Chapter 1 : Handprint
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What did that word even mean?
Lily kicked at her trunk. Unfortunately, this failed to relieve any of her frustration and gave her a stubbed toe for her efforts.
She kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto her bed. She had only intended to come upstairs to get her book for Potions. She really needed to leave now if she wanted to make it to History of Magic on time.
Lily did not get up. The idea of having her dormitory to herself for an hour was too much of an incentive, especially given that the alternative was listening to Binns drone on about goblin wars or whatever they were covering that day. She was in no mood to sit in such a stupid, pointless class when she was feeling this awful.
Instead, she rolled onto her back and stared up at the red hangings on her four-poster bed. In her mind, she heard her brother’s voice. “He’s safe, don’t worry, everything’s fine.”
She let out a humorless snort. Everything was not fine. Everything was not remotely close to being fine. When Albus was interrupting her games with her friends to tell her that James was in St. Mungo’s, everything was not bloody fine. She slammed her fist down on her bed.
“Safe,” she scoffed. “Sure, Albus. Keep telling yourself that.” It took her a moment to realize that the laugh she was hearing was really hers; it sounded so much uglier than it usually did.
Then, she was feeling more cynical and angry than she usually did, so that probably made sense.
Sometimes, Lily really hated her brothers. Usually she didn’t, of course, but sometimes, she would like nothing better than to run away and never speak to them again.
She just didn’t understand them anymore.
You would think that seeing their brother laying in a bed at St. Mungo’s would at least make Albus reconsider the whole Auror thing, but it hadn’t. He still thought that going out and joining the Aurors was the best damn idea he’d ever had. How could seeing his brother lying there with a black eye and thick bandages on his left arm not have at least given Albus pause? Sure, James had been hurt by a monster, not a dark wizard, but it was all really the same, wasn’t it? Dark wizards could hurt you just the same as monsters.
Of course someone had to do the dangerous jobs, but she didn’t see why it had to be her entire family doing it. Her father was already an Auror. Wasn’t that enough?
She hadn’t really been expecting James to settle down and do something sensible and safe with his life since she was about ten. She wasn’t an idiot, after all. She could see how much he loved putting himself in dangerous situations. He’d left Hogwarts and gone off to fight monsters, and no one was the least bit surprised.
But Albus… Lily had had real hopes for Albus. He’d always seemed so mellow, and sane. She hadn’t even had any idea that he was planning to become an Auror until she’d overheard him talking to Scorpius and Rose about after they’d gotten their O.W.L. results in the mail.
That was not the way Lily had wanted to find out that the brother she’d thought she could count on to make good choices was ready to make a whole host of bad ones.
Maybe bad was too strong a word, but really, was it too much to ask to have more than one member of her family not courting a premature death every day?
“He’s safe, don’t worry, everything’s fine.” Lily could still hear Albus’s voice in her head. She could still see James in St. Mungo’s, sitting up in bed and laughing with Roxanne and Victoire like nothing at all was wrong. She’d wanted to scream at him and shake him and make him understand that there was something wrong if he was in St. Mungo’s, but she knew that he didn’t see it that way. That he would never see it that way.
And neither, apparently, would Albus.
There was something deeply and fundamentally wrong with that perspective, and she didn’t understand how they couldn’t understand that.
The sun began to sink a little lower in the sky, and Lily knew that if she wanted to make it to Potions on time, she needed to leave now. She forced herself to get out of bed, padded down the stairs to the nearly empty common room, and climbed out through the portrait hole.
When she reached the first floor, however, she hesitated about continuing down to the dungeons. She knew she should go to Potions. O.W.L.s were fast approaching, and she desperately needed the review. At this rate, she’d be lucky to pass Potions at all.
Logically, she knew that she really needed to go to Potions. Binns probably hadn’t even noticed that she’d been absent from History of Magic, and if any of her classmates asked where she’d been, she could just pretend that she took a nap after lunch and hadn’t woken up in time. Dorny was sure to notice if she skipped Potions, however, and she’d probably give her detention for it.
She decided to go down to the lake anyway. She passed a few people taking advantage of the sunny weather and throwing a Fanged Frisbee around on her way down, but thankfully, there was no one actually near the water. She was not in the mood to deal with people.
Lily knew that her brother being mauled by a monster was not about her. She knew that this was all a lot bigger than she was. She knew he had been attacked in the line of duty. She knew he was off being a bloody hero and reveling in how heroic and brave he was.
Right now he was probably trying to convince the Healers at St. Mungo’s to let him go because he really was fine. He’d probably be gone before they got there to see him again on Saturday. He probably—
She sighed and tossed a stone into the water. It made a small splash and dropped to the bottom.
“That’s not really how you skip stones, you know,” she heard a voice say behind her.
She whirled around. Albus’s best friend was standing behind her with his arms crossed. “Hi, Scorpius.”
“Hey, Lily.” He sat down next to her. “Aren’t you supposed to be in Potions now?”
She shrugged and put her head on her knees.
He seemed to take the hint, because rather than continue to try and engage her in conversation, he picked out a few stones that were flatter than the one she’d grabbed and began to skip them. When they’d all sunk out of sight and she still hadn’t said anything, he sighed.
“This is about James, isn’t it?”
Lily didn’t know whether or not she wanted to answer him. On one hand, she always had liked Scorpius. He’d come to visit Albus for the first time in the summer following their first year, and he’d been happy to include her in their games, even though she wasn’t even old enough to go to Hogwarts yet. He also had always been a fairly sympathetic ear – he wasn’t planning on going off and doing any ridiculous career that would put him in mortal peril.
At the same time, since he’d started going out with Rose, he’d become much more tolerant of all of that nonsense.
“Yes,” she admitted after a moment. “Don’t tell me I’m just being stupid.”
“Wasn’t planning on it,” he said mildly. She gave him a sharp look, and he smiled. “Lily, I’m not exactly a fan of the idea that in a few months, my best friend and my girlfriend are both going to be joining departments where I know they’ll be risking their lives on a regular basis.”
“Maybe they won’t get good enough marks,” she said hopefully. That was her one remaining hope. You couldn’t erase a poor N.E.W.T. mark, and maybe they just wouldn’t be good enough to get in. Albus needed at least an E in Transfiguration, and she knew he’d struggled with the subject in the last year. And Rose… all Lily could hope was that Rose had spread herself too thin and would somehow do poorly on her Charms exam.
He shook his head. “You know they will.”
Lily knew he was right, but it was not what she wanted to hear. “I just don’t understand,” she said after a moment. “I just… don’t.”
“I know.” Scorpius touched her shoulder lightly, and she looked at him. “Do you want to be left alone?” he asked. “I didn’t mean to intrude on your brooding. I was just taking a walk while I waited for Rose and Albus to be done with Care of Magical Creatures, and I saw you down here.”
She shrugged. Despite her best efforts, she could feel her lower lip starting to tremble, and after a moment, her eyes began to well up.
“Oh, Lily.” He put his arm around her shoulders.
That was too much. She promptly burst into tears and buried her head in his shoulder. “It’s not fair,” she said through her tears. “It’s not! I don’t want my brothers to… to…” she hiccupped. “To die, is that too much to a-a-ask?”
He patted her back. “No, it’s not too much to ask.”
“I’m not a c-c-coward, you know,” she stuttered. “I just don’t want everyone I love to run off and d-d-die!”
“Of course you’re not a coward,” he said. “You’re just worried.”
She tried to nod, but she wasn’t sure it was actually distinguishable from her sobbing. When she finally pulled away, wiping her eyes, she tried a tentative smile. “Sorry.”
Scorpius shook his head. “It’s okay. I know how you feel.”
Lily winced when she saw how wet his shoulder was. “I think I got your shirt wet and snotty,” she said.
He glanced down. “Oh. Damn.” His eyebrows drew together and he gave her a very severe look. “Well, now it’s not okay, and I’ll never forgive you.”
That got a smile out of her. “Thanks,” she said as he got his wand out, pointed it at his shoulder, and muttered something.
The wet spot faded, and he examined it. “That’s a bit better, anyway.” He put his arm around her shoulder again and hugged her. “Come on. Let’s go back up to the castle. I’ll go talk to Dorny with you. I bet you I can get you out of a detention.”
Lily found herself smiling despite herself. “I want to stay out here for a little longer.”
“All right.” Scorpius got to his feet. “How’s this: I’ll go over to the Quidditch Pitch to say hi to Noah and Claire, and then come back and we can go up together?”
She sniffed. “I guess.” She heard him walk away and sighed. Why couldn’t Albus be as sensible as his best friend?
The problem was, while she felt better now, the situation was still the same. James and Albus were still going to be running around risking their lives, and she was still going to making multiple visits to St. Mungo’s every year because one of her family members had landed up in there with another injury. It was only a matter of time until someone didn’t recover.
With that morbid thought, Lily put her head on her knees and stared out across the water.
A/N: This fic was written for Amalia_Malfoy's "Reflections" Challenge and dracolovergirl5000's "Two Word" Challenge. My two words were "safe" and "water," and I needed to start the fic with one and end with the other.
I'm still a little inexperienced with writing angst/unhappiness, so I'd really appreciate any reviews telling me how I'm doing!
Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this story, you should check out the sequel I'm writing called "The Albatross." :)