“Lily, love, do you know where the-?”
Lily hums noncommittally, rearranging the stack of books in her arms so she can dump them on the sofa, and passes Jim the container of lacewing flies he’s obviously looking for.
“Oh, thanks, love,” Jim says, pressing an absent minded kiss to her cheek that actually lands around her eye. “In the bathroom cabinet again? Sorry.”
“Along with the hotpot matches,” Lily says, handing those over too. “But they were my fault, I was using them to clean the tub.”
Jim pauses in lighting a match to toss under the small cauldron sitting on their kitchen counter. Well, to toss under one of the five small cauldrons (each of various shapes and slightly different sizes) sitting on their kitchen counter. The other four are simmering quietly on the stovetop, covered and finished, but this one is still bubbling away on a makeshift fire by the sink.
“Good thinking,” he says, before dropping the lit match into the small fire, which has the cauldron suddenly being engulfed in blue flames. He pops a couple of lacewing flies into the potion, which turns the flame to a nice lazy green that settles back down under the cauldron, and starts stirring it in a brisk counter-clockwise fashion.
Lily wanders back over the books she dumped on the sofa. “I’m looking for Felix Summerbee’s study: um… An Addiction to Happiness. His big investigation into potions abuse. Which book can I find it in? I need the original one, not the follow-up studies.”
“Uh, try Olesen’s Collection ,” Jim suggests without looking up from his work.
Lily begins rooting through the potioneers journals for the book in question, and then the phone rings. She pauses in what she’s doing, stands up straight, and looks over at Jim, who is looking over at her in bewilderment. It takes them both a moment to remember they have a phone.
Lily immediately goes over to the far corner of the room, where they keep the telephone on the top shelf of a bookcase away from as much magic as they can. She grabs a dining chair as she goes, so she can drop it in front of the bookcase like a stepladder, step on top of it, and actually reach the ringing phone. Jim can’t immediately pause what he’s doing to answer it, but he watches her out of the corner of his eye as he begins wrapping up what he’s doing so he can leave the potion to simmer.
They don’t get a lot of telephone calls. When they do, it’s usually because someone’s in trouble or needs to pass a word along, and they don’t have any means of communication besides a Muggle telephone booth. Even if it’s just going to be a message, it’s best to be prepared, because save for a few peculiar Order members, someone needing to resort to Muggle communication generally means trouble.
Lily picks up the telephone and sets it down on a much lower shelf, so she can kneel on her stepladder chair and answer it in a friendly, balanced, nearer-to-the-floor manner. Which is completely at odds to the cold feeling stirring in her chest, waiting to hear dark or desperate news as soon as she picks up the phone and holds it to her ear.
“Lily speaking. Who’s this?”
She waits for an answer and… doesn’t get one. The only sound is her heart growing a little louder in her chest.
“If that’s Caradoc again, please tell’im that Polyjuice still takes a month to brew,” Jim says, watching closely, switching to stir in a lazy clockwise pattern. “And that he can go hop a pot.”
Lily hums noncommittally, frowning, and presses the phone even closer to her ear. She thinks she can hear sounds, very faintly, but she can’t quite make them out. There’s definitely another end to this line. She tamps down on the loudness of her heartbeat and ignores the cold stir in her chest.
“Hello, is there anyone there?” Lily says.
Still no answer.
She thinks she hears someone say something, distantly. It sounds a bit like: “ What are you doing?”
“Hello, who’s this?” Lily tries again.
And then she flings herself away from the phone when the caller suddenly speaks very loudly, far too loudly for Lily’s startled heart.
“Please excuse me for just a moment!”
Lily looks over to Jim, who raises his eyebrows at her, clearly having heard that too. He shrugs at her and, her heartbeat storming inside, Lily very gingerly returns the phone to her ear.
“Excuse you?” she says.
There was something about that voice that was familiar. She couldn’t place it exactly, but she wouldn’t be surprised to know it belonged to someone she knew. It had sounded male and relatively young, besides being ridiculously loud, and she might have sworn she’d heard it not infrequently before.
But her question doesn’t get an answer, as the caller has apparently excused themselves without her actual permission. She presses the phone closely against her ear again, pursing her lips, and tries to make out the conversation she thinks she can hear happening in the background. There are sounds beyond the conversation too, distant like she wishes the cold stir and storm in her chest was, which make the voices difficult to interpret or distinguish.
“Who’s’it?” Jim asks.
“I haven’t the foggiest,” Lily answers, feeling a little frustrated. She doesn’t like being on edge.
“Maybe they’re one of those telemarketer people?”
If Lily listens very closely, she can hear what she thinks are sirens. Like the sort of sirens that belong to the police. If she weren’t literally and figuratively on the edge of her seat, she’d probably laugh at the mental picture.
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s it,” she bemusedly tells her husband.
Then she can hear muffled movements, before someone takes a deep breath and says:
“…Hello,” Lily replies, still amused at Jim’s suggestion.
She’s a little concerned, though, because this isn’t the same person who first called her and this new person’s voice is even more familiar. Still young and still male… and if Jim hadn’t been in the room with her, Lily might have guessed it was her husband speaking. The voice is slightly different, of course, but…
“Who is this?” she asks.
“…Harry. My name is Harry Potter.”
Lily takes in a sharp breath and repeats, “Potter?”
In the kitchen, Jim looks up from putting a lid over his potion, his eyes wide.
“Yes,” says the stranger.
Lily covers the phone’s speaker with the hand holding the phone and gestures at Jim with the other to get over here right now. She’s been under the impression that her husband didn’t have any living relatives. She’s also fairly certain that Jim had a grandfather, fairly well famous for his pro-Muggle activism during the height of Grindelwald’s power, named Henry.
“Jim, d’you know a Harry Potter?” Lily whispers.
Jim nearly trips over the kitchen stool trying to hurry over to her, catches himself on the dining table, and smoothly transitions the fall into sliding into the chair across from her. He takes a deep breath, runs a hand through his hair to fix it, and says with wide-eyed bewilderment:
“Do you or do you not know him?”
“…I don’t think I do.”
Lily purses her lips and narrows her eyes, and only has to wait a couple seconds for a better answer.
“I… might know someone who knows him,” Jim offers, rubbing the back of his neck and skewing his hair again. “But… I’d have to ask and they shouldn’t have our telephone address.” He looks uncertain about all this, and unhappy, and Lily doesn’t like it. “Did he… say he was related to me?”
“No,” Lily says, determined to find out.
She removes her hand from the phone’s speaker and leans towards her husband, so that Jim can lean in and better listen in to the conversation. It’s inconvenient, but the classics will have to do. She doesn’t know how to turn the volume up on the telephone, or if that can even be done, and while they don’t use their telephone often, they’ve found out from experience – and proximity to Sirius Black – that using magic around Muggle technology is asking for disaster.
“Well,” Lily says, as brightly as she can muster. “What can I do for you, Mister Potter?”
“I’d like… if we could… meet.”
Lily almost frowns at the sound of this maybe-stranger’s voice. He sounds so very much like James, but there’s a strain to him. The pauses in his speech aren’t at all helping the cold stirring feeling in her chest, which doesn’t at all like the look of intrigue and possibly wonder on Jim’s face.
Jim lost his both of his parents just this last summer, within days of each other, to a long and painful battle with Dragon Pox. Lily lost her parents the year before to a car accident and it was the loss of family that prompted her to reach out to what little family she had left, despite how she and her elder sister hadn’t (and still haven’t) got on in a number of years. Lily doesn’t exactly regret offering that olive branch to her sister, but she’s not had a great experiences with estranged loved ones and the last thing she wants is for Jim to open himself up only to get burned.
But… then again… Jim’s just about the only second chance that worked for her. Lily can believe that things might go better for Jim, just because he’s Jim – he’d never abandon his friends or family, and he’s good and clever and loyal to a fault. But as much as she keeps hope, she knows it’ll hurt that much more if this is some sort of trick.
“Oh?” Lily says, over all the stirrings under her lungs. “What about?”
There’s some sort of choking sound, before the maybe-stranger says, “It’s… it’s not very believable. I don’t… I don’t know how to explain it… not… not in person. ”
Lily and Jim exchange a look between them. Lily’s suspicions are all shouting trick, but Jim looks a different sort of thoughtful, like he just had something confirmed for him.
When they don’t immediately answer, the maybe-stranger named Harry comes back on the line, sounding more than a little panicked, or maybe just slightly out of breath for some reason. His attempt to explain himself doesn’t sound to be going very well, though.
“I’m…” he says.
“It’s about…” he tries.
And then there’s a sound that makes Lily and Jim both sit up and pay a little more attention, one of the phone moving about. Like someone dropped it, which wouldn’t be all that surprising by the struggle of the maybe-stranger’s explanation, or like it was snatched. There’s a soft couple of bumps, at least, before the line goes silent and stays that way without another word from Harry Potter.
Lily and Jim exchange another look. Lily raises her eyebrows at her husband, trying to prompt him to share whatever realization has dawned on him, but Jim keeps his mouth shut for once. He looks back at her and they share a moment of wondering what in the world is going on.
“Lily Evans?” says a new voice.
No, not a new voice at all, Lily realizes as she straightens in her seat a little. It’s the first voice again, the one that had shouted at her to hold on for a moment, now speaking at a much less ridiculous volume. There’s something about their accent that sparks intense familiarity, especially saying her name.
“Mister Harry Potter?” Lily responds, playing a little ignorant.
“No, I’m afraid I’m someone else,” says the new speaker, and doesn’t elaborate on that with the silence that Lily and Jim give him to speak. “My partner and I are in possession of valuable information and want a meeting with you and your husband.”
“Oh, what about?” Lily repeats.
She knows this voice! She knows she does, especially after hearing them speak more than a few words at a time at a normal volume. By the way Jim is frowning, she knows she’s not alone in hearing the jarring familiarity.
“Beneficial to the Order of the Phoenix’s cause, of course,” is all the new speaker says.
Lily doesn’t like the way this is headed at all, and the cold stirrings inside her chest agree. A stuttering stranger sharing Jim’s family name was one thing, but this has a different, darker foreboding to it. This is the sort of thing Lily was worried about when she first picked up the phone.
“How did you get this number?” Lily asks.
“No, how we got this number isn’t important.”
Lily would disagree. Stridently.
“Rest assured that it’s not commonly known and we won’t be spreading it.”
Lily is not assured, restful, or amused by this. Beside her, Jim looks concerned about this too. There’s not exactly a wide range of people who have their number and she’d be much more assured if this new speaker admitted who referred them. That he’s not suggests troublesome things.
“I don’t find myself assured, actually,” Lily says flatly. “How did you get this number?”
“…It’s a very special set of circumstances, Miss Evans.”
There’s something about the way this new speaker says Lily’s maiden name that she really, really doesn’t like. Not one bit. It sounds familiar and natural, and if she doesn’t figure this out soon, it’s going to drive her nuts.
“Mrs. Potter,” she corrects.
“Oh, Mrs. Potter, then. My apologies,” the new speaker says, not sounding sorry at all.
Lily purses her lips and taps a finger dangerously against the shelf. Unfortunately, hearing their voice wrap around her new last name doesn’t reveal them.
“ We would like to meet as soon as possible – alone, of course; today, most preferably – just the two of us and you and your husband,” continues the new speaker crisply. He sounds so very formal.
“Uh huh,” Lily says, unimpressed and unconvinced. “And why us?”
Jim gives her a look from the other side of the phone where he’s listening in, as though suddenly communing with the new speaker to give expression to their very pointed pause. Lily ignores the both of them. Just because one of the blokes is named Harry Potter doesn’t give them the reason why two strangers have their telephone number and have Order-crucial information to tell them.
“Because the information we possess is pertinent to you and your husband, of course,” the new speaker says, sounding annoyed, haughty, and very punchable. It makes something stir in the side of Lily’s mind, which she holds on to. “The name of my partner should have made that evident enough.”
“It makes it evident you know your way around a lie,” Lily answers without missing a beat. “How do we know we’re not walking into an ambush? Or being handed false information by… whoever you are.”
Unfortunately, the new speaker still doesn’t take the prompt to reveal himself.
“…I’d swear you a vow, but there’s a device in the way,” he says instead.
He still sounds crisp, controlled, and formal… but much less punchable. The humbled voice – but still sharp - it makes something click in Lily’s mind. Unfortunately for the new speaker, Lily has realized that the non-answer told her plenty by itself and it, in combination with a far too familiar voice, has revealed exactly who their mysterious caller is.
Very carefully, Lily raises a hand and places it over the speaking piece while a pause rests into the conversation. She makes eye contact with Jim and says very quietly, near mouthing it:
Lily’s main memories of him are of a thin and gloomy-looking young boy at all the Slug Club meetings, with very tense posture and a very forcefully polite smile. He’d watched her, out of the corner of his eye and looking away when caught, but he never spoke directly to her. There was always someone between them, one of them excusing themselves from the group conversation, and having nothing between them whatsoever to even begin a conversation if they had ever once even made an effort to speak to each other. At best, Lily had felt sorry for Regulus Black, and at worst, she’d resented him, disliked him, for the foul company he kept, the causes he clearly supported, and the hurt he rarely but very viciously caused Sirius.
Lily and Sirius have their differences, it’s true, but there’s something painfully familiar about having someone as close as a brother become estranged and twisted, cruel and apathetic, and choose power over being a decent person, much less a friend. Lily can… relate. Just thinking about it sends a whir through her thrumming heart and stirs up the cold at the bottom of her chest.
Jim raises his eyebrows at her, eyes widening, before he visibly considers it and clearly comes to the conclusion that she’s nailed it. Jim wasn’t a regular member of Professor Slughorn’s parties and meetings, but he wasn’t an uncommon guest either and he surely had far more opportunities to become acquainted with Sirius’ brother as Regulus’ elder brother’s best friend than Lily did as part of a club. Mostly, Lily hadn’t paid Regulus any attention at all.
Regulus sounds nearly just like Sirius – not quite, but nearly – younger and posher and more solemn. That’s probably who she was thinking of!
“We have to call Sirius,” Jim whispers.
Lily nods. Harry Potter is probably worth looking into, but Regulus Black is definitely worth dropping a boiling cauldron to look into. How does a young Death Eater have their phone number? Why is he keeping company with an unknown Potter? What is he doing now? What information could he have that’s “beneficial” to the Order and what does he want for it? What does he want, period?
Her instincts still scream trap, now on Sirius’ behalf as well as Jim’s, but sometimes the best way forward is through. She doesn’t have any plans to immediately leap into danger, but this is something that she’s going to have to see through by the sound of it. For Jim and for Sirius, both.
“Where do you want to meet and when?” Lily says.
At that, Lily expected their new caller, who was almost certainly Regulus Black, to continue onwards with smug formality and a collected, still suspicious meeting place. What she expected, however, isn’t what she got. Instead of a dangerous meeting place, there is a very distinct pause, and then…
“Please excuse me for just a moment,” Regulus says, stiffly, immediately followed by the muffling sound of someone covering the telephone speaker. This is followed by a long silence.
Lily carefully puts her hand over the telephone speaker and exchanges a look with Jim, who seems somewhere between bemused and worried. He has that adorable, uncertain half-smile on his face, but there’s a nervousness there, as he runs a hand up and down his neck and through his endearingly disastrous hair that is all his own fault.
“You should call Sirius now,” she says.
At the same time that Jim says: “I’m going to contact Sirius now.”
Jim grins at her, once he realizes they spoke at the same time, still nervous but less so. He pats the pockets of his trousers for his twin mirror, but doesn’t come up with it. He stands, checks his pockets again, and comes up with nothing again.
“Shit, must’ve left it in the bedroom,” he says, and goes to fetch it.
“What time did he check in last night?” Lily calls, as Jim disappears through the bedroom door.
Jim calls back to answer: “Oh, uh, not until nearly three, actually. He woke me up.”
“It’s not even noon yet, he’s probably still sleeping.”
“If I let him sleep through his brother using a Muggle telephone to call us, he’d never forgive me!”
“…For more reasons than one,” Lily mutters.
While she’s sure that Sirius would find his stuffy pureblood brother using a Muggle telephone funny, that doesn’t change the fact that Sirius’ little brother is a Death Eater and has been for over a year. Regulus Black, as quiet and naïve as he once seemed from a distance, is dangerous – and for more reasons than one.
Jim exits their bedroom, frowning, and says, “I can’t find it and I can’t remember where I left it last. Lily, love, have you seen it anywhere?”
“Are you sure it didn’t fall down the side of the dresser again?”
“No, I checked there,” Jim says, as he sits back down at the dining table again. “And I don’t want to summon it. Mum always said that’s how nice things get broken.”
Lily is about to reply when another muffled sound comes from the telephone, causing her to remove her hand from the speaking piece automatically, and Jim’s expression to shift as he leans forward again. Regulus Black’s voice comes back into her ear to say:
“The graveyard of Godric’s Hollow. One o’clock this afternoon. Alone.”
Lily finds herself raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips, and very barely manages to make a humming sound in consideration. Then she carefully slips her hand over the phone’s speaker and relays the message to Jim, who didn’t quite catch it. Jim frowns at the phone.
“That’s… creepy,” he says.
Which isn’t helpful, of course, but Lily can’t exactly say he’s wrong.
“That’s a very interesting place, Mister ‘Someone Else’,” Lily says into the phone. “But this is still all very… out of nowhere.” She definitely didn’t expect to be potentially setting up a meeting in a graveyard with the Death Eater young brother of her husband’s best friend this morning, that’s at least for certain while nothing else is at the moment.
There’s another brief pause, another muffling sound, and Lily and Jim are left waiting again.
“Who do you think he’s talking to?” Jim whispers.
Lily bites her lip and shrugs. On one hand, it could be this Harry Potter person. On the other hand, it could be someone actually known to them and a lot worse. It could be more than one person, too.
“Mrs. Potter?” the voice that is probably Regulus says.
Lily and Jim both lean in.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Regulus says this sentence with what sounds like barely restrained frustration. Lily, at first, feels much the same, because if that’s supposed to charm her into walking into a trap, she’s not really up to having this today. The only thing that saves the other Black brother from the sharp side of Lily’s tongue is Jim’s expression, which is too wide-eyed to be anything besides stunned recognition.
Lily covers the speaking piece of the phone and prompts him. “What?”
“That’s the phrase key to the Map,” Jim says, almost disbelieving. “That’s… no one should know that phrase has meaning – meaning to us… to me – besides Sirius, Pete, and Remus. And we lost the Map near the end of our seventh year. Filch confiscated it. We never managed to get it back before grad.”
It takes Lily a moment to remember what Jim’s talking about. If she remembers right, the Marauder’s Map was apparently a magical map that Jim and his mates made and used to avoid people, specifically teachers and other school staff, while sneaking around at night. It sounded like a masterpiece of charm work, especially for fifth-years, when Jim described it to her (bemoaning how it’d taken years afterwards to perfect it properly), but they’d been in the middle of N.E.W.T.s at the time, graduated soon after, and old school projects didn’t really come up again.
“Would one of you have told anybody about it?” Lily asks.
Jim runs his hand through his hair again. “No, we didn’t tell anyone. We promised.”
“Could someone have stolen it from Filch?”
“Yeah, but it would’ve taken them… Well, I guess he could be clever enough.” Jim’s eyes are unseeing now, staring off into distant thoughts. “We weren’t subtle with the names, either. Sirius’ brother would definitely know it was ours. I just can’t see the Map ending up in Sirius’ little brother’s hands, of all places. Filch has no idea what it even was, he’d never give it away. Last we saw, he’d locked it away and Vanished the key.”
Lily makes another considering humming sound. “So what’s more likely, then, that Sirius’ brother stole and unlocked your map, or that one of you told him the phrase?”
“I… don’t know,” Jim says.
Neither option is very appealing, Lily agrees. The first option suggests a whole world of unknown that stirs up that cold feeling in her chest and lets it sit uncomfortably in her lungs, while her heart thrums with unease all the way down to her stomach. The second is just the same, only the back of her head is now buzzing with frightening possibilities surrounding Jim’s mates.
She doesn’t like this at all.
Lily decisively removes her hand from the speaking piece and says very clearly, “Godric’s Hollow graveyard at one o’clock, you said?”
For the record, Lily doesn’t like this, but she can’t give up this opportunity, whatever it is. This could be so horribly dangerous, but it’s a very well-baited adventure. Jim doesn’t have any family left and Sirius might as well have none – like Lily, only much worse – and suddenly Sirius’ brother is calling them up with a Potter in tow? It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, but… second chances don’t come around for everyone. If she had even the slightest hint that a chance – that another chance – might come knocking on her darkened door… well…
That’d be something, wouldn’t it?