It was the type of storm that shook the windows and floorboards with every tremendous roll of thunder and lit up the room spectacularly with every streak of lightning. The rain pounded against the side of the house, and the siding groaned under the wind. Lily Potter stood stoically in the center of her room as if stupefied, clutching her small stuffed dog, Mr. Snuffles, for dear life. She had jumped out of bed and gotten halfway to the door on her way to her parents' room, her hands shaking and her legs trembling, when she froze. She was six now, and storms shouldn't be scaring her at all anymore, she told herself. She just couldn't go to her parents' room; she was a big girl now, and she was supposed to be brave like everyone said her parents were. But she winced with every thunderclap, and her eyes widened whenever a flash of lightning cast large, angular shadows around her room before plunging her into darkness once more.
She took several deep breaths, knitting her eyebrows together and clutching Mr. Snuffles for dear life. "I'm Lily Potter. I'm Lily Potter," she chanted to herself. "I'm not afraid. I'm Lily Potter." But every time she closed her eyes, she imagined an unknown monster, a shadowy silhouette, emerging from the darkness. Thunder boomed, and she jumped, dropping her stuffed animal, and feeling a new wave of panic press upon her on all sides. Now she was lost and alone in the darkness, and dropped down, feeling all around for her friend. She imagined her hand crossing something warm – or worse – something moving. Her heart hammered against her chest as if it were trying to escape, and frankly, she didn't blame it.
At last, her fingers alighted on the dog, and she held it to her chest, feeling a warm tear slide slowly down her cheek to rest in its fur. Ashamed and terrified, she cuddled Mr. Snuffles and made herself as small as possible. "I'm Lily Potter, I'm Lily Potter," she repeated, taking deep breaths. "It's only a storm, Lily, only a –'' thunder clapped outside her window, and she leapt to her feet. She shook for a moment longer and then all at once rushed at the door wildly. She threw it open desperately and tumbled into the darkness of the hallway. She stumbled, her heart racing, imagining all the possible monsters that lurked beside her and brushed at her arms, just out of sight. She staggered across the hall, feeling her way and using the momentary, sporadic light of the storm to find her parents' room. She fell on their door as if it were a lifeline, opened it with relief, and slipped into the warm darkness. The storm felt smaller in here, somehow, blocked out slightly by the whirring of a fan and the soft breathing of her parents.
"Mum?" She whispered. "Mummy?"
There was a sudden movement as Ginny jerked awake; at her movement, Harry also sat upright in bed, and though Lily could not see it, had put his hand on Ginny's for reassurance. At the next lightning flash, Ginny caught sight of her daughter, quaking at the foot of their bed, and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Lily?" She leaned over to turn on the bedside lamp, illuminating the room in a warm, golden glow. "What are you doing? Are you alright?" Ginny's hair was rumpled with sleep, her eyes squinting and bleary. Harry relaxed and let go of his wand, which he had subconsciously taken up from the bedside table.
Lily flinched with the next thunder clap as it shook the house. "Come here, sweetheart," said Ginny, and Lily obliged quickly, leaping up onto the mattress and snuggling under the covers between her parents.
Harry lay back down, his heart still racing, and moved so that Lily could share his pillow. She glanced up at him with her wide brown eyes, and then all of a sudden, burst into tears. Startled, Harry glanced at Ginny, who shrugged from the other side of the bed.
Lily's sobs were guttural, her shoulders shaking with the effort of pulling them from her small body. Her breathing was uneven, and each intake of air moved the bed. "I-I'm s-s-sorry!" She wailed, curling into a ball at her father's stomach. "I-I'm a c-c-coward! I t-tried to b-be brave a-and not c-care abou-about the storm, b-but I couldn't! I was s-so sc-scared." She thrashed around in frustration. "I-I'm a coward," she repeated, her voice soft and thick with tears.
Harry smiled and pulled her close to him, so that she could feel his steady heartbeat. "You're not a coward, Lily," he said, his voice low and rumbling. He watched Ginny as he spoke.
"Y-yes I am," his daughter insisted, unconvinced.
"No you're not. You're my brave Lily Luna."
"B-but I'm sc-scared of a st-stupid storm," she pouted, dissolving into new tears.
"Just because you're afraid doesn't mean you're a coward."
He felt Lily shrug against his arms. "Then what does it mean?"
"It means quite the opposite, to tell you the truth," Harry said softly. "It means you're brave. Braver than most, feeling afraid."
"That doesn't make any sense Dad," she mumbled in a scolding way, almost incoherent against his chest.
Harry laughed. "You were afraid, and yet it didn't stop you. You had the clarity to understand what you were afraid of, you were aware of it. You didn't let your fear take control of you, and I'll tell you a secret - that's very hard to do." He smiled. "You faced it, Lily. You didn't pretend like your fear was nothing. You didn't push it to the back of your mind or cover it up with false bravado. You felt it. You faced it head on and decided to do something about it."
Lily was silent, so he continued, "you didn't back down from your fear, let it stomp all over you with its great big ugly feet. You looked it in its face and shook your fist at it and said 'no, not today.' And no matter how much it insisted, no matter how much it said –'' he made his voice lower in an impression of a monster, which made Lily giggle "—'be afraid!' You understood it, and you embraced it; you didn't run from it by lying to yourself or busying yourself with something else. You did something about it, Lily; you came to me and your mum. You were brave enough to seek comfort and help. You were brave enough to admit that you can't go it alone, do it all by yourself." He paused then, as if remembering something.
"Lily, only a truly brave person knows what scares them, knows their limits, and knows when to seek help," he continued after a moment. "Only a truly brave person feels fear and presses onward anyway. Instead of pretending and hiding behind so-called fearlessness, the brave person embraces the fact that they are scared. Everyone has fears; it's how you handle it, your refusal of letting it isolate or beat you down, that makes you brave."
Lily thought about this for a long moment, in which Ginny and Harry shared a meaningful look, before she pulled her head back to look at her father. Her long, black hair clung to her tear-stained cheeks. She looked at him for a long while, pondering, until her face broke into a bright smile. "Your monster voice needs some work, Dad," she told him matter-of-factly, and then her smile faded again. "Don't tell James or Albus, they'd think I'm silly for coming in here, even though we know I'm not."
Ginny laughed. "Oh, don't you worry about them. They used to come in here all the time."
Lily brightened, a mischievous smile growing on her lips. "Really?"
"All the time," Ginny repeated. She poked her daughter's stomach, making her giggle. "Now get some sleep!"
Lily settled comfortably into the covers, and Ginny rolled over to turn off the light.
They had not been in the dark for more than two minutes, when a soft knock came through the door. Ginny turned the light on again, and blinked as Albus slipped into the room. He looked very bashful, studying his feet and wringing his hands.
"Get over here," Ginny said warmly, and he clambered over her, looking only mildly surprised to see that Lily had beaten him to it.
"Goodnight, Albus," Harry said from the other side of the bed without opening his eyes.
"Night, Dad," he replied as Ginny shut off the light.
Smiling, Ginny counted down from ten in her head, and at three, she heard the door open and close once more. She didn't turn on the light, and felt James climb over her body (quite painfully, she might add), and shove his brother toward the middle so that he had room.
She rolled to her side in order to stay on the quickly diminishing sliver of bed she had left, and felt Harry close her hand in his across the sleeping forms of their children. The storm still flashed and thundered ominously outside, but the rain had turned into a rhythmic hum, and before anyone could say 'chocolate frog,' the family was asleep.