Lily could not sleep. How could she? She was so used to her attic room above the shops in Diagon Alley. For once, Lily missed the drafty, leaky ceiling. The sound of the busy magical streets combined with the hustle of the muggle world was a peaceful nighttime ambience that Potter Manor lacked. She missed her cot, the walls papered with newspapers, notes, and scribbled drawings. She remembered the first night she slept in that dingy attic. The cot was so unbearable, but only after countless layers of thick blankets and old robes did it become a homely comfort.
She rubbed her eyes. The grandfather clock read past midnight. She hated this tacky pink room. The size of the room was at least four times the size of her old attic. The wooden lacquered floors were neatly covered with spotless pink rugs. Floral pink wallpaper with framed portraits that were dusted and placed perfectly, shelves with delicate bone china plates and glass figurines. Lily thought it ridiculous; books belong on shelves, not vain antique trinkets. Had she not sold all her books to pay for rent, Lily could have easily filled every single shelf in the room with them. She pulled her legs from the heavy blankets. It was so uncomfortably warm. The windows were sealed shut from the crisp autumn air, a fire was crackling in the ornate fireplace, the bed was decorated with pointless heavy quilts and shams and the maids filled the blankets with hot warming pans. But that wasn't the only reason why Lily was awake.
Lily Evans would be marrying James Potter come morning. What other choices did she have? Six months ago, Marlene McKinnon, Mary MacDonald, and Lily lived in a proper room in a small wizarding town about an hour's walk from Hogsmeade. They were in hiding. Times were hard. Muggleborns as well as muggles were disappearing all over. Some disappeared without a trace, others were found dead. One day, Mary had a close encounter with the Death Eaters in the town. She had a breakdown that night, snapped her wand in half, and told Marlene and Lily she was going to live among muggles under the name Shelly Smith. Lily and Marlene attempted to persuade their friend to stay with them, but Mary was in hysterics. Days later, Marlene left. She found refuge as a maid in a kindly pureblood summer home. Marlene sent Lily letters. The other maids and the cook were also muggleborns in hiding, but they were all wonderful people to work for. Marlene had a bed to herself, and money to buy clothes, as well as three meals a day. She sent Lily some of her money to pay for the room, but after a couple of months, the letters suddenly stopped. Lily sold everything that wouldn't fit in her suitcase. She could have easily charmed it, but Lily couldn't afford the rent. She found the attic above a muggle tavern next to Diagon Alley. The muggles couldn't see or hear the Alley, but Lily could. It was familiar, but safe. No one would think to look for her there; hiding in plain sight. At least until James Potter found her.
Lily thought about Mary; driven insane to the point she renounced her magic blood. Marlene was probably already dead. It was too dangerous to go back home to her family. The Potters were immensely wealthy and lived in a heavily protected mansion, and they were friendly towards muggleborns. After one date, James asked Lily to marry him; claiming she was the one and only witch for him. Lily agreed. Secretly, she despised him. He was loud, obnoxious, spoiled, and unaware of the disappearances of their friends and classmates.
His parents were unpleasant. Mr. Potter reeked of tobacco and old leather and only talked of his Quidditch legacy and academic achievements. But he was generally warm and friendly towards Lily; it was Mrs. Potter who frustrated Lily the most. She was a woman who lived in the past. Every day it seemed, Lily was at fault for not adhering to pureblood tradition. Eventually, Mrs. Potter insisted Lily move into the Manor while the wedding was being planned, but she had to stay in the guest room, far away from James' room. It would be horribly improper for the bride to be anywhere near the groom before their wedding day.
It was almost two o'clock. "Ten hours until my execution." Lily thought. She regretted every choice she made that lead to her dreaded wedding. Lily was thankful Mrs. Potter was so controlling of the wedding plans. Lily knew nothing about weddings and how they were carried out. Her sister Petunia was married a year ago to a muggle man who worked in a factory building drills. Petunia made sure that Lily wasn't invited, let alone the honor of being a bridesmaid. At first, Lily was bitter, but laughed when she found out a branch ripped through the tent and smashed their wedding cake. Lily silently giggled to herself. Mrs. Potter controlled every detail to the music, menu, guest list, and Lily's dress.
That horrid, ghostly wedding dress that clung to its mannequin like a parasite. It was a hideously ancient. Mrs. Potter claimed it was her grandmother's wedding dress. "It's improper for a bride to wear anything promiscuous on her wedding day," Mrs. Potter insisted. Lily only tried it on once. Underneath, she had to wear countless undergarments, stockings, garters, corsets, and shapers. Each one had a duty to ensure every inch of Lily was covered except her hands and face, and each undergarment was unbearably uncomfortable. The lace was starched and stiff to the point Lily feared it would shatter at the lightest touch. It was a mystery how Lily would ever be able to walk and move about in the morning. The genuine whale bone corset left red welts from her hips to her breasts. How would she ever be able to put it on and walk across the manor and down the aisle?
The chefs and decorators would arrive at seven. Musicians and the wedding party would arrive at nine. Guests would be promptly arriving at eleven. The ceremony starts at twelve, and not a minute later. The wedding feast starts at twelve-thirty. At two, the bride and female guests open gifts while the groom and male guests drink and talk of worldly affairs, unfit for women's' ears. At five, the bride and groom have their first dance, then the guests join. At six, another wedding feast followed by the cake and more dancing. At nine, the groom takes the bride up to his room, the guests leave and the wedding is over. Lily shuddered. She was terrified of the end. She didn't want to share a bed with that childish brute. Imagine waking up to that face every day for the rest of her life …
Lily wondered if she could run away from Potter Manor when times were safer. But how long would that be? A year? Five years? Decades? Where would she go? She couldn't possibly go back home to her family. What if they were gone? Petunia would probably forget she had a witch sister. Lily was trapped. She felt like a fraud. Mary fought with everything she had, and now she's probably working hard to stay undercover and hidden in the muggle world. Imagine living without magic. Marlene, slaving away in a pureblood home as a maid. Then there's Lily. Sleeping with a wealthy pureblood for protection. Muggleborns and muggles were vanishing and slaughtered, and here she is, sleeping in the stuffy Potter Manor, selling only her marital status for safety while living in the lap of filthy rich pureblood money.
A pang of nausea struck her. It was far too hot in the room, and it was probably unwise of her to skip dinner for the trivial sake of fitting in her corsets. Lily yanked the curtains back and ripped open the balcony door. The sudden chill of cold autumn air sent shivers down her spine. Lily filled her lungs with the fresh air, taking deep breaths and willing herself not to vomit over the balcony edge. "What if I just conveniently fell over?" Lily pondered. Her eyes wandered over the brick balcony. The ground was one with the black night sky. The moon was nowhere to be seen behind the veil of thick clouds. Lily felt as if she was floating in the black abyss that was her future with James Potter. What good could possibly come after marrying that foul, unmannered dolt? How many more stupid pureblood traditions would the Potters drag her through?
Lily climbed onto the top of the brick balcony wall. Was this even real? Was any of this real? Lily closed her eyes and inhaled. The air smelled sharp and earthy; a storm is coming. It seemed much colder on top of the brick wall than on the balcony. The wind teased her dark red hair and her night dress. She inhaled again and took in the ominous silence of the darkness. If she listened hard enough, the darkness was whispering. The darkness seductively hissed her name, promising the hard earth below would be a better groom than James. Lily inhaled once more. She pictured the darkness reaching out to her; stroking her face with ice cold hands and muttering her name into her ear. It caressed every inch of her, begging to let the sleep of death protect her from the world. It felt most surreal; standing on the literal brink of life and death. The darkness is an impatient lover … COME WITH ME ….
Lily opened her eyes. Immediately, she was thrown off balance. She screamed and quickly threw herself back down on the hard brick balcony floor. Lily bit her tongue and forced herself not to cry or scream out. Her ankles were sprained and her elbows were scraped. Was that terrifying voice something her mind concocted?
"It had to be," Lily whimpered as she grasped the door handle and pulled herself up. The hairs on her neck and arms were standing straight up. She could not have possibly imagined it; that wasn't her voice. Lily stumbled back into the pink bedroom, slamming the balcony door behind her. Lily buried herself in the pink quilts and pillows, sobbing. "I don't want this! I don't want any of this!" Lily held a pillow tightly to her chest. She spent most of the night clutching to that pillow and wishing everything would change until her tears carried her into a dreamless sleep.