England: Godric's Hollow: Early 1979.
There is no particular word for the sense of anguish over an absence that was never filled. For the death of a loved one, there are a multitude of words, all manners and kinds, a veritable candy store, some useful, some less so.
Yet for an absence, the loss of someone who was never there at all, people, including Lily Potter, were left voiceless in trying to capture that distinctly haunting desolation. What could she say, in the end, that could be understood?
Her and James had been trying for a child for nearly a year, and still, the potion came up clear each month. Not blue for a boy, or red for a girl, or gold for twins, but clear, like her tears cried silently in the night. Only in the night.
She smiled during the day. She smiled so hard it burned her cheeks, and she thought, some days, she would be left with an imprint of a fools-gold grin for the rest of her life. When her friends asked, for they did, often, gently prodding with "So, when's little Bill and Charlie going to have a playmate?" or "When am I going to be named Godfather", she simply said 'next time'. It was always next time, she thought. Next time did not come. The Potion was clear once more.
They try everything that first year. Everything a newly married couple could think of. Positions and potions, muggle vitamins and magazines, Healers and Doctors and old family superstitions, and it all came up clear. Clear like the potion she could not bear to take again. Clear like poison.
Next time, she says, but she knows it will never come. Yet, what else is there to say? How could she describe the want of a tiny hand that was never to be held?
"Perhaps it's time we book an appointment at that muggle hospital? What could it hurt?" Lily only nodded to James's suggestion. There is nothing else left in her. As there had been nothing Saint Mungo's could do. She could not say 'next time' and she could not, never again, take that potion. It hurt too much. James patted her on the shoulder on his way out the bathroom.
"I'll pop over in the morning. Book it in person." His voice was gruff, all grit and sandpaper on skin, as he didn't look back at her, back to the clear potion sitting on the bathroom sink. He was hiding his tears in another room, as she hid hers in her pillow.
England: London: Fertility Clinic: August 1979.
The Doctor's office had as much character as the rest of the hospital, Lily thought. The floor was slate grey, the walls a soft dove, the shingles on the roof a storm cloud silver. The ceiling above her was made from those polystyrene squares, all laid out in a pretty little grid. Neat and orderly, and everything a hospital was: a place where souls left and hope died.
The light of the office was too bright for her eyes, still adjusting from the deepening misery of the hurricane outside, lashing at the windows, rattling the tin frames. She was going to get a migraine later. "I'm afraid I do not bring good news."
The Doctor, an old withered man whose mustache waggled with his mouth, was talking, but Lily couldn't listen. Not truly. She only thought of the signs outside, above every door she passed in the hallway here. Large plastic things with dark on white lettering, no fancy fonts, just bold and all caps. In that moment, Lily had a sign above her as well, she felt. A sign only she could see. A sign the Doctor before her was inscribing with each word her spoke.
She knew it was coming, and it came a lot more gently than she thought it ever would. One moment, one word, and there it was suddenly. In her life, in her mind, in her blood. Lily Potter was infertile. Evidently, it wasn't a cross she had to bear alone. James, her sweet, lovable James, wasn't doing too great in the sperm count arena.
Lily almost wanted to laugh. Her and James, didn't they make a pair? Both so desperate for children, and both a little too broken inside to build one. She doesn't produce eggs, the Doctor tells her, or if she does, there's something wrong with the tubing and they never make it to the womb, as James's swimmers are a little too weak to make any sort of journey. What a pair, her and him. And that's all there will ever be, she suddenly thought. There will always only be James and Lily, and no one else.
No little hand to hold.
Oddly, she thought of the nursery back at Godric's Hollow, already set up, painted a cheery yellow, decorated back when they first began trying and thought making a baby was as easy as a Wingardium Leviosa. That room would sit empty, collect dust and ghosts and aged regrets, and what was she to do with an empty, haunted room?
James sagged in his seat, hand scratching at the stubble of his jaw, but he couldn't fool her. He was hiding his quivering mouth. "Yet…" Lily looked up, over, to the man behind the desk, the man with thick glasses and his maggoty mustache, "Yet?" she asked, and she sounded hollow to her own ears. As dull as these grey, grey walls.
"I do know of a… project that you might be interested in. It is experimental, and not exactly... orthodox, should we call it. But given your files, I think you both would qualify for the preliminary examinations. I can contact my colleague running the tests if you would like?" Her and James spent the afternoon in that room, lodged in the grey that became their hope, questioning and answering, and eventually, with their consent, the Doctor contacted his associate from America.
Two weeks later, Lily Potter received a letter from a Doctor called Khan Noonien Singh.
England: Undisclosed Location: October 1979.
The Doctor, Khan Noonien Singh, told her of his own adopted son when she first met him in a nondescript office outside of London. A boy who was only six, a boy he named after himself. He said the boy was brilliant, beyond expectation, the future. He said her child would be too, and one day, perhaps, this child and his child could meet, and wouldn't that be nice? Lily didn't really think of this other small, face-less boy, or this Doctor's strange choice of words to describe said boy, only that the Doctor said her child.
Maybe that is why, when she was asked to sign the contracts to participate in something called 'Eugenics: Phase Two', she didn't really read all that much, partly lost in the muggle-mumbo-jumbo. She signed, James signed, and the Doctor, Khan, smiled toothily.
"Does it hurt?" Lily queried only a month later, when she was already naked, modesty protected merely by a wafer-thin gown, on her back, legs spread and laced up in stirrups, laying prone on the cold hard springs of a hospital cot. "Not at all." The nurse, all stiff in a white pressed dress, at her side replied placatingly. She smiled like Doctor Singh did, with too much teeth.
The Doctor himself was busy between her legs, and Lily could hear the clinking of metal. She had to fight down the urge to close them, lock her knees and kick her feet. "All you'll feel is a little pinch." There was a lie there, in the nurses answer, in her too friendly voice, Lily thought. Yet, she didn't push it further. She did not close and lock her legs. Lily laid there and thought of the little hand she would finally get to hold.
Most fertile grounds were built by the fires of volcanoes, she reminded herself, an old saying her mother used to tell her when times got tough. It brought her peace, to remember that saying, to remember her own mother as she, in a clinical room, all white tile and sweet bleach, was about to become a mum.
This was it. This was next time. It had finally come.
Doctor Singh stood, hobbling off to her hip, to the wheeled table of metal trays holding sharp metal instruments and gadgets and contraptions, all so very muggle, shining silver in the almost blinding light of the hospital room. His prize was a… Injection, Lily thought. An injection with a thick barreled tube, and a very keen, spiky tip. "Is that them? The child?"
The nameless nurse patted at her shoulder, and it never left the curve, resting, comforting. "No. The embryo's are… delicate and are kept in stasis until the very last moment." The injections tip glinted harshly, and not for the first time, or the last that evening, Lily wished she had someone to hold her hand. However, James had been denied entry, Doctor Singh explaining the less people present for the procedure, the less likely an infection or other such occurrences could happen. The Doctor knew best, didn't they?
"And the embryo? It's already…" Lily couldn't find the right words, not under the blinding white light, half naked, half afraid, half ecstatic. Too many halves, and she was full, spilling, ready to explode. The nurse nodded, not a hair from her neat bun out of place. "Fertilized? Yes."
"Can I know who the parents were? The biological ones, that is? Can I… Can I know their names?" The hand on her shoulder twitched. "I'm afraid that is confidential." Something hot sunk in her gut, like a lit coal, burning as much as her fools-gold-grins did, but Lily was abruptly distracted by the sudden pinch in her thigh as she was injected. Taking pity, the nurse bent down lower, voice dropping, smile large. "You will be their mother, and your husband their father. That is all that matters, isn't it?"
Yes, Lily thought. Wherever this child came from, whoever had made it, it was now hers. Hers and James, and it was beautiful. Her body would nourish it, protect it, house it for nine whole months. What came before that didn't matter. This was her child, and nothing could or would ever change that. "Is it done?" Lily asked as she felt the Doctor pull away, and she felt like a bit of a child, asking her mother from the backseat of their hatchback if they were there yet, if she was a mother yet.
The nurse, anew, smiled down at her. "Not yet. Doctor Singh must make sure your body is ready for implantation. These embryos are… Special. We need to make sure you are strong enough to carry it to term, less you end up like poor Mrs Lockwood." A spark of worry from the coal burning in her gut. "Strong enough? What do you mean strong enough? Whose Mrs Lockwood?" But it was too late. The hand on her shoulder bowed hard, pressing down, holding, pinning.
The pain came then, the pain from whatever they had injected her with. A horrid sort of twisting in her muscles, a blazing scraping in her bones. Lily jerked on instinct, but, belatedly, she realized why they had used cuffed stirrups. She was locked in, spread bare like a sacrifice. "Stop! Stop! It burns! Stop!" White spots danced in her vision. "Hold still now, nearly there…"
England: Fertility Clinic: November 1979
"I'm pregnant?" Lily questioned, back in that grey, grey room with her husband, but now with Doctor Singh instead of the mustache attached to a man. Her voice sounded far away, distant like a moon, hopeful like a dream. "Yes, Mrs Potter. The implantation worked wonders. You are currently four weeks pregnant. Congratulations."
"Do you hear that James? We're pregnant… Pregnant!" Lily broke then, and it was ugly and beautiful and everything in between. She clung to James, and James clung to her, and between them, in her womb, was a new life growing. A new life all theirs. "Thank you so much Doctor Singh. I don't know what we would have done without you." The Doctor waived off her gratitude, eyes dark and twinkling. "Of course, I will have to keep a close eye on the gestation and development to ensure there are no mishaps, but from what my assessments can tell you and the child are perfectly healthy."
It was a miracle, a miracle she could hardly remember, the implantation procedure nothing but a foggy flash of bright light in her memory, as she had, apparently, passed out early on, but it was a miracle none the less. Again, her and James hugged, close, together, smiling amid tears. However, it was not just her and him anymore, not just one or two, but three.
England: London: St George Hospital's Maternity Ward: July 31st, 1980.
Lily Potter gave birth with James at her side, her friends, Sirius and Remus in the waiting room, on July 31st in the midst of an unseasonable storm that battered against England's shores like the sky was raging a war against the horizon. It was a painful birth, long and hard and gruelling, but she did it. Lily gave birth, and she was now, as she had spent so long struggling to be, a mother.
It was the happiest moment of her life.
The child was a little girl, a surprise to be sure, as Lily and James both believed they were going to have a boy. Indeed, so sure they only had the name Harry picked out. Yet, there she was, a little girl, and she didn't cry, not once, not so much as a peep as she came hurtling into the world swathed in her mother's blood. However, she looked. How their child looked, bright eyed, awake, full of curiosity. She looked, and looked, and looked some more. Silent, but aware.
She was a strong little thing, hale and hearty, pale with black hair, though, unlike James, her's was straight, and then you saw her eyes, the eyes she stared with and there was something... Wrong with them. Mistaken. Swapped.
The sclera was black. Black as midnight, clashing horribly with the iris as white and bright as the light of the hospital room she was created in. However, they were only eyes, just eyes, and it was too early to tell if she was blind, or exactly what was wrong, the nurses said, her liver and kidneys were fine, and this was Lily's daughter. She was everything Lily could have ever wanted. She had a daughter, a little daughter, a child, and lastly, finally, the world seemed right. Strange eyes or no eyes.
They ended up naming her Dahlia, after the flowers in the vase at Lily's bedside table, Dahlia Potter, and she was perfect, from her ten little toes to her tiny small lashes to her strange, strange eyes. Lily loved her from the moment she saw her, laid on her breast, blinking up at her.
They wrapped her in a blanket, just as the midwife showed them how, a pretty little blanket of sunshine yellow embroidered with stars, against the sky pouring outside, flashing in lightning and roaring in thunder, and James held her for hours. He spoke to her, sang, told her how much she was going to be loved, spoiled, cherished.
And then her hand slipped from her blanket of stars. James laughed, tickling her tiny palm. Dahlia grasped at his finger, as Lily had seen so many other babes do, holding, squeezing, flexing, so small, so delicate, holding her father's hand and-
"Fuck! Shit! Lily-… Merlin, I think she's broke my finger!" Dahlia had, in fact, broken James's finger at two hours old. She nearly snapped it clean off. Right through the bone, snap, as if it was a paper straw.
That's when they first realized Dahlia Potter was different.