No one understands muggle money
Remus avoided Lisa completely on the last two days of term and didn't even look up when she passed the Marauder's compartment on the Hogwarts express. Dorcas and Marlene both pestered her for details about the party, but she stubbornly kept silent, even going so afar as to threaten them with a jinx if they didn't drop it. It was his secret, not hers, and she'd be damned if she let it slip, even to Dorcas.
Lisa said goodbye to her friends at the train station, promised to write and sank miserably into her mum's welcome back hug.
"So, how was school?" her little sister Julie asked, sticking her fingers inside Gwen's cage.
"You'll find out next year," Lisa replied and ruffled her hair, an act her sister despised.
"Muuuum!" Julie whined.
"Come on, girls," Mr. Fawley said, scooping both of them under his arms. "We best be heading back or the line for the floo will be out to the street."
They took a muggle taxi to the Leaky Cauldron, but instead of flooing back to their house, her mum told her, "We're going to Grandpa's sweetie. Don't forget, Denton Crescent, Low Row."
"Why aren't we going home?" Lisa asked. She wasn't feeling up for any visits right now.
"Because Grandma and Grandpa miss you," her dad said.
"Low Row is so boring!" Julie piped up. "There's nothing to do there!"
"That's why Grandpa likes it." Mr. Fawley smirked. "It's far away from any nosy reporters."
Lisa sighed, surrendering. They really hadn't visited in a while, but who could blame them? Low Row was a tiny village with exactly one ancient stone pub and one road going through it. It was as out of the way as they get.
"Lisa!" Her Grandmother smothered her in a hug as soon as she popped in the den. "You look thin, dear. They don't feed you enough in that school!"
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Grandma, they serve the food and you eat as much as you want." Her Grandmother was an American and had never set foot in Hogwarts.
Grandma Fawley released Lisa and transferred her affection to her sister for the moment.
"Hey Liz," her Grandfather called from the door.
"Hi grandpa," Lisa said and hugged him, free of his wife's theatrics.
"So, you're staying for Christmas, eh? About time you came to see this old codger."
"You're not that old, Dad," Mr. Fawley said, coming out of the fireplace with Lisa's luggage.
Grandma Fawley fussed over their tired faces and ushered them all into the kitchen, where the house elves were already serving dinner.
"Thank you," Lisa said to the one that placed a goblet of gillywater in front of her. The family stared at her in surprise, but the elf smiled widely with a low bow. "It doesn't hurt to say it once in a while," she mumbled as they exchanged confused looks.
The family had a cozy dinner, but while the two Mrs. Fawleys were amusing Julie with fun stories, the men were whispering on the other end of the table. Lisa, tired of listening to her mother's chatter, leaned over to her dad's side. The conversation stopped immediately.
"He's gathering followers in Hogwarts. Muggle-borns are being tortured left and right. I'll be of age in a few months, I need to be prepared for what's out there," she stated seriously in a low voice. Her dad and grandpa exchanged glances, but nodded.
"It's getting worse," Mr. Fawley continued quietly. "Orgen from work is a Death Eater. Imperiused Dodson to make him try to kill Cuffe last Tuesday."
"Be on your guard," Grandpa Fawley advised. "I made a huge mistake underestimating Grindelwald when I was Minister for Magic. This Voldemort fellow sounds just as bad, and that's saying something."
"The Minister could be Imperiused as well," Lisa added. "I met him a few days ago at Slughorn's Christmas Party at Hogwarts. He told me all about how he's going to place more Dementors at Azkaban. He's either off his rocker, or working with Voldemort."
"That barmy blighter." Mr. Fawley sighed. "That's exactly what we need right now – more Dementors. As if the air wasn't dark enough already."
"Is your editor still not letting articles through?" Lisa asked, making her Grandpa arch his eyebrows in surprise.
"Yes. He's adamant about not spreading panic. But we keep the obituaries accurate," Mister Fawley said. "He means well. That's why he was targeted – Voldemort wants everyone to know what he's doing."
"Do you list all the disappearances as well?" Lisa raised an eyebrow skeptically.
"No. I'm working on it, though. People need to know if the friends they haven't had the time to check with recently have gone missing."
"And by 'missing', you mean they're probably being tortured for information or have been blown to bits with a curse," Lisa said darkly.
"So, how about some coco?" Mrs. Fawley asked loudly, eyeing the three of them and inclining her head towards little Julie meaningfully.
"Do you want me to teach you how to build the tallest Exploding Snap tower?" Grandma Fawley asked the ten year old, earning an excited 'Yes!'
Lisa exchanged glances with her dad and grandpa and they all agreed now was not the best time to discuss such things. It was Christmas after all, and the family was together.
Lisa tossed and turned all night, only managing to fall asleep shortly before sunrise. She knew she should be worrying about other things – the deaths, disappearances, the terror happening everywhere, but her thoughts just couldn't stay away from Remus Lupin. The way he'd snarled at her like a wild animal, how he told her to stay away... she was ashamed to admit it, but it haunted her more than the deaths of nameless people. She felt bad about it, but in the end, it was him that was on her mind before she drifted off to sleep, not Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
"Wake up! Wake up!" Julie rang in the room early in the morning, as she jumped up and down on her sister's bed.
"Get off, you brat!" Lisa shouted, half-asleep, and kicked her to the floor.
"UP! UP! UP!" the little girl persisted, pushing Lisa's sleeping form.
"Leave me alone!"
"Get UP! Mum said you got to!"
"If you don't go away, I'll turn your hair into snakes!"
"Liar! You can't use magic outside of school!"
"You wanna try me, pipsqueak?!"
"MUUUUUUUUUM! LISA SAID SHE'D TURN ME INTO A SNAKE!"
"Shut up!" Lisa whined, hiding from her sister's high-pitched wailing under the blanket.
Mrs. Fawley popped in the room. "Lisa, honey, get dressed. I need you to run to the grocery store."
"Because I'm busy with the decorations, and Dad and Grandpa went out for a tree."
"What about Grandma?"
"She's overseeing the cooking. We're having the neighbors for dinner tonight."
Lisa grumbled under her breath, but got up. Julie was bouncing all around, irritating her.
"Don't you have someone else to bother?!" she snapped.
"Dad said to keep close to you while he's gone!" Julie pouted.
Lisa rolled her eyes. She had suspected her dad's slightly paranoid foresight was the true reason they came all the way to the middle of nowhere to celebrate Christmas. After all, what would Death Eaters want in out-of-the-way Low Row?
When she went downstairs, her mum gave her some muggle money and a list of what they needed, told her to not let Julie out of her sight and explained where the store was. The two girls put on their coats and went out into the cold white street. Lisa held her wand at the ready in one hand and Julie's fingers in the other. Now that they were actually by themselves, she decided you never can be too careful.
"Hello," Lisa greeted the burly store-owner, as she entered the shabby store. "I'll need all of this please," she said, giving him the note from her mum.
The man furrowed his brows and went around the store, gathering the products. Lisa looked about wearily. She didn't like how initially distrusting she was of everyone in the place, but what else could she do? She had to be, for Julie's sake. The little girl was glancing curiously at everything, so blissfully unaware that any one of those people could jump up and kill them for being blood traitors at any second.
"There," the owner puffed, handing her two big plastic bags.
"Thank you," Lisa replied, giving him the muggle money.
"What're you trying to pull, eh? This here's Canadian money! You want this stuff, you pay up with pounds!"
"P-Pounds?" Lisa stuttered. Were they going to weigh her on some giant scale and cut off parts of her as payment?! "I... all I have is seven galleons..." She threw her coin purse on the counter and it jingled. The store-owner took it and looked inside, carefully examining the golden currency.
"What game are you playing, girl?" he snarled. "Now pay me real money or get out of here!"
Lisa gripped her wand tighter. At a time like this Unauthorized Use of Magic by an Underage Witch would be the last of the ministry's problems.
Suddenly, a woman walked forward and said with a smile, "It's quite all right. I'll pay for it."
She gave the owner some pieces of paper; he puffed again, but accepted them. She walked the girls out of the store and gave Lisa back her purse.
"Here you go." The woman smiled kindly. "You shouldn't try to buy things with galleons. Muggles have no idea it's money."
"Thank you so much! My parents aren't very good with muggle currency. Are you a witch?" Lisa asked gratefully.
"No, no, but my husband is a wizard. We live a bit outside the village, but we visit often enough. Are you the Fawley girls?"
"You know our names?" Julie squeaked excitedly.
"Of course I do. Your Grandmother likes to go on and on about you."
"Are you the one coming over for dinner tonight, then?" Julie asked perceptively.
"Yes. We're the only wizarding families in the area, so your Grandfather was kind enough to invite us," the woman said. "Go on now; your parents will get worried."
With a last 'thank you' toward the kind woman, Lisa pulled Julie back to the house.
Remus was trying to read in front of the fire, but he couldn't concentrate. How he left things with Lisa just didn't leave his mind all day. The way he acted with her... she probably hated him now. Or she saw what she eventually would – that he was a beast. The book didn't help either – Alchemy, Ancient Art and Science. Just looking at the title made his chest ache. He wished he could take it back, wished he acted a bit more mature, a bit less scared. He was just terrified that she'd find out and lost his grip, because he was not ready to tell her. Maybe he never would be.
At that moment, his mother entered the den, face red from the cold, but smiling brightly.
"Any trouble?" his father asked behind today's issue of the Daily Prophet.
"Just a bit," she said. Her husband and son immediately lifted their faces from their respective reading. Hope Lupin laughed heartily. "I helped two girls who mixed up their muggle money. Nothing serious."
"Tourists?" Lyall guessed.
"No, the Fawley girls. You know, Susan Fawley's granddaughters? One of them is Remus' age."
"What?" Remus asked, almost in a trance. There's no way he heard that name right.
"The Fawleys, dear. We're going there for dinner tonight. I'm sure I told you..."
The book slipped from his grasp and Remus jumped on his feet, threw his coat on and ran out the door. His parents exchanged surprised glances, but they had lived in Low Row long enough to know it was too out of the way to be dangerous, so they let him go. He ran as fast as his feet would carry him, trying desperately to remember what his mother had said about the family they would dine with tonight. He had been only half-listening at the time, concerned that he would have to wait weeks before he would have the opportunity to explain himself to Lisa, but since the village was so tiny, the biggest house wasn't hard to spot. He searched the windows with his eyes, looking for any sign of her, and he spotted her almost immediately.
She was sitting next to one of the windows, knitting something. Remus smiled to himself. He didn't know she knitted. He imagined her looking down and smiling at him and the thought filled him up with so much warmth, he could burst. Bending down to look for some sort of pebble to throw at the window, he remembered that her reaction would probably be a lot different than he thought and his hand froze in mid-air. She could still be mad at him, or maybe she'd be upset, or confused. And she'd probably demand an explanation that he couldn't bring himself to give. He straitened up and sighed deeply, wondering what he should do. He knew he'd have to face her eventually, but the thought that she would be cross with him gnawed at his insides and he just couldn't do it.
After a while, Remus caught a glimpse of a little blonde girl he presumed to be her sister, opening a different window and gathering some snow. Within seconds, Lisa's work was interrupted by a snowball, and he could hear them chasing each other inside. He chuckled softly, hearing Lisa's cries of frustration. 'I'll go in when I'm ready', he decided. 'When I've planned what to tell her... I'll go in.'
"Hope, how nice to see you again, dear! And you too, Lyall, I haven't seen you in ages!" Grandma Fawley said heartily, ushering the couple into the dining room. "You've met my husband, of course." Grandpa Fawley inclined his head. "And this is our son, Robert, and his wife, Dawn." Mr. Fawley stood up and shook hands with Mr. Lupin. "And you remember my charming granddaughters I suppose, Hope? Julie told me you helped them in the store today."
Hope Lupin beamed. "Yes, of course!"
"My name is Julie and I'm starting Hogwarts in September," Julie announced to the guests proudly. "And this is my sister Lisa, who turns seventeen in the spring." Lisa smiled at the couple.
"Everyone, this is Mr. and Mrs. Lupin. They live a bit out of the way, but Hope has been kind enough to come have tea with me once a week," Grandma Fawley explained. Lisa dropped her fork. "Was Remus unable to make it?" she continued, concerned. "He and Lisa are in the same year, I thought it would be a nice surprise for her."
"I'm so sorry, but he's been feeling under the weather," Hope said apologetically. "He ran an unexpected fever tonight and had to stay home. But he wishes you all happy holidays!"
Grandma Fawley nodded understandingly. "You did mention the boy was sickly... I hope he'll be all right by himself. You don't keep any house elves, I believe?"
"No, but he's a sensible boy. I'm sure he'll be fine," Lyall said with a reassuring smile and the guests sat down.
It wasn't long before the adults were consumed by their conversation, giving way for Lisa's imagination to spiral out of control. He was so close, yet he knowingly didn't call on her. He'd known his family would visit hers, but he chose to stay behind. Was he that cross with her? If she went to see him tomorrow, would he turn her away? Would he tell her to keep her distance, to never go near him again? Would he ever talk and laugh with her as he did before, or did she mess it all up? Why the hell did she push him!? She should've just let it go, like she told Dorcas she would, let him come to her, not squeeze violently! If she had just read the room and let him get the damned dittany...
"You've been quiet, Lisa. Are you feeling all right?" her mum asked from her right.
"No, actually," she replied, a bold plan forming in her head. "I think that snowball fight with Julie today wasn't the best idea."
"Because it was inside the house, or because you knocked down the tree and broke half the decorations?" Grandma Fawley puffed, earning a laugh from around the table.
"You want to go lie down for a minute?" her mum suggested gently.
Lisa nodded and feinting fatigue, she slowly climbed the stairs to her room. She had to be careful about this, because if her dad got wind of it, she'd be grounded until she turned seventeen. Grabbing her Invisibility cloak and a package sloppily wrapped in green paper, she put on a coat and took hold of her broom. Opening Gwen's cage, she scribbled something on a piece of paper and bound it to the owl's leg, then hastily piled some pillows on the bed to resemble her sleeping form and opened the window wide.
"Take this to Remus," she said to Gwen and let her out, mounting the broom and flying after her.
The cold air pierced her body, but thankfully her small tawny owl didn't fly that fast. They soared through the dark winter sky, over the quiet, sleepy village of Low Row. The streets were bare and the windows shone with welcoming light. Gwen didn't descend to any of them, instead continuing west, to the woods. For a moment, Lisa wondered if the Lupins lived in there, when she saw the lonely light of a single window, just at the edge of the forest. Her heart sank painfully, thinking how most families were gathered around a dinner table right now and having a good time, including theirs, but Remus was all alone at home. Gwen tapped on the window and Lisa landed on the doorstep.