So let's talk about the Lost Generation.
This is the generation that came of age during WWI and the 1918 flu pandemic. They witnessed their world collapse in the first war that spread around the globe, and they -- in retrospect, optimistically -- called it the "war to end all wars". And that war was a quagmire. The trenches on the Western Front were notoriously awful, unsanitary and cold and wet and teeming with sickness, and bloody battles were fought to gain or lose a few feet of territory, and all because a series of alliances caused one assassination in one unstable area to spiral into a brutal large-scale war fought on the ground by people who mostly had no personal stake in the outcomes and gained nothing from winning.
On some of the worst-hit battlefields, the land is still too toxic for plant growth.
And on the heels of this horrific war, a pandemic struck. It's often referred to as "the Spanish flu" because Spain was neutral in the war, and so was the first country to admit that their people were dropping like flies. By the time the warring countries were willing to face the disease, it was far too late to contain it.
Anywhere from 50 to 100 million people worldwide would die from it. 675,000 were in the US.
But once it was finally contained -- anywhere from a year to a year and a half later -- the 20s had begun, and they began roaring.
Hedonism abounded. Alcohol flowed like water in spite of Prohibition. Music and dance and art fluorished. It was the age of Dadaism, an artistic movement of surrealism, absurdism, and abstraction. Women's skirts rose and haircuts shortened in a flamboyant rejection of the social norms of the previous decades. It was a time of glitter and glamour and jazz and flash, and (save for the art that was made) it was mostly skin deep.
Everyone stumbled out of the war and pandemic desperate to forget the horrific things they'd seen and done and all that they'd lost, and lost for nothing.
Reality seemed so pointless. It's not a coincidence that the two codifiers of the fantasy genre -- J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis -- both fought in WWI. In fact, they were school friends before the war, and were the only two of their group to return home. Tolkein wanted to rewrite the history of Europe, while Lewis wanted to rebuild faith in the escape from the world.
(There's a reason Frodo goes into the West: physically, he returned to the Shire, but mentally, he never came back from Mordor, and he couldn't live his whole life there. There's a reason three of the Pevensies can never let go of Narnia: in Narnia, unlike reality, the things they did and fought for and believed in actually mattered, were actually worth the price they paid.)
It's also no coincidence that many of the famous artists of the time either killed themselves outright or let their vices do them in. The 20s roared both in spite of and because of the despair of the Lost Generation.
It was also the era of the Harlem Renaissance, which came to the feelings of alienation and disillusionment from a different direction: there was a large migration of Black people from the South, many of whom moved to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Obviously, the sense of alienation wasn't new to Black people in America, but the cultural shift allowed for them to publicly express it in the arts and literature in ways that hadn't been open to them before.
There was also horrific -- and state-sanctioned -- violence perpetrated against Black communities in this time, furthering the anger and despair and sense that society had not only failed them but had never even given them a chance. The term at the time was shell-shock, but now we know it as PTSD, and the vast majority of the people who came of age between 1910 and 1920 suffered from it, from one source or another.
It was an entire generation of trauma, and then the stock market crashed in 1929. Helpless, angry, impotent in the face of all that had seemingly destroyed the world for them, on the verge of utter despair, it was also a generation vulnerable to despotism. In the wake of all this chaos -- god, please, someone just take control of all this mess and set it right.
Sometimes the person who took over was decent and played by the rules and at least attempted to do the right thing. Other times, they were self-serving and hateful and committed to subjugating anyone who didn't fit their mold.
There are a lot of parallels to now, but we have something they didn't, and that's the fact that they did it first.
We know what their mistakes and sins were. We have the gift of history to see the whole picture and what worked and what failed. We as a species have walked this road before, and we weren't any happier or stronger or smarter about it the first time.
I think I want to reiterate that point: the Lost Generation were no stronger or weaker than Millennials and Gen Z are today. Plenty of both have risen up and fought back, and plenty have stumbled and been crushed under the weight. Plenty have been horribly abused by the people who were supposed to lead them, and plenty have done the abusing. Plenty of great art has been made by both, and plenty of it is escapist fantasy or scathing criticism or inspiring optimism or despairing pessimism.
We find humor in much the same things, because when reality is a mess, both the absurd and the self-deprecating become hilarious in comparison. There's a reason modern audiences don't find Seinfeld as funny as Gen X does, and many older audiences find modern comedy impenetrable and baffling -- they're different kinds of humor from different realities.
I think my point accumulates into this: in spite of how awful and hopeless and pointless everything feels, we do have a guide. We've been through this before, as a culture, and even though all of them are gone now, we have their words and art and memory to help us. We know now what they didn't then: there is a future.
The path forward is a hard one, and the only thing that makes it easier is human connection. Art -- in the most base sense, anything that is an expression of emotion and thought into a medium that allows it to be shared -- is the best and most enduring vehicle for that connection, to reach not just loved ones but people a thousand miles or a hundred years away.
So don't bottle it up. Don't pretend to be okay when you're not. Paint it, sculpt it, write it, play it, sing it, scream it, hell, you can even meme it out into the void. Whatever it takes to reach someone else -- not just for yourself but for others, both present and future.
Because, to quote the inimitable Terry Pratchett, "in a hundred years we'll all be dead, but here and now, we are alive."
For the @drarrymicrofic prompt Euphoria. Werewolf Harry, Dad Draco, kidfic. CW for brief mention of a newborn, barely-there sex. Umm I do not know, my idea was that Harry and Draco meet up for the first time in years and Harry gets a sort of wolfy impulse about Draco being his mate, it's all very implied lmao
Harry has a photo on his desk; he says it’s his favourite.
Draco with Scorpius, newly born, just a few minutes old. In the corner, out of focus, there’s the tired edge of Astoria in her hospital bed, but the camera lingers on Draco and the baby, close quarters to the impossible newness of it all. Draco can’t even remember who was holding the camera.
Draco comes by the office to take Harry for lunch, sees the photo in its pale wood frame. He’s mildly horrified; the frame is set at an angle on the desk so anyone can see it. Draco turns it inwards towards Harry’s chair, but Harry’s quicker, hands gentle around the frame, setting it carefully back where it was. It’s a proclamation Draco’s not sure he was expecting.
The moon is waxing gibbous, and Harry is restless, pacing, the strung-bow quiver of a pounce behind his every movement, and he stills only when Draco touches him, face turning up for a kiss as though it was all he had been waiting for.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Harry says, and that’s when he says it. My favourite, he says, a big expression for something that wasn’t even his back then. “Why don’t you like it?”
“I like it,” Draco says, but he doesn’t, really. “But I was so worried. He was so small, and Astoria...”
“Look at your face, though,” Harry says, and they both watch the photo in silence. In it, Draco’s head dips and raises in a constant, wondering loop, face brightening when he peers into the swaddled bundle as though he’s holding magic itself, a new sun. His unbearably young self untucks the blanket and Scorpius emerges, still wet and crumpled-looking, the small starfish clutch of his hand reaching out, his opening mouth a silent squall.
“I wish I had been there,” Harry says gently, and Draco wishes he could have—somehow, impossibly—been there too.
Instead, Draco had done it by himself, for years—minding the baby, getting Astoria back on her feet, and when the inheritance issue was settled, helping her move to her apartment in France where Scorpius now spends most of the summers and comes back to England each September with new freckles and his hair bleached to sand-silver.
And then, amazingly, one night—feeling out of place at a work party he had tried to get out of attending, holding a glass of wine warmed through by his nervous hand—Draco had met Harry Potter for the first time since Hogwarts and everything that had been for them. Harry, who was at Draco’s side within about three minutes of arriving at the party; Harry, who told him he looked exactly the same, gaze lingering on Draco’s mouth; Harry, who didn’t look the same—streaks of silver coiling through his curls, smile lines sketched around his eyes—but older and bigger and all the better for it.
Draco had heard about the incident in Ireland, of course, had known about the bite. Knowing wasn’t knowing, though; it didn’t encompass the feeling of Harry’s shaky inhale when Draco shifted nearer, the barest promise of incisor in his smile, the press of fabric around the bulge of bicep when Harry pushed his sleeves up, impatient with heat and maybe something more.
In front of everyone at the party, Draco put his drink down and let Harry press his face into Draco’s neck, his panting breath at Draco’s frantic pulsepoint. They fucked in the toilets in the Ministry basement, Harry barely getting his trousers unbuttoned, Draco with his formal robes still hanging off his shoulders, his fingers tracing the puckered scar tissue at Harry’s shoulder.
“We need to talk about it,” Harry said after, though it was obvious to both of them that, while Harry was the one who had been bitten, mate ran both ways between them. But Draco had to go, already late for the babysitter, and Harry’s eyes were bright with some sort of tenderness when Draco explained, stealing yet another kiss.
It took months before Draco introduced Harry to Scorpius, but of course he needn’t have worried.
“It’s a pack thing,” Harry said from under the dense sleeping shape of Scorpius, both of them curled around each other on the couch. “He smells right. He seems to like me too, right?”
“What would you have done if he didn’t?” Draco asked. He didn’t have to tell Harry what would happen if it had come down to a choice between them.
Harry growled softly, amused, and Scorpius shifted in his sleep, one slack pink cheek visible under the possessive curl of Harry’s arm.
“I’m not just the wolf, you know,” Harry said. “You know I would never—”
“No, I know,” Draco told him. “I like to think this whole thing is still our choice.” He waved a hand, encompassing the couch, the sleeping child, two cups of tea standing cool on the side table, and at the window, a sly wink of moon.