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Portraits of Courage by forsakenphoenix
Format: Short story collection
Chapter 5: Lily Evans
The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. – Patrick Henry
Minerva struggles to keep her composure. She’s the Head of Gryffindor, the House of the proud, the true and the brave, but it’s these exact qualities that she’s afraid will condemn her students, her children, to death. The fear that she’s signed her students’ death sentences bubbles angrily, like a boiling pot ready to overflow, and she’s having a hard time maintaining that impassive façade she’s best known for. The spoon she’s using to stir her tea rattles slightly against the ancient china as her hands shake and she clasps them in her lap to still the trembling.
She inhales deeply and then exhales slowly. She’s done this before, she can do it again. She repeats this to herself like a mantra as she grabs a quill and checks a name off on the parchment that’s resting on her desk. To anyone else it would appear like an ordinary detention list of students or perhaps a group of students who she needs to schedule meetings with, but she knows that this list is the Wizarding world’s future, their only hope and she’s the one signing their lives away.
There is a knock at her door and she rolls the parchment up quickly, efficiently as she ties it carefully and places it in her top drawer.
“Come in,” she calls as she stiffens her posture and rests her now still hands atop the desk.
She smiles gently as the door opens and a face peeks in. The girl blushes and ducks her head as she enters the office. “I’m sorry I’m late,” she murmurs quietly as she slips into the chair facing Minerva.
“It’s quite all right, dear,” Minerva assures her and the girl takes the momentary pause between conversation to straighten out her tie and smooth the front of her vest. She catches Minerva surveying her appearance and again blushes a deep crimson.
She opens her mouth to apologise again but Minerva holds up a hand to silence her. “We’re not here to discuss the perfection of your uniform, Ms Evans. Let’s not worry too much about appearance at the moment, hm?”
Lily quickly nods and then looks thoughtful for a moment before speaking up. “Was there a particular reason you called me to your office, Professor? There haven’t been any more problems with the prefects have there? I talked to them last week…”
“You did an admirable job with the prefects,” Minerva replies, looking fondly upon the girl in front of her and wishes she could put this off a few years, if not forever, “which is partially why I wanted to speak with you. Lily, you’ve been nothing but an ideal Head Girl and I’m very proud of Mr Potter and yourself for showing such determination and courage, especially during such a dark, trying time.”
“Thank you,” Lily says, beaming at the compliment. “This is what I’ve been striving for since I first stepped foot inside these castle walls. I am very thankful to Professor Dumbledore for giving me the opportunity to prove myself.”
“And you most certainly have. I must admit I was a bit hesitant when I discovered who Professor Dumbledore had chosen to work beside you, knowing your particular…opinions of one another. But you both learned how to look past your differences and work together as a team, to lead these students in a positive manner. I’m glad the two of you are getting along better,” Minerva admits.
Lily offers a shy smile and says, “Me too.”
Minerva is not a fool and she knows that there’s more than friendship bringing the two Head students together. She won’t admit it out loud but whenever she catches James slipping his hand into Lily’s, to give her reassurance or to simply let her know that he’s there, her motherly instincts take over and she’s happy. She’s pleased that two of her brightest, bravest students have found strength and comfort in the presence of the other, holding love cautiously and carefully between them as this very war could tear them apart.
She hates that she’s part of the reason that this love is threatened.
“You are a brilliant student, Lily, especially in Charms, I’ve heard,” Minerva begins, “but you’re also very loyal to your friends and loved ones. I’ve seen it time and time again. You truly exemplify a Gryffindor through and through, which is why I know there is little doubt to your loyalties.
“My loyalties?” Lily questions, but Minerva can see the burning desire in her eyes to again prove herself worthy for whatever task she can ask of her.
“I trust you won’t repeat this to anyone?” She already knows the answer, but she needs the confirmation anyway before she can continue with her offer.
“Of course, Professor,” Lily replies immediately.
Minerva knows it’s not an eagerness to please that brought forth the quick affirmation but that Lily is so steadfast in her loyalty to this school and those who hold a place in her heart, that she’d certainly sacrifice her own life in place of another, or to keep this a secret.
She’s no longer nervous – she knows why Dumbledore himself picked these students in their fight against corruption and the unyielding darkness – as she pulls out the small box from a side drawer and with a quick spell, the latch that keeps their secret safe is unlocking itself. Her fingers brush against the velvet as they pick up the small, golden pin which she clasps securely in her fist as she locks the box and puts it back. Lily’s been looking on curiously, her brow slightly furrowed as she gazes intently at what’s hidden in the curl of her fingers.
“As I’m sure you’re aware, Ms Evans, we are currently fighting a war. You will be graduating in a few short weeks and will be thrust headfirst into a violent, deadly world.”
Lily’s eyes never waver from her own and she can see the desperation and hint of anger that linger there. She knows Lily has seen firsthand the effects of this war on the students who have come to her for comfort or in the quiet mourning of friends whose families have been torn apart.
“I’m going to fight in that war,” Lily says, her words laced with determination. “I may not be in the front line, but maybe I could be a Healer or something.” She’s hopeful, eager to make a difference.
There is no hesitation as Minerva slides the pin across the desk. Lily picks it up immediately for examination. She’s silent for a few moments but Minerva is patient, is willing to give her however long she needs (in an impossible hope that perhaps, the longer she waits, the farther the war will be from their immediate future).
“We need you,” Minerva tells her in a quiet voice, gauging her reaction. “You would be a brilliant asset to us in this war.”
“Is this – is this some sort of secret organization, or…?” Lily trails off, looking embarrassed.
Minerva smiles encouragingly. Lily has always been perceptive, intuitive. They need students like her, knowing how valuable those skills are on a battlefield. “Yes,” she confirms, her voice hushed. “The Order of the Phoenix was created by Professor Dumbledore to fight against You-Know-Who. We’ve been able to gain quite a following – secretly, of course.”
“And you want me?”
“Have you not been listening to what I’ve told you? You’re an extraordinary witch, Lily, and I know you care deeply about the people around you. We are desperate for those who are loyal to our beliefs, who want to be able to live in a world free from prejudices and oppression.”
Lily turns the phoenix pin over and over between her fingers, memorising every curve and groove. “The rebirth of a free world,” she murmurs and Minerva can’t be sure if she was meant to hear it, but her heart soars and she knows that Lily will serve them well.
“Ms Evans?” Minerva prompts her.
The gaze Lily gives her is fierce and proud. “Yes,” she agrees, nodding her head.
“Thank you,” Minerva says. “I will be contacting you shortly with more details. But again, I must remind you to not speak a word of this to anymore.”
“Oh, of course, Professor. I completely understand.” She slips the pin into the pocket of her robe and looks back to Minerva expectantly.
Minerva clears her throat and says, “Well, that’s all for this afternoon, Ms Evans. I’m glad I was able to have this chat with you.”
Lily grins and Minerva is half-reminded of the boy who had just sat in this seat not three days before, the boy whose heart belongs to this very girl and she feels a pang of pity, knowing what she’s done to their future. But she hopes that her faith in these two students’ loyalty and courage will not only aid them in surviving this war, but also in keeping them closer together.
“Thank you, Professor. Have a good day,” Lily replies as she rises from her seat to exit the office.
Just as she’s about to leave, Minerva offhandedly calls, “Say hello to Mr Potter.”
A blush creeps from the base of Lily’s neck to the roots of her similarly-coloured hair. But she smiles and Minerva can see the adoration in the way her eyes light up at the mere mention of his name. “Will do, Professor,” she replies as she quickly yet gracefully exits the office.
The door closes and Minerva, though she’s so very proud of Lily and thankful that she’s willing to fight for a brighter future, can’t help but think she’s just given this courageous, bright young woman a death sentence.