A/N: So, I know this isn't the next chaptered story I said I was going to start posting in September… It's just a little one-shot that I decided to upload while starting to plan out my next Lily and James story. I hope you all enjoy it.
Epithet: (from the Merriam Webster Dictionary) A characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing. Can be complimentary, neutral, or derogatory.
When she was little, she hated her name. Her mother had explained with patience and love that a lily was a beautiful flower, and her father had added that it represented innocence and purity and all that was good in the world. But the only lilies she had ever seen were the white ones that grew near the old swing set she and Petunia played on, and they were dull and ordinary and bland. It wasn't quite right, not for her, and although she didn't know exactly what it was that was missing, she knew that something was missing.
She'd listen with abated breath to the nicknames others gave her, hoping she'd find the answers in them. In all her short life, she'd been called many different things, and she was determined that at least one of them would fit.
"Pumpkin, didn't I tell you not to tear holes in your new skirt?" "What do you have in your hands, Pumpkin? Is that a worm?" "Pumpkin, what have you done to your shirt? Why is it covered in mud? Why are you covered in mud?"
Lily often thought that perhaps her parents had expected something else from their youngest daughter.
Petunia was more timid, and being older than Lily, seemed so much more mature. She was always conscious of the clothing she was wearing and the people who were watching. She never returned home with leaves clinging to her hair and dirt stuck on her skin, never picked up bugs and proudly showed them to her parents. She simply wasn't that kind of girl.
She wasn't Lily.
Once, when she was six or seven, Lily had asked her parents if petunias were representative of anything, the way that lilies were. Her mother had answered that petunias were pretty and delicate. Lily had wondered about that, wondered if Petunia considered herself to be pretty and delicate as well.
At nine years of age, she had taken her curiosity a step further and looked up petunias in a book of flower meanings at the library.
Petunias represented anger, resentment, and spite.
She had wondered if her parents knew that. She had wondered if that was why they always called her sister Tuney instead of Petunia.
But then why did they call her Pumpkin? Did they not think she was innocent or pure? Or did they just think she was more like a pumpkin than a lily?
Kneeling on the ground in the dirt next to her mother, watching as the older woman planted bulbs of flowers in the garden, she decided to voice the question.
"Why do you and Daddy call me Pumpkin?"
Her mother looked up, surprised and startled by the question. She put down the shovel and reached up to tuck away a strand of Lily's hair, a wisp that had come lose from the ponytail. She smiled warmly, wistfully, and said, "It's a pet name, Pumpkin."
"But… but you don't call Tuney Pumpkin," Lily protested.
"True," her mother conceded. "But we couldn't call you both by the same name. It might get confusing."
"Oh." Lily considered this for a moment, then asked, "But… but why Pumpkin?"
"You have pumpkin-colored hair," was the reply. "And you spend almost the same amount of time rolling around in the dirt as a pumpkin does."
Lily blinked. "Well… what about carrots? They're orange, too, and they grow in the ground. Why don't you and Daddy call me Carrot? Or Tomato, because my hair is closer to that color? That's what some of the boys at school call me."
And then she blushed, knowing she hadn't quite meant to reveal that much. Her mother was giving her an amused stare, as though she understood more about boys than Lily did, and she probably did understand more, but still… It wasn't funny when Tommy Higgins called her Tomato and pulled on her hair.
But it was one of the few times Petunia had shown that she could be brave. She'd slapped Tommy Higgins and threatened to tell the teacher if he ever made Lily cry again.
Lily had loved her sister dearly at that moment.
"Because you're sweet, too," her mother said fondly. "Sweeter than carrots or tomatoes. You're sweet, like pumpkin pie."
A few days later, at the library again, she found a small book tucked away in the stacks, a book about dream interpretation. The words were too big for her to understand, but she flipped through the pages until she found something about pumpkins. Intrigued, she stumbled over the unfamiliar words and phrases.
"Do you need some help, dear?"
Lily looked up at the elderly librarian. Holding out the book and pointing to the paragraph in question, she asked, "Can you tell me what it says about dreaming about pumpkins?"
The librarian scanned the page. "It says that it is a sign of deception and entrapment, dear," the woman answered, and then, at Lily's bewildered expression, explained, "Deception is like lying and entrapment is like trapping someone."
"Oh." Lily wasn't sure she liked the sound of that.
The librarian looked back at the page. "It's also a sign of witchcraft."
"We're still friends, aren't we? Best friends?"
Lily could never have imagined a place like Hogwarts, just like she could never have imagined a person like Severus. He seemed to know everything, and even if he was – as her mother would say – a little rough around the edges, he was still the first friend she'd had besides Tuney, and the only one who had helped her make sense of the bizarre things that kept happening all around her.
"Of course we're still best friends, Sev."
How could they not be friends? She would never have admitted it to anyone, although she thought maybe Severus had guessed and was just nice enough not to call her on it, but she had been terrified. She was terrified even now, already two months into her first year of school. Not just nervous, not just apprehensive…
What if this was all some mistake? She kept wondering that, wondering if she would wake up the next morning to find out that it had all been a dream, and she wasn't a witch and magic wasn't real and Hogwarts didn't exist. What if she lost this wonderful world?
Or what if the world still existed, but they suddenly discovered that she didn't have magic and they sent her home?
Or what if the world still existed and she did have magic, but she wasn't any good at it? What if her spells turned out to be rubbish and her talent for potion making was all fake? What if she wasn't good enough?
But Sev had laughed off her worries and promised her that this was real and she was good enough and being Muggleborn didn't matter. And he smiled at her and called her his best friend and she thought often and with fervent hope that he would be right.
She didn't understand in the beginning why it would matter that they were in different Houses. They didn't sit together at meals, but she still sat with him in all their shared classes and they spent time together down by the lake, with Severus telling her stories of the giant squid, tales that he had learned from his mother. And maybe his other friends didn't like her, and certainly her other friends didn't like him, but why did it matter?
Potter was an arrogant toerag – and Severus would grin widely every time she said that – and Black was hardly any better. But Marlene was always ready to giggle with Lily about anything and Cynthia always wanted to hear more and more about the Muggle world, and if Mary was too quiet and too timid, she at least loved reading as much as Lily did, and Lily had friends.
But she only had one best friend.
Marlene didn't like Severus. She laughed every time Black made fun of his second-hand clothes and his greasy hair, and grew more and more concerned every time she saw Lily talking to the Slytherin boy.
"He knows more Dark Arts than most seventh years, Lily!" Marlene would often protest, eyes wide, expression earnest. "He's in Slytherin."
"He's my friend," Lily would answer, and that was all she could really say.
How could she explain to a pureblood what it felt like to suddenly discover powers beyond her comprehension? Marlene would never really understand how scary it had been in the beginning, to know that she could do things and yet not know how she was doing it or why. Before Sev had come, before he had explained everything to her, back when nothing made sense and she had no hope of it ever being explained…
But he had come, and he had explained it all to her.
Then Lucius Malfoy, a Slytherin prefect with a mean streak and a vicious sense of humor, called Mary a Mudblood and hexed her so badly she spent the night in the Hospital Wing.
"What's a Mudblood?" Lily asked Severus the next day.
He looked at her with a flash of anger. "Did someone call you that?" he demanded, and for the first time she saw the danger Marlene was always talking about, and the darkness that Black despised.
"No, not me," she said in a timid voice, and Severus seemed to relax, his expression clearing.
"Because you're not one," Severus said firmly. "You're different, don't you see that?" And then he flushed darkly and looked away from her, as though he'd said something bad. And she didn't understand any of it, because she still didn't know what a Mudblood was or why Mary had been called that.
"How am I different?" Lily asked.
Severus grinned. "Because you're my best friend," he said, as though that was all that mattered. Then he faltered, and added tentatively, "We're still friends, aren't we? Best friends?"
He was always doing that, always checking to make sure they were still friends. And when he looked at her, his expression was so earnest and so frank, and his second-hand robes were worn and faded and his hair fell in front of his eyes, and he was still the exact same boy she had met not too long ago, the one who had introduced her to a world beyond her imagination and told her she could do anything she wanted and called her his best friend.
And she gave the only answer that came to mind, the one she thought would always be true.
"Of course we're still best friends, Sev."
"Ah, Miss Evans, my star student. Let's see what you have brewed today."
Her potions always worked. By the time she reached her third year, her old fears of being rubbish at magic were mostly gone, but it didn't stop her from feeling relief every time she received a compliment from one of her professors. Slughorn was the one who lavished the most praise on her, and she knew part of it was because he wanted her to join his Slug Club. He told her that he was convinced that she was going to be someone important when she was an adult.
Of course, the other part of it was that she was better at potions than almost anything else she did.
They had been working in pairs again, and she looked down at the cauldron on her table as Slughorn studied the potion carefully.
Her potion was silver and perfect. The steam that rose from the cauldron was the right shade and had the right translucency. The concoction itself had the correct scent of mint and lavender and honey. And she and Severus had managed to modify the instructions so that it didn't take anywhere near as long to brew and was even more potent than the original recipe.
"Wonderful, wonderful," Slughorn beamed. "Everyone, take a look at Miss Evans' and Mr. Snape's potion." He gave them both wide smiles and added, "It is always nice to see my two best students working together so well."
Lily looked at Severus and smiled, and wished that everything else could be that easy.
She could answer questions correctly in McGonagall's class, and her determination to pay attention to every word the professor uttered generally earned her the approval of the older witch. But she didn't have the innate talent for Transfiguration. She struggled with it in the beginning, and would watch with some jealousy as Potter managed every single spell with ease.
Defense Against the Dark Arts, too, was a struggle. She could memorize the entire textbook and it wouldn't make a difference, because the practical applications still often baffled her. It was one thing to know intellectually how to stop a boggart, and something else entirely to actually be able to do it.
And flying… well, she had barely survived those lessons. She had no great desire to even see a Quidditch game, let alone play one. She wasn't afraid of heights, not the way Mary was. She found flying unpleasant and a bit frightening, but it wasn't a petrifying fear. She simply preferred to be on solid ground.
She was much more coordinated there.
She had been at Hogwarts long enough to know that there were many who looked down on her because of her blood status. They were mostly Slytherins and their opinions didn't especially matter to her, but it didn't stop her from hating their derisive comments. They laughed at her and told her she was not a real witch and didn't belong here.
And then she watched the pureblooded Potter excel at Transfiguration and Defense and Quidditch without any visible effort. As though he had been born to do it. As though it was in his blood.
He belonged here.
So she clung to potions as a reminder that she was good at this and she did belong here, too.
She didn't try to show off in class. Severus did, and she'd often hear him mocking Potter and Black or Lupin and Pettigrew when they failed to brew a potion correctly. The animosity between the four Gryffindor boys and her best friend was steadily growing, and although she mostly took Severus' side, it did sometimes bother her to hear him sound so vicious and bitter.
Not that Potter was any better.
He did show off, and part of the reason she attempted not to was because she knew how it felt to be jealous of someone else. His accomplishments in Transfiguration still made her feel awkward and out-of-place, and she didn't want to do that to any of her friends. She didn't want them to look at her potion and feel inadequate.
Besides, she never needed to show off. Slughorn did it for her.
The class dutifully gathered around her potion.
"Do you see how the silver is almost reflective? Do you see how the steam is just slightly opaque? And that smell! The mint is so strong. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful!" Slughorn said, shaking his head in amazement. "You never cease to impress me, Miss Evans. You, too, Mr. Snape. My star students."
It was hard not to smile at that.
She had magic. She was a witch. She belonged here.
Marlene asked her for help on her potions homework. So did Pettigrew, and once even Lupin. She was the best at potions in her year, except for Sev.
But she wasn't the best at everything else.
Potter and Black were goofing off in Transfiguration again. Messing around, turning the other's hair different colors, levitating their quills and parchment, and pushing each other out of their seats. Cynthia was flirting with Potter, scooting up next to him and laughing every time he did something. He seemed to be relishing in the attention, and kept running his hand through his hair and messing it up.
Lily looked down at the teacup in front of her. She was supposed to make it grow legs. But her first attempt had ended with the teacup sprouting things that looked more like tree branches than anything else. It had then proceeded to attempt to walk, fallen over, and been unable to get back up. It looked pathetic, lying on its side, waving stubby tree-branch-legs in the air.
"Mr. Potter, Mr. Black," Professor McGonagall said sharply, marching down the row between the tables and pausing in front of them. "Perhaps you would like to do some actual work instead of wasting valuable class time?"
Potter turned and, without hesitation, jabbed his wand at his teacup.
It grew legs and started dancing.
McGonagall's lips pressed into a thin line, and Lily knew the stern professor was impressed and doing her best not to show it. After all, she could hardly reward Potter for wasting time.
But he was the first one in the class to successfully complete the transfiguration.
"Very good," she said finally. "Now continue practicing."
Lily looked down at her own teacup and sighed.
At least she was still the star student in potions.
He started with darling Evans. That progressed quickly to beautiful Evans, sweet Evans, enchanting Evans. Then he dropped Evans altogether and moved on to absolutely ridiculous names like nectarine.
Who in their right mind picks nectarine as a pet name?
Of course, Lily knew Potter was never actually in his right mind.
It was forth year and he was trying to come up with his own nickname for her, and some part of her couldn't quite understand how that had happened because he'd barely even paid attention to her the year before. But he'd come back from the summer holidays with an arsenal of pet names and a determination to drive her insane.
He'd even asked her to go on a date with him.
More than once.
She'd turn him down and he'd get outraged and make some insulting comment about her – prude, bossy, know-it-all – and she'd stalk away, flushed and furious. And then the whole thing would repeat itself a week or two later. The others thought it was funny. Marlene in particular found it almost hysterical.
Of course, Marlene laughed at everything.
Once or twice, though, when she told Potter no, she would not go out with him and could he please stop asking?, he would get a wounded look on his face. Like he couldn't quite figure out how this had all gone so wrong. Like he'd planned this all out, and it hadn't ended up the way he'd expected.
He had plans, that much was evident. He'd consult Black and Lupin, and sometimes Pettigrew, and she'd hear her name being whispered back and forth.
She knew Black and Pettigrew were lost causes, but she fervently hoped that at least Lupin would have enough sense of respect and consideration for her to convince Potter to stop with this childish game.
He did eventually stop. Or, at least, he slowed down. The constant annoyances that had plagued her for the first few months of their forth year trickled to almost nothing, and when she realized that he was no longer going to ask her out every single week, she felt relief.
But he still drove her crazy.
Nectarine gave way to lemon. That, at least, she thought was more appropriate given the bitterness of their relationship.
Then lemon turned to peach, and he told her that she was sweet and juicy.
She told him that he was an arrogant toerag.
Severus laughed at that, and Potter stalked off and sent angry glares in her direction for a while.
Then came cookie and sugar and firefly. Tomato. Potato – she had no idea where that one came from or if she was really supposed to believe that it wasn't an insult – and carrots. Then his golden Snitch and she made his hair turn bright neon green when she heard that one.
Every time he came up with a new pet name, she threatened him. So most of them were short-lived.
But love stayed.
The first time he called her that was a few days after his first attempt to ask her out on the train ride at the beginning of fourth year. She had turned him down without the slightest bit of hesitation, and he had been so completely bewildered by her response that he just stood there and stared at her.
He continued to stare at her for the next few days.
Then, without any warning whatsoever, he walked into their potions class one day, dropped his bag down on the table next to her, and said loudly, "Mind if I share with you, love?"
"I do, actually," she replied. "Severus is going to be my partner. And don't call me love."
"Why would you want to sit with Snivellus?" Potter sneered. "He'll get grease in the cauldron and ruin your potion."
Black and Pettigrew laughed.
"Anyway, he's not here yet, is he?" Potter continued. "Come on, love. First come, first serve. I win this round."
"And what's the prize?" she demanded hotly. "Me? Because I'm not something to be won, Potter. Go sit somewhere else. Severus is going to be my partner, not you." She turned away from him and started unpacking her bag while pushing his away. "Being around Sev," she added haughtily, "doesn't give me the intense desire to pull out my own hair."
Severus had entered the class then, and Potter had fortunately left her alone, but not without one last look and a brief wink.
She had seethed silently through the rest of the class.
And he continued calling her love.
How many times had she heard that insult? How much longer would she be forced to endure that hated word?
It came with Petunia's flashing eyes and flushed cheeks, with an anger that had turned her sister into someone she no longer recognized.
Once upon a time, Petunia had loved her, and if her sister was also filled with a certain amount of spiteful greed, it didn't bother her. Petunia was her sister, and always would be.
And maybe Petunia was just a bit too prim and a bit too proper, and maybe Lily occasionally felt annoyed that their parents' friends always marveled at Petunia's formal manners. But Lily had fiery red hair and brilliant green eyes and a personality far too large for her small body, and she could look past the way Petunia seemed to rush towards being an adult, willing to leave her behind.
And then she had found magic. She could make flowers bloom in the palm of her hand, could hover in the air for just a fraction of a second too long when she jumped from the swings. And she had no idea what any of it was, but she had seen the combination of amazement and jealousy in Petunia's eyes when she performed such tricks, and part of her had rejoiced about finally having something her sister so clearly wanted.
Finding magic slowly gave way to finding Severus. She remembered quite clearly her first meeting and her first impression of the too-thin boy with the too-ragged clothing, and the explanations he gave opened her to the world of magic.
It was a dream come true.
How was she supposed to know it would become a nightmare?
As an eleven-year-old lying in the grass with dirt clumped in her wild red hair and the sweet scent of flowers in the air, she had been terrified and awed by Severus' stories of this whole other world. He knew so much, and she was desperate for the knowledge, and was willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that her sister was now looking at her with disgust and scorn.
Her sister's jealousy had turned into spite, and it hurt in the beginning. It hurt now, too, years later, when she knew that nothing would ever be alright between them again. She was forced to resign herself to the fact that her friendship with her sister was now irrevocably over, and if the pain was no longer as raw and as sharp as it had once been, it was still there.
Petunia tossed around the word freak and she wanted to find a way to retaliate, but no insult she could think of cut as deeply as that single word accompanied with the look of abhorrence in her sister's eyes.
She didn't receive letters at school, and she barely spoke to her sister at home. The tension would never go away, she knew that. She knew that they could never get past this insurmountable barrier; no matter how much she wished she could fix what was broken, it was beyond her power to repair. She could not make Petunia a witch, and she doubted that Petunia would accept it now, anyway.
Petunia had convinced herself that it was never jealousy she felt. That it was always disgust. That the letter to Dumbledore – her pleas to be allowed into Hogwarts – was nothing at all.
But Lily knew better. There was still longing underneath the word freak.
And Petunia used the word as much as possible. She uttered it whenever her parents weren't listening, using it as a weapon to push Lily away. She used it so much, in fact, that Lily began to wonder if perhaps her sister had actually forgotten her name.
But sometimes, she didn't think about Petunia's spite and jealousy, and she didn't think about her own helplessness at the situation, and she didn't think about her hurt. Sometimes, she let her mind wander back to her memories of those first few months after she had learned about magic, and she could not help but wonder what it was like for her sister to watch as Severus led her away to a place where Petunia could not follow.
Did it seem like she was choosing Severus over her own sister?
Had she chosen Severus over her own sister?
But if she had, how could she regret it? How could she regret Mary, who was so quiet and so sweet and so gentle? How could she regret Marlene, who laughed too loud and too often, or Remus, who walked silently beside her in the hallways as they patrolled, listening as she prattled on about Charms? How could she regret any of it, even if following Severus onto that train was the final proverbial nail in the coffin of her sister's love?
And how could she change any of it? She could no more stop being a witch than she could somehow make Petunia become one.
She stood there, by the lake, staring into the furious black eyes of her supposed best friend, and she couldn't help but wonder if this world of magic was really enough to make up for what she had lost. He glared at her, and spat out that hated word, and she wanted to know why she ever thought that this was worth it.
She traded her sister's love for a boy who called her a name far worse than freak.
"Pass the pumpkin juice, please, Morgana."
It was the first time he called her that, and it wouldn't be the last. It took her by surprise, and for a moment she glanced around the table, wondering if there was a Gryffindor seventh year named Morgana that she simply didn't know about.
But it was just her and Sirius.
"Morgana?" she repeated.
He raised an eyebrow, smirking. Later, when thinking back on that conversation, it was that expression she remembered so clearly, that look of amusement on his features as he answered, "Morgana. Morgan le Fey. Nemesis of Merlin, helped in the fall of King Arthur and the destruction of Camelot. Don't tell me you've never heard of her, Evans."
It was two weeks after she started dating James, and Sirius continued calling her Morgana from that day onwards, no matter how much she glared at him, snapped at him, threatened to curse him.
She didn't really like being compared to one of the most famous Dark witches of all time.
She and Sirius had never really gotten along. She didn't dislike him now anywhere near as much as she used to, but they were hardly friends. Still, they weren't enemies, either, and she didn't understand why he took such great pleasure in irritating her. He knew how to get under her skin better than most, and this new nickname was the most recent of a long list of grievances she had against him.
James laughed when he first heard it. Of course, the laugh died rather quickly when she glared at him, but it was still clear he found Sirius' nickname for her amusing.
It followed her everywhere.
"Morgana, have you finished the Transfiguration essay?"
"Morgan le Fey, do you mind if we borrow Prongs for a moment? We have some Marauder plotting to do."
"Are you coming to the Quidditch match, Morgan? Oh, of course you are. You have to watch Prongs beat the Ravenclaw team, don't you?"
"Morgana! Are you ignoring me?"
"I have a name, Black. Try using it."
"I have been using it, Madam le Fey."
She didn't understand why he was so determined to call her by that name.
It was Remus who provided the first clue, though he didn't realize that that was what he was doing. They were patrolling together – a fairly regular occurrence now, because every time Lily patrolled with James she ended up snogging him in whatever broom closet was empty – and Remus off-handedly remarked, "I hear Padfoot has given you a nickname. He must think you're part of the group."
"The group?" she echoed uncomprehendingly.
Remus, apparently not noticing her bewilderment, continued, "You're the first girl that's gotten that dubious honor. I guess he thinks you're here to stay." He gave Lily a smile and added, "I know James is hoping for that, anyway."
"Do you… do you four talk about me much?" she asked hesitantly, not sure she wanted the answer.
Remus chuckled. "Not really. But you'd have to be blind not to see just how much James feels for you." He paused in the darkened hallway, a pensive look on his features. Then he said, "He might actually love you more than he loves Sirius, and that's saying something."
"Great," Lily replied sarcastically. "Just what I always wanted. To be compared to Sirius."
"Well, don't worry," Remus answered with an uncharacteristic sly smile and a wink, "You're winning this round. As far as I know, it wasn't Sirius James was snogging senseless every time he was supposed to be patrolling."
Lily flushed at the implication. "It wasn't every time…" she protested rather lamely.
The conversation had turned to other things at that point, but Remus' words had stuck in the back of her mind, and she had spent a lot of time considering them carefully and systematically. And no matter how she looked at it, they all lead to the same conclusion.
Sirius was using Morgana – one of the most feared and hated Dark witches of all time – as a term of endearment.
How completely mad was that?
But Remus' words led her to another conclusion, one she almost wouldn't have believed if it hadn't made so much sense.
Sirius was jealous. Of her. Of the time she spent with James, and of the time James spent with her. And he was trying to include her in the group – with that idiotic nickname as his means of doing it – without losing his friend.
How could she make him understand that she loved James and she wasn't going anywhere, even if that meant that her boyfriend had less time to spend with Sirius? And yet, at the same time, how could she make him understand that she wasn't trying to steal James away?
She was neither naïve nor oblivious enough to not know just how close James and Sirius were. And her dislike for Sirius might be a detriment to her hanging out with him, but she didn't want to do anything to put a strain on the relationship between her boyfriend and his best friend.
And she hadn't even realized that she had been doing exactly that all along.
The problem was that she and Sirius were two fundamentally different personalities, and she didn't know how to make him understand her point of view. He expressed his feelings about the situation by calling her Morgana and annoying her at every possible chance, but that had only made matters worse. He couldn't understand the way her mind worked, and she truly did not understand him.
There was only one thing to do. She had to respond to his actions at his level, not hers. But what would Sirius do in her position?
"Pass the pumpkin juice, please, Morgana."
Lily looked up at Sirius, a thin smile on her lips. Then she reached over and picked up the pitcher, upending the entire thing over Sirius' head. "Here you go, Mordred."
There was a complete silence for a single moment as Sirius sat there, eyes wide with shock, juice dripping down his hair, and James, Peter, and Remus all gaped at the sight. Then Sirius began to laugh, tears of mirth leaking from his eyes. He clutched at his sides as the chuckle turned into a guffaw, and soon everyone at the table was joining in, laughing at the absurdity of the scene.
Sirius caught Lily's eye and winked.
"I think we may make a Marauder out of you yet, Madam le Fey."
He stopped calling her love.
She didn't notice it at first. There were so many other things to worry about, and the war was raging all around them, and she was pregnant, and what did pet names matter when people were dying?
The first time she did notice it was when Cynthia died. They found her body – broken, bleeding, face filled with signs of pain and fear, and the Death Eaters had clearly enjoyed what they were doing – amidst the rubble of a ruined book store. Lily doubled over at the sight, her hands flying to the slight bulge of her stomach as though she could somehow protect her unborn child from the reality of this war.
She felt hot and cold and tears burned her eyes, threatening to fall. Threatening to cascade down her cheeks and drench the ground with saltwater.
Cynthia had been a pureblood. She'd known so little about the Muggle world, and had provided an endless source of amusement for Lily with her inane questions about simple things like microwaves and parking meters.
And the telephone. She had never understood the telephone.
Her face was pale and pretty, her blue eyes open wide, her blonde hair splayed out on the ground. But there were specks of blood on her cheeks and throat and a large stain on the front of her robes. And she was still and silent, and Lily knew she'd never move again.
James was suddenly crouching down at her side, his body shielding her from the view. "Lily," he whispered, "come on. You don't need to stay here." And he kissed her forehead and ran his hands through her hair and murmured lovingly, "I've got you, Lily. It's okay, I've got you."
"Don't let go," she whispered back, wrapping her arms around him tightly.
"I won't," he promised. "Not ever."
And as he led her from the ruins of the bookstore, from her friend's lifeless body, she had only a minute to think it was odd that he had used her name, because in the past he had always called her love.
He'd started calling her that in their fourth year, and interspersed it between Evans and other ridiculous pet names that she hated. Fortunately, he'd given up on those – possibly because she threatened to hex him into oblivion when he used names like cookie and peach – but love had stuck, and he'd never stopped calling her that.
And somehow, it had gone from being annoying to being sweet. Somehow, she had started liking it, liking the way the word sounded when he said it, when he gazed at her with shining eyes and a soft smile and told her that she was the best thing in his life.
The second time she noticed it was a few weeks later, in the aftermath of an attack on Diagon Alley. She'd been there when it happened, and it had all been a mistake. She was pregnant, and she wasn't supposed to be out of the house much, but this had been one simple errand, and she had thought Diagon Alley would be safe.
The air had filled with the loud cracks of Apparition and the swirl of black robes, and then there had been jets of red and green light and screams and the sky had seemed to rain cracked bricks and stone and shattered glass and fire.
She'd dodged into an opening between two building and prepared to Disapparate because though she longed to stay and fight, she had an unborn child to think of and she couldn't put him in any danger. But fleeing had suddenly become not an option because a Death Eater had appeared out of nowhere and grabbed her arm and dragged her back towards the street, towards the chaos, towards what would undoubtedly be her own death.
And she'd fought back first by pushing and shoving and tearing and scratching until she could get her arm free enough to grab her wand and then the Death Eater had caught her wrist and she had felt pain and thought it would all be over until…
Until the Death Eater had crumpled to the ground, caught by another's spell and she was free. And she'd turned to thank her rescuer and found herself staring into guarded black eyes.
"Go," Severus had said. "Go now."
It was the first time she had spoken to him in nearly three years, and it would be the last.
She turned and fled and he pulled his Death Eater mask over his face and walked back into the chaos.
And James held her that night as she cried into his chest. Because she couldn't save Severus but he had somehow managed to save her, because the war had taken everything, because she was scared and tired and hormonal. And James rubbed gentle circles on her back and whispered, "It's okay, Lily. Everything is going to be okay."
It wasn't going to be okay, and they both knew that.
"Maybe one day you will save him," James said, and she knew how hard it was for him to say anything nice at all about Severus, knew how hard it was to look past his years of bitter loathing for the black-haired Slytherin boy. But he said it anyway because it was what she needed to hear. "Maybe one day he'll think of you and realize that he's on the wrong side. Maybe you'll still get a chance to save him, Lily."
Lily. He kept saying Lily.
The third time was when she first felt their son kick.
"James! James, come here!" she cried, and for once her voice was filled with joy and not the usual grief and pain that permeated their lives.
"What is it?" James asked, stumbling into the bedroom where she stood in front of the mirror, both hands on her stomach.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him closer, pressing his palm flat against her rounded stomach.
"What is it?" James asked, frowning at her and wrapping his free arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. "Are you alright? Are you sick? Is something wrong with the baby? Why is my hand on your stomach? Lily?" And his tone grew more frantic with each passing question.
"Wait for it," she whispered.
And the baby kicked.
James started, then stared at her incredulously as his entire face lit up with elation. "Was that… did the baby…?"
Lily nodded, grinning. "Yes. Yes. That's our child. We did that. We made this."
"Yes we did, Lily," he agreed, leaning in to kiss her and moving his other hand down to her stomach. "Yes we did."
He used to use love so frequently that it became more common than her own name. He'd slip it into every conversation, making sure to call her love at least ten times a day. Now it seemed he had stopped entirely, and she couldn't quite figure out why. In the months that followed she kept noticing the trend, wondering about it, worried and unsure but not quite able to ask.
After all, they were at war, and other things mattered more.
Then Harry was born.
Lily held him in her arms. He was tiny and pink and delicate and yet still so strong and he gazed at her, blinking long lashes. His eyes were green, just like hers, but his tiny tuft of hair was as black as James' and Lily somehow just knew that he would look like his father when he was older.
He was warm in her arms, like a tiny furnace, giving off heat. And James was at her side, pulling her close so that she could lean against him, and she was surrounded in warmth that seeped into her body and made up for the coldness of the war all around them. And for a brief moment, everything seemed brighter and more cheerful and Lily felt as though there was finally a reason to be optimistic, that this war would end soon and life would go on without the pain and the grief that had become so constant for them all.
"I love you, Lily," James said, and kissed her. "I love you more than I can possibly say."
And she suddenly understood. He didn't call her love anymore because there was no reason to.
Lily and love meant the same thing to him.