The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne-Cara Apple  Story: Tea, or Favorites  Chapter: Default
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As it happened, he was the sort of person who could fall asleep at any given moment, in any kind of location or position, thou

Tea, or Favorites

Anne-Cara Apple

 

 

As it happened, he was the sort of person who could fall asleep at any given moment, in any kind of location or position, though the latter had often caused him to wake with a hideous crick in his neck and a quill clutched in one hand, having dozed off while writing Charms essays late at night. She, on the other hand, was not so lucky—she was the sort of person who tossed and turned, who pulled the covers tight before shoving them away, who fluffed her pillow and flattened it, tiptoed from bed to look out the window, switched from one nightshirt to another, and who would lie awake in bed for close to an hour, counting backwards from one thousand, before she fell asleep.

 

It didn’t stop there, either. While she woke up at the slightest shift in the wind, a great brass band could have started marching next to him and he’d barely have stirred. Even when she was up and moving around the room three times in the space of twenty minutes, he didn’t wake, and Lily didn’t bother attributing this to her silence. James slept like a dead man, while she slept…

 

Well, she wasn’t sleeping much, lately. It didn’t come easy to her in the first place, and pregnancy hardly helped. Now that she was seven months along especially, she couldn’t toss and turn to her comfort. No, Lily thought ruefully. It was sleeping on her back for her, and God, but it wasn’t something she relished.

 

With a sigh, she pushed off the covers and climbed out of bed, casting a jealous glare at James over her shoulder. It wasn’t his fault, and she knew it, but she thought that impending maternity allowed her a bit of leeway in terms of being irrational. Lily grabbed her frayed pink terrycloth bathrobe from where it was draped over a chair and slipped it on, padding downstairs to the kitchen to fix a cup of tea.

 

Though she’d been working daily with magic for nearing ten years now, there was something calming about doing things by hand, the Muggle way. It was familiar to her, she thought, as she put a teakettle of water to boil on the stove. It reminded her of sitting at the little wood table in her mum’s peach-painted kitchen when she was a little girl, her feet dangling over the edges of a matching wood chair, too short to reach the floor up until she was thirteen; in the winter, when she got home from school, Mum would have tea already waiting for her, steaming in her favorite rose-patterned teacup. “Would you like a biscuit, Lily?” she would always ask, knowing the answer was yes. “Chocolate-chip or raisin?” The answer for that was always the same as well; Lily always chose chocolate-chip, leaving the raisin for Petunia.

 

They would always chat about her day, what new things she had learned, if any, and when she was done she would ask politely to be excused. “Now, Lily,” her mum would admonish with a smile, “mind you didn’t get any crumbs on the tablecloth,” and so Lily would painstakingly pick up each biscuit crumb between her thumb and forefinger and place it on the rose-patterned saucer before running off to play. It was as she proceeded up the stairs to her room each day that she heard her older sister come in. “Hello, Petunia,” her mum would say. “I hope the tea’s not too cold; would you like some?”

 

“Of course, Mum,” Petunia would say.

 

“And a biscuit?”

 

“Is it raisin?” Petunia would ask, always to hear the same answer, and sometimes she would say, “No, thank you,” and sometimes she would sigh resignedly and say, “Yes. Thanks.” Then Mum would pour the tea into a plain white teacup on a plain white saucer, and place them and the biscuit on the table before her, and Petunia would eat and drink and speak politely with Mum about her day, and she wouldn’t ever drop crumbs on the lace tablecloth, and when she asked, “May I be excused, please?” Mum would always say, “Yes.”

 

Once she remembered—and only once—Petunia had asked, “Can’t I have the teacup with roses, Mum? Please?”

 

“Of course not,” her mum had said in a tone of voice that was almost affronted. “That one’s Lily’s. You should know that.”

 

“Oh,” Petunia had said. “Of course. I know that. I forgot. Must’ve.”

 

And Mum had said, while Lily listened from the stairs, because she always listened, because she wanted to know if her sister had got into trouble at school (not that Petunia ever got into trouble), “Are you all right, Petunia? You look—”

 

“I’m fine, Mum,” she said. “I’m just not hungry. I don’t think I’ll have that biscuit after all.”

 

Lily eased herself into a chair, the baby giving her a little kick as she sat. “You stop that,” she scolded. “It’s your fault I can’t sleep in the first place.” It would have to be just tea, she thought, unless she raided the soup crackers. They didn’t have any biscuits in the house, much to James’s chagrin, as they’d been banished from the moment she’d realized she was pregnant. She insisted that she wasn’t going to gain any weight that she didn’t have to, since pregnancy alone made her feel like a slightly undersized whale.

 

The water in the kettle hissed slightly as it began to heat. Lily drummed her fingers lightly on the kitchen table and pushed her red hair behind one ear, one foot tapping idly to a different rhythm than her fingers. Patience was not her strong point; it never had been. It came to her easier than it did to Sirius, though, and she smothered a laugh. He was staying with them for a few weeks, renting out a room (against their protests—he was a friend, they told him, and didn’t need to pay, but he’d insisted on it) while he worked on renovating his flat. It was tedious work, especially since he and Remus were doing it themselves in their spare time, but Sirius didn’t trust anyone else to do it right. If she’d had his family, she thought, she probably wouldn’t either.

 

He was a light sleeper, too, and she wondered if that was why. How many times had he woken up to find his brother trying to smother him or one of his cousins casting a jinx? (He hadn’t told her that either of those things had happened, but James had let slip that things of the sort hadn’t been uncommon.) When the water began to boil, she’d have to make sure that she took it off the heat before the kettle began to whistle Jingle Bells so that the noise didn’t wake Sirius up; Lily knew she’d feel awful if that happened. Really, it was a good thing that James was such a sound sleeper, as she didn’t know how she could handle constantly keeping him awake. The first two weeks they’d been married, she’d been almost petrified, too terrified that she’d wake him up to move to a more comfortable position, and consequently hadn’t slept well at all. One night she couldn’t take it anymore and threw off the blankets and rolled away from him—only to find that he didn’t stir at all.

 

Standing, to the protests of her unborn son, Lily took her rose-patterned cup and saucer from their place on the shelf above the sink and set them aside on the counter. Her mum had given them to her as part of her wedding present: “So that it’ll always feel like home, dear,” and it did. As she was reaching for the tea leaves, the door flew open with a crash, and Lily gave a shriek that turned into gasps for breath as she realized that they weren’t being attacked—

 

Sirius was home.

 

“Oh,” he said, shutting the door with a guilty expression on his face. “Lily.”

 

“Sirius,” she said shakily. “I didn’t realize you weren’t home.”

 

He laughed. “What, I’m that unimportant to you that you don’t even notice when I’m gone? Thanks a lot, Lil! I’ll just go and die, if it means that much to you.”

 

“Oh, stop it,” she told him, laughing despite herself. “You know that’s not what I meant.”

 

Yes, he knew, and he grinned. “You’re sharp-eared, though. You usually hear when I come in, I make enough noise at it.”

 

“Yes,” she said, cheeks flushing. “Well. James and… Well. I just wasn’t listening for you. Must’ve been distracted.”

 

“Of course,” said Sirius, eyes twinkling. “I completely understand, dear Lily, and am highly glad that I wasn’t around to get in the way.”

 

“Mm,” she said, turning away to fetch the tea leaves. “What were you out doing, anyway? It’s—”

 

“Almost two, I know.” He sighed, plopping down in a kitchen chair and stretching. “I was out with Remus, trying to keep him from doing something stupid, like drinking his life’s savings in Firewhiskey.”

 

She spun around, startled. “He didn’t—”

 

“No,” Sirius laughed. “He just drank up my life’s savings in Firewhiskey.”

 

“Sirius, you didn’t,” she said reproachfully. “Tell me you didn’t.”

 

“I didn’t,” he sighed, “but he’ll still be worse for it in the morning.”

 

“He’s taking it that hard, then?” Lily asked, turning back and using a red-and-gold potholder to take the kettle off the stove as it began to whistle.

 

“Wouldn’t you?” he asked roughly. “You think you’ve found the love of your life, and the moment you bare your soul and tell her your deepest, darkest secret, she runs away screaming, leaving you with a restaurant full of people staring at you like you’ve grown tentacles.” He shook his head. “Bloody idiot,” he said under his breath. “Shouldn’t have told her in public like that.”

 

Lily sighed. Remus had been seeing a Ravenclaw named Alice Rosenthal since a little before they’d finished Hogwarts, but apparently in all two years of their relationship and the previous five years of friendship, the subject of werewolves and how she had been raised believing they were creatures of the devil had never come up. “Do you want tea?” she asked, fixing hers the way her mum used to. “There’s enough for two.”

 

“No,” he said. “I’m fine.”

 

That was what Remus always said, too. Neither of them was inclined to accept kindness from others, even from their closest friends; Sirius, at least, had been raised to trade favor for favor, and Remus… Well. She didn’t know why, he wouldn’t, not really, but she suspected he’d been brought up to be self-reliant, though whether he’d learned that through teaching or by necessity, she didn’t know.

 

“Are you sure?” She cast a searching glance around the kitchen. “We have…crackers, and…I think there might be some apples, or I could make some rice, if we have any…”

 

“You don’t have to feed me, Lil,” he laughed. “I know it makes you feel better, but food’s not going to do anything for me right now. I ate enough when I was out with Remus. All I need now is a bit of sleep.”

 

“All right,” she said anxiously, sitting next to him and sipping her tea. “If you’re sure.”

 

Peter never refused food. Then again, he rarely refused everything. It bothered her a little, it did, but she’d never mention it to James or the others. Peter was just one of those people who liked being catered to, who’d work when he had to, but didn’t much like it when he did. It had driven her mad whenever they were paired together in class.

 

“Absolutely sure,” said Sirius. “Marauder’s honor.” He laughed again, reaching over to ruffle her hair; she pulled back with a noise of protest that was somewhere between a laugh and a whine. “But I think I’ll stay and talk with you for a bit. What’s a pretty girl like you doing up so late, anyway?”

 

“The baby won’t let me sleep,” she said with a shrug. “I can’t get comfortable.”

 

“I’m sure James would help you with that, if you woke him up,” he said wickedly, “and he probably wouldn’t mind, either.”

 

“Oh, stop it,” Lily said, looking at him irritably. “I can’t wait till this thing’s out of me. Then I might be able to sleep through the night.”

 

“It’ll cry,” he pointed out.

 

She sighed heavily and took a sip of the tea. “He’ll be old enough to sleep all night at some point,” she said. “Anyway, this whole thing—being pregnant, I mean—it’s throwing everything off. I can’t get to sleep at night, so I’ll nap when I get home, and then I can’t sleep at night… It’s all a cycle, isn’t it?”

 

He nodded.

 

“I hate cycles,” she declared. “They never mean anything good.”

 

“What do you like?” he asked.

 

Lily thought for a moment. “Snow falling on tree branches,” she said, remembering the first time she’d experienced winter at Hogwarts, and how absolutely magical it was. “Buttered toast. Taking walks at the seashore.” She gave a slight laugh. “The way James looks when he wakes up in the morning.” He woke slowly, blinking sleep from his eyes before rolling over to look at the clock and kiss her on the cheek; she, invariably, would be already awake. “Pink roses—and tea.”

 

“What do you like?” Petunia had asked her once.

 

She had smiled sweetly at her older sister. “Knowing Mum loves me better.”

 

Sirius leaned his chair back on two legs. “Anything else?”

 

“No,” Lily said softly, staring down at her rose-patterned teacup. “Nothing else.” She sipped her tea. “Not right now, anyway.”

 

“All right.” He rocked the chair forward with a thump and drummed his fingers on the table. “So, it’s a boy, is it?”

 

“What?” She looked up at him, confused.

 

“The baby,” he said, nodding his head at her stomach. “It’s a boy.”

 

“Oh,” she said. “Yes.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “You have a name yet?”

 

“We’re not telling anybody till he’s born,” she told him. “That way if no one likes it, they don’t have any time to change their minds.”

 

“Fair enough,” he laughed. “Who d’you think he’ll look like, then?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said thoughtfully. “James looks a lot like his mum, so maybe we’ll have a baby like me. Or maybe he’ll have the worst parts of both of us—James’s hair, my freckles—”

 

Sirius snorted. “You don’t have freckles!”

 

“I do too have freckles!” she insisted. “Anyway, that isn’t the point. He’s probably going to be hideously ugly and hate us forever. And then what if we have another baby? And what if that baby’s absolutely beautiful? He’s going to hate it for being better-looking than he is, and we’re going to have to try not to play favorites, but parents always play favorites, and then the children are going to fight, and what if we have more children and none of them like each other because they’re all jealous?” She started to cry. “Sirius, I’m not ready to be a mum!”

 

Sirius looked horrified. “Um,” he said. “Lil, don’t you think you’re overreacting? You don’t know that any of this will happen. I’m sure that he’ll be a perfectly happy little boy and love you both very much.”

 

She let out a wail. “But what if he doesn’t, what if he—”

 

Lily,” he said, exasperated. “Will you stop being stupid and drink your bloody tea!”

 

Lily sniffled. “All right,” she said meekly.

 

The clock ticked the time away for a few minutes before she asked, “Which one of you was the favorite? You or your brother?”

 

His shoulders stiffened slightly. “Neither of us, really. Regulus by default, after I didn’t get Sorted into Slytherin, but neither of us was really the son they wanted. He played their games and did what they wanted, but I was always smarter and better than he was. Wasn’t really a likeable chap, and probably still isn’t. I haven’t heard anything from him since we left Hogwarts, and good riddance, that.”

 

“Not very fond of your family?” she asked vapidly.

 

He laughed, but he didn’t sound very happy. “As if you didn’t know that.” A pause. “Except for Andy—Andromeda, I mean. She’s all right. Have you seen her little girl yet? I guess she’s not so little, she’s almost seven, and she keeps telling me that she’s almost grown up.” His laugh was warmer this time. “Little Dora. Cutest little thing I’ve ever seen. Looks like Andy back when she was a girl—she’s years older’n me, but I’ve seen the pictures, ‘cept Dora’s got her daddy’s hair.”

 

Lily looked at him curiously. “Whose hair do you have?”

 

His eyes darkened. “My dad’s. The Black hair.”

 

“Oh,” she said, fumbling for words. “I’ve got my gran’s hair. She was a Kirkland. Or—my granddad was a Kirkland, and she was a Kearney, but she became a Kirkland when they got married, but you do know what I mean, don’t you?”

 

“You’re babbling, Lil,” he said gently.

 

“I do that sometimes,” she giggled. “And anyway, you’re one to talk, you’re just—” She broke off, yawning loudly.

 

“I think it’s time for you to get to bed,” said Sirius with a laugh. “Go on now, Lil. We can talk some other time. I’ll even clean up the dishes for you.”

 

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that,” she protested, yawning again as she stood. “Really, don’t…”

 

He gave her a little push towards the stairs. “Up to bed with you, little girl. I’ll take care of everything.”

 

“All right,” she said resignedly. “Thanks, Sirius.” She stood on tiptoe to give him a kiss on the cheek.

 

“What are dashingly handsome single wizards here for, if not to do the dishes?” he laughed. “Night, Lil.”

 

“Goodnight—be careful with the cup,” she called over her shoulder as she tiptoed up the stairs. James was still lying the way she’d left him, and she rolled her eyes as she tossed her bathrobe on the floor and got into bed. Some help he was, she grumbled silently, pulling the covers up to her chin. The baby’d better end up looking like her.

 

She yawned. Petunia looked like their dad, tall and skinny and pointed. Her own looks were a combination of the two, with her dad’s nose and her mum’s cheekbones, but really she looked like her grandmum, her mum’s mother. It’s why Mum always liked her better than Petunia, she thought. It’s why…

 

Lily drifted to sleep, the taste of her mum’s tea in her mouth. It was faintly bitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: Thanks to Ozma for the beta!

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