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Chapter 7 : Still Bravely Singing
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I was absolutely delighted to receive your letter. I’m so glad you’ve taken me up on my offer to write. I was afraid I came off as a bit forward. I do hope you’ll continue to write when you head back to the front, though I know how hard it can be to find the time. If you can manage it, I did so enjoy speaking with you, and would very much like to continue our acquaintance.
My time at home has been quite lovely. All of my sisters managed to make it home for an afternoon, and we were able to have Sunday dinner together as a family. A feat that has not happened in several years. It was so lovely to see all of them again. It seems that I had missed them all terribly without realizing it, and I was very sad to see them go. I feel a bit lost without them now, which is strange because, as I said, I had not seen them all together for several years. My mother seems a bit distraught to have lost them all again, too, and I think she’s determined to have us all back under one roof far more often. Perhaps one day this mission of hers will be a bit more feasible.
I was so glad to hear that you’ve been enjoying time with your mother. It must be very lonely for her while you’re away, and I think you coming home has done both of you good. Has anything exciting happened while you’ve been home? I hear tell that a soldier’s leave can often be an invitation for family to visit. I hope if this is the case for you that it was at least a welcome visit.
I went for a stroll in the park with my sister Eleanor, and we saw some of the Order there, with their baskets full of feathers and those pretentious sneers they wear. They approached a man on a park bench with his sweetheart. They very rudely told the woman that her beau was a coward. Imagine their shock when the man revealed himself to be on leave! It was a tense moment-- Eleanor and I were a bit worried—but it all panned out alright in the end. The woman was able to calm her soldier and I’ve never seen someone look so embarrassed as the members of the Order. It certainly serves them right, I’ll say. I can hardly imagine anyone being so horrible as to wish a man to war. It's just the same as wishing someone to Hell in my mind, and I can't imagine anyone would ever do that. These ignorant women just don't seem to understand. Perhaps all women should be made to go off to France as nurses. Maybe then they'll understand. Maybe.
But I digress. I do hope you're doing well and enjoying your leave at home. Not to wish it forward, but when do you return? I must head back far too soon, unfortunately. Perhaps we'll meet again on the train back to London. I do hope so.
I've enclosed my address at the hospital, and I'll keep watch for your letters, though I don't suppose you have terribly much time to write, and your mother is your first priority. I do hope I'll see a letter from you here or there, at least. I hope you'll send me your address when you can as well, as I would be delighted to continue to write to you as often as I can. As long as you don't mind.
Phil read the letter with a smile, and chuckled to himself as he set it on his desk. She sounded very much the same on paper as she had on the train ride in. He hoped that she kept her word and continued to send him letters, as she was a rather amusing woman, and he supposed he would very much enjoy reading her letters when he went back to the Front. They could provide a much needed reprieve from the terrors he faced. Well, maybe. He wasn’t sure if anything could actually remove them from his mind, but when he had sat with Fiona on the train… the terrors seemed less terrible.
He picked up the letter again to read it through one more time, then folded it carefully and put it in back into the envelope. He left it on his desk, as he planned on responding later, and he didn't want to forget it when he packed. There was a pocket in his uniform, on the inside, right over his heart. It had been saved for a picture of his mother and the occasional letter she sent, but now, he couldn't think of anywhere else he'd like to keep her letters.
"Phillip!" his mother called.
"Yes, Mum?" he responded.
"Come down, it's time for supper."
He smiled to himself, made a mental note to write as soon as he could, and made his way to the kitchen.
“Busy packing?” she asked as he walked into the room.
“Not quite yet. Getting sorted to start, though.”
“That’s an awfully long time spent getting sorted.”
“I got a letter from my friend. I was reading it.”
“Have you responded yet?”
“Nah, not yet. I’ll do it after supper.”
“Before you do, could you fix the shutter outside? I’m sorry to ask, but--“
“Of course I can. I’ve been meaning to do it. Sorry I haven’t gotten to it before.”
“No, no don’t apologize. You’re meant to be here resting and I’ve put you to work.”
“It’s good practice. I’ll have to be back at it eventually.”
“Well, thank you.”
“No problem, Mum.”
“You’re a sweet boy,” she smiled sweetly at him. “Who was your letter from?”
“Just a friend. She’s asked to write me while I’m off in France.”
“Will you let her?”
“I don’t see why not. It’ll be nice to have someone else to hear from, I think.”
“And will you have time to write to two people now?”
“You’ll still be my first priority, Mum.”
“Well alright then. Do I know this friend?”
“Can I meet her?”
“Maybe eventually. We’ll see how it all turns out.”
“Why can’t you invite her for dinner?”
“She lives in London. She’s a nurse.”
He nodded his head.
“And she’ll have time to write to you?”
“I expect so, seeing as how she asked. But I suppose we’ll see when it comes to it. I suppose if she doesn’t I won’t be missing anything and if she does it’ll only add.”
“Well she sounds like a very nice girl, Phil.”
Anita Evans looked at her son and smiled. Phil looked back at her curiously, as it was a smile he did not quite recognize on her face. He decided to ignore it, and changed the subject while he finished his meal.
“Well,” he said when he had finished, “best get to it then.”
“Do you think there’ll be enough?”
“No, which is why we better fucking get on it,” Johns responded.
“But they wouldn’t just not send enough, would they?”
“You see them, you think they can fit everyone on them?”
“Course they didn’t bring enough,” Rivers said as he appeared at Jack’s side. “You think they care enough about us to make sure they get us all out?”
“What will they do with the others?”
“But nothing, that’s what’ll happen.”
“Fuck. Do you have a fag?”
Lily looked up at the boy casting a shadow over her, waiting for his answer. He seemed confused. “If you don’t have one, I suggest you leave. I really don’t care to speak to you right now.”
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Who doesn’t smoke? Gods, please don’t say you don’t smoke.”
He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small white box. He opened it, pulled out a cigarette for himself, and handed one to her. “Mind if I smoke with you, then?”
She took the fag from him and brought it to her lips. “Well I suppose I can’t say no now that you’ve shared your fags.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
Lily did not reply.
“I don’t want to hear it, actually.”
“Well I’m gonna say it anyway.”
“I’m sorry, Evans. That was probably a really shitty thing for me to do.”
“Probably, yes, but you didn’t do anything to me so I don’t see why you’re apologizing.”
“I figure that might not have actually been the best time to, you know, ask you out.”
“No, probably not.”
“So I’m sorry.”
“I guess I just thought we… I thought we had something going and I’d been planning to ask you for weeks and then it just sort of…”
“Yeah. So, I-I’m sorry. And if, I-“
“Do not finish that sentence.”
“Well then, I’m sorry.”
“Right, you’ve said that already.”
“You haven’t said if you’ve forgiven me.”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“Will you soon?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think you’re apologizing for quite the right thing.”
“I’m not going to apologize for him calling you that.”
“That’s not what I meant, but good to know, I suppose.”
“That was not my fault. I tried to make him apologize!”
Lily rolled her eyes. “You know, Potter, perhaps I should forgive you. I think you’ve done me a great favor, actually.”
“Nothing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got places to be.”
“I’ve got to get on that boat!”
“You don’t have to do anything, now quit whinging.”
“But I’ve got a wife and kids at home! I’ve got to see them! You can’t leave me here!”
“Nobody’s gonna leave you nowhere, now shut the fuck up and wait your turn like everyone else.”
“But the boats are leaving-“
“And there’s more coming back, see that?”
“There’s more coming.”
Jack listened to the conversation carefully, not knowing who exactly to trust. He was certain now that there weren’t enough boats, and he tried to determine which course of action would successfully place him on one. He thought for a minute about faking an injury, but he put the thought out of his mind almost as soon as it had entered. He couldn’t very well fake one now, and besides, he’d heard tell that the injured men were being left behind. So instead, he stood in line, waiting for his turn, and praying silently that he’d make it on one. He didn’t much believe in God, but his father did, and maybe if there was a God, he’d help Jack out for his dad’s sake, at least. He hoped he was asking right. He hoped that God hadn’t tuned him out altogether. He hoped that God could hear him above all the other voices asking for the same damn thing.
But the line moved and the boats sailed back and forth to the ships and Jack made it closer and they showed no signs of stopping. So maybe God did exist, after all.
Phil wondered why it was so much more difficult to pack his things to return to the Front than it had been to pack them to leave it. It wasn't that he suddenly had more things to bring with him, as he'd only added a letter and a stationary set, and he knew that he wouldn't have room for much else in the trenches. There was certainly enough space for everything he wanted to bring with him, but putting it all back into the suitcase from which it had come seemed exceedingly difficult. He couldn't fathom putting it all back in the tiny box. He couldn't imagine packing his things for the Front again, knowing now what he would face there. The first time he had packed it had been easy, for the most part. There was a list of items to bring, and a few personal items, and very little else. They conscription papers had warned that there would not be space for more than a few personal belongings. Not that Phil really had more than a few personal belongings to begin with. They’d all fit easily in the suitcase, if he could ever work up the motivation to do it.
Phil sighed loudly. Perhaps this moment wasn’t meant for packing. Or maybe if he told himself that, he’d feel better about not being able to do it. He looked at the small collection of items sitting on his bed waiting to be put away and shook his head. With another deep breath and a burst of inspiration, Phil reached for the new stationary set his mother had purchased for him as a going-away gift, and removed another piece of paper. He sat at the desk in his room and began to write.
I’m sorry to write again so soon. It must be very strange to receive two letters in short succession without a reply in between from someone you hardly know. Perhaps we’re both a bit forward. I don’t mind if you don’t.
I’m writing this as I’m meant to be packing my things for the Front. It’s proving a difficult task. It wasn’t so bad the first time. Though I suppose the first time I wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me. Now I do. I don’t want to go back. I hope you don’t think me a coward. I don’t want to go back and I can’t bring myself to pack my things in order to leave, but not going back might be worse than actually going. Both fates are terrible.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the men who find glory in all of this. I just want the thing to be over so I can come back to England and never leave and get on with my life. There is no glory in war, I think. Only in the end of it. Perhaps that’s why I ought to go back-- to do my part to help end it. Though I’m honestly not sure I’d do much good. I think they might be better off without me. Unfortunately they don’t see it that way.
I’m sorry to tell you all of this, but I think I had to tell someone. And I think you’ll understand. I hope you will. And I hope you write back to me. By the time you get this, I’ll be back at the Front, and I think a letter from you might make it a bit more bearable. Perhaps if I focus on that, packing my suitcase might be more manageable. Thank you.
I don’t mean to pressure you. If you’d rather not write to a coward, I understand.
He sealed the letter and addressed it before he could second guess himself. He set it on the desk and continued packing. When he had finished, he grabbed his suitcase, straightened his hat, and went down the stairs go kiss his mother goodbye.
“Do you have to go so soon?” She asked, tears filling her eyes.
No, he didn’t. He had several hours, actually, but if he didn’t leave now, he wouldn’t leave, and then he’d be shot for abandonment.
“Unfortunately yes, Mum.” It wasn’t really a lie. “I’ll write to you as soon as I can.”
Anita’s tears had begun to fall freely now. “All right,” she said, after swallowing hard. “Be safe out there, alright? Come back home to me.”
“I will, Mum,” there were tears stinging Phil’s eyes now as well. He gave her a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek, and walked out the door.
He found the sun was blinding.
Lily squinted as she looked up at the signs on the buildings surrounding her. She knew the Leaky Cauldron was around here somewhere, but she wasn’t quite used to navigating London by herself, and Mary had opted for lunch with her parents today. Mary had given her fairly exact instructions and she had to be close, she knew it. This all looked familiar and—
“Watch where you’re going!” A man dressed in a suit scolded her as he brushed past her.
“Well excuse me,” she spat back. The suit didn’t match. She was definitely close.
She walked another block, scanning the corners carefully as she approached them until finally she found it, looming another block away and unseen by the Muggles who past it. Lily smiled as she saw it, and she took a moment to be relieved that she had managed this by herself without being mugged or otherwise inconvenienced. She was quite proud of herself, actually. It took a great deal of will power not to run the remaining block, but the street was crowded, and it wouldn’t do to draw attention to herself running to an apparently abandoned building.
She looked carefully as she approached the pub, but no one paid any attention to teenagers wandering about London. Except perhaps shopkeepers. The familiar wooden door greeted her and she was both incredibly pleased to see it and bit sad at the memories that accompanied it. She took a deep breath, shrugged the sadness off of her, and opened the door.
It took her eyes a moment to adjust from the brightness of London in the summer to the dingy interior of the pub. She blinked a few times before scanning the crowd in the pub for Dorcas. She found her seated in a fairly secluded corner, the dim lighting cast shadows over her dark skin, but the bright smile she wore seemed to light up the room. She waved Lily down, and stood as she approached the table. Dorcas was a tall, athletically built woman, with hair she kept cropped close to her head.
“How are you, Lily?” Dorcas asked as she pulled Lily into a hug.
“Oh, I’ve been fairly well, thank you. How have you been?”
“Very well. Busy, but that’s a good thing.”
“Good, good. Any good news lately?”
“Not any you haven’t read,” she replied. “How’s your friend? The Slytherin bloke with the horrid friends?”
“He’s, uh, he’s—we’re not friends anymore, actually. He—Well he made it clear that his other mates were far more important than me. And he made it clear that he actually agreed with them, which makes me sort of sick to think about, and—Well I’m better off without him, certainly.”
Dorcas smiled and reached her hand out to cover Lily’s. “Would you like a butterbeer?” she asked.
“I would,” Lily responded, glad above all else that Dorcas hadn’t pressed the conversation.
“I’ll grab you one,” Dorcas said, “and our guest should be here any minute.”
“Should I be excited?” Lily asked as Dorcas rose from their table.
“Not terribly,” Dorcas replied, turning and making her way to the bar.
Lily sat back in her chair, brows furrowed together. She racked her brain, trying to think of who Dorcas could have possibly arranged for her to meet. Another journalist maybe. Someone else with their shared beliefs. Well, definitely someone else with their shared beliefs.
Dorcas arrived back a few minutes later with two bottles of butterbeer in one hand, and a steaming mug in the other. She set the mugs down and pulled out her chair.
“Is that—“ Lily began to ask.
“Oh good, you’ve got my coffee!” A sweet sounding voice with a Scottish accent sounded, and Lily’s head turned to see a short, plump woman with fair skin, red cheeks, and frizzy grey hair.
“Like I would forget your coffee,” Dorcas replied, grinning at the older woman.
“I should hope not, Meadowes,” the older woman continued smiling and then turned away from Dorcas. “And this must be Lily Evans!”
“Indeed it is,” Dorcas responded, “Lily, this is Marlene McKinnon, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
AN: This is the last of the already written chapters, so unfortunately it'll be a while before the next one. I would love to know what you think in the meantime!
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