Lily Potter took the wet rag and tossed it between her two palms, wringing the excess water out of it. She placed it on the counter and dragged it carefully against the already clean surface, making careful, deliberate circles.
Dorcas Meadowes was missing.
Lily had never been particularly close to the older girl, but it was still terrifying whenever one of the Order members went missing. Especially one as powerful as Dorcas, who had personally eliminated so many Death Eaters. She was a force to be reckoned with.
If Lily was honest with herself, she had always been slightly frightened of Dorcas herself. There was nothing scarier than a powerful witch like Dorcas harboring a grudge. And she had one hell of a grudge.
Then again, if someone had taken Petunia and killed her in front of Lily, determined to send a message, she couldn’t say she wouldn’t hold a grudge as well.
And Petunia wasn’t even a child.
So, needless to say, Lily found it extremely disconcerting that someone with so much anger inside of them, such a need for vengeance, managed to be caught by the Death Eaters.
What was stopping them from taking her?
It certainly wasn’t her superior fighting abilities. While Lily was far from defenseless, fighting had never been a strong suit of hers. She had always preferred simple charms to make things beautiful over a spell that bound somebody up. She was usually reluctant to use even the simplest of defense spells against others, barely able to acknowledge that this was a time of war and if she didn’t disable them, they were going to go after someone else.
The thought of them moving from her to James was the only thing that gave Lily the courage to fight the Death Eaters, to knock someone unconscious and leave them in the middle of a battle, able to be hit by any of the spells flying. Actually praying they would be a casualty of the battle because if she didn’t fire the spell from her wand was she technically responsible?
The very thought made Lily sick to her stomach, and she heard her mother telling her not to lose sight of who she was just because everyone else did.
But Lily would defy everything about herself if it meant saving James.
This was the last thing he wanted of course. He always said he would jump in front of her in a heartbeat, and had proven it multiple times. Lily hated when he did that, because her life was certainly less valuable to the cause than his was, but when they would fight about it later she would tell him it was because he made her look weak, like she couldn’t protect herself.
Honestly, she knew she really couldn’t. She knew she had no business whatsoever out there in those battles, endangering everyone that she loves because they were all always twisting around to make sure she was okay, checking that she wasn’t fighting one of the nastier Death Eaters.
Just last week Sirius had taken a rather nasty curse from Bellatrix because he saw just in time a curse headed towards Lily from behind, and had changed the direction of the shield charm he was casting to protect her instead of himself. Multiple times Remus had yelled her name in exactly the nick of time for Lily to dodge a curse she hadn’t really seen coming.
Later, when they were safe, or as safe as things got these days, James would pull his friends in extra tight, hug them, and thank them for saving his Lily, for putting themselves in danger for her. Lily begged for them to stop, for them to worry about themselves and not about her, but they wouldn’t. They’d promise her they would, and she would promise to try and stay out of the fight, to heal others instead, and they would promise not to be looking out for her, not to put themselves in danger protecting one girl, one silly little girl.
But then the next battle would come and she would see James fighting and people falling and she would know she had to fight, because if there was someone fighting her, they weren’t fighting James or Sirius or Remus or Peter, that her boys were safer.
This was counterintuitive of course, because then they worried about her and behaved carelessly, putting themselves in indescribable danger because a stinging hex was heading her way. And if Lily really thought about it, she knew this, she was a brilliant witch after all, but in a battle between her head and her heart, her heart won every time. And those silly boys were the same exact way.
They would all fall before one curse would hit her, and to her it was absolutely ridiculous because who was she to the war but one person, but the boys, they could make a difference. Every night Lily had at least one nightmare in which one of them died, it differed every time, and she held their lifeless bodies in her arms, and she sobbed and sobbed and nothing would bring them back, they were gone.
She tried desperately to hide these nightmares from James, but inevitably most nights he would wake up, pull the hyperventilating Lily closer to him and rub her hair as he promised her everything was all right, that they were all fine, that she was safe. And Lily wanted desperately to believe him, but she couldn’t just couldn’t, at least not the next morning after James had rocked her back to sleep, softly humming the lullaby her mother had mentioned in passing once.
She didn't know what she would do without him.
Sometimes, Lily couldn’t help but think of just how unfair it was that they she was born when she was, into a time of war, to parents who couldn’t protect her and a sister who couldn’t love her for who she was. How unfair it was that she never got to enjoy her magic, not really, but instead spent most of her time in awe of it or afraid of it, watching the horrible things that the magic of others could do.
When things were too much to bear, Lily wished she was born at a different time, that none of this was her life, that this had been someone else’s problem. And then, as if on cue, even when she thought she was alone, James appeared in front of her, and he kissed her lips and she can’t help but wonder how on earth she could want to live in a world he wasn’t part of.
This war was taking everything from her, her hope and her love and her life. And it was only a matter of time before it took something much more important.
It was going to take her family.
Not the family she was born to, Mum and Dad had been gone for months now in a freak car accident that Lily never fully believed was an accident. James, Sirius and even Remus told her she was being paranoid but Lily couldn’t help but find it convenient that Voldemort was killing muggles at the same time that her parents died.
When she asked Dumbledore what he thought happened to her parents, whether he thought she was paranoid, he just looked at her sadly and didn’t answer as James kissed her forehead and told her she was being silly, that Voldemort didn’t want her parents. To Lily, Dumbledore’s lack of answer was more troubling than any of her own thoughts, and certainly more convincing than James’ reassurances.
No, Lily wasn’t worried about her parents or even her sister, who wanted nothing to do with her. Lily was worried instead about the family she had built. She was worried about Alice and Marlene and the Prewett brothers and Peter and Remus and Sirius and James, oh James.
Lily wasn’t delusional. She knew people were dying in this war and that Order members were disappearing but it had yet to happen that anyone she really knew, had really been close with, had been taken or killed. She also knew that they weren’t all going to make it out alive. This was war, and there would be casualties.
Obviously that they had Dorcas was hitting a little close to home. This was the closest they had ever gotten to Lily herself, and while she and Dorcas weren’t close (no one was close to Dorcas, especially not after the incident) they were friendly in passing and Lily had always admired Dorcas’ spunk.
Looking down, Lily found herself still cleaning the same portion of the counter top for who only knows how long, and she dropped the rag and put her head in her hands. Breathing deeply, she tried her absolute hardest to forget, to slip away into a different world.
When she was a child and she needed an escape, Lily had always turned to a book, slipped in with the characters almost to the point where she thought she was there, right there with them in Pride and Prejudice, or with the princesses in her muggle fairy tales whose lives always worked out fine in the end.
Over the years though, that had lost its appeal. Even Lily Evans Potterdidn’t have the imagination necessary to pretend this war wasn’t real, and that everything was going to be okay, and that in all honesty she certainly wouldn’t die.
On the contrary, Lily was almost certain that she would die.
It was inexplicable really, but even when Lily was a small child she always had this feeling that she would die young. When she was too little to know better, she would tell people this. When her parents would mention someday that they would be grandparents, or what would Lily like to be when she grew up, she would tell them that it didn’t matter, that she wasn’t going to achieve these things because she was going to be dead.
They would look at her and gasp, horrified that their youngest child had such a morbid view of the world. They would tell her not to say things like that, that of course she was going to live to be old and grey. For a while Lily argued, not sure why they didn’t believe her. She didn’t say she wanted to die, she just knew she was going to.
After a while she learned to keep her mouth shut. She was just upsetting everyone else.
Truly, Lily wasn’t afraid of her own death. The thing that totally completely terrified her was the thought of losing someone close to her in this war. This bloody, unfair war that was taking good people and killing them for fun. The good people that were on Lily’s side.
It seemed like the ones that died were always on Lily’s side.
The Death Eaters, they were getting closer and closer and there was someone on the inside. Every time they had a meeting Lily found herself paying less attention to what was being said and spending more and more time looking around the room, searching frantically for the one who was betraying them.
She would look into everyone’s eyes and she would watch and watch for a sign, for anything that signaled they were a liar, a traitor. She never sat next to the boys at these meetings anymore, because if she sat next to them she couldn’t keep an eye on them. And if Lily wasn’t watching, someone could sneak up and hurt them. So if she wasn’t searching for a traitor, she was watching them, James and Sirius and Remus and Peter, just watching. She wasn't going to let anyone hurt them.
For once she was going to protect them.
Lily was determined that if there was a traitor in the Order, they would never fool her. She may not be the best at fighting, or healing, or strategizing, but Lily could watch. And they weren’t going to sneak up on her boys.
Because if they were gone, what did she have left?
Her very heart cried out to her that it was coming soon, that before she knew it someone she loved would be dead. They wouldn’t all survive this war, no matter what, and Lily wasn’t even confident that they had a shot at winning anymore. She wanted it all to stop, but she knew they could never give in.
This was a war of all or nothing, of total surrender. It would only end when all the Order was dead, or all the Death Eaters were in prison. There would be no premature surrender, because the Death Eaters wouldn’t give in and the Order couldn’t, not after all they had sacrificed.
Because how do you explain to someone’s family that their loved one had died for a cause you just gave up on? How do you explain that the deaths had been fine until they hit too close to home, until someone you loved died, and then it wasn’t worth it anymore?
So they all kept fighting, even though they were just so tired.
And Lily spent all her time praying that she wasn’t the only one losing hope. Could everyone else seriously still believe they were definitely going to win, that they weren’t going to die, that this was going to end in a fair fight between good and evil?
Lily knew this wasn’t a fair fight. It was one thing to duel adults that chose to fight for a cause, to stand up for what you believe in and be willing to die for it. That was a fair fight.
But the Death Eaters weren’t fighting fair. They were killing children, both muggle and magical, as a means of sending a message. They threatened and killed entire families, wiping them out of the population because they didn’t want to get involved.
And how was the Order supposed to win against that?
She had stopped cleaning the counter completely at this point, and was staring hopelessly at the clock, terrified about where James was. He was late again, late from a mission that was supposed to be routine observation; a mission that she thought should have been cancelled in the light of Dorcas’ disappearance, but that he insisted he had to do because what if he found out something that could save her.
Lily thought she was probably beyond saving at this point, but she couldn’t say that to James.
Lily jumped about fifteen feet at the sound of someone apparating into her living room, and ran in there, certain that James was home for the night.
But instead, standing in her living room was a panting Peter, bruised, dirty and a little bit bloody. He looked at Lily apologetically when the disappointment and then terror appeared on her face, but he didn’t reassure her fast enough, and a sob racked her body, because she was absolutely certain that one of them was dead and that’s why Peter was here. When he saw the panic in her eyes and shook his head quickly.
“No, no Lils don’t cry, don’t cry, everyone’s fine!” He spoke so quickly he stumbled over his own words, and relief flooded into Lily. “Well, not fine but alive at least. The thing is we’re so outnumbered and there are so many wounded and James would kill me if he knew I was here getting you but he’s bleeding and we’re losing and we need everyone, even you.”
Trying to soak it all in, Lily nodded solemnly, still shaking slightly, and grabbed her cloak before grabbing onto Peter and having him apparate her to the center of the battle.
She shook when she looked around and saw the spells flying and she was almost sick when she found James in the crowd and saw the gash on his arm just spewing blood, but instead she swallowed hard.
Lily hated fighting, but she pulled out her wand and shot a stupefy curse at the closest Death Eater, flinching when his body crumpled hard to the ground with a thud. She hated fighting but she had to, because this was battle and they needed her.
This wasn’t a game, it wasn’t making pretend, and it wasn’t just a silly Hogwarts duel. This was people dueling to kill, looking to kill her friends and her boys and her and most terrifying of all, her James.
This was the time when she had to fight, had to defend herself and her boys because over her dead body would they be dead bodies, and it didn’t matter that this went against everything she knew all that mattered was that this was them she was fighting for.
This was war.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the latest musings of my brain! Please review!!!