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Chapter 1: Casualties of War
You’ll look over, so lost in the majesty of it all, and you’ll swear you can hear her laugh. You’ll swear she was right there beside you, smiling in a way that only she can. Her hair will be catching with the wind, sunset-red strands blowing around her face. And those eyes, so beautifully bewitching, will be looking toward the sky, like she’s just getting ready to fly back to her place in Heaven.
She was perfect, you know. Not the angel-in-white type of perfection that people often speak of, but perfect in her own sense of the word. Perfect for this life, for the world she tied herself into, because she was strong enough to handle it all. And when she didn’t feel like her strength was sufficient, she’d bury those fears and pretend that it was. Her facade could be so convincing that you’d swear she’d never break. The way she breathed innocence... sometimes it was the only thing that kept them all going, kept them fighting.
A soul like hers doesn’t go into a war and come out without a trace of tainting, though. If she would have even come out at all, that is. She would have had cracks and gashes missing from herself, but she’d have found a way to recover, because that’s who she was. A woman as ever lasting as the wind in this very meadow. As unforgettable as the sight of a butterfly kissing your skin with its wings.
Lily Evans was born a gift. She grew into a kind child, and matured into a caring adult. Lily was a wife. A mother. She was a sister who always thought she’d have the chance to mend broken bonds, and she was a daughter who long ago kissed the blue lips of her parents goodbye.
To this day, a laugh is all that’s left of her. A whisper of the meadow’s wind.
There was a time when she was everything.
But now, she’s just a casualty of war.
I suppose we should begin with that smile of his, because that’s what you’d be drawn to from the start.
Have you ever noticed how the sun looks right when it’s about to rise? When it’s still surrounded by ashy clouds, and barely poking up over the hill? Well, that’s James’s smile. A sudden burst of color that’s able to shine, even through a layer of darkness.
He was lucky he had that smile, you know. Because he could also make you angrier than you ever thought possible. He was always right, even when he was wrong. But that was just James, and you’d forgive every second of frustration he caused you just to see him happy.
He wasn’t easy to forget. And trust me, plenty have tried. The day he said I Do to Lily Evans, you could almost hear the sounds of shattering hearts.
But it took a special kind of person to put up with him. He had plenty of faults that would make loving him a struggle. There would be times that he’d work so hard to keep the spirits around him up, that his would fall to a terrifying low. He’d wind up in this godawful place that was so dark, it’d take all the light of his friends to reach him.
They’d always pull him back, though. Even when they didn’t think it was possible. They’d save him from the hell of regret and anger that he’d create, strong enough to disintegrate every thread of happiness sewn inside his mind.
What could he regret, you ask? Oh god, more than he’d ever tell you. Sometimes when he’d look into the eyes of his young wife, he’d see all the mistakes he littered the world with. The cruel things he’d done as a child, and all the reasons he didn’t deserve to have her standing by his side.
Other times, he’d wake late at night and simply pace. He’d pace around his small kitchen, through the living room then back again. Most of these instances were filled with hours of internal struggled as he relived the first time he took another human’s life. The first time he let his magic break from his wand and capture a beating heart, only to crush it with as much finality as if it were a gun to the head. It was either take a life, or give his own. And he wasn’t willing to leave his Lily a widow, not just yet.
James had ghosts that haunted him, terrors that plagued him. But when the day was done, he had laughter and love to save him.
For many people, he was a hero even before he fell.
But now, he’s just a casualty of war.
Remus was afraid of monsters. From the time he was a little boy, he’d make his mum check in his wardrobe and under his bed. Even after that, he’d still lay awake and listen to all the secret sounds of the night.
Remus couldn’t tell you about those godforsaken hours when the monster finally got him. Whether his parents took the memory from him, or his own mind blocked it out, he never knew. But what happened during that life-changing catastrophe is probably best left unsaid. The details are just too gruesome.
The years after that, those are what count. The strength it took for that young boy to play host every month to a nightmare, it’s incredible. Thinking about it leaves you sort of speechless, doesn’t it?
He didn’t do it entirely on his own, but he’d have wanted to. He’d have wanted not one breath to ever be spoken about this condition. He’d have wished that not a single soul ever knew.
You have to understand, that was just how Remus was. He could bear the heaviest of burdens as long as he thought you’d never have to suffer.
But if you were to ask him what his most memorable times here on earth were... he probably wouldn’t even mention the wolf that growled at his back.
He’d tell you all about the time that James caught him kissing his first girlfriend. How even the embarrassment didn’t matter, because his mate’s voice was so full of pride.
He’d tell about about Sirius forcing him to sneak into Hogsmeade with the lot of them, and getting so drunk that you couldn’t see straight. Sure, he’d say it was stupid, but he’d also say that it was one of the best times of his life.
Then, while he’s on the subject of stupid things young boys do, he’d probably mention that day when him and Peter played a joke on James. They had it all planned out, and each time their mate lifted his fingers and ran them through his hair, those two boys just busted up laughing like they’d never witnessed something so funny. James spent a solid week trying to figure out what was wrong with his hair.
Remus would only tell you the happy stuff. He wouldn’t tell you anything about what happened during the darkest years of his life. He wouldn’t tell you about the time he spent in nothing but a self loathing blackness, when he’d lost nearly everything he ever loved.
This is one of those times that light can be found in the darkness, though. Because, even if Remus never thought he’d get a chance to feel happiness again, he was wrong.
And you know what happiness I’m talking about, don’t you? Of course, everyone does.
Sadly, it wasn’t long that he got to enjoy that newly found love... or bask in the touch of his child’s hand...
And one day, when that child wants to know about his father, when he needs some sort of reminder of how much he was loved.. all you’d have to do is tell Teddy to feel the beat of his own heart. To listen to the sounds of it pounding through his chest. Because that was what his dad was − a man with more heart than this earth knew what to do with.
For Nymphadora and Teddy Lupin, Remus was the best gift life could ever give.
But now, he’s just a casualty of war.
Maybe it’s best to just close your eyes and imagine... try to picture the strongest storm you’ve ever bore witness to. Listen to the wind raging against itself, the thunder cracking open every ounce of silence.
Now watch that small patch of blue as it slips subtly through the clouds. Smell the scent of the rain drops still left over on the dewy grass... that’s Sirius Black.
He’d spiral out of control like a tornado, and he’d be sure to take you along for the ride. But just as quickly as it came, his mood would pass and you’d be left with this boy... this perfectly incredible boy who could make you feel like you’d smile forever.
Sirius had a million moods, but no matter what, you'd always want to love him. If he was here, he'd tell you that himself.
He’d also tell you that you just need to laugh a little more. He’d tell you not to worry, because shit just happens. He’d tell you he wasn’t scared of anything, and you shouldn’t be either.
But that was before.
Now he’d tell you that he fought every goddamn day to keep himself alive. He’d tell you that he was terrified of the times when he could barely remember what James and Lily looked like when they laughed, because he was too focused on trying to forget the sight of them both laying there... cold and lifeless.
You can’t imagine what it was like for him. You can’t understand the excruciating kind of Hell he suffered through for too many years.
None of us can.
Sirius lived through a nightmare.
He was a man that never got the chance he deserved. A friend that never stopped being loyal.
He was many things.
But now, he’s just a casualty of war.
It’s easier that way, thinking that he was a forgotten boy who needed his revenge.
Years ago, before fear took prisoner of his soul, before so much wrong had been done that he could never make it right, Peter Pettigrew was a Marauder. He laughed with every fiber of his being, and he loved the people he called friends with each beat of his heart.
You don’t believe me? I know, it’s not easy to imagine. What he did, the number of lives he destroyed, will never be forgiven. And we’ll never know just what was going on inside that young boy’s mind during those hours when he grew to his weakest, when he fell to a low that he had no hope of overcoming.
You’ll never hear the sound of his uncontrollable cries, as he tried to figure out what the fuck he’d just done.
Maybe it started as a struggle to keep them all alive. Maybe he believed that if he just slipped information, just enough to satisfy Him, they wouldn’t attack the only people he’d ever really cared for.
Maybe it was just plain and simple fear that burned through him hotter than any flame ever could.
His name will never be loved like the others. His memory will never be cradled with careful hands. But I still hope you understand that, at one time, there was a boy named Peter Pettigrew, and he was a Marauder. He was a part, an equal part, of one of the greatest friendships ever formed.
The true Peter Pettigrew was gone the moment he took The Dark Lord’s Mark.
The true Peter Pettigrew was dead long before his life was ended by his own hand.
The true Peter Pettigrew was just a casualty of war.
Phew. I'm not sure what I think about this piece. The style doesn't make much sense, and I'm not even too sure where it came from.
Writing a novel about the Marauder's era sometimes just sparks all these really sad feelings, because we all know how it's going to end.
Anyway, I suppose I just needed to get those sads out. I'd love some feedback on this, whether you hated it or enjoyed it.
Edit: I’ve added a bit more substance to James and Lily’s sections, and want to thank Violet Gryfindor for suggesting that. Thank you ♥
Thanks for reading!