- Story Summary:
- "Stand aside," the Dark Lord told her, "and you will walk safely from this house." Title adapted from William Styron's 'Sophie's Choice'.
Lily hadn't meant to have a baby when she was so young -- she'd wanted to wait a few years, until she and James had had time to discover what sorts of adults they would be, together and separately, and until things were more stable. She didn't understand all the people rushing to have babies in case Voldemort won and everything changed. What kind of a world would they be bringing their children into?
But James, with his usual nonchalance, didn't worry as much as she did, nor did he bother to mention the fact that he had failed to cast the contraceptive charm (though whether this was an accidental or deliberate oversight, she would never be certain; James could be so persuasive when he wanted). Three weeks after a narrow escape from the Death Eaters, Lily realized that her missed courses were not a result of stress or sudden weight loss, but because she was carrying his child.
James, of course, thought it was wonderful news. He told Sirius and the others right away, before Lily even knew how she felt about the pregnancy. She found herself feted and hugged and patted on the tummy, and it was nice, for once, to be the center of attention, even though she wished it had been for her work for the Order instead of for having done the same thing as Alice Longbottom, getting herself knocked up. She worked as hard as any of them and knew she was as talented as James and Sirius, yet they continued to draw the most dangerous assignments and return to the greatest accolades when they survived.
What was she going to do by herself with a baby if he didn't come home? She wasn't like the Longbottoms with a supportive family to help her raise a child. One night when the nausea was particularly awful, she thought about not having the baby -- she didn't have all the necessary ingredients, but she was certain that Severus would, if she could find him these days. If the rumors weren't true that he'd become a Death Eater. If he was still speaking to her after the wedding. It had been a long time, but she was pretty sure that if she went to him on a matter of such urgency, he would help her with the potion and with the lies she would have to tell afterward to explain her miscarriage.
But Lily didn't terminate the pregnancy. She had always wanted to have a large family like the Weasleys did, and with James being so overprotective, it wasn't as though she had any critical work to do for the Order besides breeding, anyway. McGonagall and Vance and the other women who had never had children clucked and chalked up her restlessness to hormones, but they took her side when she demanded to be allowed to go on potentially dangerous raids. She still got out occasionally with Remus, who was the only one of her friends to treat her exactly the same as before. Once the morning sickness passed, it was an easy pregnancy, and Lily hoped that having a child would finally settle James down, making them feel like a family instead of a couple of clever kids everyone else had expected to end up together long before they did.
Then came the prophecy. By then, they knew there was a spy within the Order, and the world seemed darker and colder and miserable. Sirius was the only person James still trusted completely; James said he thought Sirius was crazy to have doubts about Remus, but Lily could tell that the same uncertainty affected James too. None of them believed that Peter would stand up under Death Eater torture, as his panic attacks and hair loss seemed to attest. It was a terrible time to be trapped at home with a newborn when James was so often needed elsewhere and Lily didn't know who she could confide in, but Harry was mostly an easy baby who slept through the night by six months and didn't scream to be pushed for hours in a pram the way the Longbottoms' infant did, so she tried to think of her blessings and not all the things she hated about her life.
Even so, it was hard not to resent Harry just a little when they were finally told that he was the reason that they had been marked for death. They had to go into hiding, prisoners in their own home, distrustful of their friends and terrified of strangers. The worst was when Dumbledore admitted that it had been Snape who inadvertently betrayed them, though he could not have known at the time that his warning to Voldemort would cause his master to mark James and Lily for death. Things were awful then all over, with Sirius' brother gone to the Death Eaters and Sirius trying so hard to pretend that it didn't have anything to do with him, that it didn't affect him.
Trapped at Godric's Hollow with James, she wondered whether their marriage would survive this. When they were free, she wanted nothing more than to get away from everyone, to travel to the exotic places she had longed for as a girl, before she understood that the reason she was different from her sister and her friends was not that she was bookish and dreamy but because she was a witch.
When Voldemort came for them, it was hardly a surprise. James had known the risks of switching Secret-Keepers, but he was certain the Death Eaters would come after Sirius and that his best friend would be killed for refusing to speak. Dumbledore had offered to perform the Fidelius Charm himself, but James would not hear of it, insisting at first that Sirius would go into hiding himself, then later in private to Lily that Sirius was right, that it would be safest to switch to Peter rather than Dumbledore. No one would have expected them to entrust little Peter Pettigrew with such valuable information and Peter could be of use to the Order at last. It felt wrong to Lily, but yet again, James made the decision for both of them.
The night it happened, she didn't see him fall. She was too frantic to get to the baby, leaving her husband alone with the sound of that terrible laugh and the green light she could sense more than see behind her as she fled. She had her wand but there was no time for any sort of complex protective charm, and she had never been very good at non-verbal spells. Voldemort was through the nursery doorway before she could even lift Harry from his crib.
She would never touch her child again.
"Stand aside," the hideous wizard told her, "and you will walk safely from this house."
"I'll die first!"
Lily's wand flew from her fingers, clattered harmlessly against the wall and fell to the floor. "You will die," agreed Voldemort. "You will fall as the father fell, and then I will take the child. Three deaths instead of two -- do you have any idea how powerful I will become then? I do not require your life. Walk out of this room and you will be free."
Behind Lily, Harry made a small noise. He knew that something was wrong; he was working himself up into a crying fit. She couldn't reason with the Dark Lord and comfort a screaming baby at the same time. "What do you need him for?" she spat. "An infant. A helpless baby. That's what you're afraid of? You're pathetic!"
But Voldemort would not be goaded. "You are as brave as I have heard," he replied in the smooth, sinuous tones of a snake. Lily remembered hearing Bible stories as a child. She recalled that the Devil appeared as a snake, tempting Eve with sweet words, saying what she wanted to hear. Poor Eve hadn't had a chance; she was an afterthought to God, no matter how much Adam had loved her.
Now this snake offered Lily knowledge and life. "You are young and healthy. You will bear more children. You deserve better than a pointless death in a futile effort to save a boy who is dead already. Now move aside."
Voldemort's wand was out, he was advancing; there was no time to argue, no time to think. He would kill her, and then he would kill Harry. James would be remembered as the hero, the man who died trying to save his family; Lily would be an afterthought, the woman who was cast away as Voldemort advanced on the child who was his real target.
Was it worth her life to give her son these extra few moments with his murderer? Was there nothing she could do in life that could save her baby, make him stronger than herself and his father both? How would it be an act of love to lay down her life so pointlessly?
"First tell me why," she demanded, trying to hold her chin steady as the wand pointed at her throat.
Voldemort's face was closed and for an instant she thought he would utter the curse to end her life without saying another word. She closed her eyes tightly, but then she heard his voice, slippery and strangely warm. "Surely you have heard that there was a prophecy. Though perhaps, like myself, you have not heard it all. 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches, born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...'"
"He will not be the last!" Lily interrupted. "No more than you will be the last Dark Lord. You think killing a baby will make you all-powerful?" In the crib behind Lily, Harry made a small whimpering noise. He was not an early talker; he had never said Mama. If she died here, she would die for a child who could not recall her face, who would not live long enough to learn her name. "My question wasn't why you wanted him dead. You want him dead because you are a coward. But why would you let me live?"
The wand-tip waved into her vision. Lily braced herself again for the end, yet Voldemort spoke to her once more. "My mother died after giving birth to me," he murmured. "She gave up her life for nothing...for love." He spoke the last word as if it were a curse. "And see what I have become. Very nearly immortal. Very nearly invincible. My soul divided so that it might live forever. This is my answer to my mother's sacrifice."
"You are nothing," Lily blurted, yet her knees were shaking and she knew that she had talked too long. She was remembering another book from her childhood -- a book she had been too young to see, with pictures from the second Muggle world war -- women and children in concentration camps and the ghetto, mothers laying down their lives for babies who died anyway. It was not a question of love; love had not saved their lives. Maybe any other mother would not have wavered, maybe even her own shrieking sister would have defended the fat-cheeked son of Vernon Dursley to the death, yet Lily did not want to die. She did not want to die. Not for her dead husband, not for this infant who would soon be gone as well, not without having fought. Not without believing there was some chance for victory.
"Give me the child," whispered the Dark Lord again, staring into Lily's eyes, letting her see his resolve. Her death would win Harry no reprieve. Voldemort would kill her, he would kill her baby, he would tear his soul, he would live forever. And she would have contributed nothing. Now she had a weapon perhaps none of the others had been offered; he would let her walk from this room, carrying her hatred and the knowledge he had given her.
"I will not ask again. Step aside."
Lily did not think. She walked past him without looking back, out the nursery door, out of the house into the night. She did not look at her husband's body on the floor. If there was a flash of green light, she did not see it. Nor did she hear her son cry. If the child of her flesh was indeed the chosen one, she would not witness the miracle that saved him.
But she was young and healthy. She would bear more children. She deserved better than a pointless death in a futile effort to save a boy who was dead already.
She was alive, and that meant somehow, someday, she could make him pay.