Winter had arrived and so had the luxury of Christmas recess. The seventh years were particularly grateful for the break from school as they had been assigned several tedious assignments that were due back at the return of classes.
Lily had always stayed at Hogwarts for Christmas, something she had grown accustomed to over the years. The castle was beautiful at that time of the year. Snow was caked over the ground, high and cold, shining with pure white beauty. Lily loved winter. Everyone seemed so happy, so high and mighty, and it was impossible to feel down.
A few days before school was officially out of session, James plopped down beside Lily and kissed her cheek. She had been reading a book about Godric Gryffindor, her house founder, when he had sat down next to her at the house table. She smiled and put down her book.
“So, what’re your plans for Christmas?” he asked her, rubbing her shoulders.
“Not much, really,” she confessed. “I was planning on staying here at the castle.”
“You don’t go home?” he questioned. “Doesn’t your family want to see you?”
“I suppose my mum does,” Lily sighed. “My sister is another story. She’s getting married this summer and if I were to stay, I would be swamped into illicit wedding plans. Trust me, I want anything but that.”
“Do you like the bloke she’s getting married to?” James inquired, seeing Lily’s saddened face.
“Not really,” she admitted. “Vernon Dursley is the prime definition of Muggle. He’s perfect for Petunia though. She hates anything out of the ordinary. I am just taking a stab at this, but I think that includes me.”
“What if you had some company along with you to endure the ride?” he proposed. She looked over at him to see if he was joking. He wasn’t.
“Are you serious?” she wondered. “You want to meet my family?”
“Why not?” he asked. “I like you, we’re dating now. I’d love to meet your family. Plus, I’m highly interested in the Muggle world.”
He must have seen her contemplation because he explained a bit more.
“The thing is,” he went on. “My parents are off on a trip to Italy right now, some sort of Auror work. I really want you to meet them, but they don’t return until the second week of break.”
He wanted her to meet his parents? That was the right thing to do in a relationship. He was doing the right thing, Lily felt differently. She tried to hide her insecurity of the whole matter and simply nodded.
“I’ll write to Mum tonight,” she whispered, kissing him on the lips before dashing out of the Great Hall.
If James had thought things were getting any easier now that they dated, he was starting to rethink that thought.
“What’s the matter with you?” Erin demanded, seeing her friend face down on her bed. Erin was throwing things into her trunk, messily of course, and packing for the train home.
“My mum said it was alright,” Lily groaned. “She even wrote that she was excited. Excited? Honestly, it’s as if I’ve never brought a guy home.”
“You haven’t,” Leah piped in, looking up from her magazine.
“But didn’t I bring Ethan home last summer?” Lily inquired.
“No,” Ruby answered for the rest of them. She was sitting on Erin’s trunk and trying to close it for her friend. “You dumped him before he met your mum. Remember?”
“You said the two of you were going to be friends,” Vita reminded. “That worked out so well.”
“Ethan?” Leah recalled. “Wasn’t he the Ravenclaw prefect who stopped me and Sirius in the halls last week? He was a git. You should have dumped him.”
Ruby rolled her eyes at her friend and continued trying to close the trunk.
“You-need-to-learn-to-pack-right,” she announced through gritted teeth. Erin tapped Ruby, indicating that her friend needed to step aside. With one big heave onto the trunk, she closed it successfully.
“How can someone so tiny have so much willpower?” Vita questioned, seeing Erin’s display of strength.
“Lily,” Erin said, trying to ignore Vita’s comment. “What is so wrong with acquainting your mum with your boyfriend?”
“Nothing, I guess,” Lily muttered. “But, you forgot about me meeting his parents. What if they don’t like me?”
“They will,” Leah and Erin insisted together.
“What if they don’t?” Lily whined.
“Pull yourself together woman,” Vita said, taking Leah’s magazine and hitting Lily’s head with it.
“Thanks,” Lily said, gaining her calm.
“I know Mr. and Mrs. Potter, they’re nice people,” Erin said, searching under her bed for more clothes. “On the bright side, I live right next door and you can come seek refuge whenever you need to.”
“We’ve only been dating a month,” Lily pointed out. “That’s not very long!”
“He likes you,” Vita declared. “A lot. We’re all so happy for you. You deserve someone like James Potter. It may have scared us at first, but now we’re used to it. So don’t mess it up!”
The group of girls laughed along with their friend, knowing all to well that they all felt the same. James was the nicest guy Lily had ever dated. He was someone who had been interested in her the entire time.
“Do you know how many people have lost bets because the two of you have stayed together for a month?” Leah proposed. Lily shrugged. “According to Sirius, twenty-nine people.”
“Twenty-nine people?” Lily cried. “That is absurd.”
“Yes,” Erin sighed. “It is. Sirius and Remus were one of those people.”
“I need to go out for a walk,” Lily proposed. She sat up and walked straight out of the dorm.
“She’s going to go and do something stupid,” Leah predicted. “We should go follow her.”
“Let her have her privacy,” Ruby snapped.
“I’m sorry,” Vita said. “But she’s right. We all know Lily’s more happy than she’s ever been with James. We can’t let her do something wrong.”
Leah and Vita rushed out of the dorm, walking down the steps.
“They don’t trust her,” Ruby whispered. “She’s their own friend and they don’t trust her.”
“You do?” Erin asked.
“Yes,” Ruby muttered.
“That’s a lie,” Erin called. “None of us trust her to decide what’s best for her. She’s proven us wrong so many times. It’s just expected now.”
“We’re horrible friends,” Ruby softly spoke, staring at the empty doorway.
“No,” Erin corrected. “We’re far too protective. She’s had so much hurt in her life that we can’t stand for her to hurt herself anymore.”
“I think you’re right,” Ruby agreed, wiping a small tear from her shockingly blue eyes.
As Lily walked through the halls, her thoughts jumbled into one big blur. Was she pathetic for not being secure in a relationship? Hadn’t she thrown her rules out the window more times than she could count for James? She liked him, liked him more than any other boy she had ever met.
She thought of the sweet way James said goodnight to her every single time she headed up for bed. She thought of the way he carefully kissed her, the way he hugged her so tight she felt safe. She thought of the way his hazel eyes looked into hers when they spoke to one another. She thought of the way he smiled so brightly when the two of them were together.
She felt her own lips form into a smile. James had that effect on her a lot lately. She was so caught up in her own thoughts that she barely noticed that she had run into someone. Her eyes snapped back to attention and she realized she was on the ground. She looked over to see Ethan Sullivan, the very same Ethan she had dumped last year, looking over at her. A pretty girl was standing up, looking down at the two of them.
“Ethan,” Lily said politely. “Marcel.”
The pretty Ravenclaw prefect nodded at Lily. The two of them must have been out on patrol.
“Sorry about bumping into you,” she apologized. “I was spacing out, I think.”
“Understandable,” Ethan said. “Potter does that to people.”
Lily looked sharply up at Ethan, his eyes were enjoying the awkwardness passing between the two of them. He was smiling innocently enough, although Lily could sense jealousy.
“That’s right,” Lily responded coldly. “Me and James are together. What’s it to you?”
“Nothing,” Ethan shrugged off. “Only the fact is that you dump me, a prefect, to go out with James Potter?”
“James is Head Boy, in case you’ve forgotten,” Lily reminded him, her voice snapping.
“Must have been those late night patrols that brought the two of you together. Sweet, really,” Ethan insisted. Lily didn’t like the sound of his voice. Marcel was standing uncomfortably on the other side of the hall now, staring at her shoes.
“What is your problem?” Lily demanded. “You’re being a jerk.”
“A jerk?” Ethan asked. “I’m the jerk? Lily, you tell me you want a break from relationships and now you’re with Potter. The infamous James Potter who has been chasing after you since fourth year.”
“We broke up last year, Ethan,” Lily reminded him. “Am I not allowed to move on?”
“Did you run out of guys, Lily?” he asked her. “Did you run out of victims? Was James Potter the only one willing to go out with you? When are you going to break the news to him? It has been a month already.”
“Your point?” Lily questioned.
“My point being that the guy only has two more months,” Ethan said. Lily felt tears burn her eyes. “Yet, he might be different. I hear you’re brining him home to meet your mum. You’ve never brought someone home to your mum. Are you not scared anymore?”
Lily couldn’t look at him. Ethan was just being bitter, but Lily couldn’t help but take in his words. He was right, she was scared.
“You don’t really want to take him home, do you? He isn’t different, is he? You’re just leading him on, just like every other guy at Hogwarts. People don’t change, Lily. He didn’t change, you didn’t change. You’re still James Potter and Lily Evans, two of the least compatible people to come across one another at Hogwarts,” he informed her, his eyes dangerous now. He seemed to be staring straight at her.
“You know I’m right, Lily,” he told her. “You’re still scared. Nothing’s different.”
A cough came from the other end of the hallway and Lily saw James. He looked at Ethan suspiciously and helped Lily up.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, looking over at a frightened Marcel.
“Nothing,” Ethan insisted. “Just ran into Lily here and we’ve been catching up.”
“Is that true, Lily?” James asked softly. She was shaking, not saying a word.
“Come on,” James said, putting his arm around Lily and steering her away from Ethan.
Once they reached the Portrait Hole, Lily stopped. She couldn’t go any further, she couldn’t lead him on.
“What did that jerk say to you?” James asked, seeing her pale face and her teary eyes.
“James, I don’t know if things are going to work out,” Lily said. “I don’t know if I can bring you home for Christmas.”
“Is this about that guy back there? Did he talk to you about us?” James questioned.
Lily didn’t answer.
“Lily, he’s jealous. He is just jealous. Don’t listen to him. What we have is real,” James insisted.
“Is it?” Lily asked, feeling her warm tears make their way down her face.
James stood there for a moment, looking into his girlfriend’s eyes. She was staring down at the floor. She couldn’t bare to see him hurt.
“You never wanted to take me home for Christmas, did you?” he asked her, finally putting pieces together. “You never wanted to take a chance. You were just lonely and I was there. I should have known it was too good to last. You know what, Lily Evans? I am not going to hear that speech from you. I am not going to be like everyone else. No one’s ever hurt you, have they? You haven’t let them. Guess what? Now we’ll never know what could have become of us. I’m not going to sit around and be lead on. It was all or nothing with me. I guess you just didn’t want it.”
With that, he opened the Portrait Hole and disappeared inside. Lily felt tears come more quickly now. She fell to the floor and just cried for what felt like hours. She didn’t even hear the footsteps turn down the hall.
Once Sirius, Leah, and Vita turned the corner, they removed the Invisibility cloak. Sirius reached inside his pocket and pulled out a heavy bag. He handed it to Leah.
“Ninety galleons,” he announced quietly. “You were the winner. One month. The two of them lasted one month.”
Sirius and Vita looked sadly over at Leah, knowing that the three of them had just witnessed something indescribably unfortunate.
“Victory doesn’t feel so sweet right now,” Leah told them sadly.
A/N: Please review. I know you all must hate me right now (or Ethan, or even Lily). Actually, most likely me because I created those characters in this fic. Hmm..something to think about. However you feel, leave it behind in a review.