She wakes up in her brother's flat with absolutely no idea how she got there.
The rim of the bin is pressed right up next to her face, but there's no garbage bag inside. He must have forgotten to put one in, and that makes her laugh because he always was so careful, so meticulous, so thorough; it's odd and ironic that he would forget that detail.
Her clothes are neatly folded and there's fresh coffee in the pot, which means that he's been up and about recently. The room smells of lemon cologne, and old books, and fabric softener. He has smelled like that since the age of ten.
She doesn't want to see him.
She's pulled on her dress and her little cardigan and her shoes, tall and sparkly and graceful (because without them, she feels a little less powerful, less graceful, less bright). She takes a swig of coffee from a random mug and feels in her pockets for her cigarettes, but her fingers close over empty air.
Apparently, although he forgot to line the bin, her brother is as systematically careful as always.
She pulls her hair (it's a mess) up into a bun, a few red tendrils creeping down over her ears and face, and is halfway to the front door when she hears the voice.
The voice is familiar, and behind it are years and years of love and kindness and bickering and everything that's good, but now, it just sounds weary.
Still, his spellwork is better than hers (always has been), and his reflexes infinitely quicker (damn the sport that is Quidditch) and if she tries to run now, he will catch her before she is gone three steps.
Instead, she turns resignedly and flashes him a smile that is undecipherable, even to her. "Hey, Al."
Albus, for one, seems unable to respond. "Y-you…I…we-"
"Are you really stuttering?"
Her voice is cocky and flippant and something in her head tells her that she has no right to talk to her older brother this way, but those times are long, long gone and so she crosses her arms and raises an eyebrow. (And Merlin, does it feel good, because even hung over and messed up, she's tall in her sparkling heels, and dressed to die for, and she looks gorgeous, and knows it too, and looks down on him like a goddess).
Albus seems to have regained some of his composure and (to her annoyance) does not look at all intimidated by her.
"What are you doing here?"
"Not sure," she shoots back. "I was just leaving, in fact."
And with that, she turns to go, spinning on her heel, and she's about to march out steadily in her tall, tall shoes and slam the door like a grown-up, independent woman, and it's going to feel fantastic, but he's faster, and jabs his wand at the door and it slams in her face instead, her dramatic walk-out spoiled by her slow speed.
"I'd like to go, Albus."
"Well, I'd like an explanation as to why you showed up on my doorstep at three in the morning, still drunk and singing horrendously out of tune."
Albus pours himself a mug of coffee. Lily shrugs. "I went to a party. I was drunk. I came here."
"Why did you come here?"
"Buggered if I know. Can I go now?"
"Why? Don't you want to spend some time with your brother?" Albus asks in a way that is almost mean and Lily feels a spark of recognition.
"Well, that's just-"
"I mean, I have two brothers, and all they ever do is tell me how I'm a terrible person who's ruining her life and breaking her mother's heart. I'd rather not today, thanks."
"And don't steal my cigarettes in future."
But Albus is still holding the coffee mug in both hands and his wand is on the kitchen counter and Lily notices, with her sharp eyes and she spins promptly and turns the door handle and before Albus can do anything, she's gone, without a single glance back towards him.
They don't hear from her for three months.
When they do finally find out where she is, it isn't from her.
Albus opens the newspaper one morning and almost spits his coffee back out. There is a bold, black headline, in damning capital letters, that reads, 'Youngest Potter Child Finally Snaps?'
Underneath, there is a picture of his sister, his baby sister, although it isn't the baby sister he remembers. She is surrounded by people (Albus thinks he recognizes Miriam Nott and Alexa Dalton, but the harsh glare and darkness combined make it impossible for him to be sure) and clearly intoxicated. She is leaning heavily on the arm of a nondescript boy, her jeans are ripped and covered in grass stains and stains of other substances that Albus doesn't want to think about, alike.
She has a middle finger up resolutely towards the camera, but it is her face that Albus is staring at. Her skin is chalky white, completely so, her freckles almost black in colouring against the background. Her eyes are rimmed by red and black that has nothing to do with mascara, big and haunted and deep-set like they never were in childhood.
Albus has seen and learnt enough in his life to recognize the marks of a drug addict.
He reaches for his phone and calls his father.
Her father isn't Head of the Auror Department for nothing, and a few weeks into her solitude, she senses someone following her.
But screw them, because she's eighteen now, and legal, and she has the two most brilliant brothers ever to grace the halls of Hogwarts. She bets they regret teaching her all their tricks now, because she essentially vanishes off the face of the planet.
She evades all the Aurors that Harry sends after her, and reads the newspapers cover to cover every day, noting each advertisement, every plea, all the times when her cousins and aunts and uncles have put notices in the paper.
She notes that Al and James never do. Sometimes, she thinks she sees one of them in the corner of her eye. But they're always gone before they are fully there, so she brushes it off. She's probably imagining it.
She drinks and parties and sleeps around and goes wild and it feels like living, to some degree. Gone is the little girl who begged her grandmother for biscuits and tailed around after her older cousins; replaced instead with a woman who is free and young (and gives her body to whoever she likes, whoever has the nicest face that night, but she doesn't think that's such a bad thing.)
One night, she falls, drunk, and hits her head. Or, so Jemma Mackey tells her afterwards. She only remembers the blinding pain, but that too, is a dulled memory, cushioned by the alcohol. She doesn't remember coming to (according to some of her cohort, she went off with Sean Reece, one of James' mates from school, and didn't come back until late afternoon the next day).
She does remember (only slightly) skin on skin and laughter and sweat and sheets and warmth and feeling.
She remembers a weight leaving the bed and not returning. She remembers something warm and wet running down her face (she did hit her head, but she doesn't remember seeing what colour it was, so it could just have been water. Or tears.) She does remember vaguely running out into the street, the bare pavement scraping her feet.
After that is all blank. She wakes up in a bed the next morning, unlike so many other mornings, her wound healed, her clothes folded neatly, a bin next to the bed (and that feels so familiar). She smells lemon, faintly, on her clothes, but that, too, is probably her imagination.
The next time Lily goes out, it is to Abraham Malfoy's 19th. He is Scorpius' cousin (Lily remembers Scorpius, even though she has not seen him for many months), but Scorpius is noticeably absent. Abraham looks nothing like Scorpius – blue eyes rather than grey, and darker hair than the trademark Malfoy white-blond.
She doesn't think he is particularly good-looking, but when he pushes her up against the door and kisses her and his hand inches nearer and nearer to the bottom of her dress, she lets him; whispers words of encouragement in his ear.
There are other people there, of course, but most of them are drunk or so far gone that the only person looking in their direction is the DJ. "Ignore him," Abraham breathes into her ear. And she does.
But just as his hand reaches under her skirt, she feels him grunt, and then he flies away from her. The room goes completely silent (really completely, because the DJ has disappeared.) and someone is standing in the doorway and it's a moment before Lily fully registers who it is. His expression is furious, and his stance means business and he is fast approaching her with an unforgiving look on his face. The crowd parts before him like the red sea and she does not know whether it is because he looks like he could murder someone or because of the lightning scar on his forehead.
She turns and tries to run, but his hand is around her wrist; his voice is calling her name.
"Let go," she orders, but this is one of the two people who laugh when she gives them orders, laughs in a way that even her brothers would never do.
He doesn't let go, but she didn't really think he would, and now, she just feels trapped.
She refuses to come out of her room for a week. She slouches about in big jumpers, and eats chocolate ice cream and doesn't care. It feels more natural than she would have imagined.
Some days, the cravings are so bad that she wants to scream aloud. But the locks on the doors of the house are strong, and somebody has taken her wand and she can only lie on the floor and cry and cry and cry.
This isn't the best way to rehabilitate, but it's the only way her parents know how. Things are going wrong with her body.
Her skin is flaky. Her wrists are thinner. Her period has stopped coming. She counts the days.
Her cousins come by – Vic, Louis, Fred, Lucy, Teddy – but she won't speak to any of them. She's angry at them, she realizes after a while, because they only care about her now that something is wrong with her. The little girl from Hogwarts was never good enough. Some part of her thinks she may be waiting for James or Al, but neither of them even ask after her.
She tells herself that doesn't bother her.
It's bad, her situation, very, very bad, for reasons that nobody else knows. In the night, sometimes, she tries to picture Sean Reece's face; his eyes, his lips, the colour of his hair, but she always comes up with nothing. She refuses to let this make her cry, tells herself she doesn't need him, but a few of the tears escape anyway.
Some days are worse than others – shaking fingers, burning eyes, sobbing into her pillow for hours on end. Ginny and Harry come to check on her, but she refuses to ask for help. The famous Potter pride has come back to bite them all.
Finally, finally, finally, Harry, at a loss, owls his two sons for assistance. As if they would know what to do any better than him. Still, they are her brothers, and she is their sister and so they agree to see what they can do.
The two stand together in front of the door of their childhood home and stare at each other. They don't mention how James recently divorced his almost newly wed wife, or how Al's painfully thinner, and pale and exhausted-looking, and has barely been home in the last couple of months because his schedule has been so ridiculously full.
The look James gives his younger brother promises hours of discussion later, though.
They ring the doorbell and it's Lily who answers, thin and ragged and dressed in a sweater that is at least four sizes too big for her.
They all stand in silence, the three Potter children, the sons and daughter of the greatest hero of the Wizarding World ever to live; broken and shattered and torn apart.
Then James shoves past Lily, muttering about the cold and throws his coat on the sofa (ignoring the coat rack, as he has for all these years) and shouts through the house for mum and dad.
Albus follows suit, stopping to throw a brief smile at Lily. She smiles back, but it is only an echo.
Ginny and Harry are all warmth and hugs and safety and smiles and family and reassurance. Ginny has made dinner. They eat together, for the first time in what seems like years (although wasn't it only six months ago that James dragged Al and Lily over for one last dinner before his wedding? Lily privately thinks that was the point where everything started to go downwards for the Potters.) Lily is completely silent through most of dinner and although James is all enthusiasm, and Albus tries to peace-make, the dinner ends in tears, both real and symbolic.
Things are not looking well for the Potters.
It takes days of constant talking and knocking on doors and whining and threats and cajoling and pleading, but eventually Albus and James get Lily to come out of her room.
In truth, it isn't until they stop trying that she emerges. They are in the sitting room, watching a movie and drinking tea in silence and Lily materializes in the doorway. They don't act surprised, just shift apart and make room on the couch. She drops between them, feeling small and distant. The sound of the television buzzes in and out of her ears.
James breathes before he speaks and Lily feels it, deep and full at her side. "I'm going out tomorrow for lunch. Tell mum and dad if I forget, would you, Al?"
Albus hums, then asks, "Where are you going?"
"Lunch with some old mates. They want to know about Delia," James says, and Lily is surprised, because she seems to have missed the point where it was ok to talk about James' ex-wife again.
"What old mates do you have other than Fred?" Albus asks doubtfully and James shrugs.
"You know, Rain Tresta, Ollie Finnigan, Sean Reece-"
Lily's eyes fly open, and she tries to school her expression into something neutral (it doesn't occur to her that she doesn't need to, because both her brothers are staring at the screen, but there's so much effort gone into controlling her face that her mouth runs away from her). Without her even meaning to, she says, in a calmer tone than she would have expected, "Good for you, James. Really excellent. While you're there, maybe you should ask your old mate Reece about how he got me drunk last month at a party and knocked me up."
She doesn't even realize she's said it before Albus' mug falls to the floor. It shatters and so do a thousand other things – her self-respect and her brothers' peaceable silence among them.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Fuck," she mutters, twisting the sleeves of her red woolen jumper in her hands. "I didn't mean to say that."
"I'm sorry, I must be mishearing. Sean knocked you up?"
"Are you sure?"
"How drunk were you?"
"How long have you known?"
"Why haven't you told anyone?"
"Jesus Christ, Lil."
"I am going to beat the living shit out of him."
And with that, James rises to his feet and dusts off his jeans. "I'm going right now. Al, feel free to tag along, but don't even think about pulling me off of him." Albus' face indicates that he will have no such inclination. "Lily, you might want to think about clearing up that mug while we're gone."
"Why do I get stuck at home with the cleaning?"
"You're pregnant, that's why."
"That's no excuse at all."
"Stop distracting me. I'm leaving."
And Lily can't let that happen, because even though she hates Sean Reece with her entire being, he doesn't even know that she's got a baby growing in her belly, and he should at least be given fair warning before James (who is not as broad as, say, Uncle Bill, but can still claim to have fairly impressive height and width) jumps him.
So she says, "Merlin, James, calm down a little."
That's when he starts yelling. "Don't tell me to fucking calm down! You're fucking pregnant, how big of a fucking idiot are you?"
They get into an enormous row, all three of them yelling and swearing and screaming, and that's how Harry and Ginny find them upon returning home, spitting and hissing into each other's faces.
"What's going on here?" Harry roars, and he can still shut them all up as if they're eleven, ten and eight, eyes wide and staring and guilty.
Ginny fixes the mug.
Albus and James both look at Lily, and for the first time in a long time, she feels something for her family, feels it in a different way she has been feeling for months now, because even though they probably hate her right now (for disappearing just as much for getting pregnant and then not telling them), they are still letting her keep her secrets if she wants to.
Of course, the truth comes out.
Harry goes paper-white and Ginny holds her hands to her mouth and Lily hates herself for making them like this, and hates herself for caring what they think. She's beyond that.
They sit down after the shock wears off and talk about what to do now. Harry makes Lily swear off drinking and sleeping around and smoking (and Lily defends herself by saying that she's off everything now, even against her will, because this house is like a damn rehabilitation centre).
She decides she wants an abortion and Albus is horrified by the thought, but James takes his brother aside and after a while, they all agree that it is Lily's choice.
She doesn't tell the rest of the family, not even Teddy, who is like a third brother to her. ("He'd have to keep it a secret from Victoire," Lily reasons to them. "Which really wouldn't be fair on him.")
"He would want to know," James says stoutly and Lily glares at him.
"Don't you dare tell any of them. Especially Dom."
Ginny is uncomfortable keeping secrets from the rest of them, but Lily won't be swayed. She thinks, at night, when dreams are whispering to her, and secrets, and darkness, that some part of her is holding on to the past; the Potter princess, the invincible girl, the adored child, the centre of attention. Her shiny spot in the family, which has admittedly been tarnished, but not as much as it would be if she told.
Another part of her thinks it's because of her family that this happened.
Still, one day, maybe she will be ready to say. For now, it will stay hidden.
Al and James do beat up Sean Reece, in the end although not before telling him, under no uncertain terms, that he is to get the hell out of her life and never come back.
He does what they say, of course. The Potter children might be broken and fractured and messed up on the inside, but they still have enough fire and fury to burn the entire world to the ground if they want to.