Alice was a Prewett. The daughter of a lonely widower, the only son of the family’s junior cadet branch. Her mother had died in childbirth. She grew up with a man who had no need for politics and whose family thought him too odd to bother bringing back into the fold.
Alice was a Pureblood. Her father taught her herbology and how to fly a broom. For her pre-Hogwarts studies, he hired a general tutor, like almost all wizarding families of any means at all did, and a Latin tutor to help prepare her foundation for spellwaork and because he had vague childhood memories of having one. But there was no one to hire a ladies’ maid or to lend one, no one to put Alice’s hair into curls or teach her French or hire a dancing master. Her father waited until she was eleven to buy her her own wand because he “didn’t want any trouble” and it was easier to simply give her one of his old ones to use when he had her assist him in preparing household potions. They had a house elf to do the cooking and cleaning and her father freed and paid her. “I seems like the decent thing to do,” he’d told Alice once absentmindedly. Everyone thought he was insane, but Alice never noticed. She only understand when she was older.
Hogwarts was a confusing and thrilling place where children sat in classes and engaged in childish pranks and endeavors, wondered at the world opening up before them, and were never really children at all.
The war was coming, everyone said. In fact, it had already arrived. Everyone who was above third year knew it, and they clustered in groups, read the papers and shook their heads. Everyone said Slytherins were the political ones. They weren’t wrong but they weren’t quite right, either. Everyone became political sooner or later.
She was a Prewett and a Pureblood and that gave her only so many choices. She had to learn a lot of things, in hindsight. In a way it was worse than being a muggle-bon because people expected she would already know them. Everyone did – even the likes of James Potter who purported to be a liberal sort. He looked at her finny when she made choices not out of rebellion or righteousness but because it “seemed like the decent thing to do.” She refused to take a political stand and no one understood that. After all, the war was coming. How could anyone act outside of a political position.
The muggle-borns fought for survival. The Purebloods fought for power – every single one of them, regardless of what banner they bore. And the half-bloods were pulled every which way depending on their circumstances.
Alice was never neutral but she liked to hope that she was doing what would make her father proud, what would keep her sane at night. She sneered at the conservatives for their lack acceptance and compassion and she sneered at the pro-muggle liberals for their self-aggrandizement and constant self-congratulations. No one bothered to ask: Is it right to keep a tradition alive if it means the suffering of hundreds? Is it right to erase and deconstruct hundreds of years of culture for the sake of seeming as accepting as possible? Everyone seemed to be talking of these things but never actually listening.
Alice tried to do what would make her father proud. She wondered if he was proud of her when she married Frank Longbottom – a nice Pureblood boy from a nice family – wearing her mother’s old wedding dress. She wondered if he was proud of her because she chose a boy who makes her laugh, who wants to do the right thing, who only joined the fighting because he feelt he must. She wondered if her father was proud of her when she joined the aurors. And when she joined the Order, she wondered if he would be proud of her if he knew.
(Whatever the flaws of James Potter and his ilk, whatever their hypocrisy, the goals of those who followed Voldemort were oppression and fear and suffering for the innocent. There was no right choice but to oppose that.)
The one time she didn’t think of her father was when the Death Eaters come to find her and Frank at the end of the war. That time, she thought about Lily.
Lily had been in the year below Alice and Frank and in the same one as James Potter and Sirius Black. A spitfire of a girl with bright red hair and beautiful green eyes. She lived every second the way Alice only wished she knew how to – with a passion for every moment of it and a strong sense of direction.
She was inherently political, she had to be. Her entire existence and presence was politicized. She sponged that influence up and threw it back at the world with an overwhelming sense of self. She laughed and cried and fought like every day was her last.
And Alice loved her.
They were friends in the sort of odd way that a quiet, often-prim girl like Alice could be friends with a firecracker like Lily Evans. But they were – in the library, on their brooms, in the middle of May by the lake when Lily went skinny-dipping after dark and Alice sat on the bank with her feet in the cool water and her heart in her throat.
They didn’t talk about the war or the politics or their friends. They shut them all out to lie in the grass, each engrossed in her own book, their shoulders touching. Sometimes, Alice would untie her bun and let her hair fall down her back. It felt odd to do that, embarrassing somehow. Like she was exposing a vulnerable side of herself. Lily wore her hair loose as often as she could and she would braid flowers into Alice’s coarse waves.
The older they got, the more intrusive the world became. By Alice’s last year of Hogwarts, Lily’s shoulders were always tense and Alice’s headaches increased as she studied her hardest. Books won’t win wars, Lily would mutter bitterly sometimes, even as she picked one up and hid behind it. They were being forced to choose – to fight or to stand by and watch. To love or to hate. Alice didn’t want to choose. She simply wanted to live and wake up to the sunrise with Lily’s head on her shoulder.
They were still very young then.
They kissed for the first time after Alice’s graduation, under the bleachers of the quidditch pitch. Lily had laughed and said they were mad but that she didn’t mind and Alice didn’t understand why they were mad. She knew why, but she didn’t understand. It hardly mattered because Alice had found that Lily’s red hair and smile were the only banner she knew how to truly follow.
Lily tasted like strawberries every time they kissed. Once, Lily told her that she tasted like cinnamon and Alice didn’t quite believe her, though she wanted to.
Alice knew they were mad; she knew it wouldn’t last. But it seemed like the decent thing to do – to give Lily what she wanted, to allow herself to have what she wanted – and that was the only way she knew how to be.
So when the Death Eaters came, Alice thought of Lily. She thought of Lily’s red hair and green eyes and how the war had taken everything from her after all, no matter how hard she had tried to hide from it when she had been younger. And the rest didn’t matter.