Everything outside was covered in a layer of pure white. The usually drab houses of the neighbourhood appeared to be out of fairy-tale books, and even the depressing outline of Spinner’s End was looking less miserable. The trees of the nearby park were dusted with white floury powder, and the snowflakes seemed to be dancing in the darkening sky.
It was not yet dark, but soon, the lights and decorations in the windows would be switched on, adding a festive air to the picturesque picture.
Two figures, wrapped up in warm cloaks and scarves and caps, made their way through the park. One was tall; a few wisps of blond hair were visible under her cap and fell down on her angular face. The other girl had red hair, two long bunches formed into pigtails spilled out from under her white cap. Her emerald eyes sparkled as she drew ahead of her sister.
“You’re going to drop it,” her sister’s voice invaded the redhead’s joyous haze. It was snowing, how could she not? Dancing with the snowflakes and relishing in their pureness was what made winter Lily’s favourite season. Petunia was only a couple of years older than her, but did she have to act so … old?
“There’s a possibility I won’t,” she replied, turning in circles with the shopping net in one hand.
“You’re acting childish, Lily. Let’s just head home. I don’t particularly want to be seen with you blowing something up and I don’t know why we had to go both. I have things to do.”
“Oh Tuney, screw those things! Come on, it’s not going to kill you!” Choosing to ignore the first part of Petunia’s statement, Lily took her sister’s shopping bags from her, and dumped them onto the bench in the rain shelter they had just passed.
She dragged Petunia with her; her sister was only slightly struggling now. “Mum doesn’t expect us back yet anyway. Look,” she pointed to the sky, her head tilted upwards, and she felt the snow crystals melt on her skin.
“It’s so pretty,” Petunia couldn’t help that her voice had become soft.
“It is,” Lily agreed. A mischievous glimmer flitted over her eyes and she turned abruptly to grab her older sister’s hands, spinning them both around.
Lily could see the struggle on Petunia’s face. Should she enjoy her sister’s childish antics or block them out? Lily laughed at Tuney’s face, then changed her tune into a reel.
“We can be responsible adults later, Tuney. Do it with me, just this once,” she did not know why she felt the need to convince her sister to do this, maybe for their childhood’s sake, wanting to feel close to her sister once more, during this time of the year.
Petunia’s stiff posture relaxed a bit, as she matched her steps to Lily’s, although she rolled her eyes for show.
They grinned at each other, Lily remembering their adventures before she had learned what she was. She hoped Tuney would remember as well.
Petunia changed their rhythm again, and Lily started choking out the lyrics of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ between her giggles.
She could not help her exuberant mood; she and Tuney had drifted apart in the years gone by, and were both on the verge to adulthood now. She hoped there would still be moments like this though. They were rare but even more precious between their usual fights. Perhaps one day, they’d remember only the good times.
Lily sent her Christmas wish up to the stars, hoping that whoever was up there would grant her that.
“Craazyy, that’s what you are!” Petunia told her, but in contrast to so many other times, she had said it in a teasing tone.
Lily responded with a grin and by picking up speed.
They were whirling around, marking the formerly blank canvas of snow with their footprints, all the while singing off key, until they sunk down into the snow.
“I don’t want to grow up, Tuney. How long until we can’t just be young again like this, if only for a short time?” Lily mused aloud, wanting to hold on to that magical moment. And yet, while she thought that, the tune of the popular Muggle Christmas song mixed with some off-key rendition of ‘O Ye Merry Hippogriff’ in her mind. She dared not think who those voices belonged to.
“Sooner than we’d like,” Petunia replied. Lily tried to decipher her tone, holding onto the thought that she had heard a trace of sadness in her sister’s voice.
They went home in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.
Lily and Petunia rounded the corner and turned into their street. As their house came into view, Lily could see a grey Ford Anglia parked in front of it. Lily’s face contorted into a frown, while Petunia seemed to have a whole different reaction. Her relaxed posture straightened, and she started fussing with the jacket and cap, miraculously looking prim and proper with only a few movements of her hand.
As Petunia hurried up to greet her boyfriend, Lily could see her sister take the back seat, to be replaced again with the girl who looked down condescendingly on her for being a witch.
At New Years, fireworks illuminated the sky, glowing in the dark night sky and casting colourful lights on the white snow.
Lily had caught up with some of the neighbour kids who she used to play with and spend some time with during holidays. Now she was back in front of her own house, watching the display with her family.
Her father was trying to set up a rocket of his own, which was made even more difficult by Vernon’s interventions. While Lily and her mother tried to stifle their laughs, Petunia looked on with a frown on her face and her hands neatly clasped in front of her.
“No, Harold, put it in the other way! I’ve been doing it this way for years, my father instructed me early on in things like this,” Vernon insisted.
Vernon, Petunia’s boyfriend, had spent New Year’s Eve with them, to ‘get to know the marvellous family of his wonderful Petunia’. Ugh, Lily could not believe her sister would go out with someone as pompous and smug, not to mention as … blustering as Vernon Dursley. Yes, Tuney was uptight, but she got even worse whenever that man was around.
Lily hoped the relationship would not last, as nasty as she felt about it, but Tuney definitely deserved someone better.
“Daddy? It’s almost 12 o’clock, do you think you’ll manage it in this year?” she teased her father. It was a well-known fact that her father, an office worker and gifted with two left hands when it came to practical things, was always excited about putting on the perfect fireworks display for his three little flowers, as he called them. But he always managed to end it in a mess somehow.
“Harold, this is going to end in a complete disaster, let me do it.” Lily hated that that inconsiderate man had to butt in like that. Did he have to be that self-righteous?
Her father stepped back to stand beside Lily and his wife Iris, a disheartened expression on his face. “Right, Vernon, I know I probably shouldn’t …”
“Too right, Harold, seeing one’s failures is the first step to improvement,” Vernon answered, oblivious to Lily’s furious, Iris’s agitated, and Harold’s perplexed expression. Lily would have liked nothing more than to throttle Vernon Dursley, but kept herself in check and hugged her father around the waist instead. Lily could see that Petunia was standing a few feet away, between Vernon and the rest of her family, with her head bowed.
The chiming of the church bells saved them from further discussing fireworks and her mother distributed the glasses with sparkling wine. They clinked glasses, whishing each other a happy New Years. The mood seemed a little awkward but the only one who did not seem to notice was Vernon, and Petunia pretended that everything was fine.
If Lily thought her mood had reached a new low, she was mistaken.
The others had already turned around to go back inside, when she caught a glimpse of a tall, lanky figure with a curtain of greasy black hair. She heard him call her name, but that only made her rush to the safety of the house faster. She did not need this on top of everything else to start off her year.
They wrapped up the evening pretty fast after that, none of them in the mood for a social gathering. Lily was glad her sister’s boyfriend had finally left. Petunia had retreated to her room, and Lily left her parents after some loving words to their tête-à-tête.
In her room, she flopped down on her bed. What a year, she mused to herself. She had aced her OWLs. She did not want to admit it, but she had definitely grown apart from her family. Not so much from her parents, perhaps, but definitely from her sister. She had lost her childhood friend, the one who had shown her magic. And yet she told herself this was only normal when growing up.
On her dresser, she still had Severus’s Christmas present, a new potion kit and a letter. Against her better judgement, she had opened it. It contained an apology and pleas for her to understand and forgive him. He asked her to meet him. But could she do it? Should she do it? Right next to his letter was a copy of the Daily Prophet. On the front page were a picture and a report about the newest attack of those so-called Death Eaters on a family. The parents had both been Muggle-born. Mudbloods. The word still sounded in her ears, and for Severus to use it so readily, she guessed it was not the first time he had said it.
No, she realised, Tuney had already chosen her path, and so had Severus. They’d had a past, but it too had gone like the old year. She hoped they would at some point get past their current problems, she really did, but that time was not now.
She sighed once more, and resolutely got up to throw his letter away. No use in keeping it. In the bin, there was another letter. She had thrown it in unopened, instantly recognising the messy scrawl and the owl that had delivered it.
She took it out and turned it around in her hands. It was from James Potter, the bane of her existence since first year. He seemed to go out of his way to infuriate her. Maybe she should just read it; after all, her mood could not get any worse.
As she ripped the envelope open, a dried white lily fell out. It was far too big to have fitted into that tiny envelope, she thought as she picked it up, but scolded herself immediately. Of course James had used magic, even if he was underage.
I hope you opened my letter. Did you open my letter? On the off-chance that you did, I wish you a very happy Christmas! I would have got you more than that lily, but I did not know what you wanted. Let me know if you want something, yeah?
Sirius thinks the lily thing is corny, but I’m currently ignoring him anyway. He’s in the kitchen right now, bothering Mum and our houseelf for biscuits. So that should give me some time to write to you. Fantastic, isn’t it?
Remus and Peter are coming over as well in a few days, Mum says she needs to restock before that. I do not understand her. Just because we have a healthy appetite doesn’t mean she needs to buy out Diagon Alley.
So, there’s a party here on New Year’s Eve. You can be my date, ok? It will be totally awesome! Send me a quick reply when you want me to pick you up, since you haven’t been here before, ok? Great!
Crud, he’s coming back. He’ll probably think I’m obses – uh, I mean, that I’m trying to charm you again.
See you at the party!
PS: Send back your reply with my owl. Or you can also use yours to deliver the letter. Send it to Godric’s Hollow, Potter Mansion. Got that? Ok, waiting for your answer!
Arrogant little prick. Always asking her out. Thank goodness she hadn’t opened it until after New Years was over. Although, the party with James could not have been worse than that evening with Vernon. She smiled involuntarily at the thought of pitching them together. Maybe she should grant Potter that one date if he hexed Vernon to Timbuktu for her. On second thought, it probably still wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice.
Silly Potter. That letter was so typically him. She went to sleep that night, the thoughts of Vernon Dursley and the regrets about Petunia and Severus forgotten. She was planning a certain someone’s painful demise.
The day she was scheduled to get back to Hogwarts, she woke up really early. Everything was packed, including Potter’s letter. For some reason she could not – or would not – throw it away. Sev’s, no, she corrected herself, Snape’s potion kit was not packed, but she would no longer feel guilty about that.
When she heard the first noises from her family, she went down to enjoy breakfast in the warm, cosy kitchen.
Yes, she loved how her parents fussed over her, yet she was also feeling excited at the thought of going back to Hogwarts, and the Wizarding World in general. It was where she really belonged.
Soon enough, she was following her father who was pushing the luggage trolley through the crowd at King’s Cross.
“Bye Mum, bye Dad. Bye Petunia,” she hated saying goodbye; so she hugged them all extra tightly.
Lily took hold of the trolley handle, and pushed through the barrier to platform 9 ¾. Immediately, she could sense the wonder and excitement she still felt after more than five years grip her.
She was roused from her thoughts by an, all too familiar, voice. “Hey Evans, dreaming about me again? How was your break? Had a good Christmas? You missed the best party ever. I guess you didn’t get my letter, then? No matter, do you want to start off the new year with a new boyfriend?” James Potter greeted her, never letting her get a word in edgewise.
“Potter, there’s only one of us who seems to be dreaming or rather having delusions Don’t make me say it again.”
Lily turned on her heel, but not before flicking him over the head. To a barking laugh - of course she should have known Black would be there as well - she flounced off towards the train.
Some things, at least, had not changed at all.
Happy holiday everyone!
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