Lily scraped back her hair into a loose ponytail,
and bit down on her lower lip. He was crying again. Sighing, she pulled
on her dressing gown and opened the creaking bedroom door. Thin, beige
carpet made her toes curl, and she felt another sigh escape her lips.
This wasn’t how they’d planned it.
Letting him hold her was heaven, just heaven.
Even the cherubic angels dancing above her head couldn’t be happier.
As they twirled around the floor, she marvelled at the extravagant decorations.
James’ aunt may have protested at her nephew marrying out of the pureblood
wizard community, but when it came to the crunch, the old bat had certainly
pulled out all the stops. He leaned closer, and she closed her eyes.
"I’m glad we got married," he murmured, and she smiled in
"Well, I’m glad that you’re glad."
"I’m glad that you’re glad he’s glad, and
guess what? I’m glad," came a completely different voice, and Lily’s
head snapped up. She met the sparkling eyes of Sirius, and James reached
around to punch him in the stomach.
"I’m glad you’re glad, Padfoot, now pi…"
"Now, now, James, I was glad that you were glad, but if you insult
my friend I’ll have to hurt you," added Remus, appearing from nowhere
with two drinks in his hands. Lily rolled her eyes, and tried to shoo
them away. "Leave, before all my single friends start to congregate!"
Sirius rubbed his hands together gleefully,
and slung his arm around Remus’ shoulder. "Now then, Moony, single
friends…that would include Arabella, I’m thinking…"
His voice faded into the general chatter of people enjoying themselves.
James wrapped his arms around her once more, and started to talk again.
"I’m also glad I just happened to fall in love with the most beautiful
girl in the world."
"I fell in love with the most beautiful man," she added, snuggling
further into his chest.
"Then that’s settled…we’ll have the most beautiful children,"
he said, swaying her backwards and forwards.
"Oh, so we’re having children now?" she asked, raising an
eyebrow in mock surprise.
"Three boys and two girls. We’ll have this great big house, with
a massive garden, so they can practise Quidditch…one of the girls has
to be Emmeline, after Aunt Em…"
Lily snorted, and he grinned. "Maybe not. How d’you feel about
She put her head to one side, and nodded. "I like Grace…and Nicholas.
And Daisy, and Tom…"
"Do I get to choose one name?"
"Go on then."
"I like it," she whispered, feeling warmth spread through
her entire body, from the secret growing inside to the tops of her toes.
Resisting the urge to tell him the news right there and then, she contented
herself with placing her hands over her stomach. "Harry Potter.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?"
She could hear the crying, louder now, as she neared
the room at the end of the corridor. Wallpaper peeled, revealing brown
stains that seared her eyes, eyes that valued beauty in the world. Lily
loved to be surrounded by beautiful things, yet she’d live like this
forever, as long as she could be with him, with both of them. Two loves
in her life.
The door was ajar, and she peered through the lighted
gap. He didn’t see her.
Hunched over his desk, head in his hands, Lily
could see the sobs wracking his body. Shoulders moved up and down with
emotion, and she knew that he was holding it in, trying to be quiet.
Didn’t want to wake Harry, and didn’t want her to see him like this.
Something made her draw back. Maybe it was the smell of burning parchment
in the grate. Maybe it was the knowledge that until the Fidelius Charm
was cast, Voldemort could be standing outside in the postage stamp garden,
watching. Maybe it was because Arabella had been sent into hiding two
weeks ago, and should have returned home three days previously. Maybe
it was because there had still been no word from Remus. Maybe it was
because she knew another piece of her heart had been ripped away by
the demon who called himself a Lord.
Lily felt the sharp taste of salt on her lips,
and realised that silent tears had started down her cheeks. Wiping them
away furiously with the back of her hand, she turned around and half-ran
down the stairs, into the kitchen.
Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.
"Deep breaths now Lil! Come on, push!"
"I’m trying…to push! It really…really…ahhhh!"
She screamed, and the sound mingled with the
chorus of pain throughout the hospital ward. It seemed unfair that while
she was bringing a small life into this world, so many were dying. Dying
in agony, skin cursed off, eyelids burnt to the backs of their skulls,
toes torn away one by one until they’d collapsed into a bloody pile
on the stained floor.
She wanted to strangle him.
"What…the hell…d’you think I’m doing!"
she gritted through her teeth, the last word a sobbing cry.
"Not long now, Mrs Potter…just one more
push…" said the young doctor nervously, his eyes flitting from
James to Lily and back again. She knew that she shouldn’t feel any pain,
knew that before the war the appropriate spells would have been cast.
Now there wasn’t time to train the staff properly…he was so young, everyone
working here was so young…
A wavering scream pierced the air, and Lily
collapsed on to the bed, James clutching her hand with a stupid grin
plastered over his face.
"We did it," he whispered. "We
"Is he…is he alright?" she asked tentatively, pushing herself
up on the pillows. Lily didn’t realise until months afterwards that
some of the noise had stopped, and some of the dying heads had turned
to watch this beacon of hope in days so dark they were black. All she
could see was James, and when he finally turned around, Harry. He was
cradling the tiny baby in his arms, holding the head carefully. Pushing
his glasses further up his nose with one hand, Lily could see the tears
forming in her husband’s eyes as he crouched once more at her side.
"He’s perfect. Say hello to Mummy, Harry,"
he said, offering her the precious parcel, wrapped in a soft blue blanket.
"Say hello to Mummy…very cheesy, darling.
I’m impressed," she added, taking her son into her arms. Bliss.
The solid warmth of his tiny body, the way his thick head of black hair
fell into his wrinkled face, the gentle clasping of childish fingers
around her own…Lily was in love.
"I thought I’d use up all the cheesy ‘birth
of your new son or daughter’ clichés now, because after that…"
he paused, jerking a thumb towards the infant doctor, who had already
rushed on to the next patient. "…I don’t suppose we’ll be having
"You suppose right," she said, looking up into those deep
brown eyes she loved so well. A sudden yell and stampede of feet made
her head whip around in the direction of the door. Groaning, Lily tried
to flatten her hair. "When did they get here?"
James grinned apologetically. "Couldn’t stop them. Sorry."
As her friends clustered around the bed, blocking out the background
noise extremely well (Peter in particular having the roundest shape)
Lily managed to forget for a while about the war. Surely this beautiful
baby, her own baby boy, was a sign that things would get better?
"He’s gorgeous, Lils!" cooed Charlotte, and she cast all thoughts
of desperation from her mind. Harry slept on.
"I…I don’t know what to say. It’s Arabella.
She’s dead, Charlotte too. They were…there was a fight. Frank’s still
missing, and I can’t get hold of Sirius."
"I’d like to get hold of Sirius
"Hey!" She stood up, indignant, and
pointed a single accusatory finger at Lily. "Here’s the bloody
slapper…out all night with Jamsie boy, or so I hear," she added,
quirking an eyebrow suggestively. Lily grabbed a nearby pillow and flung
it at her sniggering friends, before continuing with her homework.
"Anyway, I thought you didn’t like him
like that," asked Charlotte, only half listening for the answer.
Lily knew she was worried about the upcoming exams, and had been revising
hard every night.
"I just said his face was bony. I didn’t
say that I didn’t like bony faces," she explained, stopping to
fling the pillow back in Lily’s direction. "So, are you two coming
out tomorrow? Hogsmeade? I’m going to get some sweets for the boys for
Christmas, I don’t have enough money to get them anything else. Sometimes
I really, really hate the holidays…"
"Who hates the holidays?"
"Frank!" shrieked a horrified Arabella."Get out!"
Lily looked up from her books and smiled.
"Hi! Ignore that, she’s just being a humbug…did you bring back
my Arithmancy book?"
"Got it right here," said Frank, floating it towards her with
a passable Levitation Charm. She waved goodbye, and he closed the door
carefully. Charlotte frowned in Arabella’s direction.
"Thanks for that."
"That scream! You made me snap my nib."
"Oh, sorry! Here, have mine…"
A feather flew through the air, as it must have done once before, attached
to the wing of a bird. Charlotte caught it easily, and dipped it into
the small pot of ink. Almost-silence was once again restored to the
"What now? I’m trying to write a list of…oh.
"What is it?" asked Lily, her interest piqued. The quill was
flying through the air again, and as she watched it flew straight out
of the window they’d opened earlier, to try and hide the smell of spilt
nail varnish. There was a pause, then the distant sounds of somebody
The three exchanged glances and then burst out laughing. Between gasps
for air, Lily managed to ask Charlotte, "Why…did you throw…her
"It was…a…sugar quill!"
Arabella ran to the window and stared after
her fallen sweet mournfully. "It was my last one. Sirius…"
"…gave it to you, we know," finished Lily, rolling her eyes.
"You can buy some more tomorrow."
"Are you two coming?"
"Yes. Yes, I’m fine," she said. Frost
crept over the window panes, fragmented them like the pattern of feathers
on a bird. A raven for knowledge, the truth that she’d known all along.
Early snow had turned to rain, and the heavy rhythm matched the beat
of her heart.
"Oh, Lily, sweetheart…" he trailed off,
and pulled her into what seemed like the hundredth embrace. She pushed
him away, and his face fell. Immediately regretful, she sat down at
"Sorry. Sorry. I think…I just think I’m in shock. Can we talk in
the morning, please?"
"Whatever you want. Whatever helps."
His footfalls on each step, the dull, dead throb of her heart, the rain
holding her in made her want to scream. The tears wouldn’t come, and
she felt hollow. These days friends fell like sparrows, and love as
breadcrumbs. Crying was meaningless, as was death. She could only spare
thoughts for the living, and so walked over to the cupboard. Lily found
a scrap of parchment, and a quill.
It was a sugar quill.
"What’s the point?"
She folded the washing neatly, and shook a stray sock at Sirius. "The
point is, we love each other. And we want to get married."
Lily grabbed the sock, and added it to a nearby pile. "And they’re
going to do it in style, war or no war." Absentmindedly touching
her stomach, she smiled. "I mean, now is hardly the time to do
lots of things. Like laundry, and bringing up children, and having children…"
she trailed off, shooting Arabella a meaningful look.
"You’re…oh, Lil, that’s great! When’s it
due?" her friend squealed, pulling her into a clumsy hug. Sirius
just looked from one to the other, confused. "I don’t know what
you two are talking about, but laundry doesn’t normally have a due date."
Arabella rolled her eyes, and threw another
sock at him. "Why’re you so set against the idea anyway, you mean
old Auror? Wait, don’t answer that…"
"I don’t like him," finished Sirius, helping Lily with a large
sheet. "And it’s dangerous. You know Voldemort’s after you, you
know you’re supposed to be in hiding, and you know Volde…"
"Sirius, stop it! Say You-Know-Who," whispered the dark haired
girl, looking over her shoulder nervously. Lily shook her head. "It’s
silly to be scared of a name."
"Yeah. Voldemort. Voldemort. Voldemort!" yelled Sirius, the
sound echoing around the tiny kitchen.
The three looked at each other, and Lily felt
something change in the air. A sour note had crept into Sirius’ voice,
and when he next spoke, the words chilled her heart. "I have to
go. Have a nice wedding, I won’t be there, because I’ll be out saving
"Sirius…" she said, with a warning look. Arabella had gone
white, and tears were starting to form in her eyes. Lily’s own eyes
narrowed. She knew what Sirius’ temper could be like, and this had been
brewing for awhile.
"No, Lily. I won’t be Sirius-ed into shutting
up, because I’m serious! You lot all just act like nothings happening,
like this year people haven’t been murdered, good people, people we
knew!" He was shouting now, and jumped to his feet. "You’re
all living in some sugar spun fairytale, where good always outs evil,
and the soldiers come home for tea and jam sandwiches! I’ve seen things…I’ve
done things that will live with me for the rest of my life. Made decisions…bad
decisions…" he said, breaking off to stare at Arabella. She turned
away, furiously folding more laundry. He seemed to take this as some
sort of answer, and glared at Lily. It didn’t suit his face, didn’t
suit those laughing eyes. Cold was not a word associated with Sirius
Black, but today there was no other word for it.
"A sugar spun world. And one day it’ll
come crashing down about your heads. I’ll see you when I see you."
A sugar quill, warm in her hands. Slightly sticky,
and she supposed that James had given it to Harry to play with. She
still hadn’t told him about her pregnancy, about the argument. Now it
was too late, too late for everything. What was it he’d said?
"I’ve seen things…I’ve done things that will
live with me for the rest of my life," she whispered, examining
the sweet in minute detail. "It was a bad decision, Sirius.
Now you can’t tell her sorry…"
A sob caught in her throat, and she fell slowly to the floor, folding
her knees under her body as they had folded the sheets all those years
ago. Had it only been weeks? Been days? It felt like years.
Sugar quills, made so carefully. Each feathery
tip, so artfully composed. To all onlookers, it seemed perfect. Different
strands all pulled together to make one deceitful whole. There was the
lie, that everything was as it seemed. That everything was beautiful,
and everyone was happy, and life was worth living. That something spun
from fragile sugar could pose as truest flesh.
She could dimly recall a time when they had been
flesh. When they sat in a heap around the Gryffindor fire, when words
had flown richer than wine, ‘I love you’ exchanged with no regret. Then,
as a child would shatter a sugar sweetened quill with his teeth, flesh
had crumbled. Cracks had appeared.
Remus walked into a room, only to be greeted with
Charlotte refused to leave the house, too scared
to walk own the street.
Sirius seethed in his own private jealousy, pulled
down shutters over his heart.
Peter was too nervous to talk.
She? She looked on as the world she’d known dissolved
into dreams. Only in dreams would come peace, only in James’ arms solace.
Their friendship was a sugar quill, brittle and beautiful, intricate
yet dying. Melting under the gaze of a murderer.
Wondering what would become of them all, if the
war would ever end, Lily pulled herself upright and sat at the table.
This letter needed to be written, and she left the sugar quill safe
in a drawer. Perhaps, one day, she’d have another Christmas. Not a sugar
Sighing, she started to write.