September was a perfectly pleasurable month. The relentless heat of August was beginning to fade, and it was replaced a little more each day with the first cool autumn breezes of the year. Without the sun blazing down on the tall reeds and grasses in the expansive field below, the plants returned to a greener shade, losing the crispness they adopted when they perished. The tolerable temperatures betrayed none of the winter freeze that would descend in mere months.
Lily was gradually beginning to think of September as one of her favorites.
She stretched out her legs, digging her toes into the soft plaid blanket beneath her, a shield to ward off crawling insects and dirt from touching her body. The light wind picked up strands of her dark red hair, and she closed her eyes as she felt it hit her gently in the face, moving backward to pick up more of her locks and draw them along with it. The breeze had scarcely faded and her hair barely settled back around her shoulders when she felt something light upon her bare calf, moving down toward her naked feet. She sat up carefully, supporting herself with one hand and lifting the other from her distended belly in order to shoo the offending fly away.
Pregnancy, three months of it. She could barely believe it, but there it was, becoming more and more apparent to her and every onlooker as the days went by. Though she had never shown a great deal of care for herself, she treated the baby like glass, eating as healthfully as possible and keeping the house immaculately clean just in case the little one decided to show up early. The child didn’t yet have a name, or even a gender. The two of them would find out at the birth.
She didn’t know precisely how their reconciliation had happened. Perhaps it was that she truly had nowhere to go and no other home in which to hide with Sirius Black’s blood on her hands. It could have been the result of her sheer determination not to let him walk away a second time. For several weeks after the attack, she moved about the home like a ghost, side-stepping him and returning to her former bed on the couch, quietly drinking tea and nursing her shattered heart. Then, one day, he asked her what she’d like to have for dinner. After that, it was whether she’d like to join him on a walk when neither of them could sleep. It seemed like an eternity had passed when he finally looked her in the eyes on the way home from a meeting and said it to her.
Three words. He kissed her, and her pulse restarted from its pause on that spring morning.
The breeze picked up again, and she looked up, noticing something different this time.
She had to look twice to make sure it wasn’t a real animal, considering its proximity to the woods that would make for a suitable natural habitat. But the delicate-looking doe, a creature comprised of wispy silver swirls and iridescent fog, had not come from the cluster of trees by which it now chose to pause. She was small, and she looked like she might dissipate in an instant if someone penetrated her shimmering torso with a knife, a wand, perhaps even a mere finger. At the same time, though, she was indisputably animated, pawing at the ground and moving her ears just like a living deer. They were both, in a way, a study in paradoxes.
Lily and the fragile doe stared at one another for a long moment, seeming to forget that life had continued to exist around them. Finally, the doe gave in, nodding at Lily briefly and then walking slowly into the clearing, closer to where Lily sat with her blanket. The animal paused again, looking intensely at Lily once more. Finally, the woman made the connection in her mind.
She pulled her wand out of the small bag she’d brought, and though she aimed it directly at the doe, the creature did not flinch. Lily closed her eyes, rummaging through the small collection of happy memories she’d amassed in recent months. At last, she settled on one of her favorites.
A teacup shattered as it struck a hardwood floor, the sound echoing. “Expecto patronum
As her whispered words slipped between her lips, a small burst of smoke issued simultaneously from the end of her wand, circling the doe as it transformed into a being that matched it exactly. The initial doe, finding a new burst of energy, took off running across the field, and Lily’s newly formed doe hurried after it, the pair of them eventually blending together, almost becoming one.
“Nicely done.” She grinned, turning her head to glance at the man who was now taking the empty place next to her. Severus stretched his lanky arms and crossed his ankles as he laid on his back, staring up at the afternoon sky. “You’re getting much better with it.” He added, allowing his own patronus to fade, leaving hers to prance carelessly about the open grass. It had been difficult for her at first, having few happy memories upon which to draw her strength, but the doe had begun to materialize fully in the past few months, her magic shining in its full glory.
Finally, Lily put down her wand, watching as the doe disappeared gradually before her eyes. The baby inside her turned over, and the motion combined with her hunger created an uncomfortable sensation in her gut. No longer distracted by the deer, she reached for the picnic basket Severus had brought with him, withdrawing a small bunch of grapes and a bit of cheese. Meanwhile, her companion took out two slices of bread, creating a turkey sandwich for his own nourishment.
“We got an owl.” He said, taking a bite of the sandwich and chewing thoughtfully. “He sent it on down the line to confuse them. I don’t know who it belongs to, but it definitely looks tired.”
Lily nodded, wondering how a small creature like that could journey across the Atlantic without getting too exhausted. Then again
, she thought, it must have taken a while for someone to teach them how to carry letters in their beaks
. The image amused her, and she smiled just slightly. Still, it faded away once she recalled why Dumbledore had sent an owl across the ocean. He likely just wanted to check and see if they had arrived in their new home, which was located in a remote part of upstate New York. At least she hoped it was something like that, a benign matter.
“Don’t worry.” Severus said, taking note of her discontent. “He’s an excellent secret-keeper. The best there is, I’d wager. Dumbledore would never let anything happen to us, I promise you that.”
Lily nodded, nibbling at her cheese and taking a drink of water to chase it down. “I just wish we could tell someone. Like your mother. It seems such a shame to live so close and never be able to visit.”
“Oh, I’ve already told her, though she’s sworn to secrecy as well.” Severus said. “She got so excited about the new addition that she immediately invited us to dinner. I told her we could come at the end of the week, once we’ve finished settling in. I hope that’s all right with you.”
Lily smiled. “Sure, that’d be lovely. Besides, I want to try some of those famous juices.”
Severus laughed softly. “Oh, I doubt she’ll have any objection to that.” Now, though, it was his turn to adopt a sadder expression. He sat up, fiddling with his wand and staring off in front of him, looking at the spot where his patronus had stood not so long ago. At last, he spoke again.
“Do you think things will ever be all right?” He asked her. “You know… normal?”
Lily gazed out at the bountiful field before them, watching as the breeze rippled through the tall grasses that grew all around their blanket. She glanced over at Severus, who sat pensively by her side. Her eyes fell next to the lonely grape still left in her hand, and finally to her puffy stomach.
“Yes.” She said finally. “I think anything is possible.”
I hope you guys have enjoyed At Great Personal Risk! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ending and anything else that you loved or didn’t love about the story in the review thread.
Thanks for all of your reads and reviews! :)