A/N: a series of moments in a life that lived in another 'what if' crossover universe.
The Crack Under the Kitchen Door
The crack under the kitchen door flickered with the shadows of harrowed footsteps. She crouched beside it, pressing her ear against the cool wood. She wasn't normally naughty, but she'd been walking downstairs for a cup of water when she'd heard her name barked loudly from the other room; it was perfectly fair, she reasoned to herself, to know what they were saying about her. Mrs Hansen had told the class that morning that you shouldn't talk behind people's backs. It wasn't nice.
She didn't like the tone her daddy was using.
"- god's sake, she has red hair, I'm not stupid-"
"I wasn't sure at the time!"
"Oh, you weren't sure!"
"Don't! Don't you dare start. How many more, eh? How many times? Is Petunia even-"
"Not with her! It was just him, only then-"
"Then? What, the whole time?"
"It didn't mean anything like that – we just had a thing together at university, it was just old chemistry, it was never anything long term – "
"Three months we were in America!"
"And I've been with you for so many more years! You can't compare-"
"No! You don't get to try and justify yourself! You can't pretend it was anything but an affair!"
She jerked away from the door as if she'd been stung. She'd heard that word before, in films, in gossip that adults had sometimes when they thought she wasn't listening. She knew what it meant.
She ran as quietly up to her room as she could and threw herself under the covers. She clutched the quilt to her so tight that the only air she could taste was hot and wet and hitting back at her cheek. She crawled herself together as small as she could and pushed her face into her knees. She pressed her lips hard into her leg and felt the bite of her teeth. She felt like she couldn't breathe.
She was seven when her parents came clean to her about her mother's affair.
"Lily," her dad had said, looking at her for the first time in days. "I don't blame you for what your mother did."
After that, though, she was never really his little girl again. He possessively doted more on Petunia, while treating her with careful neutrality.
Petunia blamed her for breaking up their parents' marriage. Lily wasn't sure if anything really was to blame. She didn't think she should have had anything to do with her parents' marriage; after all, what had happened was ages ago, and her mum still loved her dad. So why couldn't her dad love her mum back? Wasn't love supposed to be easy?
Except that apparently, it wasn't. Nothing seemed to work out the way it did in the films she'd seen.
She stopped calling him 'Dad.' He never seemed to mind.
She moved in with her mum after the split happened. They shared a double bed in a small room with one cabinet and a flickering light. The loo didn't flush properly and the shower dribbled out.
She crawled into the covers and breathed in the stale air. The light kept flickering, but underneath the blankets everything was dark.
The light went out and she never noticed.
Her mum took her to the airport. She held on tight to her mum's hand as she tried to sift through the crowd with her eyes. What would he look like?
Then they were approached by a tall, dark-haired man. The adults talked, but all Lily could hear was the white noise of the people moving around them.
Then he looked down at her, and she met his bright green eyes. He looked a bit sad.
"Hi, sweetheart," he said with a deep, gruff voice.
"I thought you'd be ginger," she said.
He smiled. "My mom has red hair," he said, and then he knelt in front of her. "It's good to meet you."
Lily had a brother.
"His name's John," Her father said, pronouncing it American as she pressed her fingers into the folds of the photograph. He looked like her, she thought, if she'd looked like a boy.
"He's about your age."
"I'd like to meet him," she said.
Her father carded his fingers through her hair. "Don't worry," he told her, "you can visit any time you like."
Lily liked America; it felt like the world was bigger there. There was so much space.
John pulled at her pony tail, so she threw mud in his face.
They crawled under the covers of his bed with a plastic torch and told ghost stories and tried to out-gross each other. She drew on his face in the night and she woke up with a black marker moustache.
After her first visit ended, she didn't hug him. She stomped on his toes when he squeezed her nose.
She decided she would visit every summer.
Lily found out she was magic. She didn't believe it until the professor from the boarding school floated her three feet into the air and made fire dance in front of her.
"Can I tell anyone?"
The professor frowned. "Only close family; like your parents, brothers and sisters."
The wizard then went on to explain the ground rules of this new, hidden society, but Lily only listened with half an ear, because it was the holidays and she was leaving for America next week. She couldn't wait to tell her brother.
"Magic?" John looked sceptical. "Come on. If the supernatural really existed, there's no way we wouldn't know."
"It's really hidden, I swear!" she said. "Me and mum went to Diagon Alley, and everything – this magical market in London, they have broomsticks and potions and goblins and dragons, John!"
"I don't believe you," he said.
She huffed. "Don't be so stubborn."
"Oh, come on, Lily. Magic."
"Right. It's magic. When have I ever lied to you? I wouldn't say anything otherwise."
He hesitated. "Alright. Say I believe you. Can you prove it?"
She frowned, trying to think of anything, but she didn't know if there were any magical markets in America, and she didn't know any spells –
She smacked her palm against her face. "Right. I'm an idiot."
"Yes you are, but I've known that for years," said John.
She scowled. "I can prove it! I've got a wand."
She lit up their room in golden light, and they spent the night going over the books she'd bought, making magic.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather try and find a magic school in America?" John asked. "I don't want you going off alone."
"Oh, I won't be alone," she said, looking up at the sky as they lay on their backs in the middle of the trampoline. "There's a boy on my street who's got magic, too."
"Oh? A boy?"
"Ew! Shut up!" she shoved his shoulders. "It's not like that. He's really nice!"
"Oh, he's nice?"
"Yes, he's lovely."
"Careful you don't catch cooties, lily! They might be mutating magical cooties!"
Her sister thought that magic was horrible.
Petunia gritted her teeth. "Lily, you're such a freak!"
"No I'm not!"
"You are! I haven't got magic. Our parents don't. It's all come from you and that – that affair!"
"It's this magic that makes you different! I bet it's what made mum cheat and made mum leave! Dad never would have gotten the divorce if your kind was normal."
"It's poisoned us!"
"Just go away, you freak! Don't talk to me! I won't let you and your magic infect me!"
When Lily went to Hogwarts, she thought it was beautiful, and owled her brother about it whenever she could. It wasn't like a phone call and it took too long to get the letters back and forth between them, but they kept it up and kept in touch and Lily was determined not to let this family of hers ever slip away.
She invited him to her wedding, and he surprised James by being tall and imposing.
"Oh, er, hi," James said, edging a bit backwards. "You're, er?"
"Her brother," warned John.
"Ah," said James, "right. Lily said you'd be coming. It's, uh, good to meet you."
"John," she said, putting a hand on his arm. He looked at her with a smile that grew big and bright when she grinned back. "So," she whispered as she leaned in, "When are you going to propose to your girlfriend?"
John froze. "What?"
"Oh, come on. I met her last summer. You guys had such instant chemistry. Besides, I saw the look on her face during the ceremony. She looked ready, John."
Her brother blushed down his neck. "Uh."
"But don't you dare do it this weekend," she said, "You're not allowed to take any focus away from my day."
They were quiet for a while. "I'm crazy about her," he said with a murmur. "I don't know what to do.
She squeezed his hand between hers. "It'll be fine," she smiled, "she looks like she can handle herself."
They both turned at the ringing sound of glass, and the best man stood up to give his speech.
She remembered camping under the moonlight and hours wiled away by the river; she remembered the silver flashes of water splashing after them as they pushed each other off the boat and never caught a single fish. She remembered the heat of the American sun as it beat down on their backs and lit up their world in golden summer light.
She felt the warmth of James as he put his arm around her, and she closed her eyes as she rested her head against his neck and gripped John's hand. She felt like she could breathe.
Petunia left the front porch with quick, sharp steps as soon as she could. She had a plane to catch.
John stayed stood frozen on the front porch behind her, arms full and ears ringing.
Lily was gone, and all she'd left behind was a sweet son, a letter, and memories.
He kissed the top of the baby's head and clutched his nephew tighter to his chest.
His wife was a solid presence by his side. "We'll adopt him," she said, "and we'll have to change his name. There's a Dark Lord after him. We can keep him safe."
"Of course we'll adopt him," said John, trying to focus on the now instead of heartbreaking Lily, Lily, Lily. "He's a Winchester, like his mum was, like me."
He gently traced the lightning scar with the pads of his fingers. "She'd thought the name 'Dean' was just as good as 'Harry', anyway."
The letter creased beneath his grip. Her handwriting blurred. He felt like he couldn't breathe.