reason for all her grey hairs, believing that he's going to give her grandchildren who live throughout all the British isles but never marry any of their mothers.
“At least there's Al, I suppose,” James said, draining his drink.
Albus, my other brother, was 31 and had been going with the same girl for nearly three years now. Of course, they both spent most of their time traveling the world for work and hardly ever saw each other for more than a few weeks at a time, but still. Albus remained reliable in his love life. James and I did not.
“Good old reliable Al,” I said, stabbing my cake with my fork.
“Well, I'm off to go find a woman who isn't related to me,” James said as he stood up. “If I don't return, then good night.” He laughed.
I giggled. James usually managed to find someone to go home with at every wedding we attended. “Night, James.”
Alone again, I thought. I preferred it that way, actually. I didn't have much desire to join everyone on the dance floor and I'd reached my two drink limit for the night. Any more and I'd surely make some decisions I'd regret in the morning.
I turned to see that some relation of my aunt Alicia, Angie's mum, had sat down next to me. She was a very old woman dressed in a bright blue dress and she brandished a cane. Her hair was done up in one of those beehive old woman hairstyles that had gone out of fashion years ago. She grinned at me, revealing quite a few missing teeth.
“Lily Potter!” she exclaimed. “Yes, you must be next! You must be what, thirty by now?”
I cringed. This was the thing about weddings. There were always old relatives who I didn't really know, who seemed to know all about me, who declared that I'd be the next to get married. I hated it. I'd contemplated doing the same at funerals, telling the old relatives that they were next, but I think that would be frowned upon.
“Maybe,” I replied. It was my standard answer. The first few times it happened I'd reply with 'first I have to find a bloke,' but that usually resulted in my being set up with random men.
“Oh, just you wait,” she said as she patted my knee. I still hadn't figured out who she was, exactly.
“Lily, Angie's going to throw the bouquet!” my cousin Rose shouted as she passed me on her way to the dance floor.
Rose is now my only female cousin who is not yet married. The only difference is that she isn't cynical about the whole situation, despite the fact that she's almost two years older than I am. Rose could probably come up with ten different reasons as to why I'm so put off by weddings, given the fact that she's a psychiatrist, but I prefer not to know the deep issues I have.
“Get up, Lily!” the lady said. “Hurry!”
I groaned. I'd never once caught the bouquet at any of the weddings I'd been to, which was probably a statistical anomaly given the sheer amount of weddings I'd attended. I wasn't superstitious so I just didn't see the point, but it was an excuse to leave the table and thus, the old lady.
The amount of women gathered to catch the bouquet had dwindled over the years as my female cousins married. Now, it was just Rose, myself, and a few of Angie's friends and cousins on the other side of her family. I stood toward the back, not making much of an effort. Angie got up on top of a chair, turned to face the opposite direction, and tossed the bouquet back over her head.
The girls in front of me held up their arms and started pushing each other out of the way while I stood in the back, not really paying much attention. I then realized that the bouquet had sailed over everyone else and before I knew what had happened, I'd held out my arms and caught it. I caught the bouquet. I, Lily Potter, the girl with the aversion to weddings, had caught my cousin Angie's bouquet.
There was an eruption of cheering and clapping as my face steadily grew to match the color of my hair. Angie was cheering the loudest, jumping up and down now that she was back down on the floor. The whole thing was kind of ridiculous. According to superstition I'd be the next to get married, but I didn't even have a boyfriend anymore. Rose at least had a boyfriend.
Nigel then tossed the garter into a sea of men, which was considerably larger than the women. My male cousins didn't seem to marry as quickly as my female cousins, for whatever reason. I'm guessing the reason was lack of maturity. Weasley men didn't seem to mature until far later than regular men.
The crowd of unmarried men parted and the bloke holding the garter was...James. Guess he hadn't gone home with someone yet. Awkward. I caught the bouquet and my brother caught the garter. This wasn't the first time this had happened, a brother-sister combo, but it still made me blush even more than I already was. James was laughing hysterically. I ignored everyone and went back to my table to deposit Angie's bouquet.
By the time I returned (I'd gotten waylaid by the old lady, congratulating me), Angie and Nigel were leaving for their honeymoon. I stood in the back of the crowd, clapping quietly. I was actually quite exhausted and just wanted to return to my flat. Now that Angie and Nigel had left I'd be able to do so without looking bad.
James was nowhere in sight so I found Albus instead and told him I was leaving. He wasn't nearly as inebriated as James was so he was probably the better option anyway. After that I located my clutch and my wand and left the marquee in order to Disapparate.
I felt an immediate sense of relief once I reappeared in Diagon Alley. The street was quiet due to the late hour, but the quiet was calming and a drastic but needed change from the loud, boisterous party that had been Angie and Nigel's wedding reception. I'd intentionally Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron so that I'd have about a ten minute walk to reach my flat, which was located at the other end of the street. The walk was nice and by the time I reached my flat I'd fully calmed down.
I pushed open the door to the building and walked the three flights of rickety stairs up to the very top, where my tiny, three-room flat was located. I dug out my key and stepped over to the door to unlock it, and tripped over a very large pile of something in the process.
The very large pile of something let out a yelp and I let out a scream so loud I probably woke the neighbors. I cursed the landlord for not replacing the dead light in the corridor and quickly lit my wand, shining it on whatever I'd just tripped over. It was Sean. Asshole Sean. Fake healer Sean. Sean who I'd never wanted to see again.
“Bloody hell! What are you doing here?” I shouted as I shoved the key into the lock and opened the door. I grabbed him by the tattered robes and shoved him into the flat, slamming the door behind us. “Explain!”
“Lily!” Sean exclaimed.
I turned on the light finally got a good hard look at him. I wasn't sure what exactly had happened to him in the past week, but he did not look good. His dark brown hair was matted on his head and he had about five days' worth of stubble on his chin. His robes gave him the look of being attacked by a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
“Sean,” I said flatly. “What are you doing here? We broke up. You pretended to be a healer for our entire relationship. Doesn't that ring a bell?”
“Lily,” Sean repeated. His big brown eyes reminded me of a dog my brothers and I had had when we were little. It was pathetic and sad. “Please, I'm sorry about that-”
“Sorry doesn't change the fact that you did it,” I said. “But I'm curious. What happened to your robes?”
“My brother won't let me sleep on his couch anymore,” Sean muttered. “I've been living on the street and the other night I slept in Knockturn Alley. Bad idea.”
I hated the fact that I felt sorry for him. “Seeing as you pretended to be him for nearly a year, I'm not surprised.”
“Lily, please. I love you,” Sean said.
“Get out, Sean,” I said. “I'm serious. Get out or I'll call my brothers.” I also hated the fact that the only reason I wanted him out quickly was because if he stayed any longer I'd let him stay the night out of pity.
Sean's face paled. I wasn't sure why the thought of my brothers put so much fear into the men I dated, but it always did. Personally, I didn't think of them as that dangerous, especially considering James owns a pair of boxers with pygmy puffs on them.
“Fine, I'll go,” Sean said as he opened the door. “But I'm going to get a real job. You'll see.”
“You do that,” I replied, reaching above him to open the door a bit wider.
“I love you, Lily,” he said as he finally went out into the corridor.
I slammed the door in his face. It might not have been the mature thing to do, but it certainly was satisfying.
The next day was Sunday so, in full Weasley fashion, I took advantage of not having to go into work by sleeping until noon. Very few Weasleys are early risers, Uncle Percy, Rose, and Bradley being the minority. But when I noticed that the clock said noon I figured I'd better get up and do something productive. My flat needed cleaning and I was fairly certain the only food in the fridge was a package of cheese and a half-empty container of hobnobs.
I crawled out of bed and stubbed my toe on my dresser as I left my tiny bedroom, like I do every morning. The bedroom is so small that it really only fits a bed, but I managed to squeeze a small dresser in there, too, but it was nearly blocking the door. The rest of the flat was similar to the bedroom, in that it was too small. The kitchen only had room for a fridge, stove, sink, and a few cupboards. The den contained a couch, table, and one lamp. It was small, but it was home and had been since my best friend, Ashtyn, got married a few years ago. Before that we'd shared a larger flat down the street.
I stumbled into the kitchen and grabbed a kettle for tea. A day was never a good day unless it started with tea. That had been my motto since I was about ten and it had worked so far. I turned on the tap and nothing happened. No water. Groaning, I took the kettle into the bathroom to fill it up there, but there was no water in the sink or the shower. Awesome. The water was off.
This was not the first time something like this had happened. The landlord enjoyed fixing things without giving any notice to the tenants until the moment he turned the water off, when he would put an illegible note on everyone's doors. I stomped over to the door, opened it, and found a note. I managed to decipher the scrawl and found out that the water would be off for a full twenty-four hours. Perfect.
The first time this happened I'd spent the night with my cousin, Hugo. Hugo has always been my favorite cousin and we've always been best friends, from the moment we were born, all through Hogwarts, and up until now. But Hugo was a bad choice for when you needed a place to stay for the night.
Hugo had been married for five years and had that exact same number of children, whom he stayed home with all day while his wife somehow managed to be a successful solicitor while being in a practically constant state of pregnancy. I wasn't sure how she did it and figured she must run solely on caffeine and possibly firewhiskey (at least during those few months when she hasn't been pregnant or nursing). But Hugo loves staying at home with the kids so I can't fault him for that. However, I do now know that there's no such thing as a free night at Hugo's. Whenever I stay there I'm put in charge of at least two kids and wind up more exhausted than I'd be if I hadn't slept at all.
Ashtyn is still in her “honeymoon” phase with her new husband, although I'm thinking her honeymoon phase will last her entire marriage. But the point is that it is very awkward to spend the night. Very awkward, indeed. I did it twice and never again.
That left me with James and Albus, unless I wanted to try more of my cousins or my parents. My parents were a definite no since they'd tell me I needed to move out of such a place and surely the landlord is breaking the law by not giving any notice, which he probably is. But I didn't want them to make a huge deal out of it because no one ever wins when up against Harry Potter and I didn't want to be “that person” who always goes running to her parents with her problems. James was a no just because of the revolving door of women. Okay, I have to be fair. I exaggerate that a lot. Really, I do. He's not that bad. But the night I stayed with him was a night he came home from the pub with a random girl and I sat huddled on the couch all night wishing James had a flat with thicker walls.
This was now the fifth time and I had absolutely no desire to sleep on James's couch again, and I'd sooner go to Hugo than Ashtyn, but I had no desire to spend the day babysitting his children. It was a good a time as any to try Albus's flat for these types of situations.
My mind made up, I threw on some clothes and hurried to the Leaky Cauldron for a necessary cup of tea, a bit of breakfast, and the use of their loo. Then it was off to Albus's flat, which was located in another part of London, very close to St. Mungo's.
Albus had lived in the same flat since he graduated from Hogwarts, with the same flatmate, his friend Matt from school. Albus's girlfriend had essentially moved in with them two years ago and her presence had made the place a bit more livable. The two of them were slobs (okay, Al more than Matt) before Becca got there but now their flat was always reasonably clean.
I knocked on the door and stood back, waiting for someone to answer. After two minutes I knocked again, a bit louder. I was just starting to figure out which of my cousins I'd most like to ask to spend the day and night with when the door finally opened.
Matt stood there, looking like he just woke up, and looking worse than James did after a night of drinking. He'd always seemed quiet to me and not the sort to stay up all night at a pub, but maybe I didn't know him quite as well as I thought I did. It wasn't like we spent a whole lot of time together. He was just my older brother's best friend.
“Lily?” he asked as he rubbed his forehead. He really didn't look good and I wondered if perhaps he was not hungover, but just ill. “What time is it?”
“One-thirty,” I said. “Is my brother here?”
Matt shook his head. “No. He had a mission. Left early this morning.”
That would explain why he didn't drink much at the wedding, I thought. None of us know exactly what Albus does for a living, since we don't have the proper clearance with the Ministry, but it's probably dangerous and requires him to go on missions all over the world for weeks at a time. Dad was the only one in the family who knew exactly what he did, but even he didn't know where Albus got sent on each of his missions.
“Oh,” I said. I hadn't thought of Albus not being there, but that was pretty dumb of me. “Are you okay? You look a bit ill.”
“I'm fine,” he said quickly. “Is something wrong?”
I sighed. “It's nothing. It's just they turned off the water in my flat and it won't be back on until tomorrow morning. I was going to see if Al wouldn't mind me staying on his couch, but since he's not here I'll find one of my cousins.”
“Who's at the door?” came a voice from inside. I recognized it as Becca's.
“It's Lily,” Matt replied.
Two seconds later Becca was standing behind Matt, smiling at me. Becca was very beautiful and very tall. Standing behind Matt, she could still see since she was probably five or six inches taller than he was. Her hair was chestnut brown and perfectly straight, which always made me jealous. Mine could never decide if it wanted to be wavy or straight and usually decided upon some weird combination which never looked right, especially now, after not having been washed for a day.
“Lily,” Becca said. “What's up?”
“Just looking for a place to stay since the water's off in my flat until tomorrow. But Al's not here so I'll go find somewhere else-”
“Nonsense!” Becca interrupted and reached over Matt to grab my arm. “You can stay here. I'm here until tomorrow morning, when I have to go to New Zealand, and Matt's here so there's no reason you can't just stay here.”
“Er, okay,” I said as Becca pulled me inside and shut the door.
“It'll be fun,” Becca assured me.
I shrugged. Couldn't be any worse or more awkward than staying with Hugo, James, or Ashtyn. Might as well go with it. A/N: New story time! This is quite the deviation from my usual type of story, but I'm having fun with it so far. It's a companion piece to Beyond the Shadow, but you don't need to have read that in order to understand this. I hope everyone enjoys it!
A note to those who haven't read my other novels- I don't use the canon Weasley cousins in my Next Gen fics, because I started writing them before J.K. Rowling released the Weasley family tree and all my stories are related to each other. Here's a family tree of my own to help keep them straight. I didn't put any ages in because they aren't really relevant in this story, but all the cousins are older than Lily except Eddie, Angie, and the twins.