Chapter 3 : Letters and Loneliness
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Author's Note: I'm sorry for the loooong wait... I'm kind of busy with school and running a roleplaying board, sorry! And this chapter isn't very exciting, it's more explanatory and depressing. So yeah :p.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this story is my own, it all belongs to JK Rowling for creating the world in which I make her characters do unrealistic things of my own fancy.
Letters and Loneliness
“…And then he offered to get me some lemonade from the cafeteria, from his own money, you know… Oh, he’s so respectable Lily, and he says that once I’m all fixed up he’s going to take me out for dinner!”
Lily tried to avoid looking at Petunia’s horse-like grin, because it would surely make her want to strangle her. She had been talking incessantly about some man named Dursley who was in the hospital visiting his sister ever since her recovery, and it drove everyone around mad. The woman, Marge, was apparently covered in dog bites, but according to Petunia she would still make a fine sister-in-law. The fact that she was already planning ahead that far after only meeting the man was one thing, but it was Petunia’s complete lack of genuine grief that annoyed Lily beyond words. Certainly she’d put up quite a show in the beginning, producing dry sobs from out of nowhere, and Lily suspected that when their parents’ property would be dealt out it would be the same. However, she was sure that Petunia felt no real sorrow because she’d always resented their parents’ love for Lily.
In order to distance herself from her stupid sister, from that urge to throw her off her hospital bed onto the floor and start disfiguring her with doctor’s knives, Lily turned away from Petunia and began going through the pile of letters on the bedside table. It was such a daunting amount, and they were all bound to be filled with such nice and sympathetic things, that she hadn’t had the time or energy to look through them yet. Lily was quite popular at Hogwarts, and some of the envelopes were from students she’d never even heard of before. It was interesting that so many of them had known to send letters by Muggle post, though a number of owls had flown in through the window as well. Luckily, she soon spotted two from her best friends Francine and Frank, which she’d read before sifting through all the other ones. Just as Lily was opening Francine’s (it felt heavy; she’d probably written an unspeakably long letter to give her condolences), yet another owl soared in to land right on Lily’s shoulder.
Ignoring Petunia’s hysterical shrieks about freaks and demons, Lily removed the rolled-up parchment, intending to add it to the pile of letters on the table. But that was when she saw James Potter’s name…
I really hope you don’t toss this out the window before reading. Listen, I want us to talk this through. Obviously you regret what happened and I was a complete ass to let it, but in my own defense you did say it was the last chance I would have. Maybe this sounds stupid, but there has to be a reason you came to me and not someone else. I wish you had told me about your parents, my dad let me know after you left and I swear I’ve never felt worse. Please believe me Lily; I wouldn’t have gone through with it if I’d known why you came. If I’ve bothered you for the last three years about going out with me then it’s because I really care, and if you ever need anyone to talk to then I’ll be here. I can understand that you hate me and don’t ever want to speak to me again, but at least consider getting to know me before making that decision. I care about you very much; don’t ever think all I wanted you for was to sleep with you. It was a very nice experience for me, and it hurt to find out that you only needed a momentary distraction. I’m not sorry it happened, but just sorry for the reasons you had. And I’m so sorry about your parents… I can’t pretend to understand what it feels like, because I don’t. But I remember how happy you used to be when your mum and dad picked you up from King’s Cross, and it must be so painful that they’re not there anymore. I hope you can find some support in your sister, otherwise you’ll certainly find it in me. Please answer this letter or come talk to me, I’d love to hear from you, I’m worried about you.
Lily trembled a bit; she felt the tears threatening behind her eyes but wouldn’t let them fall. Ever since she’d left Potter’s house yesterday he’d been running through her mind, like a thorn that had been jammed into her chest and couldn’t be removed no matter how hard she tried. Lacking the strength or will to call anyone or see to any of the things that needed to be done, Lily had taken a shower which had lasted for almost an hour – usually, she was environmentally aware enough to take no more than fifteen minutes. She felt so disgusted with herself that even after all that time washing herself there was nothing she could do to make herself feel clean. When the water had gradually turned cold, Lily had awoken from her stupor and lay down in her bed with a stuffed animal clenched tightly in her arms. It was a doe called Nuzzle, one she hadn’t looked at or touched since she was about seven, but now the closeness to this soft creature allowed her to feel like a little girl again. It wasn’t fair, growing up so quickly and leaving all innocence behind, the same night that her parents had been killed. The one person who she really wished she could speak to and hold on to, her mother, was ironically the cause for this mess.
All that torrent of emotions had been building up behind an invisible dam within Lily, and reading this letter threatened to break it down. She was surprised he’d written at all, to be honest, and even more so that he used a serious tone. He’d never uttered a word to her before that didn’t contain some hidden joke, some reference to his own worth or to other immature things. For Lily, a sympathetic letter was worse, because any indication of her hatred towards James lessening would mean that the cliché was true; girls did get attached to the boys they slept with, especially for the first time. The worst thing that could ever happen, in Lily’s opinion, was for the previous night to have somehow affected her mind to believe that James was a good human being. She had to remind herself constantly that he was scum, no matter how concerned he spoke of her grief for her parents. The fact that he watched me on King’s Cross with my parents doesn’t mean he cared, it meant he was researching his next victim. What had happened between them ought to have doubled her hatred, and on some level it did. But this letter didn’t fit in her plan to despise him forever.
“Evanesco,” Lily said softly, the tip of her wand touching the parchment. Now she wouldn’t be reminded of him anymore… Or at least not for now.
“What did you say?” Petunia asked vaguely, looking up from some magazine that reported on the private lives of celebrities. Apparently she’d thought the incantation had been somehow directed to her – the medication they’d put her on had a few side effects. Drowsiness was another one of them, for which Lily was glad. Only when Petunia slept could she really put her thoughts and emotions in order.
“The funeral is scheduled for the 5th,” Lily replied, improvising. Her sister hated anything to do with magic, and the last thing she needed now was a fight. “I’m trying to write a list of the people we should invite, but it’s not easy. The colleagues from mum’s practice, obviously, and any clients dad had… I’ll have to talk to his secretary for their numbers… But apart from the Smiths I don’t know what friends they still have, perhaps-” She was rudely interrupted by Petunia.
“I told you I wanted to hear no more of this. It’s too painful for me. You don’t understand, you weren’t in the accident,” she sniveled, with another hint of those fake tears, and Lily found herself musing over the fact that she was fighting so hard to keep them back whilst Petunia had to conjure them up with enormous effort. “And it’s no wonder you don’t know their friends, all year long you’re away at that school for freaks.” Feeling very satisfied with herself, no doubt, Petunia’s horse-like face was once more hidden behind a magazine.
Lily decided to bother with her no longer, and go through the remaining letters instead. Widely, they were all the same, offering words of support for her in these difficult times. It was so amazing, she realized, being allowed to form part of two worlds. The magical one was all that really meant something to her anymore; before, when her parents had been alive, Lily had cherished her Muggle side just as much. Now non-magical things remained as a bad memory, something that made her stomach contract and her head hurt with the dark thoughts that overwhelmed her. “I’m coming home tonight to see you, mum understood straight away that you’re more important than vacations,” Francine wrote, and Frank, too, insisted that he’d come to visit her as soon as he could. “I know how you hate speaking in public, Lily, but when I come I’ll help you to write a speech for the funeral that will remind everyone how amazing your parents were and how much you loved them,” he told her in his letter, which was written in a way that told her he’d thought for hours before putting quill to parchment. “I’ll practice my Cheering Charms for when I see you again,” said a young Hufflepuff that Lily had once saved from bullying. And there were dozens of letters just like that.
One of them, however - pulled off the leg of a Hogwarts barn owl - was different. Lily knew what it would contain; she received one every year, accepting her back to the school and informing her of the books that would have to be bought. As she held it in her hands, she realized that it was somewhat heavier than usual, and suddenly an ominous feeling passed over her. What if they had somehow found out about what at happened the night before? Didn’t the Ministry have eyes and ears everywhere, if they could detect Underage magic too? It was ridiculous, paranoid idea, but Lily could just imagine sitting in Dumbledore’s office and explaining to him why she had slept with James Potter. Shaking the thought away, Lily carefully opened the envelope and pulled out three pieces of folded parchment. One of them, she saw instantly, was the standard acceptance letter. The second was a frighteningly lengthy list of books for the NEWTs curriculum, which she pocketed to refer to later in Diagon Alley. The final letter, Lily saw, was written in elaborate and magnificent handwriting, belonging to none other than the Headmaster of Hogwarts himself. Having never received a personal letter from Dumbledore before, Lily gasped and quickly went over the words.
Dear Lily Evans,
May I begin, first of all, by offering my sincere condolences regarding the demise of your parents, Anna and Harold Evans. They were a fine pair to have raised such an outstanding Witch, and I have no doubt you will honour their memory with continued deliverance of generosity, consideration and academic excellence. It is because of these qualities you possess that I have appointed you as this year’s Head Girl, a responsibility granted only to the very best of Hogwarts students. The other staff members have backed this decision fully and are eager to work alongside you this coming school year. Your additional duties will be explained to you on the Hogwarts Express on the 1st of September. On a final note, I will be so foolish to recommend that your summer ends in the company of friends, and away from magic.
Albus P.B.W. Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry
Slowly, ever so cautiously, Lily reached into the envelope to retrieve a shiny golden badge bearing the words “HEAD GIRL”, and stroked it with a long slender finger. The badge gleamed in the ugly neon lights of the hospital room, and it filled Lily with a feeling she couldn’t describe. It was bittersweet; carried the pride of a soldier who had come home victorious, but had seen all his fellows fall along the way. Was the medal really worth it then, Lily contemplated somberly, when there was no one to praise it? What did it matter if you could reach your dreams, when there was no one to share them with? Her body convulsed for a moment and as she recovered, Lily clenched onto the badge with a look of cold determination on her face. No matter how great her sorrows, she wouldn’t let those Slytherins think they had been proven right by giving up her post. She had dedicated her life to obtaining this badge, and nothing would ruin it for her. Lily would work through Seventh year like a mule, achieve such high NEWT scores it would leave people dizzy, and become someone. She would forget this horrible summer, pretend none of it ever happened… And if Potter decided to spill the secret, there was nobody who’d believe him.
It would all be all right… It would be all right. Lily fought against the misery inside her by thinking of a future for herself. One that was bright and long and contained a post at the Ministry and a horde of red haired children. Oh god, what if she was pregnant?
“A loaf of bread, a box of tea and a pregnancy test… That’ll be twenty-one pounds and sixty-five cents, please.”
The shopkeeper dropped Lily’s groceries into a plastic bag and stared at her blankly, waiting for her to hand over the money. Lily flushed, feeling the prying eyes of a chubby woman beside her who was no doubt thinking of her own daughter and the dangers that teenage girls were exposed to these days. God only knows what awful things she’d be telling the entire neighborhood about ‘that Evans girl’s behaviour! Lily was too much of a people pleaser and a maniac to let anyone think such things about her. She couldn’t let the woman walk away thinking Lily was the kind of person who had a wild unprotected night every now and then, especially not when it was less than a week after her parents’ death. Oh, why couldn’t the stupid shopkeeper keep his mouth shut! Was it really so difficult to show some discretion when dealing with embarrassing products, especially since Lily had handed over the pregnancy test as dexterously as possible?
“Here you are. I’m not actually shopping for myself, you know,” Lily said in a rush, facing the shopkeeper but saying it loudly enough for the woman behind her to hear. “My sister’s in the hospital and…” The shopkeeper coughed loudly to indicate that he didn’t care in the least, and Lily hurriedly emptied her purse on the counter. It was the pathetic contents of her piggybank, shattered with a hammer earlier that day. They had yet to receive the insurance money, and Lily was afraid of what the funeral and the cost of Petunia’s hospitalization would suck out of that measly fund. Her father’s lawyer would be coming to handle a few of those affairs as well as the will tomorrow, though Lily didn’t like to think of it. On one hand she wanted to deal with these things, because she was so very organized and already Overage, but at the same time she hated this bureaucracy at a time when she’d prefer to simply crawl into a corner and not speak to anyone.
“Next,” said the shopkeeper, scooping up her money and dumping it into the cash register. Lily mouthed silently for a moment, wondering whether saying any more would do her harm rather than good, and then headed for the exit. On the way out she distinctly heard the chubby woman mumbling to her husband, “Blaming her philandering on a sister in the hospital! How low can someone stoop?” Feeling absolutely fabulous, Lily slammed the shop door behind her and was irritated by the cheerful jingling sound it made. True, it wasn’t exactly classy to blame a suspected pregnancy on Petunia, but it was nothing her sister wouldn’t do to her. Besides, Petunia was already 23 – an age the women in this neighborhood would find much less exciting to gossip about.
Lily found herself at her house in no time, having enjoyed amusing thoughts of lightning striking Petunia through her hospital window or being eaten by one of that Marge woman’s horrible bulldogs along the way. But as soon as she stood in the bathroom waiting for the outcome of the test, a sensation of failure and the futility of life swept over her. Here she was, barely starting her life, and instead of going into the world as a well-rounded and happy adult like the rest of the seventh years, Lily would be pregnant and alone. No parents, no friends (they would probably be so disgusted with her they’d never speak to her again), no husband and no future. Thoroughly depressed, Lily stared at her sullen face in the mirror above the sink. All her life, she had considered herself somewhat lucky. After all, there were a lot of things going for her. Not only did she have a loving mum and dad, always enough to eat and splendid health, Lily was well-liked by almost anyone outside Slytherin and was always at the top of her year. She was talented, had potential, many friends and was pretty. Thinking things like that about herself made Lily feel ashamed, sometimes, because it might as well have been James thinking these conceited thoughts. But it was true, Lily had been quite lucky. And now everything she’d had was lost… Her reflection became somewhat blurred from having stared at it too intently, until all Lily saw was the vague image of a girl with red hair and bright green blobs in the place of eyes. She knew the two minutes had come and gone, but she wouldn’t dare going to check what colour would greet her if she looked.
What would a mixture of James Potter and Lily Evans look like? Lily knew enough genetics to realize that Potter’s darker genes were dominant and it would probably be a dark-haired baby. Don’t say baby, anything but that. They both had fair skin, so it would inherit that and probably Lily’s freckles as well. It would be fairly tall, and most likely very clever. Even Lily had to admit Potter was clever… Unless he just copied off Remus Lupin’s work, something she had always suspected. But what sort of personality would come out of such a nasty troublemaker and a Head Girl? They might cancel each other out and create an average baby – don’t say baby – but Lily preferred to think that the child would take after her most. If not in physical appearance, then at least in mind. A girl or boy that would bury their nose in books and share her ideals and her dreams. A little person she could trust more than anyone else, because it was a piece of her… Lily laughed softly to herself, realizing how insane these ideas were. But at the same time, as she turned to walk towards the pregnancy test, she felt slightly less alone…