Also available as: Epub
Stories from the Vault
The Exchange - Act One, Scene Two
Act 1 – Scene 2
The Evans family took a holiday to visit the beach the summer before Lily started at Hogwarts. In the grand tradition of siblings everywhere, Petunia persuaded Lily that being buried in the sand “would be fun.” As the day was hot and the damp sand was cool, it was fun, initially, and Lily had drowsed off while Petunia crafted an impromptu seaside sarcophagus. When Petunia finished, she placed several beach towels over Lily’s face “so she’d know where she was” and then went to play in the rising surf.
When Lily woke to the sound of waves coming ever closer she discovered that she couldn’t move. She tried wiggling, jerking and screaming, all to no avail. She then panicked and with a scream performed an unintended, flawless switching spell which resulted in Lily falling face first into the surf and Petunia buried up to her neck in sand in a location inches below the high tide line.
Lily felt immobilized again, reminding her of her childhood torture scene, but this time there were no waves and there was no sand. She couldn’t see anything, but she could hear city sounds, sounds of a street at night.
With a dream-like jerk she felt her body fall against a wall and she could see – well, not much of anything, as it was night and she was in an alley.
A dog approached, a small dog of indeterminate breed and color. The dog approached her, sat and looked up at Lily.
“The boss is delayed, she asked that I take you to a place where you could wait,” the dog said, one ear flopping down while the other tried to point up.
“Oh-kay” Lily responded, walking after the dog as it led her out of the alley.
Lily didn’t recognize the cobbled street, but it could have been nearly anywhere in the world, except there were no automobiles. There were a few horse-drawn wagons and push carts visible in the distance and heaps of manure indicating that if there were any street sweepers, they hadn’t reached this street yet.
The dog stopped at a door, scratching once before looking up at Lily again.
“You’re gonna need to knock, I don’t think they’re going to hear me scratching this time of night,” the dog said.
Lily knocked three times, hearing shuffling sounds before the door opened.
“We’re closed,” the man opening the door said, trying to shut the door, but the dog had already moved in and barked as the door closed, only to be blocked by the dog’s rump.
The dog barked loudly, and the man at the door looked down.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said. “Well, come on in, I’ll put it on her tab.”
The man opened the door to what appeared to be a smoky, dirty tavern where a slow-moving boy was scattering sawdust on the floor.
“This would be a nice time to bring her a beer and something for the good little dog,” the dog said.
The man shrugged and then pointed to a table around the corner from the door. Lily sat down and the dog turned around three times clockwise before lying at her feet.
Lily looked down at the dog.
“You would happen to know what this is about, would you?” she asked the dog.
The dog said nothing, and then started scratching his ear with his hind leg.
Lily never saw the Publican approach the table, but a mug of beer somehow appeared on the table and a small bowl of something vaguely meat-like appeared beside the dog.
The beer wasn’t bad, although she didn’t care much for beer. James would like it though. Would have liked it.
Like a wave, the night’s events caught up with her, leaving her in tears.
Lily’s blubbering subsided and she decided that she’d wipe her tears on her sleeves and finish the beer.
Luna walked into the tavern, dressed in a dark red hooded cloak. She pulled back the hood, looking around for Lily and made towards her table. She pulled a dog biscuit from her pocket, tossing it to the dog, who snatched it from the air. “Thank you for your service,” Lily said, dismissing the dog.
“Think nothing of it, Mistress,” the dog said, dropping a chunk of biscuit as he spoke. He snatched the chunk from the floor and then walked off into the deeper shadows of the room.
“I’m sorry for the delay,” Luna said. “I’ve never died before, I thought I’d come here with you, but apparently management had other ideas.”
“This happens more than once?” Lily asked.
“For most people, no,” Luna answered. “Harry’s done it a few times – he always ends up at King’s Cross Station for some reason.”
“Where’d you end up?”
“A swamp, of all places,” Luna replied cheerily. “It was a nice swamp, as swamps go, and I would have gladly gone exploring, but I knew I needed to catch up with you.”
Luna looked around the tavern.
“How was your passage?” she asked.
“Pretty uneventful – I was in some dark place, and then I was in an alley.”
“Hmm,” Luna replied. “Harry said it wouldn’t hurt. I’m going to have to set him straight on that point the next time I see him. Well, we have to get going.”
“Going?” Lily asked.
“I didn’t die in your place so you could spend eternity in this way station, Lily,” Luna said, smiling with a tough undertone.
“Where are we going?” Lily asked.
“I think the better questions are ‘who’ and ‘when,’’ Luna replied.
“Well then, who am I going to be, and where and when?” Lily asked.
“That’s more like it,” Luna said.
“Lycoris Black,” Luna said, “some time around 1923.”
“You’ve got to be putting me on,” Lily said.
“No, I assure you that I’m quite serious,” Luna said.
“Lycoris is the name of the red Spider Lily,” Lily said, grasping a handful of her hair.
“Well, imagine that, I have chosen well then,” Luna said with finality.
Lily followed Luna to the door in the now dark tavern.
Luna grasped the doorknob and jerked the door open.
Outside was a howling blizzard, the cobbled streets were nowhere to be seen.
Luna pushed the door shut and then opened it again.
This time there was a different world outside, a lush, sunlit green lane winding through meadows. “Close,” Luna said, pushing the door shut again.
She stood still for a moment and then pulled the door open for a third time. This scene was similar to the last, but it was night and the road was paved. When they stepped through the doorway, they were in what appeared to be an English village. When Lily looked behind her, the tavern and its city were gone.
Lily followed after Luna, who’d begun to stroll down the road. To the right the ground sloped downward into a wet area where low green plants waved tufts of white floss. She caught up to Luna with a few quick steps.
“Where are we, and when?” Lily asked.
“Wigan, near Manchester, and given the blooming of the cotton sedge, I’d say mid-to-late June,” Luna replied. “Miss Lycoris Black lives in a cottage near here – it was gifted to Lycoris by the groom’s father when both families signed the betrothal contract.”
“Is she going to have to give it back?” Lily asked practically.
“No, as she was ready and able to enter into marriage, it was the groom’s suicide that thwarted consummation of the marriage,” Luna explained. “Mister Arben Dolohov had a snit with Sirius, Lycoris’ father, not our Sirius but great grandfather Sirius, who explained to him that it was the Dolohov family that was in default after the handfasting and that Lycoris would keep the cottage.”
“Did he accept that?” Lily asked.
“Not in the least, he was enraged; angry that his son committed suicide, mad that his son admitted to homosexuality in his suicide note, and furious that Lycoris did not return the bridewealth gift; it’s what led him to kill her,” Luna said.
“When will that happen?” Lily asked with concern.
“Hopefully in a few minutes if my timing is correct,” Luna replied.
They crested a low rise and both saw the cottage. A light was on and the front door was open.
“Oh, pooh,” Luna exclaimed. “We might be a bit late.”
Unbetaed - so if you find flaws, drop me a line. Copyright 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org - all rights reserved. JK Rowling owns Harry Potter, but against the rest of the world, this is my story.