confiscated reality

THE FLIP SIDE - 1 NOV 1981

What if the Potters had found themselves on the flip side of the prophecy, and Neville had been The Chosen One? They might have had their chance at happily ever after.

FFN    AO3

Chapter One: Deadly Stairs and Rumors

6:05pm

It’s a crisp, biting cold. They don’t have a proper coat for Harry, so he’s sure to get sick again, but Lily, frankly, doesn’t give a damn about the risk. They can go out in the street and take a walk around the square, so they do. James holds her hand as she pushes the pram-the one they’d been given and have only really used inside. It’s awkward, pushing it one handed, but they manage. She breathes in a deep, intoxicating breath because they are outside and waving to their neighbors, because the air is cool and refreshing in her lungs, because it’s over.

It’s over.


8:15am
She wakes up to shattering glass and a swearing husband. Heart racing, wand in hand, she runs into the hall, tripping over her baggy flannels, which she still calls his but in reality confiscated from him sometime in seventh year.

Lily surveys James: long limbs sprawled on the stairs, glasses knocked clean off his face, covered in eggs and tea. She’d been up all night with a fussy, feverish toddler and James-her sweet husband-must have been bringing her breakfast in bed.

Had been, he tells her as she straightens his glasses on his face, until he’d noticed the Prophet headline and stumbled on the stairs, dropping the bloody tray.


8:30am
They stay on the stairs, backs against the knobby spindles, hands intertwined, digesting every word.

The cat is breakfasting on tea and sausage and eggs; they pay him no mind.

Their attention is instead focused on the Prophet’s front page, which boasts, simply, You-Know-Who Is Dead. Really, it’s a full page spread with very little to substantiate such a claim: only spotty details, inconsistent reports, and-what stops their hearts-a line about the Longbottoms.

Such a detail wouldn’t register as the important thing for most people, but for them, the Potters, the other half of the damned prophecy that had halted all their lives, the flip side of the same coin, it means everything.

They don’t dare believe it.


9:13am
Harry has woken up and is still fussy and clingy, although his fever seems to have broken.

They take turns walking the usual circuit around the house to keep him calm. They are grateful for the distraction, really, but it can only keep the need to know what’s happening at bay for so long.

Have you heard? An owl comes from Emmaline, telling them what she’s heard: that Frank and Alice are dead, that Voldemort is gone, but adding, hastily, that these are just rumours. She wanted them to know, but she hasn’t heard from anyone else-she means Dumbledore, they know-to make sure it’s true.

It’s the limbo, the not bloody knowing that’s eating their stomachs from the inside out.


10:35am

As she does every morning, Bathilda stops by with biscuits for Harry.

She hasn’t heard from Dumbledore, either.

Lily scrambles to make tea.

Harry sits on Bathilda’s lap, munching happily away at the tray of biscuits left untouched by the adults.


11:52am

WWN is full of speculation, but it’s chaos; everyone is celebrating but no one knows what’s actually happened.

James wants to leave and find out for himself, but he can’t because it might not be true and what a damn foolish risk to take.

Sirius shows and stems off the impending row. He’s been there, he’s seen it all, and he tells them every horrible detail.

The ruins of the little cabin they’d been hiding away in. Neville, rounder than Harry, bloodied forehead but alive, wrapped in Hagrid’s arms. His grandmum-solid, stately, domineering Augusta Longbottom- broken on the floor, weeping over her dead, heroic children.

Frank and Alice are dead.

The cost is terrible, it’s too high, and Lily reels.

Frank and Alice can’t be gone.

Frank, who stepped on her toes at the wedding and Alice, who twice saved her life.

Three times, Lily corrects herself. Alice has now saved her life three times.

She lets the horror of it wash over her.

She will never smile that sweet smile again, and Frank will never belt out his obnoxious, boisterous laugh again. They are gone, their comrades and their friends, and it rips her apart.

And there’s this: Lily hates herself for being relieved that it isn’t the Potters in the Prophet this morning.

It’s over.


1:30pm

After lunch, a quiet affair in the sitting room, Sirius leaves to go check on Peter, to track down Remus. They’ll be back for supper, he tells them, and she tells him to bring whiskey.

Harry ate a solid lunch and he settles into a deep, contented sleep.

James is holding her hand as they stand against the cot. She’s not sure he’s let go since this morning, actually, but she’s not complaining. They stare at him, this piece of them, their breathing, alive, bundle of energy and love they have been trying so desperately to save.

Harry.

They haven’t spoken yet, but they don’t need to. Shock is slowly, by degrees, giving way to relief. Their new reality is setting in.

It’s over.


2:15pm

They don’t make it to the bed, taking each other instead hard and fast and glorious against the door. She feels like she’s seventeen again, and he is intoxicating, as always. He tastes like salt and peppermint tea and freedom.

They sink to the floor, finished for now, adrenaline still pumping, and the dam within Lily finally bursts.

Throughout all of this, these last two years-she’s cried only a handful of times, the last of which was when Dumbledore himself came to tell her about Marlene. Now, though, she cannot stop. She doesn’t want to.

He holds her, runs his hand up and down her back. Her shoulder is soon wet with his tears.

It’s unhurried this time, on the floor, tender and sweet. They’re giving, rather than taking, pouring all they’ve got into this moment. Gradually, kiss by kiss, whisper by whisper, everything aching inside Lily unfurls into a peaceful, satiated calm. They drift to sleep where they are, half dressed, a tangle of limbs and tear streaked faces, curled together on their bedroom floor.


5:25pm

She wakes up to the sound of Harry’s happy chatter, which is drifting from his room across the hall. She untangles herself from her sleeping husband, reluctantly lets go of his hand, and goes to Harry.

Harry is safe.

It’s over.

It’s over, but it feels an awfully lot like the flip side to another coin. The end of the war; the new beginning for them that she’d long hoped for but didn’t really believe would come true.

They can move into a bigger house, though she doubts they will because, despite everything, this has become home.

They can travel now that it would be a holiday rather than an escape. She wonders if they could pull Christmas in France.

She’ll surprise James with Cup tickets for next summer. They can go camping-Harry would like that.


5:50pm

James comes into the kitchen, kisses his wife, scoops up Harry from his spot on the floor and blows a raspberry onto his belly.

Lily puts a casserole in the oven and tells him the boys probably won’t be here for an hour or more.

He asks her what she wants to do, and she knows they’ve come to the same conclusion:

It’s over. Our lives are reordered. We are free. We can do whatever we want.

They decide to go for a walk.