"Lily!" a voice calls from the corner, "Over here!"
Lily turned to face her long-term friend standing by the door with her husband and let out an excited squeal. "Alice, Frank how are you two? When did you get back?" she hugged each in turn. And conjured them a drink.
"Just now," replied Alice "we dropped of Neville at his grandmother's..."
"Complaining the entire time!" interrupted Frank with a chuckle.
" The boy can't get out of visiting his grand-mother," exclaimed Alice. " Yet he still thinks he can do anything now that he's of age- oh you know how it is!"
"Of course" agreed Lily, hoping they didn't notice the wistful reply.
But as the smiles slid off the Longbottom's faces as they glanced at each other then back to her, she realized they had.
The atmosphere became suddenly tense as neither party wanted to be the first to break the silence that had fallen between them. Around them members of the Order laughed and talked, oblivious to exchange that had just taken place.
"I mean," Lily tried to explain "because Roseleen won't be of age until..." she faltered.
"Right. Of course" came Frank's rushed agreement, pretending not to notice her laps in speech.
Lily could practically see Alice's brain working furiously. Struggling to say something or form and explanation of some kind, as she nervously shifted from one foot to the other and cast pleading looks to her husband-who suddenly found his glass extremely interesting.
"Last week... would have been Harry's 17th right?"
Lily's head snapped back to Alice, she had expected her to dance around the subject as always, not head straight to the point. As the full extent of the question hit her, Lily had not been prepared for the tide of pain that followed and she was unable to school her features into the look of neutral indifference that she had so perfected.
Frank had made a hasty getaway at some point, but the girls had hardly noticed. Lily was staring at Alice as if seeing her for the first time- fighting to keep the current of emotions inside. Alice began wringing her fingers and flushed under Lily's scrutiny.
"Oh I've gone and put my foot in my mouth haven't I, here I am bragging about my Neville while you.."
"I'm fine Alice," Lily interrupted not knowing if she could handle another mention of her firstborn. " I'm happy for you Alice, you have nothing to apologize about, the question just shocked me that's all. "she lied. "Now I want to hear all about you vacation!"
For a moment it looked as if Alice wasn't going to take the bait. She shot Lily a look that said she knew Lily was trying to change the subject. But the next moment she beamed and began to explain her one month trip to France. Lily made sure to nod at the right times and forced herself to laugh as Alice described Frank's reaction the Veela's.
It hadn't always been like this between her and Alice, odd and awkward. Quite the contrary, Lily and Alice had been best freinds since they're Hogwarts days. They had been in the same house with each other, same year and had been inseparable. In fact they had even been pregnant together and gave birth to they're first borns son's during the same month.
But that was where their similarities ended.
Lily hadn't lied when she said she was happy for her friend, but at the same time she couldn't help but envy Alice, her life had not fallen apart 16 years ago. She didn't know how it felt to watch your child die.. Only James did.
At the thought of her husband Lily turned to find him laughing with Frank at something Sirius had just said. How can he do that? She mused. How was it that he stayed strong and didn't fall apart entirely as she did. He had simply gotten right back up and dusted himself off.
Not that he was insensitive or cold hearted. Lily knew her husband had grieved in his own way.
Matter of fact it was James that blocked off Harry's nursery, left it unchanged as if he would suddenly be back in his crib...not six feet under.
Lily forced herself to stop thinking along those lines as she turned back to Alice and found her staring at her expectantly.
"Well?" her freind gushed.
Lily blinked slowly and realized that Alice must have asked her a question. "Umm..."
"Ah! Hello, hello yes, yes it seems as though everyone's here, lets get started now shall we?"
Lily rushed off to find a seat by her husband grateful for Albus's greatly timed entrance. Her conversation with Alice had shook her up more than she expected. She saw James give her a look that clearly asked are you OK? Before he sat down. Lily forced another smile and nodded although she knew her husband would not fall for the facade.
As expected he raised his eyebrows skeptically, so Lily shook her head. A clear indication that she did not want to talk about it. This was neither the time, nor the place.
"Well it seems as though this might be the last full-scale meeting of the Order of Phoenix," Dumbledore began when everyone had sat down in a circle surrounding him. His blue eyes twinkled beneath his half-moon glasses, as he surveyed each member. "The last of the Horcrux have been destroyed for quite some time now, so I believe it's safe to say that we will not be hearing from Lord Voldemort anymore."
A resounding cheer sounded along with loud whistling and stomping of feet. Lily shook her head at her husband and Sirius's childishness.
"Yes, well there is still the matter of his followers, even after sixteen years they still remain loyal to his cause, recent attacks have..."
Dumbledore never got to finish, for at that moment a dazzling light erupted from the center of the room, so bright that everyone had to shield their eyes. Dumbledore gestured everyone to the far end of the wall, and Lily found herself being pushed behind her husband. All the Order members made a large space in the middle of the living room and only Dumbledore seemed to be the only one capable of staring into the light.
A crash sounded, and just as quickly as light erupted it vanished. Lily screamed as she caught sight of the bloody mangled body that it had left in it's wake. Beside her she heard her husband shift into Auror mode as he and Sirius took out they're wands and moved forward slowly.
"Oh my goodness!" cried Minerva McGonagall pushing her way towards the body.
"Stay back Minerva,"cautioned Dumbledore stopping her with his hand, "he could be dangerous."
"Dangerous! But Albus he is just a boy!" she pushed Dumbledore's hand aside and lent down beside the body curled in a fetal position. "Even if he was dangerous what could he do in this state?"
"How did he get in here?" asked James his wand still pointed at the abnormally still body. "there are anti-apparting wards around here strong enough to rival Hogwarts."
"Well you can't ask him anything if he's dead now could you?" Minerva snapped at her former student, she felt for a pulse. "He's barley alive, and covered in blood! Albus we must get this boy to Saint Mungo's immediately!"
"Yes, yes," Dumbledore's brow furrowed, "when you get there Minerva, please tell them to put him under Nora Filch's care. Hurry now he looks to be in severe condition."
Lily watched wide-eyed as Minerva levitated the boy to the door. Her eyes never left the blood caked body as she willed her heart to slow down. Vaguely she acknowledged her husbands voice calling to her and the stares of her fellow Order members, yet she didn't look away until the boy was out of sight.
"Lily!" she jumped with a start to see her husband looking up at her in concern, "Lily, honey? What's wrong?" they had the attention of everyone in the room now, even Dumbledore was boring into her with his crystal blue eyes.
Lily shrugged off they're concerned glances, "Look at this mess!" she cried indicating the broken table in the center of her living room, snapped in half and cloaked in a dark red liquid. "I'll have to clean it up." with that she rushed to the broom cupboard aware off the entire Orders stares.
There was something about that boy, something so eerily familiar. Lily pondered while opening the broom cupboard. She just couldn't shake the feeling of deja vu she was getting.
They still stared at her when she got back and Lily felt her face flush, (damn her redhead tendencies she cursed). "What!" she snapped hating how everyone seemed to walk eggshells around her, especially during this time of year.
"Going to clean the mess with a Nimbus 2000 Lil's?" replied Sirius barley concealing a grin. Everyone who had been trying to hold in they're laughter, broke down at Sirius's comment. Lily looked down and realized that in her haste she had grabbed Roseleen's old broom. She felt her face heat up and knew it was probably the same color as her hair now.
'I know you don't care much for Quidditch Lil's," James added between his laughter. "But you can't use it's brooms for cleaning!" Lily didn't understand what was so funny but suspected that her pinched, red-faced expression was the cause for everyone's laughter.
She turned to face her husband, now laughing so hard he had crouched into a fetal position, with a comeback on the tip of her tongue but paused. Her eyes widened drastically, and as her mind clicked she felt the broom drop from her hand.
"Oh-my-god!" she whispered, realizing with a start why the body had felt so familiar. Why as she stood next to it kept getting the feeling of deja vu. Why the whole incident had disturbed her to a whole new level.
Because he had looked like James.
The body had looked exactly like a younger version of her husband!
With that last thought Lily's eyes rolled to the back of her head and she promptly fainted dead away.