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Chapter 2 : Short Days Ago
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Lily and Petunia grew up listening to their dad’s stories. They were innocent enough at first: he and his mates and the antics they got up to. They became familiar to the girls as their father repeated the same handful of stories over and over. The safe stories, the girls would come to know. The ones their father could tell them knowing those memories would not push him over the edge. Eventually, Petunia stopped listening. Lily started to wonder about the stories they didn’t hear.
Their granddad had stories too. When he was around their father, it turned into a competition; who had it harder? Lily’s father always spoke first. Courtesy, Lily thought. It wasn’t until she was older that she realized Granddad was choosing his stories based on his son’s. When she was alone with her granddad she prodded the real stories out of him. He told her the stories of his battles, so different from those of his son. Like her father’s, they started funny at first, and as she aged, and he aged, they got darker and darker.
“It started,” her grandfather would begin, “when some bloody fools shot the Archduke of someplace-or-another…”
Phillip Evans was called to serve in the middle of the First World War, as soon as they started conscription. He went through basic training, where they taught him to follow orders and shoot a gun. It didn’t take long. In a few short weeks he was assigned to a troop. They lined them up and everyone received a gun.
Soon he was sent to the trenches, somewhere in the middle of France. He was told where he would be sleeping (in a glorified hole with at least six other men), briefed on what went on, and told that he should try to get some shut-eye because that night he’d be out in no man’s land, laying the wire.
“I don’t think I can,” Phil said. “It’s the middle of the day.”
“You’ll get used to it,” his commander responded.
Phil wasn’t so sure.
He lay where he had been told and shut his eyes, but he did not sleep. He listened to the conversations flowing in around him, and the sound of life in the trenches. Shouts of orders, raucous laughing, boxes moving, nails being pounded in, the distant explosion of shells and the pounding of gunfire: the music of war. Eventually the cacophony brought him to a short and restless slumber.
Jack Evans slept soundly as the noise of military life drifted around him. He never had trouble with it; while the men around him tossed and turned well into the night, he fell asleep with ease. He woke early too; the sunlight had never let him sleep for long. During training, his commanders had praised it… to the extent they praised anything, anyway.
He had enlisted early, as soon as he could convincingly tell them he was old enough. The fear in his bright green eyes as he had lied might have given him away. He didn’t think the recruiters cared. He boarded the bus to basic without telling his parents. Instead, he left a note with an address and a promise to write.
Basic went by quickly. They took only enough time to kill the boys and breed the soldiers. Before too long they were shipped off to France with the guns from his father’s war and hardly any ammunition for them.
“How are we supposed to kill the Krauts without any bullets?” Jack asked some of the men in his platoon as soon as he had discovered that the base didn’t have much either. It hadn’t taken long; he’d been on supply duty for the entire four hours he’d been at the base.
“You’ve got a bayonet, haven’t you?” Oliver Miller said. The group responded with raucous laughter over their drinks.
A man called Keeley raised his glass toward Jack. “Fancy one?”
“Nah,” he said. “I think I’m gonna hit the hay.”
Every face in the group looked at him incredulously. “The noise don’t bother you?” Paddy Rivers asked.
Jack shook his head.
“Suit yourself then.”
Jack went to his cot, and drifted easily away.
The first morning Lily Evans awoke at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a misty, grey Tuesday. She woke with a start, as if from an exciting dream-- only, it wasn’t. The deep red curtains surrounding her as she lay in a four-poster bed told her that immediately. She fell back onto her bed and flailed about for a few moments, basking in the excitement of her situation. Soon her mind turned to her best friend and her unwavering desire to share her excitement with him. And then she remembered: they had been placed in separate Houses. She wasn’t exactly sure what all that entailed, but he had seemed disappointed.
She threw the covers off her legs and slid out of bed as quickly as she could. Her dormmates were only just waking as she dug through her trunk for her uniform. Lily had already dressed and readied her bag for the day before she realized that she actually had no idea where to find Severus, and no way to communicate with him at all. She sat softly on her bed, wondering what she could do. There weren’t many options, so she took the only one she could think of and headed to breakfast to wait for him there.
It took her a bit longer than she anticipated to find the Great Hall again; she thought the staircases might have changed since last night. Eventually, though, she made it. The four long tables from the night before were once again covered with food-- of the breakfast variety this time-- and the clouds had shifted slightly so that several rays of sunlight entered the room. She looked over at the table Severus had gone to last night and scanned over it carefully, but he was not to be found. Sighing, she walked across the Hall to the Gryffindor table, and took a seat by herself a little ways down from some rather rowdy boys. She helped herself to a piece of toast and a bit of bacon, her eyes focused intently upon the doors and the table across the Hall.
After what felt like hours she saw him enter, surrounded by a group of boys. They were talking animatedly, laughing and pointing at different people they saw. He sat facing her, made eye contact with her and smiled. She decided she would meet him when he was finished.
The girls from her dorm came and sat with her soon after. “You left early this morning, Lily,” one of them commented.
“Yeah,” Lily replied, “Sorry I didn’t wait for you. I couldn’t wait to eat!”
They giggled, and continued to chat. Lily chimed in occasionally, but her eyes never strayed too far from Slytherin table. When Professor McGonagall came around to pass out their timetables she guessed animatedly at what each class might contain. A few of the girls came from magical families and happily explained what the difference between Charms and Transfiguration was, and why they had class at midnight on Wednesdays. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the group of Slytherin boys Severus was with rise from the table. “Excuse me,” she told her roommates, getting up from the table herself, “I’ve got to go meet a friend of mine.”
She didn’t wait to hear a response and very nearly ran out of the Hall after him. “Severus!” she called as soon as she had made it into the corridor. He kept walking with the group he had gone to breakfast with, as if he had not heard her. “Severus!” she called again, a bit louder. She was jogging at this point, catching up to them rapidly. “Sev!” Finally, he turned to face her.
“Lily,” he responded.
“I was looking for you!” she said. “Sev, can you-“ She stopped herself as she realized they were still surrounded by his friends. “Um, can we talk later?”
“You can talk now,” one of the boys said. “We don’t mind, do we?” The others glanced at each other out of the corner of their eyes, unsure of how they should react. Another boy shook his head and the rest followed suit.
“Well I mind,” Lily said.
“Oh,” the boy sounded rather impressed. “Aren’t you lively? I’m Thaddeus Avery.” He extended his hand.
She did not accept it. “Lily Evans,” she replied.
“Evans,” Avery mulled it over in his mouth. “That doesn’t sound familiar…”
“Funny, it’s very common.” Lily crossed her arms over her chest.
“That’s a Muggle name, then?” It was only partly a question.
Lily furrowed her brow in confusion, “What of it?”
“You’re a Muggle then?” Avery laughed. The boys surrounding him joined in with soft chuckles.
“I’m not!” she said. “I’m a witch. That’s why I’m here, same as you.”
“Not really, though,” another boy said. “Everyone knows Mudbloods aren’t as magical as purebloods.”
“What does that even mean?” she said.
“Lily,” Severus warned, under his breath.
“You don’t know?” the new boy asked. “Then I’ll explain. A ‘Mudblood,’ is someone like you: someone with filthy Muggle blood in them. That’s why we call them Mudbloods, their blood is dirty.”
“That is absolutely disgusting,” she said, “and completely untrue. It doesn’t make any difference.” She turned to look at Severus. “Does it?”
Paddy Rivers tightened the strap on Jack’s helmet and patted him affectionately on the head. “It does if you don’t want the Krauts to blow your fucking brains out.”
Jack dodged Paddy’s hand and shot an angry look his way. “I can do it myself,” he spat.
“Alright then,” Paddy responded, unaffected. “Do it yourself next time then.” He turned from the young boy and began walking out of the tent in which they slept. “We’re lining up in ten minutes. You best finish getting ready,” he told him.
“I know,” Jack said forcefully. “I can take care of myself.”
“Funny,” Paddy replied as he walked out the door. “It sure don’t seem like it.”
“Bloody old codger,” Jack muttered. He grabbed his gun and followed Rivers outside.
He meandered through the crowded make-shift base, avoiding people as they carried supplies to where they were needed, or walked to and from their barracks. When he approached the designated meeting area, a group of men stood huddled in groups and talking. He did not approach any of them; instead he stood alone and waited for the lines to form around him. A few minutes later the commanders approached and the huddles fell apart.
When the lines had set, the general and his men moved to the front. He stood with his legs spread and his arms behind his back. His men stood in the same position on either side and slightly behind.
“Today!” he began. “We march! We’re headed north, and we’re going to stop the German progress into France! There’s a town a few miles north where we think the Germans are headed next-- we’ll head there and take it before they can!” He paused, perhaps expecting uproar of some sort, but none came. “We leave in an hour.”
He turned and walked away. When he had left, his men gave the orders to fall out. They were to collect their belongings, anything they had brought with them, as they would not be returning.
Jack immediately made his way back to his barracks. He avoided the same people through the same streets as before, walking as quickly as he could. He deftly dodged several men carrying supplies, and very nearly avoided a collision with a group of soldiers as he rounded a corner. After a few moments, he arrived back at his barracks and was pleased to find that-- just as he had planned-- he was the first one back.
He set about packing his things immediately, hoping that maybe if he moved quickly enough, he could avoid all contact with Paddy Rivers. There were fifty other men in his platoon, but Rivers only made it a point to bother Jack. There were other boys, not quite as young as he, but close enough, yet no one treated them like babies. The men found it entertaining, funny; Jack didn’t.
He threw his belongings into his pack rather carelessly. He didn’t have much: the standard supplies, a bit of food, his cigarettes and lighter, a few letters from his mother. A quick glance at his watch told him that he was way ahead of schedule, and soon enough, everyone else would be back. Hoping to avoid Rivers for a bit longer, he pulled out his fags and lighter, walked outside, turned in the opposite direction, then around a corner into a little alley. He leaned against a wall and pulled one out, putting it between his lips to light it.
He took a deep breath, sucking in a mouth full of smoke. The hot sting that burned his throat took him by surprise, and he choked it out. He very nearly lost the cigarette from his mouth as he coughed and sputtered. When he had regained himself, he looked around casually, hoping that no one had been around to see him. Confident he had not been spotted, he brought the burning stick to his lips once again. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
Phil opened his eyes as he exhaled softly. Silently, he braced himself for what was about to come.
“’Course it matters!” Officer Glover shouted. “Do you want the Fritz to walk right through? Of course it fucking matters how you wrap the goddamn wire.”
The crowd around him looked down quietly. None of them spoke.
“Well?” he shouted again. “Do you?” He took a step forward and stared directly into the face of Phil Evans. “Do you want the fucking Fritz to walk right into our trenches?” It did not matter that Phil had not asked the question. “Do you?”
“No sir,” Phil replied. His bright green eyes met the cold brown ones of his commander.
“So what are you fucking gonna do?”
“Wrap the wire like you told us to, sir.”
“Damn right you will!” He turned around, as if to walk away, then changed his mind and turned back toward Phil. “Now get your fucking ginger head out of my sight.”
Phil rose immediately, saluted Glover and left the trench immediately. He had hardly turned the corner when he heard Glover shout again, “And all the rest of you too!” There was a scuffling of chairs and the soft thump of feet upon dirt. He continued navigating through the narrow trench; as usual, it was crowded with people carrying supplies or headed to meetings. He hoped to make it back to his barracks before the men caught up to him or he was commandeered by another officer for some menial job.
Somehow, he managed to avoid any more work; however he was not quite as quick as he had hoped. He entered the dingy almost-room, and had barely taken a seat before the other men in his company entered.
“Rough break there, Evans.” Charlie Hooper nodded to him.
“Yeah,” Phil responded. “It was.” He wondered for a moment if Hooper might apologize, as he’d actually been the one to ask the dreaded question. It seemed unlikely that he would, and in any case, it was not necessarily Hooper’s fault. Glover had misheard and pounced on Phil instead of Charlie. Phil supposed it didn’t matter; the deed was done after all.
“Poker?” Hooper asked.
“Alright,” Phil replied.
They pulled their dinky chairs around the table and Hooper got out his deck. Several other men joined them-- Finch, Pitchford, and Payne, the usuals. Hooper dealt, and they played several rounds. Finch lost, Payne lost, Pitchford and Hooper both won, Phil just about broke even. No one was particularly excited or concerned; they supposed it would even out the next time. It usually did.
They stopped as it got boring, just about the time they were meant to ready themselves for the night ahead. This was done almost entirely in silence. Noises were made from the movement of their equipment, but not one of them spoke unless it was necessary. It was almost a defense mechanism; detach yourself as soon as you could, and maybe it wouldn’t be so dreadfully terrifying. Maybe it wouldn’t be so awful if someone didn’t come back. Maybe it would make it bearable if you didn’t make it back, or worse, if the bullet didn’t take you right away.
(They thought it might be helpful. It never was.)
They crept through the trenches, following each other single file. For now they could stand straight up. Phil and his back were glad for it. He was never sure exactly how long it took to get from their dugout to the front. The journey seemed never ending, yet they always arrived far too soon.
They halted. One by one, each man climbed over the barrier into no-man’s-land. They crouched low, pulling themselves under the wire they’d already laid. Phil pulled himself by his elbows, but in a momentary lapse raised his shoulder too high and a barb dug into his skin. He responded thoughtlessly with a sharp intake of breath. He desperately hoped it had not actually been as loud as he had heard. The continued motion beside him told him he was most likely safe. He dislodged himself and continued moving.
When they had all arrived in their assigned location, they pulled themselves into crouching positions and pulled out the rolls of wire and the pairs of cutters they had been supplied. They worked in complete silence, wrapping and cutting the wire exactly as they had been instructed. It went well for a few moments, and then out of the corner of his eye, Phil noticed a flicker of light coming from the German front. It continued into the sky until it burst forth in a bright white light.
Phil’s face grazed painfully against the barbed wire as he flattened himself against the ground.
Lily pushed herself off the ground and rolled into a sitting position, pulling her wand out as quickly as she could on the way. She aimed at the boy laughing behind her; thankfully there was only one.
“What’s the matter, Evans?” Avery taunted. “Can’t you Mudbloods even walk?”
“Is that the best you’ve got, Avery?” She had to look up at him to meet his eyes. “Attacking me while my back is turned? What’s the matter; scared you’ll lose if I can fight back?”
He let out a deep, loud laugh. “You think you could lay a wand on me?”
“With my hands tied behind my back,” she spat.
“Big words for such a very little girl,” he taunted.
“I’ve even bigger ones to back them up, would you like to hear them?”
“Expelliarmus!” she shouted, and Avery’s wand went flying through the air. She picked herself up from the ground and sneered at him, “You should really stop talking so much” Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Petrificus totalus.”
Avery fell to the ground with a terrible thump. Lily looked down at him and whispered, “I hope that hurt,” before walking away. She had made it only a few paces when she heard footsteps approaching the scene she had left behind. She began walking more quickly, it would not bode well for her to be caught dueling in the corridors again. There was a turn coming up soon, if she could just move a little faster…
“Lily?” She heard a voice call from down the area. Damn.
She paused for a moment, hoping to identify the voice before the owner could determine it was actually her.
“Lily?” the voice called again.
She couldn’t place it exactly; the voice was still too far away, but it had to be friendly. Any of Avery’s friends would have shouted her surname and sprinted after her. A professor would have a similar reaction, only with ‘Miss’ attached. Unless it was… could it be Sev? Lily turned around.
A small mousy girl ran toward her. Brown hair flew into her face and her grey skirt bounced around her knees. “Lily!” she gasped.
Lily waved in greeting to her friend. “Mary!” she said cheerfully as her friend approached.
Mary ignored her. “Lily.” She took a deep breath. “What is going on?” She breathed heavily as she attempted to catch her breath.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Lily replied, as innocently as she could muster.
“Lily.” Mary’s voice was stern. “Thaddeus Avery is lying completely bound in the corridor, and you’re walking away, and you really had nothing to do with that?”
“Is he?” Lily asked. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh you just walked by him then, did you?”
“I was a bit preoccupied.”
“Lily!” Mary’s face was severe “You can’t just curse people in the middle of the corridors!”
Lily yanked Mary’s arm and began pulling her along as they approached the corner. “And you can’t just shout that about! Do you want me to get in trouble?”
“You don’t think you will be when he tells a professor?”
“Of course not.” Lily scrunched her face in confusion. “He’s not going to tell anyone it was me.”
“What makes you so sure of that?”
“He’s not going to admit that a pathetic Mudblood girl bested him. He’d never live it down.”
“What’s he going to say when someone finds him?”
“That’s on him.” Lily shrugged.
Mary gave her another stern look, but she couldn’t hold it too long and cracked a smile at Lily’s innocent expression. “Come on then,” Mary conceded. “I think there’s going to be treacle tart at dinner.” Lily giggled and followed her friend to the Great Hall for dinner.
AN: I hope you enjoyed it! I've got a few chapters finished so expect a new update every week or so :)
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