A/N: This ground has been trodden on before. This is my take on things. Thank you, Nicol, for helping me locate typos.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Lily sat unsteadily. Her perceptions were not as keen as they normally were, but she could easily tell that the establishment where she was seated, despite being a dim, blobby, dung hole, was a bar. The reason she was seated with a tumbler in her hand was because the bar previously mentioned fulfilled her most fundamentally important requirement she had for such a place -- it served alcohol. Considering that everyone knows all bars serve alcohol, this may seem to be an odd requirement to have. In Lily Potter's worldview, everyone else would be wrong.
Lily's thoughts on the matter are as follows: A bar should have more to offer than firewhiskey, deplorable rot masquerading as whiskey; butterbeer, terrible remnant of the Middle Ages where beer was all you had to drink and inanely targeted toward children; and that third thing that she could never remember. She knocked back her glass.
Her ideal bar would some decent beer on tap, more than one if she was lucky; a good collection of local and foreign liquors and sometimes beers; and for her all-around enjoyment, it should have a handsome man or fetching woman behind the bar capable of mixing acceptable drinks, or both.
Not that she would ever cheat on James; she loved James and she knew he loved her too. But there was no law against looking, and they'd long ago come to an agreement about what was allowed. He would never cheat on her either... at least he better not or his testicles would explode. Lily Evans had not been known as the scariest witch of her generation for being soft. She signaled to the bartender to go again.
The bartender, a congenial sort, poured her another glass and stood dutifully by as Lily held the glass up in a mock salute and then quickly drained it. "Reload."
"Hitting the whiskey a bit hard tonight, aren't we?" The bartender said in a concerned but not judgmental sort of way. Judgmental seriously cut into her tips.
"I can handle it," was Lily's unconvincing reply. "I've been dry for nine months. After what I've been through, I think I deserve a drink or two."
"Or two, yes. You've had five since you sat down."
"Shouldn't be a problem. I've done seven before."
"But not in at least 9 months, right? You might need to work your way up again."
Lily's eyes swam before her even as she was planning to contradict the overly concerned but not-at-all judgmental bartender. "I'll have you know--urk-- that I think I need a bucket...
One appeared before Lily so quickly to a casual observer it would have seemed like magic.
Lily Potter, feeling much steadier on her feet, stepped out of the ladies toilet and walked back to the bar.
"Yes, thank you." Lily replied.
Moments later, a steaming cup of a coffee and was set before her with all the trimmings.
With murmured thanks, the coffee was soon making its way down her throat. It was very good.
"If you don't mind my saying so," the bartender began, "you don't strike me as person out to celebrate."
Holding the warm cup between her cool fingers, Lily shook her head. "No, I'm not."
Jean thought on this for a moment, deciding how she wanted to approach this. "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Are you sure about that?"
"If it helps, you should consider that you came to a bar to drink. There are plenty of places to buy liquor but you came here where there is a person you can confide in."
"You're very good at this."
"It's a calling. I consider myself lucky that they actually pay me to do what I love." She picked up a clean glass and started polishing it with a bar towel. The glass didn't need it, but there was something comforting to patrons who saw her doing this stereotypical bartender task.
"My parents just died."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
She gave the glass another just-so polish, held it up to the light for inspection and then set it down with a little more noise than was quite necessary. She then picked up the same one and started polishing again.
"I think I'd like something stronger than coffee."
"Coming right up." She set down the tumbler she'd been polishing and with a smooth motion lifted a green bottle and poured a finger full into the small glass.
Lily picked up the drink and held it in front of her like all the secrets of the world were held inside.
"So, I can tell you're curious. Go ahead and ask."
"I make it a policy to know when I'm being too nosy."
Lily set down the drink. "No, no. Go right ahead. You're right that if I didn't feel like talking then I wouldn't have come to this bar. Ask away."
"Waited until you had something to toss in my face -you're one scary lady. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"Oh, loads of times."
"So, nine months..."
"A son. A beautiful baby boy. If nothing changes, then he'll have the same eye color as me."
"Ah, then congratulations. I was worried--"
"You were worried I'd lost the baby and that was why I was drinking." Lily replied in growing realization. "Tactful"
"It comes with the territory. I don't know what I would do if anything happened to my daughter."
The bartender with the chestnut brown hair fished a length of chain out from underneath her shirt to display a wedding band. "I like to keep it close to my heart when I bartend-" she paused for a moment and looked left and right as if checking to make sure she wasn't overheard. "-and to be honest, the tips are better when I don't wear it."
For some reason, Lily found this the most hilarious thing she'd ever heard and nearly choked on her drink.
"Now, now, no dying in the bar. Frank won't let me moonlight here if another one dies."
Getting her coughing under control, Lily croaked, "Another?"
"Well, that was a bit of an exaggeration. Mick's an older fella and one night after he came in for a few pints, he went and had a heart attack. Complained about heartburn, stiff shoulders, and everything else they warn you about since before he sat down at the bar. I didn't notice until he mentioned the tingling in his arm and saw how flushed he looked. I called for an ambulance and ended up having to perform CPR on him before the ambulance arrived."
Lily looked somber as she asked, "So… he didn't make it?"
The bartender was polishing a glass again. "Oh, he made it. Doctors made him quit drinking. He said he'd never forgive me for saving his life-" she paused to build up the suspense "-he still drops by from time to time to drink a soft drink, but I'm not always here."
"Oh." Lily said as she sipped at her drink. "Where are you normally?"
"Normally, I'm working with my husband at a business we own together. He's a dentist, in case it wasn't at all clear." She gave a wink.
Returning the wink and adding a smile Lily paused and then said, "I know it isn't any of my business, but why are you tending a bar if you own a dental surgery? This can't be anything compared to what you earn at your other job?"
Breathing deeply, the woman developed a kindly look to her face, one that seemed odd at her young age. "This isn't a job. It's a calling. I learned to tend bars when I went to University, and it gets in your blood after a while, I suppose. Additionally, I met my husband tending a bar, so there is a certain fond nostalgia to it." She pointed to the ceiling. "Now this bar is owned by an old family friend. He's like an uncle or maybe a funny old grandfather. He lets me bartend when the regular bartender can't come in to work and I enjoy the rare opportunities I get."
"You're good at what you do."
"Thank you, I strive to give uniform service."
"Lily Potter." She stretched out a hand.
"Emma Granger." She grasped the hand and gave it a firm shake. She had a good feeling about this one.
"Oh good, you're here."
The normally unflappable Emma Granger, bartender extraordinaire seemed slightly more flappable today. Lily couldn't say exactly why until her eyes settled on the odd hat perched incongruously on Emma's head. "Emm, what is that doing on your head?"
"Umm... keeping my brains from freezing?"
"Hah hah, very funny. How about you pour me a neat scotch, something from the highlands, and tell me the real reason you're wearing that eyesore."
With trained practice and professionalism, she deftly poured the drink and served it to coincide with Lily's bottom touching the seat. "You'd never believe me if I told you."
Picking the drink up and toasting to absent friends Lily commented, "You'd be surprised what I'd be willing to believe."
"You've never seen anything quite like this and even if you had, you'd never believe how it happened.
Lily raised an eyebrow and then set her empty glass back on the bar. "We're friends, aren't we?"
"Then let me be your friend. What IS under your oddly ugly hat?"
Sighing, Emma pulled the hat from her head. Strands upon strands of multi-colored hair streamed down around her head.
"You dyed your hair?"
"Yes." She said sulkily.
"I don't see what's so hard to believe about that; though, it must have taken forever to dye your hair so many different shades all at one time."
"I dyed my hair brown." She paused for a moment as if trying to find words. "I dyed my hair because it was so many different colors, but it wouldn't take."
"You heard me. It was because of my insanely colored hair that I tried to dye it brown. In fact, I tried to die it 6 different times before I gave up. I actually saw the brown slide off my hair onto the floor."
Lily blink-blinked for a second and then said, "Reload."
Diligently and with no wasted motion Emma refilled the glass with one hand. Then she picked up her hat and proceeded to stuff her wildly colored hair back away from prying eyes. "I told you."
Lily took a sip before saying, "Did your daughter turn anything else wild colors?"
"Yes, but-wait-how could you possibly know that?"
"Did I not say that you'd be surprised what I'd be willing to believe?"
"Ahh ahh, no buts. I'm your friend and if you're willing to have your entire worldview turned on its ear, then I think I can help you. Either that or you might be able to wait until your hair grows out and cut it, or worst case scenario you'll have to invest in a quality wig."
"You can help!?"
"Shh... Yes, I really think I can. Is there somewhere more private we can talk?"
"There's a room in the back, but I really shouldn't leave the bar unattended for very long."
"Commendable work ethic, but I think that if your daughter really was responsible for your hair looking that way, then we should probably go to your home. There are only two regulars here anyway, so I'm sure they'd understand if you said something had come up with your daughter."
Emma bit her lip as she sometimes did when she was mulling over an unusual course of action. Then she chastised herself that she had better stop doing that or her daughter was liable to pick up the same habit. "Right. Let me just go explain it to the gentlemen." She left her spot behind the bar but took two bottles of beer she had pulled from somewhere.
Several minute and two short explanations later, Emma was flipping the closed sign around and was holding the door open for Lily. "It's just a short cab ride to our home."
"Lead the way."
She looked at the mirror in her hand, raised a hand to feel her hair and make sure she wasn't imagining the return of her normal hair color. She looked over to her friend and the ornately carved stick in her hand. A wand she had called it. "And you're a witch?"
"Yes, I'm pleased to see you understand. Most people react-"
The hand mirror slipped from Emma's grasp and shattered on the ground as Emma fainted on the spot.
Lily sighed. "Yes, most people react badly when they find out about real magic for the first time." She prepared to enervate Emma and then she would fix the broken mirror, but then she thought better of it. Too much magic in front of one new to their world probably wasn't the best plan of action. She casually cast a Reparo and in short order the mirror was whole once more. An enervate spell later and Emma was enjoying a small role reversal as Lily poured her another scotch.
Emma had gulped the first glass down, but she nursed the second one. She had just been brought into a secret beyond anything she had ever imagined. Glancing down at the unbroken mirror that should have been in dozens of pieces; at least, that's how it should have looked if her ears weren't defective. She'd been certain she had heard it shatter as she was blacking out, but now it looked as flawless as they day it had been made.
Lily had power. That much was obvious. What was also obvious was that there were more people like her. More witches and possibly more warlocks, if she remembered her fairy tales. A secret of this magnitude and powers they could potentially have... well, she'd had no idea they existed. What might they be capable of doing to keep their secret? What might they be capable of doing to her?
"It's fine Emma. No one's going to harm you."
Suspicion tinged Emma's voice as well as burgeoning anger. "How did you know what I was thinking? Were you reading my mind?"
"In the spirit of full disclosure, I am capable of doing exactly that, but to answer your question, no, I did not."
"Then explain how you knew what I was thinking."
"Your eye was twitching, you were biting your lip, and you had a blank stare on your face. It takes very little of my considerable intelligence to realize that you were agitated and worried about the possible ramifications of being informed of an entire world populated by people, yes, people with magical powers."
Biting my lip? Okay, then that's plausible... Emma thought as she nodded uncertainly.
"Now, just to reassure you, though I do have the ability to read undefended mind, a discipline called Legilimency, I do not do so without permission unless there are dire circumstances."
"A matter of life or death, and this situation does not qualify."
She looked at Lily in her emerald green eyes. "All right then."
"Are we all right?"
"No, but we're friends, right?"
"Then we'll be all right. I just need to get my head wrapped around a new paradigm."
"So, why exactly did you seem so pleased to see me tending the bar?"
Lily pasted a charming smile on her face, though Emma noted the smile didn't reach her eyes. "Can't I be happy to see a friend?"
"Certainly, you can be happy to see a friend, but answering a question with a question and disingenuous smiles would suggest that isn't the reason."
"I did fix your hair, you know."
"Yes, and I'm grateful and I also thanked you for it." She paused as mulling over something. "I'm trying to figure out what you want to tell me but at the same time don't want to tell me. And believe me, I'm no mind reader."
"That's a relief. I had a good friend growing up and he was always trying to nose about in my head. Of course, with a nose as big as his, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised."
"Beak like a pelican?"
"Just so. I never had the heart to tell him, though, especially since he fancied me terribly."
"So James had some competition?"
"Oh, no, no. I've never felt that way about anyone aside from James." She sighed.
"So, then it was James you came by to talk to me about."
"What! How could you possibly know that?"
"You married young, right out of school, am I right?"
"Yes, though what that's got to do with anything, I haven't the faintest."
"And he was a bit of a rake…"
"And he's done something perfectly silly but he doesn't understand that."
"Now you're getting scary."
"Remember how you said I was, 'good at what I do'?"
"You weren't wrong." She took Lily by the hand. "Come with me to the kitchen and bring the bottle. This isn't the place to discuss the faulty male intellect."
"So his parents are pressuring you affiance your son to some witch?"
"Their word, not mine, but it's not quite how it sounds. The term 'witch' has no pejorative meaning in our world. It's used the same way non-magicals use the terms woman or girl."
"They really don't care for 'non-magicals', do they?"
"We're actually fighting a civil war right now between so-called Purebloods and those of us who aren't."
"Hmm…" Emma murmured as she gave her liquor a small stir.
"I knew from the beginning that the family I was marrying into had some history but apparently it is really rather extensive. His family goes back some thousand or more years of recorded history." -Sip- "His parents aren't in the best of health and they're feeling some pressure to assure the continuation of the family line."
"You'd think that since you've already delivered an heir they'd cut you some slack. Barring that, I'd think they'd want you to have another child as another potential heir rather than trying to get the one you already have engaged before he's even finished teething."
Lily nursed her drink. "Actually, it's funny you should mention that. Magical families seldom have more than one child per family. It bothered the heck out of me the first time I realized all my classmates were the sole child in their families."
"I'm assuming this is a big school…"
"Substantial but quite small in comparison to non-magical ones. It's up in Scotland."
"All single child families?"
"It's not an absolute rule. Sometimes a family will give birth to twins or the first child will be a girl and they may try for another child."
"Then that would suggest a monetary rational; inheritance and such aside from the line continuation."
"That's what I thought. I attended school with several well-to-do families and though it isn't spoken aloud often…"Lily trailed off and set her drink down as her pleasant, open face took on a more shifty and suspicious character. She glanced around as if afraid of being spied upon.
When Lily drew her wand, Emma held her breath. She realized she now had a much deeper respect for ornately carved sticks.
"Do you mind if I cast some privacy spells? I'll only keep them up while I'm here, but now we're delving into areas that I really shouldn't risk being overheard."
"Is there any reason I should say no?"
"None that I can think of."
"Then please go ahead. If safeguarding the existence of a secret world doesn't rate extra caution but what you're about to say does, then I'm on pins and needles in anticipation."
"Trust me, there is a very good reason I'm being extra cautious." She waved her wand in a complex pattern and added in a few well-placed flicks. Glancing about the room, though nothing seemed out of the ordinary, she then nodded her head as if to assure herself and then continued on with her story.
"There are some… what you might call… superstitions among the older magical families. Many have to do with childbirth. Now, I want you to understand that I don't believe in these wild superstitions, but I wouldn't even know about them if I hadn't gotten one of my former professors incredibly intoxicated during my bachelorette party."
"So she's trustworthy, I assume."
"Deeply so, and very knowledgeable about all things magical."
"So what are these superstitions?"
"Do you want to hear the one related to what we're talking about or just the most ridiculous one?"
"Ridiculous first and then we'll segue back into our previous discussion."
"They actually believe that newly magical children from wholly non-magical families actually steal magic from pureblood families. Supposedly, that's the reason the purebloods are having record numbers of squib children."
"And squibs are?"
"Oh, sorry. A squib is a person who is born from a magical family but has no magic of his or her own; exact opposite of a muggle born.
"And muggle is?"
"A non-magical person; though I don't use the term often because I feel it sounds degrading."
"And this theory is impossible because?"
"I suppose nothing is impossible, but the facts don't support it. If you look at all the information I've amassed, you would notice that squibs only appear in families that are considered pure, a family with all magical ancestors dating back several generations. Halfbloods, those of mixed backgrounds have no squib births."
"Sounds like a genetic issue. Inbreeding, perhaps."
"That's exactly what I thought. The evidence is quite compelling."
"More likely than babies stealing magic, I think."
"I'm glad we agree."
"So what other superstitions are there?"
"It's the secret reason why almost all families restrict themselves to just one or two children."
"Well, the purebloods believe that magic chooses the best traits of their ancestors for the firstborn. If there's a second child, then that child will be inferior to the first. And so on and so on."
"So, basically, what you're saying is that if you have, say, five children, then the fifth child will be scraping the barrel?"
"That's it in one."
"You said almost all purebloods follow the few children rule. Who doesn't?"
"An intelligent question," she said with a grin. It was a treat to talk with someone as clever as Emma. There is one such family, the Weasley family. They're considered blood traitors for their excesses. They've got six boys and another child on the way. I'm not sure but I suspect that Molly is trying desperately for a girl."
"Is there any benefit to having a girl?"
"Aside from the obvious attributes, in pureblood society they can be powerful tools to raise the wealth and prestige of a poorer family."
"Of which house Weasley is, am I right?"
"And does their current youngest seem substandard?"
"It's hard to tell since he's still young, but there's something about the way he looks up at you. It's almost as if he's got no clue about what going on around him and that's the way he'd like to keep it."
"There may be something to this particular superstition, then."
"Well, perhaps, but then again neither his father nor his mother are exactly first rate in terms of intelligence."
"That's a terrible thing to say, Lily."
"Yes, it is. And I'm even sorrier that it's true. There are very credible rumors that Molly was only able to get Arthur to marry her by using some sort of love potion."
"She sounds like a real charmer."
"Take the nosiest person you know and multiply it by a factor of ten and you'll just start to approach how insufferable she is." A much put-upon look appeared on Lily's face. "Also, for some reason, it seems that just because we both have red hair; she feels that we should be best of friends." A look of annoyance was now evident. "We have very little in common and she's quite a bit older than I am."
"Any redeeming qualities?"
"I've heard she's an excellent cook; though, due to her reputation of potioning her husband, I always abstain from sampling her food.
"You really think she snared her husband with a love potion?'
"I wouldn't put it past her. Oddly enough, I've heard her husband call her, 'a dab hand at potions'."
"And that's not illegal? I passed it off as a joke at first, but to forcibly make someone fall in love… it seems tantamount to rape."
"Exactly how I feel on the subject. When I was Head girl, I had to deal with a number of illegal potions. Once I intercepted some tainted chocolate meant for James. Fortunately his best friend ended up with them and not James."
"Fortunately? Do I detect some annoyance regarding this man?"
"Yes…" She said slowly. "I thought it seemed rather obvious."
"Ah, no. Sorry. Terribly bad, but completely unintentional, joke involving the fact that his name is actually Sirius. It's spelled like the star.
Emma gave Lily an unamused look which caused her to squirm quite satisfactorily for a moment. Briefly Lily wondered if Emma and Professor McGonagall might be related. "Right, moving on, you were telling me about a potential love potion user?"
Oh, yes, well, she also makes an angry dragon seem calm when she's angry about something."
"No, I've actually met dragons calmer than her."
"As in great big, scaly, ferocious, snarling, fire-breathing, eat you as soon as look at you, dragons?"
Lily paused and held up a hand and began mumbling to herself to tick off each of the criteria that Emma had listed. "Yes, you could say that."
"You mean there was some part where my description wasn't completely apropos?" She wondered hopefully.
"If by 'wasn't completely apropos' you mean spot on, then yes."
Images of what amounted to a winged tyrannosaurus huffed at her from her mind's eye. She could just make out the smoke rings. "I think I need another shot."
"Gladly." She poured another finger.
Lily held little Hermione in the crook of her arm. Her hair was so frizzy, what little there was of it, and Lily couldn't help herself. She nuzzled the child's soft hair against her cheek. Such a sweet little darling. Lily thought cheerily. Hermione looked to be a much younger version of Emma and Emma was certainly striking in appearance.
Not that Lily was herself lacking in the desirability department. She had attracted the attention of almost every wizard at Hogwarts, at one time or another, and even a few of the witches, though she personally didn't cast that way.
She looked at her reflection just barely there in the dimly reflecting window. She still looked marvelous in her opinion, and if her husband was to be believed, then she could cause him lose all thought if she sat with her legs crossed a certain way and delivered a naughty grin. Something to do later, I think.
Also reflected was the touching scene of James talking with intently with Daniel. His prized snitch was clasped tightly but his hands occasionally moved in flight patterns as he no doubt described either a tricky aerial maneuver or a previously played Quidditch match. Daniel really seemed to be getting into Quidditch. She pondered the possibility of inviting him along to an actual match; well, once actual matches were possible again. The war had severely impacted every Quidditch team except for the Chuddley Cannons. It seemed nothing would stop them from making their attempt at being the best worst team.
Emma walked in with Harry snuggling against her shoulder. His thumb positioned cutely in his mouth. Lily couldn't think of a better way to spend Halloween.
Halloween was, according to her old Arithmancy professor, perhaps the most magical of nights; though, Lily had some pet theories about solstices and her research seemed to suggest they were equally as potent.
It occurred to her that if Voldemort had been performing and was still currently performing dark rituals, as she and many of those in the Order of the Phoenix had long suspected, then tonight would be a particularly dangerous night for her and her family. She and James had been quite the thorn in the Death Eaters' sides and she was well aware of the existence of dark rituals involving young children. That was the only reason she had accepted Dumbledore's assistance to go into hiding.
Magic could do wonderful things, but it could also do terrible things. She shook her head to clear her mind and then felt Hermione grasping tiredly at the red strands. Quite a grip for one so cute, she thought with a smile.
Emma accepted her drowsy daughter into her other arm and left to put the sleeping children to bed for the night. Thoughts of hot mulled cider were dancing at the corner of her mind.
Lily went to close the curtain, but stopped as she spotted something outside the house.
Voldemort patted the rat condescendingly on the head. "You've done well, Wormtail. Wait here and prepare to cast the dark mark as soon as I return."
Unusual comprehension reflected in his eyes, for a rat, stared up at his master and the creature shook his head yes. He then hopped down to hide among the fence posts and to raise an alarm if anyone else should approach.
The house, a cottage really, was lit sedately. A satisfied smirk graced his pale face. His body, a complex contradiction of terms: withered but strong, gruesome yet revered, powerful though physically frail. The magic rituals had left his flesh pale, his pate hairless, and his nose just barely there. He could feel his body was now incomplete. Each time he performed the ritual, he felt himself become less of what he once was, but in his mind, he knew, he was certain, he was becoming ever again so much more.
He would be ruler of first Magical Britain, then Europe, and finally the world. He would succeed where all else had failed because he had realized the one great flaw in the methods of all who had sought to rule. Not only that, but he had also taken step to address that flaw. Emperors, Pharaohs, other lesser dark lords, they had all let their pathetic mortality stand in their way.
He had gone further along the path to immortality than anyone. One more sacrifice, one more pathetically pure soul and surely ultimate power would be his. Eternal life and ultimate power, nothing would stand in his way.
She turned, a look of alarm on her face, as her eyes took in the room. She caught James' eye and then she jerked her head up in a rapid movement. James clasped his wand.
Lily's eyes searched out Dan and then Emma. Emma nodded that the children were safely tucked in and Dan came to stand beside her.
James aimed his wand toward the door and his wife and prepared to cast as quickly as possible.
Lily's hand was on the door knob. She turned knob even as she felt magic wash over her.
The door exploded inward in a spray of splinters and chunks of wood. A formidable gust of wind preceded his entrance to extinguish all candle light, possibly displace carelessly handled wands, and disorient his victims.
Lord Voldemort raised his wand, the tip of his wand glowing a sinister green, and the final 'K' was poised on his lips as the spell tugged at his magic and his rage.
A high pitched scream could be heard.
The hat and her new skin coloring were perfect as she used a skill that was rarely needed- namely her excellent cackling ability.
The children jumped in fright and then quickly tried to crowd behind their guardian.
"Well, who have we here?" She paused for a moment. "My pretties?"
The children peaked out from behind. "A ghost, a pirate, a mummy, a clown, and a proper vampire. Not a sparkle in sight. I was just telling them that they need to make friends with some girls because their group isn't complete without a witch." Their adult said.
"Yes, indeed. I quite agree. A witch is just what any group needs, but these are such wonderful costumes. "
The mother smiled. "Thank you. You're costume looks wonderful as well. I've never seen a more perfect example of stage makeup. You must have spent forever getting it to look just right."
Lily smiled modestly. "It was easier than you might think." She could hear James smothering a laugh behind her. "I'm glad you came. We have so much candy still and we were worried there wouldn't be any more trick-or-treaters."
"Oh, a late start this year, but we know there will be at least a few more trick-or-treaters behind us."
"Excellent." Lily beamed. She loved Halloween and hoped that, if everything went right, that Harry would learn to love it too. She looked down at the children and held out her bowl. "Now, what do good little children say if they want candy?"
"TRICK OR TREAT!!" They all yelled.
They all got quite a bit of candy.
In irritation, Voldemort turned to the source of the scream.
The great and powerful (in his own mind) Peter Pettigrew, handsome suave and debonair (also in his own mind) and secret death eater (true but a very poor example of one) was standing atop the fence post as a tiny kitten pawed at the post. He looked scared out of what passed for his wits.
"Are you a wizard or are you a mouse?"
"Aa-a-wizard, milord. Though sometimes I am a rat, and that hellacious creature almost bit my head off and would have succeeded if I hadn't transformed back so quickly.
"It may have been an improvement." The dark lord mused aloud.
"Master, I'm your most loyal, most devoted, most--"
But Voldemort didn't let him finish. "--Most useless, Death Eater. They aren't here, fool. You have failed me. Why should I allow a mediocre wizard, whose only skill is turning into a rat, live if you can't even be useful?" He patted his wand threateningly against his open palm.
"That cannot be, Master. They were supposed to be here."
"Are you saying that I am mistaken, Wormtail?"
"N-no! Master, I-I-I mean, they must have only just left. I'm sure they will be back soon."
"Are you suggesting that I, Lord Voldemort, should waste my time waiting for them to return like some common Muggle?"
"Time, master. Please give me just a little time to check the house and see if I can deduce when they will return.
"5 minutes, worm. Go and know that I will be watching.
Lily sat down in between Emma and James while Dan was sitting on Emma's other side. She accepted a steaming mug of mulled cider and felt the warmth travel through her fingers. "Oh, that was a great bunch of kids."
"You really get into the spirit of things, don't you, Lils?"
"I've always loved Halloween. It was just lucky circumstance that I actually turned out to be a witch."
"Yes, and a dead ringer for the wicked witch of Oz." Emma smirked.
"Oh, right. James, if you will?"
A few flicks later and Lily looked much the same as she always did except for her stylish black robes.
"There. Is that better?"
"Oh yes." She sipped her cider. "I'm still amazed at the how quickly you can do that."
"It's called transfiguration. James has a knack for it."
James broke in as he put his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Yes, since Hogwarts, but Lils has me beat when it comes to charms."
Emma snickered as the young couple's tender moment gave way to a tickle fight.
"Speaking of charms of a different sort, how has the kitten been working out?"
"Wonderfully and yes, quite charming. Harry is fascinated by that little ball of fluff."
"Have you thought of a name yet?"
"I've been thinking about that and I think I've settled on Artemis. James finds it hilarious."
"Oh? How so?"
"It's an inside joke. I'll explain the next time you come and visit us and I have some photographs handy."
Emma sipped her tea. "All right, but I'll hold you to that."
"I do hope it's doing all right all alone. I left a fire going and several candles lit, but…" Lily trailed off.
"I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. It's just a kitten, how much trouble can it get into."
"It's already hunting. I found a dead field mouse in my house slippers."
"Then your cottage will be vermin free. I don't see a problem."
"The mouse was almost as big as Artemis. I worry what else she may try and bring down."
"I see your point."
Poor Peter Pettigrew, better known by his moniker he got from Sirius, was a lackluster wizard, a disappointing animagus, and all around blah at everything he did. To get to the point, he was in a bad way.
He had failed to provide the Potters to his master and was now going to pay the price - perhaps the ultimate price. He couldn't allow that to happen. He hadn't given up so much, his friends and his self-respect, only to die such a pathetic death. He rushed through the house, desperate to find some clue, any clue, that would tell him where James and Lily went or when they might be coming back.
Finally, he found himself in the upstairs nursery. The cot was there and the smell of dirty nappies masked by baby powder was present. He could feel his master's glower coming from behind. He knew he had scant seconds to present something, anything to his master.
"And that was five minutes." Said a cruel voice.
Wormtail backed hurriedly against the cot.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish." The bone like hand with the bone like wand was pointed directly at Peter's chest.
"Master… Master, please!"
A green light bathed the room.
Instinctively, wormtail initiated his animagus transformation. He'd practiced it so often that the process was almost a reflex now and very nearly instantaneous. The death curse passed over his rapidly shrinking head and continued as if to strike the magical mobile atop the cot. The mobile shimmered briefly before shattering and then to Voldemort's shock, the green bolt of magic seemed to impossibly curve before him before shooting BACK AT HIM!
Like a train, his own magnificently powerful spell impacted the self-proclaimed dark lord's body. He felt everything being ripped away from him. His magic was in tatters as spectral lines connecting his soul containers to his body shuddered then ripped wide as his magic was forced from him like an egg in a microwave.
Far away, horcruxes erupted in a wave of green light. The objects themselves were unharmed but the piece of soul in each was obliterated.
Body unresponsive, Voldemort felt himself rising as if her were floating away, but he could then see his own once proud body crumbling into dust. Soon, a fine black powder was all that remained. He felt weak and incomplete in a way that left his previous experiences laughable. Fatigue such as he had never known assailed him and he so desperately wanted to sleep that it was all he could do to remain conscious.
The disembodied wraith that remained of the dark lord Voldemort dove for the only creature capable of holding his soul before he succumbed to the dark embrace of oblivion.
"The killing curse is unblockable. It was created to be the ultimate spell, completely unshieldable, something that would render defense useless. An equalizer if you will."
"So, the spell just travels in a straight line, hits a person and they just die?"
"Essentially, yes, that's right. Having had the killing curse fired at me by death eaters and Voldemort himself, I can tell you that near misses reverberate your senses as if a freight train, a quiet one mind you, had passed you by."
"So it travels in a straight line?"
"Yes, all spells do."
"And there's no way that you know of to make a spell travel in any way other than a straight line?"
Lily thought for a moment, trying to see where Emma was going with this. "No, the way magic works, it would have to be straight."
Emma had an uncommon look on her face. She was bearing down on a win and she was almost within striking distance. "And what defines straight?"
Lily looked surprised. "I would imagine the shortest distance between two points."
"What would happen if that distance just happened to be curved?"
"You don't curve the spell… you curve the distance it travels! Oh, that's genius!" She embraced Emma but then just as quickly let her go. She began sketching out arcane symbols and arithmantic equations on her palm with her finger.
"Will it work?"
"I don't know."
"That's what I said."
"You said 'what'?"
"Yes, I said it first."
Emma clamped a hand over Lily's mouth. "Hold it. This is getting us nowhere. I'll speak and you just nod your head yay or nay. Okay?"
Lily's head shook up and down.
"I asked, 'will it work?' right?"
Lily's head shook up and down.
"You said, 'I don't know.' Right?
Lily's head shook up and down.
"So, I said, 'I'm sorry.' But what I really meant was that I didn't understand your answer." Emma uncapped Lily's mouth.
"Ah, sorry about that. When I get in research mode, I'm not always quite all there. What I meant to say was that I don't know YET, but after I run the equations on gravity manipulation spell energy requirements, then I should be able to tell you if it will work."
"Oh, then it's more involved than just waving a wand and watching sparks fly?"
"Only when you're attempting something new. Hmm… I've only been able to make some rough calculations, but I think this would be too complex to cast."
Emma looked crestfallen.
"That's not to say it wouldn't work." Lily hastily added.
"But I thought you said that it was too complex to cast?"
"It is right now, but once I've worked out the thaumatological variables and spell geometry, then it might be possible to cast quickly enough, but the power would be lacking for just about anyone who might try to cast it fast enough to be effective."
"I'm not well versed enough in spellcraft to follow that."
"Oh, certainly you are. Most of that was the Queen's English except for a few words and they're only descriptors for common terms. Basically it boils down to this: In regards to spell classifications, they can be quickly castable, powerful, or accurate. Pick any two. "
The despair vanished. She was intrigued. "I think I see what you mean. There are tradeoffs."
"Exactly. We can cancel gravity, but increasing is more difficult, especially to the tolerances required to make space-time curve."
"So it isn't useful for combat." The dejected look again reappeared.
"Don't be discouraged. This is the most exciting new idea for magical defense I've heard of within my lifetime if not for the last hundred years." She eyed Emma with a grin. "And I would imagine it would really annoy some people to know that it was thought of by someone with no magic of her own." Lily smiled conspiratorially and Emma found herself smiling, too.
Emma found Lily's arm around her shoulder. "But what good is an idea if it can't be used?"
"I didn't say it couldn't be used. One of these days, we'll have to have a good talk about ward arrays and fixed enchantments of inanimate objects."
"I'm not sure about wards, but enchanting, would that be a long term spell applied to something like a locket or a ring?"
"You're being scarily smart again."
"Admit it, you like it when I'm scary."
"I do. I really do."
"Hmm… the power variances along the spell geometry basically mean that the spell refraction will be spell specific."
"So, it will only ever protect against one spell. I can tailor the power variance for a particular spell, but to get it to switch the power variance, that kind of runic array doesn't exist yet. And even if it did, it would be huge. For each particular power variance added, it would cause the size of the array to increase by an order of magnitude."
"Does it really matter? I mean, all three of them are normally unblockable, but only one kills outright. That's the one we should guard against."
"The thaumatological half-life is also smaller than I would like."
"I've got some knowledge about radiation half-life for working with x-ray machines. Is that something similar?"
"In its simplest form, yes. Essentially, the enchanted object won't stay enchanted for as long as I'd like. In addition, the spell geometry will collapse after perhaps only one refraction. I think as I refine the array structure, I can improve the field decay rate and the efficiency."
"So, we're talking about a one use item that's only useful for a short encounter?"
"Yes, that's it exactly."
"And before we started working on this, there was no protection from this killing curse spell at all?"
"Well, you could levitate something into its path; a chair, a desk, another person."
"So why not wear a wooden vest? "
"The spell needs only to graze a person and it is still one hundred percent effective. Low density objects it will just pass through. Medium density object it will burn or destroy and high density object will slow but not stop it. The spell energy acts similar to a stream of high viscosity liquid dripping downward. Take honey for example: A stream of honey dripping down on a plate in a steady stream will be slowed by the plate due to the initial small quantity of honey. As the stream continues, the honey with overflow and continue pouring over the edge of the plate."
"That sounds like a very nasty spell."
"Absolutely terrible, and the Death Eaters are using it constantly."
"Well, between the two of us, I think we've finally found a way to block an unblockable spell. I think that's worth some praise."
"You are absolutely right. What's your recommendation for celebrating?"
"I can think of a number of things, but it all depends on what we have available."
"Speaking of that, James inherited a wine cellar from his favorite uncle. What do you say to having a browse and you can select something for us?"
"There's a wine cellar in this cottage?"
"Not in the way you think." Lily levitated a stack of books off of an ornately decorated steamer trunk.
Eyes discerning, Emma swallowed hard for moment. "Don't tell me you've shrunk a wine cellar to fit in that trunk."
"All right. I won't."
Lily with an impish look on her face bent over and lifted the lid. "Shrinking wouldn't be done because shrunken bottle labels are very hard to see. Additionally, tiny bottles are easier to drop."
There were steps going down a torch lined stairway. Emma looked at the descending steps, opted to try and move the trunk a few inches and the inner space moved with the trunk. "It's bigger on the inside…"
"That's correct. Unfortunately, this wine cellar can't travel through time and space except in the normal way."
The kitten finished snapping neck of the disgusting rodent that had found its way into her territory.
There was a young one to consider in the house and she was not about to let ugly squeak squeaks into the nesting room. She paused to lick a paw and then straighten a whisker.
A horrible prickling sensation came over her unexpectedly which was suddenly followed by a wave of intense fatigue. Despite her fur standing on end, she lay down and curled up to take a nap. All the while she wondered why there was a faint human scream of horror in her ear.
To Be Continued