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Chapter 1: Christmas Dinner
The snow is one day overdue.
This is what they are saying as they take one dirty glass after another into the kitchen and let the water run until it’s scalding hot. I can hear them even with my back to them and I catch the word “weatherman” slip from someone’s lips. When she first told me what a weatherman was, I was a bit terrified because I couldn’t fathom how the Muggles had harnessed the power of Divination. I had never put much stock in telling the future, but here it is, coming true in the form of white flakes that one by one litter the pavement and windowsills outside the small house I’m sitting in.
For instance, if you told me that one day she’d be mine, I would laugh and agree that her resistance was wearing thin, but inside I would pass you off as a fraud. It could never happen.
Somehow, though, after a multitude of glances and smiles and other little miracles, it did.
She is so beautiful.
I’m sitting in the dining room at her parent’s house, and I barely even notice that I’ve somehow stuck a small part of my elbow in the remains of my roasted potatoes and gotten gravy on the white shirt my mother starched for me. Dishes waiting to be cleared litter the small table that takes up almost the entirety of their tiny dining room, and I smile as I imagine her parents picking the table out at a secondhand store and bringing it home only to find that it’s ridiculously out of proportion for their humble home in Mill Town. Only an hour ago, however, it proved its worth, supporting the weight of plate after plate of chestnut stuffing, brussels sprouts, turkey and bacon, parsnips, and so much other food that their family will be eating leftovers until Easter. Now her mother is doing dishes by hand and her sister is shooting me cold looks from the kitchen, and for just a moment I wish I were home with my family and my mother’s wand.
But I have caught sight of her red hair and those green eyes, those eyes that will belong to me for the rest of my life in just a few months, and I wish for nothing anymore. Nothing except her.
Her brow is furrowed. I smile again because I haven’t seen her concentrate this hard since we were taking our Transfiguration N.E.W.T. last spring. Her father puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me if I’d like some cranberry sauce. She doesn’t even look up from her papers.
I tuck a small bite of the sauce into my mouth, thinking briefly about the fact that Severus Snape lives only a few miles from here. Normally it makes me nervous, thinking about him being in such close proximity to her, but tonight I am plagued with pity for him. She told me once that his mother was cruel to him and his father drank. I was reminded of Sirius, and I hated the sympathy that bubbled up in my gut, because Snivellus could never be like Padfoot, who deserves better. I take another bite and focus on the sweet cranberry. Padfoot is taking my place tonight, having Christmas dinner with my family so I can spend the evening with my fiancée. The world is right.
I halt the embarrassing train of thought, and then the word slips from between her perfect lips.
I have never heard her curse before. I am now compelled to see what she is working on.
She looks up at me and smiles even as she crumples a sheet of paper and tosses it into the smoldering fire with determination. She has drawn little circles with Xs around them, standing at attention like little soldiers. I see names I recognize, Padfoot and Moony and Wormtail all placed in close proximity to my name, and her beside me. Her parents’ names next to those of my parents. Marlene, Mary and Dorcas all squeezed in close together. A name erased multiple times.
“Do you think Professor McGonagall would rather sit next to Dumbledore or Slughorn?”
“What?” I ask, smirking at her. “You’re inviting them to our wedding?”
“Of course I am!” She says, and her smile extends to those eyes that I can’t pull away from.
“I don’t know.” I say, taking a final bite of my cranberry sauce and putting the melted remains on the table in front of me. “Well, I suppose it’ll be okay, as long as you don’t put her next to me. I don’t want things to be awkward between us after all of those long, secluded detentions.”
“No, silly, you’re sitting next to me.” She looks up, and I almost laugh out loud because she has realized what I’ve just said nearly a full minute too late. She has color in her cheeks. I love her. “James!” She looks as if she might slap my arm, but she refrains. She is unlike any other girl.
“Sorry.” I say sheepishly. “Why are you even doing this right now?” The thought has occurred to me quite suddenly. “I mean, why try to make a seating chart before sending out the invitations?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice has gone quieter, and I know I’ve said something wrong. “I just wanted something to do while Mum and Petunia are in the kitchen, I suppose. I was bored.”
But that’s not it, that’s not it at all. Her smile fades, and I feel my heart split in half.
“Hey…” A visible frown mars my features. “What is it?”
“You know what.” I can barely hear her. I don’t need to. I do know what. “How can we sit here and have Christmas dinner when…” I am terrified that she will bring him and his unfortunate family up again, but she doesn’t, thank Merlin. No, don’t. What she actually says is much worse.
“You can’t think about that.” I insist, preparing a defensive smile in case her father re-enters the room and sees her on the verge of tears. “There are a couple of people watching Headquarters tonight, and a handful of others patrolling the streets. People who need defenders have them.”
“We should be out there, shouldn’t we?” She argues quietly. “We should be helping them.”
“No.” I shake my head, touching her hands lightly and feeling my knees go weak, just a little. “Mad-Eye can handle it. He wouldn’t want rookies like us trying to watch his back. He’d laugh.”
“Maybe.” She looks down at her half-finished seating chart, idly erasing the persistent name I can barely make out another time for good measure. “What about Sirius? Or Remus? Peter?”
“They can take care of themselves.” I almost snort. She doesn’t know them well if she thinks they’d want bodyguards. But they likely want me there. My brothers. I feel a little guilty. Remus is supposed to change tomorrow night, and I’ve just remembered it. I’ll be there for that. Right?
“James…” She trails off, unsure of which worry to bring to my attention next.
She worries too much. No, that’s not it. She worries just right. I worry too little in these days.
I don’t know what to do with her. She has real concerns, ones I can’t just will away for her. I think of the boy down the road and his friends and my gut turns the stuffing over upon itself. I hate them for paralyzing her with worry, for creating another opportunity for a sleepless night. She used to smile and tease me and complain that I didn’t care enough about wedding planning. But this wedding is the most important thing in my life. This marriage means more than the war.
I don’t know if I believe in the war.
The stars still come out to spite us, appearing along with the accursed moon that torments Moony month after month. But we are not fooled. The nights are the darkest they have ever been, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep vigilant, like Moody always says, and defend myself when I can barely see my own wand held out right in front of me. The little light is so… little.
She always has her wand drawn. I don’t know if she has put it away once since she received it in Diagon Alley as a child. I used to imagine her taking it into the bath and sleeping with it and it made me laugh. Good old Evans, defender of the weak. Now I’ve thought of him again and it’s difficult for me to keep from cursing. Damn Snape and his friends. I think about them too often.
Lily. Who could ever hurt her? Who could curse her in the dark, while the stars above look on? But I know they want to. They want her to suffer for the blood that runs red in her veins. I order myself never to feel an ounce of pity for Snape again, not when he could come out of the night with his comrades, stealing in past her girlish trust and murdering my wife-to-be in cold blood.
I imagine her blood flowing along with her hair in the dirty street and my stomach turns again.
Despite my Gryffindor roots and my love for my brothers, Lily is the reason I fight this war.
I don’t know if I believe in the war. If I believe in one thing, just one thing, I believe in her.
Now she is looking at me and I’m drawn in so helplessly to those green eyes, my confidence and charm and the thoughts that haunt me in my darkest nightmares all drowning together in the green pools of life and light. I am a puddle, and I cannot be, because she is dangerously close to crying. Her abused pencil looks as though it might tumble from her fingers at any moment.
She is speechless, and so I speak for her.
“Put McGonagall next to Sprout.” I say finally. “I always see them gossiping together.”
A slow smile spreads across her face like the smoldering embers of a forest fire, and I am amazed that each time I look at her, she is even more beautiful than she was the last time. “Sprout, of course.” She says quietly, her gentle voice making me want to rest for eternity.
I watch her pencil the name in with her neat cursive and I’ve never hated the war more.
I am very concerned that I will melt into the floor, and I am not the type to worry.
She kisses me, and on Christmas Day in a tiny house in Mill Town, I am obliterated.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story – this was a personal challenge for me, trying to write a James/Lily when I believe so strongly in Snape/Lily. However, I truly enjoyed writing this, and I would like to think that I did both James and Lily justice :)
This story was written for Singularity’s “Trust Me, I’m The Doctor” Challenge, and the quote from the summary (and story) was from Doctor Who. Specifically, it was spoken by the Tenth Doctor in Episode Nine of Season Two, which is entitled “The Satan Pit”.
Thanks again, and as always, I covet your reviews!