Chapter 1 - Subsistence

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

I give her sadness and the gift of pain,
a new moon madness and a love of rain.
- - - -Dorothy Parker "The Godmother"

"I cannot believe this. I'm being forced to pander you – you! – a mutation! Don't you dare begin to think I'll be your personal chauffeur, or that I'm doing this out of some sort of sisterly courtesy -- " 

Lily Evans didn't even bother to look at her sister. "Petunia, I don't think you've ever done anything out of courtesy, let alone anything that might have the word 'sisterly' ascribed to it."

Petunia Evans' face went white with anger, and a muscle in her neck began to twitch. "How dare you speak to me in such an impudent manner! I have put aside my day to drive you across the bloody country and you repay me by acting like the rude, spoiled brat that you are. Obviously they don't teach you manners at that godforsaken institution."

Lily sighed deeply. The argument with Petunia was an old one; Lily would go off to Hogwarts every year and Petunia would be incensed that she would have to drive. She didn't see how Petunia would fit into the role of a stay-at-home mum who ferried her child around to rugby games if she hated driving. Of course, Lily realized, it was probably a pretense that she kept up in the hope of weaseling out of driving duties.

The scenery was rather pleasant, and the rain coated the countryside with a moist sheen. The tarmac stretched out in front of the car, wet and dark in sharp contrast to the verdant pastures. When they had been younger, and relations between the two sisters had been slightly more amicable, Petunia told Lily that her eyes reminded her of the grass. It was Petunia's last and only compliment to her; now, if queried about Lily (especially out of earshot of their parents), Petunia was likely to claim that she was a plain but disturbed girl who attended a disciplinary school deep in the foothills of Scotland.

Relations between them had always been strained. Petunia resented that their parents lavished attention upon shy, quiet Lily, who, in Petunia's mind, had done nothing to deserve such admiration and love. Especially since by all accounts Petunia should have been the favored child, the star of the Evans' household. After all, hadn't she been the one to achieve equilibrium in life, impart the enviable image of normalcy? It was Petunia who had done well at school, been outgoing and popular, had attracted a perfect suitor who was now her fiancé.

Instead, her parents smiled disinterestedly when she showed them her marks, nodded politely when she introduced them to Vernon Dursley (the love of her life, for heaven's sake!) and looked upon her with a vague sense of fondness and lukewarm enthusiasm.

Lily was the recipient of their affection, the one they showered with love and praise. What had Lily done? Oh yes, gotten an invitation to attend some barbaric school in the backwoods of who-knows-where and learn magic. That's when things truly took a turn for the worse between them.

The look of warmth they reserved for Lily intensified into a gleam of adoration, and they were thrilled that their withdrawn youngest daughter was a witch. Petunia took the negative connotation of the word to heart, and treated Lily with the same contempt mingled with fear that "those of her ilk deserved." But Lily's parents were her saving grace – they poured so much love into her that it quite nearly made up for Petunia's open hostility and her peers' impassive disregard.

Nearly, but not quite. Her shyness, which had certainly not been an asset at primary school, turned out to be positively devastating at Hogwarts. She had faded into a mere shadow, which was actually quite a remarkable feat, especially in Gryffindor House, which prided itself on a sense of family. She quickly realized that no one wanted to befriend the timid first year who spoke little but with grandiloquence, and divulged even less about herself. Not that she hadn't tried to open up, though. Lily was simply not as loquacious as her housemates, who seemed to have an wellspring of entertaining anecdotes and vivacious personalities.

Her reticence threw off her otherwise friendly peers, who took her shyness as coldness, and thus rejected her. They hadn't ostracized her, per se – simply ignored, and eventually forgot about her. It made it rather awkward when she was required to pair up with other students in class, all of who had already chosen other partners. Her teachers were the only ones who afforded her any sort of recognition, but luckily had stopped singling her out for public praise and demonstrations upon sensing her discomfort.

As a result of her isolation, Lily spent most of her time in the library, where she had a valid excuse for silence. She avoided her dormitory as much as possible; the camaraderie and bubbling talk of her dorm mates was painful, and she hated feeling like an imposition, a hindrance to normal, easy conversation. She avoided the Great Hall for the same reason, and instead obtained her food through the House Elves.

Upon discovering one tidying up the dormitory, she inquired about the origin and purpose of the creatures, and found a sort of (albeit a bit pathetic, she admitted to herself) likeness to them – rarely seen, never acknowledged. The little house elves took a liking to her and insisted on bringing her specially prepared food and pumpkin juice, and since then she never had to eat in the Great Hall.

At around the same time, she accidentally discovered a private little room off one of the darker corridors in the library and made it her haven. It was small and womblike, decorated cozily in deep crimson and stuffed with lush pillows. The window was enchanted to show any part of Hogwarts without letting anyone else see in. Lily often watched the busy Quidditch pitch in the afternoons and the glassy lake, ruffled only by the thrashing of the Giant Squid, at night. The little room had become her haven, and she ate, studied, and more often than not slept there, as it was located near an equally secluded (and cozy) bathroom with full facilities, including a claw foot bath.

While it was certainly nice to have such luxurious, private quarters at Hogwarts, nothing could compensate for the nearly unbearable loneliness. Literature and music could only do so much to distract her from her solitude. She had survived the past six years alone, though; she figured she could hold out for one more. It was really beyond her comprehension as to why the headmaster made her Head Girl – she had felt the same way when she received the notice that she was a prefect. Her fellow prefects had all been charismatic, self-confident students who epitomized their houses, whereas she often wondered why she had been Sorted into Gryffindor. She was certainly not bold, nor daring or courageous – about the only adjective that remotely fit her was "noble."

Still, she was Head Girl this year and had little doubt as to whom would take the title of Head Boy: James Potter. He was loved throughout the school – even most of the Slytherins couldn't find it in their hearts to genuinely dislike him. And what was there to dislike?

He was the ideal Gryffindor: outgoing, brave, full of joie de vivre. He was Quidditch captain for the third year running, a prefect, a prankster; that he was unusually handsome hardly diminished his status. Beneath the trappings of popularity though, he exemplified the best traits of the other houses as well. He was loyal to a fault to his three closest friends, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. Perceptive and caring, he acted as the unofficial listening board to whomever sought his help, and helped bail more than one student out of detention with Filch.

He was undoubtedly bright, coming in at the top of the year next to Lily time and time again; his pranks were clever and his banter with teachers and students alike was witty and sharp. He had the best of Slytherin in him too – his diabolical schemes were artfully planned and well executed, and from what Lily overheard in class, he was gunning to be an Auror, even though he could have a career in professional Quidditch.

Lily loved Quidditch herself, and fell in love with flying the moment she entered Madam Hooch's class in first year. She was quite a proficient flyer, but refused to try out for the Quidditch team despite Hooch's insistence that she would make an excellent Quidditch player. The hawkeyed flying instructor had scrutinized her, and after telling her that her small build and quick reflexes were great advantages, pronounced her an ideal Seeker. Lily had adamantly refused to try out, but she still longed to fly, especially when watching the Quidditch practices from her window.

Lily's eyes closed slowly as she thought about the wizarding world and she began to drift off to sleep when Petunia abruptly slammed on the brakes of the car. She glanced at Petunia, who was glaring ahead, and unloaded her trunk from the boot of the car.

Before leaving, she leaned over to Petunia. "I'll see you at Christmas, all right? Have fun with…your fiancé."

Petunia's reply was the screeching of rubber against tarmac and an accompanying plume of exhaust that Lily coughed away. She pushed her long red hair out of her face and began to wind her way through the crowds of Muggles, finally pushing through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾. The shiny scarlet train was dripping with rain and emitting great white puffs of steam that rose like cumulonimbus clouds through the abating drizzle.

Lily made her way through the throngs of witches and wizards, keeping her eyes downcast and focused on navigating her trunk across the bumpy platform. She felt herself trip on a particularly slippery brick and lurch forward, waiting the inevitable painful collision with the ground and the subsequent sniggers and humiliation. But none of that came. Instead, she fell straight into the arms of the subject of her earlier reverie, James Potter. Her bright emerald eyes flew up to meet his surprised grey ones and she felt panicked. She hadn't made eye contact with any of her peers in her six years of Hogwarts, and so she was extremely startled when she found herself looking directly at the beloved monarch of Hogwarts.

Lily felt her cheeks growing pink and she quickly averted her eyes, murmuring an apology and turning deftly out of his grasp. She slipped onto the train, positive her face was burning, eyes overflowing with hot tears of mortification. The compartment at the end of the train was empty, and she hastily warded the door with locking charms, disguising the existence of the entire compartment. 

Collapsing against one of the plush velvet seats, she put her cheek to the window to cool and blinked back tears. She wasn't even sure what it was that made her so emotionally sensitive, why simple contact was putting on the verge of tears, but she willed herself to calm down, letting her panic to subside. Perhaps it was the abruptness of it? Yes, that was it. The reintroduction to human touch, to James Potter's touch, had nothing to do with it. Breathing slowed, she pulled her wand out of her trunk and fingered the polished wood lovingly. Curling up against the corner of the seat, Lily huddled into herself, drifting off into a restless, unpleasant sleep.