A Gift Freely Given

Lily Potter was twenty-one and selfish.

No one ever remembers that, it's too ingrained in the age to stand out. She was twenty-one and invincible, twenty-one and obnoxiously self-involved. War didn't change that, marriage didn't change that…not even a child could entirely kill the selfishness woven into the twenty-something psyche. Twenty-one wasn't quite 'grown-up' for Lily Potter.

They'll paint her as a saint, a Madonna in maternity robes.

Like she never made James mind Harry for a night to go out and get hammered with Mary MacDonald on her hen night. Like she never cursed into her pillow at three in the morning and let Harry cry a few minutes longer. Like she never got so mired down in exhaustion and frustration and worry, crying along with her colicky baby waiting for, hoping that James would swagger in the door with Sirius on his heels like they were coming home from a night on the piss and not espionage and danger so she could scream at them through her tears. Like she never envied them a little, out there streaking the night crimson and gold with their twenty-one-year-old bravery.

The world remembers a martyr, a painted icon with a golden halo. Lily Potter wasn't that. She was just human; flawed. No one remembers the temper, the self-interest, the little vanities, the unforgiving nature, the grudges held (except one forgotten sister, who amplifies the imperfections to dim the glow of Lily's dead-star brilliance).

They carve her up as their saint, the mother of the Boy Who Lived, remember her talents, her many kindnesses, but even those fade; her sacrifice is rain on the inked parchment of her life, black words—messy handwriting and scratched out sentences along with pretty turns of phrase and bits of poetry—washing out to hazy, indecipherable grey. The memory of Lily Potter is bland, unremarkable goodness.

Even her friends can't remember her as ordinary; the years and the stories they hear rewrite their memories, taking an eraser to them bit by bit until they're new and perfectly familiar, clean pictures on clean white paper with no grey, stray pencil marks underneath to mark the grave of ordinary Lily.

No one really remembers ordinary Lily and it almost dulls her sacrifice. Because that flawed human girl, barely out of her teens and still trying hard to hold on to selfish innocence even as the war began to pull against her, threw herself down without a thought, traded her life for her son's without a moment of hesitation. She loved her life; it was bright and precious and unlived. In all other circumstances, she would have held to it fast. But in that moment, for her son, it was a gift freely given.

They'll paint Lily Potter as a saint, and anyone knows a saint would do that. It's not even a question, and it makes it all a little less remarkable.