AN: This is the first chapter of a two-shot story detailing the lives of ordinary students during wartime. Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling and Warner Bros. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Times of their Lives

By silentclock

Summer turned to fall almost overnight in 1972, the first chill catching fast to the air with no designs on pulling up its roots until spring chased it despairingly into the past. Such was the way of things. Shadows stretched long across the ground beneath wispy grey clouds and a hard blue sky. The castle loomed above all, its ancient stones reflecting the last rays of a setting sun across the shimmering lake. A trio in green-trimmed robes lounged upon a blanket on a bank overlooking the water.

Silas Ellington lay on his back, his dark eyes cast up at the sky. The horizon glowed a brilliant orange as the sun dipped beneath the tree line. There would be a full moon tonight, and the sky would fill with stars. They wouldn't need wandlight to find their way back to the castle.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Alexis Brennan lay beside him, her body pressed against his and their fingers intertwined.

He looked down, taking in the sight of her. Auburn hair glistened, absorbing the day's last light. She smelled of lilacs after a spring rain. "It certainly is."

Their NEWTs would be on them before they knew it, and moments like these were precious. The world outside the castle's battlements awaited. Of late, there had been rumblings in Slytherin's dungeons. Dark stories. A name whispered in the night, or sometimes not spoken at all. Two years ago, he'd have thought it a mummer's play, a scary story told to keep the first-years in line. Now he knew better. Primal fears itched at the back of his mind, hidden but always present.

Ryan Hawkins sat to their side, his back stiff and his eyes staring down at the lake. A silver badge gleamed on his chest. "He called on us this summer."

Exactly who He was went unspoken. There was power in words, but sometimes the things that went unsaid carried just as much weight. Present company knew all too well.

Silas sat up with a start. He sought out his oldest friend's gaze, but Ryan was staring into the distance. "What's he like?"

Ryan shook his head. He swallowed. "Charming. That's the first thing that comes to mind. But there's something…" He exhaled, trying to find the right word. "There's something off about him. Mum loves him, though, and Dad'll go along for her sake."

"What about you?"

He laughed, a hollow sound that came out closer to a shudder. "I reckon he terrifies me."

Silas sighed, collapsing into Alexis' embrace. There would be a time for more questions, but not tonight. Tonight they would watch the stars take hold in the sky and think back on happier days, for tomorrow was coming—faster, and more deadly, than any of them cared to admit.

Ryan turned his head, looking at them for the first time. "Whatever happens, we'll face it together, right?"

Silas smiled. The first stars had taken hold in the sky, and gods were they bright. "Always."

Memory and reality didn't match. From the first moment Silas set foot inside this common room seven years ago, it had been his second home. Walls done up in comforting greens and with a fire crackling in the hearth, conversation had flowed fast and easy between quick friends. He didn't even recognize it now.

Hundreds of eyes darted back and forth across a room filled with equal measures of fear and suspicion. The fire seemed a little less bright and the shadows flitting across the floor a little more menacing. Silas and Alexis occupied a settee in the corner furthest from the door. Ryan sat on a chaise lounge facing them. Silas's gaze flicked from his friends to the entryway as the door sprang open, his fingers tightening around his wand. His grip slackened when Snape crossed the threshold.

Offhand, Silas couldn't recall the boy's first name, but he knew him to be a second-year. If the stories were to be believed, Snape outstripped his year-mates by a fair margin when it came to wandwork. Lucius Malfoy had taken him under his wing last year. To Silas's mind, that could mean only one thing. When Snape made a beeline across the common room before drawing up a chair beside Avery and Mulciber, a pair of fourth-years with a penchant for nasty curses, Silas's suspicions were confirmed. The three younger wizards leaned in close to one another, their whispers not carrying across the room.

Eventually, Silas shifted his narrowed eyes from Snape to Ryan. "Any word from dear old Lucius?"

Ryan clenched his fist. "He's been rather insistent. Abraxas's doing, I'm sure. No doubt he's got plenty of eyes and ears in here already—" His lips grew thin, a touch of bitterness creeping into his voice. "—but the Head Boy simply must be brought into the fold."

"What will you do?" Alexis asked.

Ryan shrugged, looking away from them.

She put a hand on his knee. "We're here for you, if you want to talk things out. Don't go off and do something stupid."

"Something stupid? Without the pair of you?" He couldn't help but grin. "I wouldn't dream of it."

They fell in to a companionable silence after that, with Alexis and Silas snuggled up against one another and Ryan's focus lost in the book on his lap. Given enough time, they could have almost convinced themselves everything was just as it always had been. Then Slughorn walked into the room.

Their head of house took long strides across the common room, not coming to a stop until he reached Lucy Hollingsworth, a fifth-year with kind eyes and an easy smile. Slughorn put a hand on her shoulder and whispered something into her ear. Her face fell, her eyes glistening as Slughorn helped her shakily to her feet.

She wailed as Slughorn guided her into the hallway, a sound that wrenched at Silas' heart. He wouldn't forget that moment, not as long as he lived. The utter anguish on that poor girl's face.

No one made any move to acknowledge her departure.

The first Quidditch match of the year pitted Gryffindor against Ravenclaw. Silas and Alexis wore blue in support of the Eagles' keeper, an old friend from their childhoods. Ryan wore his usual green-trimmed robes.

The teams took to the air. Silas watched them but didn't really follow. He didn't have an eye for the game, and his mind was elsewhere. No one had seen Lucy Hollingsworth since the night Slughorn whisked her out of the common room. They found the reason for her disappearance in the Prophet the following morning, two meagre paragraphs relegated to the fourth page.

Joshua Hollingsworth, Lucy's father, was a half-blood and an Auror grade three. After his shift, Auror Hollingsworth stepped into the Floo to return home from the Ministry, but he never stepped out. The Ministry conducted a thorough search, but he wasn't found. Dead or alive. Now that one of their own had disappeared, the Aurors were closing ranks and had little to say to the media.

"Gryffindor's really flying circles around them, huh?" Alexis asked.

"Hm?" He looked up at the scoreboard. Gryffindor led 70 to 20. "Oh, yeah, I suppose so."

He couldn't shake Lucy Hollingsworth from his head. They'd hardly ever spoken. He didn't know much about the girl—hadn't even known her father was an Auror until reading it in the paper—but the image of her face crumbling as her heart broke haunted him. Wherever she was, Silas hoped she was well. As well as she could be, at any rate. He thought about his own father and his little bookshop off Diagon Alley, and he couldn't help but imagine himself in Lucy's shoes.

He shuddered.

"All right, Silas?" Alexis squeezed his hand.

"Yeah, Allie. Just thinking."

"Anyone ever tell you that you think too much?"

He wrapped his arm around her, a smile tugging at his lips. "You may have mentioned it a time or two."

"You'd do well to remember it." She ran a hand through his hair before tapping the side of his head with her forefinger. "One of these days, you're going to get lost up there."

"Good thing I've got you to find me, huh?"

The rest of the game passed in a blur, and Silas barely registered that Gryffindor had won going away. After the game, with dusk fast approaching, Silas and Alexis wandered the grounds. Ryan had returned to the castle, with some Head Boy duty or another demanding his attention. Silas had his left arm around Allie's waist, twirling his wand between the fingers of his right hand. With two flicks, he cast a pair of warming charms on them.

"Seventh year," he said. "It'll be over before you know it."

She sighed. "Where has the time gone?"

There was a long pause before he spoke again. "Decided what you're going to do after graduation yet?"

They walked along the rocky shoreline, the water of the Great Lake gently lapping at their feet. Alexis hesitated before answering. "I got in, you know? At Saint Mungo's, I mean. The letter came this morning."

He tried to smile at her, but he couldn't force it to reach his eyes. "Congratulations."

"I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner. I just…"

"Couldn't think of the right words?"

She nodded, biting at her lip. "It's such a big deal. Huge, really. They don't accept many applicants. Just think, me a Healer."

"So you're going to do it?"

She shrugged.

They pulled to a stop. Silas collapsed onto a wide rock just above the waterline, and Alexis followed suit sitting beside him. He turned to face her, but she stared straight ahead, watching the sun set over the lake. Their hands were still entwined. "You'll make a good Healer. Truly."

"I hope so." She laid her head against his shoulder, feeling the warmth of his breath against her cheek. "What about you? Still planning to head for the continent?"

He nodded. "It's not safe for us here, me and my dad. Not anymore."

Silence fell over them in a wave as they tracked the sun's descent. He'd always known that they may go their separate ways. Now, though, faced with the prospect of it happening so soon, he felt his chest constricting. A lump formed in his throat.

"I love you, you know?" He'd said the words before, but he'd never felt them with such unrelenting certainty.

The corners of her mouth turned upward, but she didn't face him. "I know."

"Seers on Sunday, mate? No way. They're weak." Ryan shook his head.

"And I suppose you're going to say Dragon Fire is better?" Silas pushed him by the shoulder.


"Keep dreaming. Did you even listen to their last album? Complete rubbish."

Ryan stopped on a dime, pulling Silas to a standstill with a hand around his wrist. With narrowed eyes, Ryan craned his neck, examining the corridor. "Hear that?"

Silas shook his head.

"This way. Come on." Ryan took off at a jog, and Silas followed on his heels. Noticing that Ryan's wand was in his hand, Silas drew his own. He followed around the corner and down a staircase.

The first sounds of spellfire found their ears. Screamed incantations and shouts of pain reverberated through the hallway. With a flick of his wand, Ryan blasted open a classroom door. Chaos greeted them inside. The Head Boy appraised the situation in an instant.

Ryan cast his spell so fast Silas almost missed it—he had always been awed by his friend's skill—and four wands flew into his outstretched hand.

"Tsk, tsk, Mister Montague. I'd have expected better of you. What will Professor McGonagall say about her prefect dueling in an abandoned classroom?" Ryan smiled, but his eyes were dark. "I imagine she'll be rather disappointed, wouldn't you say?"

Abashed, the prefect took a keen interest in the floor directly in front of his feet. "Apologies, sir."

Silas examined the room. Another Gryffindor stood beside the chastised prefect. A pair of Slytherins occupied the opposite side of the room, behind an overturned desk. The underside of the desk was scorched black. Around them, the shattered remnants of perhaps a dozen chairs littered the floor.

"That'll be a detention for the pair of you," Ryan said, and the prefect gave him a tight nod in response. "I trust you can find your way back to your common room?"

The two boys practically sprinted from the room.

"As for you—" Ryan turned to face the Slytherins. Their smirks at the Gryffindors' punishments disappeared at the look on the Head Boy's face. They paled. "A word with Professor Slughorn is in order, I think."

Silas watched on as Ryan guided the two boys out of the wrecked classroom. Alone, he began to appreciate the extent of the damage. The classroom was well and truly trashed. Every piece of furniture in the room seemed to have been destroyed. Craters marked where the stone floor had been blasted with curses, shrapnel spreading to the far corners of the room. This was no schoolyard squabble. It was a small miracle that no one was hurt. Yet.

Silas could hardly wait to see his father. The term passed him by in the blink of an eye, but it felt like an age had passed since he'd last seen the man. His father was the quiet, bookish type. More at home in the world of pages and ink than the world of people. Since mother died, he'd retreated further into his books. Silas worried for him.

Silas and the others filed off the Express. Ryan gave his oldest friend a one-armed hug before departing. "Have a good holiday, mate."

"You as well."

Ryan clapped him on the back a final time before grabbing his trunk and disapparating. That left just Silas and Alexis.

"I'll see you, won't I?" she asked. "On Christmas."

Silas smiled. "I'd like that."

Silas pressed his lips against hers, a brief yet tender goodbye, before she too disappeared.

In years past, his father would meet him at the station. Now that he'd reached his majority, such a trip was unnecessary. Following his friends' footsteps, Silas gathered up his belongings and apparated away.

He reappeared at the foot of the path leading to his father's home in southern Gloucester. A cobblestone lane led him up to a cottage with a thatched roof—the only house he'd ever called home. He touched his wand to the doorknob and stepped inside.

"Dad," he called out, "I'm home."

A chill clung to the air inside the house. No fire burned in the living room hearth. No candles cast their light through the hallways.


No pages rustled as his father allowed himself to get lost in another world. No meal cooked in the kitchen and no smells wafted to his nose.

Fear clutched at his heart. He called out his father's name once more, his voice cracking as he spoke.

No one answered.

No one was there.