Love and Other Tragedies
Suggestion: I highly recommend rereading the prologue before this chapter.
Previously On: Lily befriend Grace Murray before Grace's sudden mysterious disappearance.
…It Came to Be
Countless students fell in love at Hogwarts in the seven blissfully brief years they spent coming of age.
They fell in love with boys and girls; careers and idols; and even the special Treacle Tarts served on Thursdays. Some fell in love with friends and some with enemies. A few merely fell in love with the idea of love, and even less were willing to admit that fact to themselves.
Lily Evans was rubbish at time management. Her mouth was foul, often emitting curse words that could make an Auror blush. There were times she was as randy as a fifth year boy. She could never be found in an unwrinkled uniform, and she could be terribly, unintentionally, self-absorbed.
Everyone thought she was perfectly lovely, except for one boy who called her pathetic.
She hadn't known a thing about love until him.
Love was what she'd been made to do. It had started with a deformity in the simplest most basic type of relationship that exists: the love of a sibling.
A wise woman had once told Lily that, "The great thing about siblings is that they don't have to like you to love you… Blood is blood, and whether you want to or not you'll always love one another. She might hate every minute of it, but if you needed her she'd be there."
May Simmons didn't live long enough to know how true her words would become. Blood was blood, and when a bundle of swaddled blankets showed up on Petunia Dursley's doorstep, she didn't have to like Lily to love her enough to take in her only son.
If she were being honest with herself then Lily could admit that-
It could have only ever been James.
It couldn't have been Severus Snape who first welcomed her to their world, and ultimately assigned her to her death. The man who gave her everything except for the very last thing she'd ever asked of him. He would never be able stop protecting her. He could never let her go, not even with his very last breath.
Nor could it have been the boy she called Baker, whose love was so simple to accept she never even had to try. The friend she'd loved so fiercely she let him take of piece of her to his grave.
Because love wasn't easy.
It could not have been Remus who could have used her love the most.
Love was not about need.
And not Sirius either, who was only ever safe in the most dangerous way. A boy who never threatened to set her heart on fire.
Love was the opposite of control.
But because she had loved Petunia and Severus, and because she had loved Sirius Black, Lily didn't have a clue how to love James Potter.
Not for need. Not for comfort. Not for simplicity. And not because they all had their tragedies.
Her heart had been wide open since the day she was born, welcoming in anyone who desired a place, whether it was deserved or not.
So busy seeing everyone else, she could not see her loved ones peering back at her, taking with them permanent imprints of her through their lives.
She did not notice when Peter Pettigrew learned of betrayal. When he saw her do what was best for her despite the consequences to the loved ones around her. Peter had once asked Lily who'd he'd be without the Marauders, and when she could think of no answer to give him, he'd found his own down a dark and twisting path of betrayal.
She didn't see the hardened scar tissue that would never fully heal between the best of friends. Nor could she have understood the ramifications of the sliver of doubt that made it that much easier for James to tell their most guarded secret to another.
She missed the moment when she'd broken Severus Snape, taking away the only love he'd ever known as unconditional and leaving him with nothing but the need for power. Power that would keep him from ever feeling such hurt again.
The one thing Lily had always seen was a boy with hazel eyes and messy hair who stared right back at her.
It wasn't obvious to anyone, least of all her.
James hadn't saved her. There was no great need for love that drew her to him. He could be cruel. He didn't know her best, and he most certainly didn't always do the right thing.
All he did was love her. He loved her through the good and the bad. He loved her in sickness and in health. He loved her for exactly who she was and for every flaw she proudly wore.
But most importantly…She loved him right back-
Until the very end
40 Years Later
Getting out of the car she'd paid to bring her here, the woman wasn't that surprised to find the muggle driver was suddenly too busy to drive the rest of the way down the long winding path that led to the grand estate whose address was scribbled on a scrap of parchment in her pocket.
Even faced with the looming strenuous walk, the clearly anti-muggle charm brought a smile to her face. It had been a long time since she'd felt the warm acknowledgement that she was different from the majority of people who unknowingly shared their planet.
Her once deep brown hair was weaved with grey, and while her bright eyes remained unchanged in color, they were also marred with crows' feet splintering off at each corner. She was getting up there in years, especially by muggle standards, but she made the trek with a positive jerk in her step.
It was a beautiful June day, warm but guarded from any true sweltering heat by the thin shield of clouds that stretched across the sky. The weather perfectly framed the idyllic setting of the large manor surrounded by rolling English countryside. As she got closer a magical veil in the field to the right of the house shimmered out and then disappeared altogether to reveal tall goal posts standing at attention.
A small secret smile spread across her lips at the knowledge that the man who had unexpectedly Owled her months ago was without a doubt Quidditch-obsessed, James Potter's son.
The sound of what could have been a thousand stampeding children met her ears just before she passed over the last hill impeding the house, and she had to stop to take in the sight. A swarming group of children made up of every size, age, shape, and color became impossible to measure as the lively crowd was stuck in constant motion.
Joined by their hands four smaller girls skipped in a circle led by a silver-haired teenager who was singing in French, lanky boys took pleasure in yanking their plaits as they passed, wrapped up in their own game. Several other smaller groupings made up the rest of the whole as children would detach at random to shuffle to take on a new activity.
"Did you know trespassing is a punishable offence by the Ministry of Magic?"
Distracted by the rambunctious activities the woman hadn't noticed the small redhead's approach. The girl's head barely reached her waist, and while her appearance was certainly childlike, her question was leveled with a steady calm that seemed unnatural for someone who couldn't have even been old enough to attend Hogwarts yet.
"I'm here to see Mr. Harry Potter," the woman responded cheerfully, a nervous smile shivering across her mouth.
Navy eyes sparked with something like interest.
"He won't talk to reporters." Something new and nearly mischievous desperately tried to pull free across the child's angelic features. "But I could tell you all sorts of things…if the price was right, of course."
The woman stared down at her blankly, unsure if she should be amused or frightened by the cunning redhead.
"You little monster!" The bloke who scooped the petite child over his shoulder had definitely settled on amusement. His genuine chuckle and wavy, rust colored hair flared up a sense of distant familiarity that she couldn't quite place.
Rising to his full height (a full head or two taller than the woman), he stuck his hand out to her completely ignoring the insubordinate child draped over his shoulder.
The woman shook his hand as he spoke, "I'm guessing you aren't here to do us any harm or the anti-intruder jinx would've shocked you sky high by now… And you should know that other than being destined to bring her family shame as a future Slytherin, the little monster is also right. Harry doesn't have much patience for reporters."
"I'm not a journalist… Or a Death Eater for that matter." She used her warmest, sincerest smile to assure them. He was definitely the oldest of the bunch, probably already out of Hogwarts, which meant he was the one most likely to be able to offer her some real assistance. "I've come to respond to a letter a received."
"In that case- I'm Teddy Lupin. It's nice to meet you. I'll help you find Harry. He can be a little slippery on days when the whole lot gets together like this." Teddy swung around and headed towards the house, carelessly bouncing the girl's head against his back where she hung upside down.
"Are you sure I can't interest you in a little family dirt?" The girl strained to get a good look at the woman from her upside down position. "Harry and I aren't in a good place right now… He refuses to let me go to Hogwarts."
Teddy snorted. "That's because you're only ten."
"My birthday is September 2nd! One day late, Teddy! One day!" she vented, using a tiny fist to bang into his back. "Besides I think we all know what the real problem is… Harry is subconsciously taking his anger out on me because his glory days have passed while mine are right ahead of me."
Jostling her unnecessarily as they took the stairs, the woman saw him trying to fight off laughter. He'd recovered by the time he spoke.
"You tricked Tabatha into taking you to the Headmaster's house where you tried to BRIBE him into letting you start a year early, and when that didn't work you threatened the poor man! I'm quite sure there is nothing 'subconscious' about Harry's anger."
A slip of a chuckle escaped the woman, reminding them that she was there.
"I'm sorry," she apologized for her intrusion when they both looked at her. She focused on the girl who she now knew was on the eve of her eleventh birthday. "What's your name, dear?"
Reaching the large red door at the front of the house, Teddy unceremoniously dumped her back on her feet and dark red hair splayed on either side of her pretty face. She stared up at the brunette incredulously.
"You don't know who I am?"
The woman was saved from offering the wrong answer by Teddy giving the girl a sturdy shove in the opposite direction. She didn't fight him, continuing off in the trajectory he'd sent her, not even stopping as she grumbled loudly, "I'm Harry Potter's bloody daughter! Witch Weekly just did a feature calling me Wizarding royalty!"
Teddy brushed off the display, never losing his easy demeanor.
"That's Lily. She's rather…spirited… But please, for Merlin's sake, don't ever let her hear you call her that."
"Oh? Which one would that be: Lily or spirited?"
Teddy's face scrunched as he led her through the designed warm ambience of the house.
"Actually, it's probably best to just stay out of her way."
Hues of red and gold decorated room after room, reminding her of what she could only imagine the inside of the Gryffindor Common Room looked like. There were also family portraits, hundreds of them smiling on every wall; some featured smaller groups, while others stretched on and on, trying to capture dozens of cheerful faces. Voices echoed through the pattern of hallways they cut through, but they never encountered the people they belonged to.
Teddy finally stopped at a closed door, rapping his knuckles three times against the wood in rapid succession.
There was no response.
"Harry! Ron! I know you're in there."
"It's your Godson. You're under moral obligation to open this door. You owe it to my dead father," Teddy called rather cheerfully.
The door flew open and the woman had to take a breathless step back as she was faced with a ghost.
It wasn't an unusual reaction for Harry to receive, but the woman's reasons were different than most.
"This nice lady was looking for you. I saved her from your daughter," Teddy introduced briefly before giving a quick wave and exiting the same way they'd just come.
Harry eyed the woman with wary trepidation. It wasn't the first time a stray had managed to find their address and slip through the plethora of charms, spells, and jinx that protected the property.
"Ron Weasley." A large man with ginger hair that matched at least half the children outside shoved his body between them with the slightest air of protectiveness. His freckled hand extended towards her. "And this is Harry, but I'm sure you already knew that."
"It's nice to meet you both." She offered them a kind smile. "My name is Grace Murray. I received a letter from you several months ago. I'm very sorry to show up unannounced, but any child of Lily Evans and James Potter was someone I needed to see in person."
It was Harry's turn to take a breathless step in retreat.
His parents had always been a mystery to him. They'd been an unknown factor for most of his life, even as he overindulged in the same old second-hand stories he'd heard over and over again. Sirius and Remus had breezed through his life, holding all the answers, but never fully having the time to share with him all the information he ravenously craved.
Becoming a parent himself had added a whole new longing to the dynamic.
There were times with James, Albus, and Lily when he would be able to clearly identify his or Ginny's characteristics in their little quirks and traits. James' sneaky smirk when he thought he'd gotten away with something- that was all Ginny. Or Lily's moodiness- that probably came from him.
There were a million times that he could see his personality in his children, and it only made him wonder what he'd unknowingly inherited from the strangers that died to protect him.
Was there more than just the physical connection? Had he gotten something else from Lily Evans than just the sparkling emerald that haunted his eyes? Was there more of James Potter in him than their matching messy hair and love of a game?
"You alright, mate?" Ron asked concern marking the furrow of his brow.
Harry nodded slowly. "Do you think you could give us a minute alone?"
Once the other man had left them by themselves, Harry invited her into his office, closing the door behind them.
Grace took the high backed leather chair he gestured too, and he blushed like a child caught doing something wrong as he vanished the two half empty glasses of Firewhiskey that sat on the small table between them.
"I have to tell you that you gave my first grade class quite a treat with that gorgeous owl that delivered my letter." She chuckled good naturedly to let him passed her teasing tone. "I thought I'd gone mad when it swooped right down to perch on the open window seal. I haven't received post like that in forty years."
"So you've been living as a muggle? There was some confusion as to what actually happened to you according to Hogwarts' records… It's shockingly not unusual for the students of 1978. There are only six listed as possible survivors, and two of you have been missing since before the term even ended."
A solemn sadness aged her face as he watched her gather her words.
"I left Hogwarts early that year. My father was a Squib and when things began to deteriorate with the war he had me flee in the middle of night. For safety, I wasn't even allowed to tell my dorm mates I was leaving. We moved overseas, and I've been living as a muggle ever since. My parents snapped my wand that night convinced that magic would lead to my death."
They were silent both thinking over the probable truth of her father's caution.
"I'm sure you think I'm a coward," she started again thoughtfully, but not altogether ashamedly. "Most days I'd be inclined to agree with you. I abandoned my people, left them to be slaughtered. You said there are six possible survivors from my year, and I can guarantee it was neither courage nor talent that gifted them their lives. For me, it wasn't evil either, though."
"I don't think you're evil." Harry's face shifted to alarm with his denial. He hadn't meant to make her think that. "I don't think you're a coward either. If you were really a coward you would have ignored my letter altogether like the two other people I sent letters to that didn't get returned unopened."
"…About the letter, Harry. I have to admit that I'm probably not the best source for information about your parents. I really only knew them- as much as the rest of Hogwarts did- from afar," she said.
"But you knew them, right? You knew the Marauders?"
"Everyone knew the Marauders," Grace responded quietly with a nostalgia filling her eyes as visibly as if it'd been tears. "Sirius Black, James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. You either fancied them, envied them, or pretended to be annoyed with them."
Harry let silence overtake them again.
"They're all dead now, aren't they?" Grace stared at the floor, wishing Harry hadn't been so quick to dismiss the Firewhiskey. She might need some if she was going to get through this conversation.
"And my Mum? Did you know Lily Evans as well?" He didn't bother to respond to her question which he could only hope was rhetorical. Of course they were all dead.
She nodded, finding her smile again. "Lovely Lily."
"I've heard Slughorn call her that before," Harry said proudly.
"Oh, yes, Lovely Lily was Professor Slughorn's favorite of all his favorites… And she wasn't just popular with the professors either. It seemed just about everyone was in love with her. And your Dad…well, your dad-."
"He was a bully, I know," he forced the words out cold and uncaring, trying not to irritate the old wound.
"A bully?" She mulled the term over in her mind. "It's hard for me to see him that way. He was immature. They-…We all were. The Marauders did a lot of things they probably wish they hadn't, and some of that fun was at the expense of others… But they weren't bad people. They were just kids. And by the time Sirius and Lily started dating all of that business was long in the past."
"Er- what was that?" Sirius and his mum? That couldn't be right.
But Grace Murray told him all about it.
He learned about a teenage girl who fell in love with a bad boy with a twisted past. A girl who had best mates that were muggleborns just like her, and a teenager that had even been a little rebellious. A witch that was orphaned at age fourteen, and lost someone else important to her at seventeen.
Grace could only share tales as an outsider looking in. She didn't know the specific details that would weave the information into a story, but she was honest, giving the good with the bad in equal parts.
Grace Murray took Lily Evans out of his unfulfilling ghostly memories and the careful cut-out that he'd created throughout his life, and made her a real person.
When she finished, scraping up every last detail from her memory down to the stubborn wrinkles that Lily wore on her school uniform like a fashion statement and the way James had transformed into such an honorable head boy, they sat quietly. She felt emptied out, as if she'd been plowed like a field being prepared for a harvest. This was why she'd come. She wanted to give his boy- this remarkable boy orphaned by an entire generation- anything and everything she could.
What she hadn't expected was the loneliness that suddenly filled in the cracks and empty spaces of what she'd just given up.
"I'm sorry to bring all this up for you." More than sympathy shone through his green eyes when he spoke, an aura of pure gratefulness radiated off him.
"They deserved to be remembered," Grace answered. "And not as saints or unblemished martyrs, but as the remarkable, flawed, human beings that actually lived and died and made a real difference in this world."
Again they were both quiet, dancing with all the ghosts that shadowed them. They were two people damaged by the same evil: one haunted by all the things they had done and seen, and the other by all the things they had not.
"Please call me Grace."
"Grace," he corrected himself. "If it wouldn't trouble you too terrible much, would you mind dropping around every now and then? I'd like to hear about the others, too. The ones who don't have anyone remember them."
For the first time in forty years, the scared girl who had fled Hogwarts in the dead of night, did not regret being alive. If she had lived only for this purpose, to offer this small comfort to the man who had saved so many and suffered so much, then it was worth it.
"I would be honored," she said and she meant it very much.
An unexpected peace settled over his face, making an old, faded scar look all but nonexistent. "Thank you."
"No… Thank you, Mr. Potter."
Author's Note: I sincerely apologize for the delay. My venture into original fiction has kept me pretty busy, but all the reviews, follows, and faves have kept me from forgetting LAOT and the epilogue I owed all my loyal readers. I had a goal when I started writing this story to make it to 1,000 reviews and even though that doesn't seem like a probability at this point I wouldn't trade the reviews I've received for four hundred more. All of my readers have given me the confidence to pursue my dreams, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
As for Memoirs of a Bad Girl, I'd love to work on it again when my work schedule isn't quite so hectic. If I meet all my current deadlines, I'd love to have regular updates on Memoirs back this summer.
With the book finally shut on LAOT, I'd love to hear your final thoughts on the story as a whole but also if you had any favorite moments or parts that stood out to you.