Lily looks like she should be soft. Her body is all rolls and curves, not an angle or corner anywhere. Her favoured wardrobe is warm and faded, worn through and patched up, hazed over with fluff and loose strings. People expect her to be meek, to be sweet, to be kind. But Lily knocks into her friends a little too hard when she hugs them, squeezing their bones together.
Lily keeps her nails blunt and her fringe cut over her eyebrows, feathered out like Sarah Jane Smith. She keeps her lips smooth with chapstick whenever she can remember to slip it into her pocket. Her ears are pierced with studs shaped like stars: her mum got them for her when she was nine. Lily smiles a lot and laughs even more. Her bottom set of teeth are slightly crooked and she tries to hide it in photos.
When Lily was fifteen, Dorcas sat with her in the girls’ loo and cut her hair straight across her shoulders. It used to fall to mid-back and Severus liked to loop his fingers through the strands when they sat together in Cokeworth park. When it was long, it tapered softly to a point, and when it was cut, it was thick and straight at the bottom, too short to do much with except clip back. With the Scottish weather, it often fluffed up and left Lily looking like a candy floss with all the flyaways.
Now Lily is seventeen and her hair falls somewhere in between, and her lips are almost always chapped because she never remembers the vaseline, and her laughter is a lot more brittle these days, a little more sharp.
Sometimes she worries that because she has tightened her hold on everything important, it will shatter apart in her grip. Sometimes, James runs his thumb over her knuckles and she feels her breath hitch. Sometimes in Potions, she can see Severus in her peripheral vision and she almost wants to catch his eye. But last Tuesday, another muggleborn first year got attacked, and Katie, in the year below her, ends up in the hospital wing for the whole of February. McGonagall calls every head students’ meeting with a grim set to her face.
In Defense, Lily gets knocked off her feet by a well-placed hex and she scrapes her arm on a toppled over chair. Peter apologises. She is quick to brush it off, but they are both thinking it’s a good thing he can hold his own in a fight. Across the room, Marlene and Avery duel, wands slashing through the air, Marlene’s eyes narrowed and Avery’s mouth pulled up in an ugly smirk. The Professor stops them when it gets too violent.
“Give it six months and we won’t have a teacher to save our skins,” Marlene takes another mouthful of pie and continues, “they should lock up these loonies while they are still in school, still under Dumbledore’s control”.
Lily’s nail polish runs in different colours for every fresh coat, she bought it in Diagon Alley three years ago and the dregs of the bottle are still there despite the countless times she has worn it. It is a rainbow on her hands, colour bright against the dark school robes, against the brown skin of James’ hands. The shop she bought it from was boarded shut when she checked in the summer.
At some point in the last two months, James’ hair grew past the point of scruffily adorable and into birds nest territory. Armed with scissors and (some of) her muggle hairdresser Mums’ expertise, Dorcas attempts to corral it back to societal convention. It ends up being some floppy movie star nonsense Lily hates immediately. James loves it. It takes exactly one shower for any of the work Dorcas put in to be turned to a nest once more, although this one admittedly smaller and less haphazard.
The skin of Lily’s forearm is silksoft until she burns it in Potions and then it is discoloured and abrasive. Her hair, dark and red as the bloody scrapes she picks up every DADA lesson these days. The lipstick she borrows from Mary is as purple as the bruises she gets racing James on broomstick from goalpost to goalpost across the Quidditch pitch. She catches Mulciber toying with a second year on her patrol one day and feels bile rise behind her tongue. Her knuckles catch on his teeth and the scabs take a week to heal.
Lily trails her fingernails across the banister on the way down to breakfast each morning. The peck on the cheek James gives her while she eats her cornflakes usually knocks her a little bit sideways with the force of it. Dorcas jabbers about some homework or other and Marlene frowns over the Daily Prophet. Sirius stretches his feet under the table and props them on her lap. Occasionally Remus will take pity on her and let Sirius use him as a footrest instead. Each morning seems to arrive much quicker than the last, hurtling towards some endpoint that Lily hopes will never come.