Chapter 1 : The Last Christmas
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The Stag and The Stars
The Last Christmas
The trees ripped at their clothes while branches clawed at their legs. One could not distinguish the two figures darting through the dark, Romanian forest, they moved so quickly. They separated, diving in different directions as flashes of red and yellow light illuminated the woods behind them.
“PADFOOT! BLOODY HELL, WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?” the figure with ruffled black hair yelled, as he leapt over a gnarled tree root.
“THEIR FACES! CAN YOU – WATCH IT PRONGS!” his companion replied, as bright flash of blue narrowly missed the one called Prongs.
“Dumbledore bloody owes us for this one. I’d like to see him running through this bleeding forest.”
Padfoot laughed as he weaved between trees, leaping over roots and ducking under stray branches. “Can you see him? Him and his beard? It’d get caught on a tree or something… Godric, it’d be fantastic! The Death Eaters would catch up with him and he’d be all ‘Oh, so sorry about this. My escape hasn’t quite gone according to plan, if you could hold on for a moment, you can continue cursing me when I’ve freed myself from this tree'.”
Prong’s glasses glinted in the moonlight that had begun to filter through the trees as he laughed. “At least he would have had a plan. He wouldn’t have needed to run for his life and endanger his beard.”
“Tru – MERLIN!”
“That was too close. Let’s go.”
The two boys continued to run towards the edge of the forest, waiting for that moment when the trees stopped and they could Apparate away.
Shrieks and cries of the Death Eaters filled the air, as their targets continually evaded their attacks. Despite the growing distress at their marks escaping them, laughter could be heard from the two figures, both with black hair, as they slowly broke away from the pack of masked individuals chasing them.
The trees slowly began to thin, before eventually ending entirely. When Padfoot and Prongs’ feet first hit the grass, they knew they were free of the sanctuary boarders. Matching smirks slowly spread across their faces as they turned on the spot with a small ‘pop’, leaving their assailants’ howling at waning moon when they discovered they were nowhere to be found in the frost-covered valley.
Three and a half miles away, at the bottom of a hill, the same two boys appeared almost instantly, dusting off their trousers and checking themselves for cuts and other injuries.
“Seriously though. Dumbledore owes us. Trolls? Terrible, but manageable. Giants, we were with Hagrid, so it wasn’t too bad… But dragons? No. I need a pay rise for dragons.”
“We don’t get paid, Pads.”
“My point exactly. I should be paid, then receive an instant raise.” Padfoot collapsed onto the ground, running his hands over his face.
“Right. And me? It’s Harry’s first Christmas and I’m in bloody Romania, freeing dragonologists from Death Eaters who want to use giant winged lizards to wipe out all of Muggle civilisation. I don’t care if I get paid - money I have - I just want to go home.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s done now.” Sirius stared at the icy dirt in front of him, expressionless for a moment, before continuing, forcing a smile. “We wait it out here until we hear word from Dumbledore saying we’ve got the all clear, then hightail it out of here ASAP. We’ll be home for New Year's yet.”
Prongs pointed his wand at the tiny pile of sticks they had collected that morning, lighting a diminutive fire, while Padfoot recast protective charms around their campsite. The two best friends then collapsed onto the hard ground, exhausted now the adrenaline was gone. Sirius conjured two bowls of soup that, while tasteless, were finished almost instantly.
“It’s almost a full moon. How do you think he’s coping?” While James didn’t say his name, it was clear whom he was talking about.
“I don’t know, Prongs. I don’t know. I just wish we could be there with him. I mean, he’s with the other werewolves, his own kind and whatever, but I don’t think that makes it any easier. If anything, it’d be worse, you know?”
James sighed, nodding his head slowly. “Peer pressure at its worst, ay? I know he’ll do something he’ll regret. And he’ll hate himself in the morning. Even when it’s not his fault, he always does…”
Padfoot nodded sadly. Tearing his eyes away from the moon, he stared at the flames licking their way along the twigs, brightly in the frosted night.
“Merry Christmas, James.”
“Merry Christmas, Sirius.”
James Potter stared out at the sky, hoping the clouds would thin so he could see the stars. The same stars that he pointed out to his baby son, saying “Look! That’s Sirius, your godfather; the brightest star in the sky, with the biggest ego to match.”
The same stars that would be looking down over Lily, halfway across the continent.
As he continued to wait for the clouds to disperse, Sirius slowly began to snore next to him. Chuckling to himself quietly, James conjured a bright pink blanket for his best friend, knowing that Padfoot would kill him when he found out.
He continued to lie there, staring at the night sky, when a wind picked up and the clouds slowly, slowly parted, revealing the cosmic universe behind them. He smiled to himself again, knowing his wife and son were safe and even if he couldn’t be with them this Christmas Eve, he’d have a lifetime more.
Taking off his glasses, he conjured a respectable Gryffindor-coloured blanket for himself, and closed his eyes, waiting for sleep to take him.
“Merry Christmas, Lily.”
In the sleepy village of Godric’s Hollow, located in West Country, England, a woman sat on her back step, sleeping baby in her arms.
She was wrapped up warmly from head to toe, complete with a scarlet and gold scarf around her neck. Only glimpses of her fiery hair were visible, peeping out beneath her beanie. Cooing down at the sleeping bundle, a jab of pain wrenched through her stomach as she was reminded that his father wasn’t here. Readjusting the tiny red beanie on her son’s head, she stared up at the cosmos.
Lily Potter instantly located Sirius and sent her wishes to the star, hoping that its human counterpart would keep her husband safe.
Harry stirred in her arms and - holding onto her Muggle childhood - she rocked him gently, sending him back to sleep, knowing St. Nick didn’t come if children were awake.
Snow began to gently fall, covering the already icy grass. She watched the snowflakes, absentmindedly picking up her wand off the step next to her. She thought of Sirius, keeping her husband safe. She thought of Harry, the baby wrapped in scarlet and gold in her arms. And she thought of James, and his smile. And his laugh.
A huge gray stag erupted from her wand, replacing the doe she had when her husband was near. The great silvery animal illuminated the dark garden as it ran a lap around the fence line, before coming to rest in front of her.
“I miss you so much,” she whispered, her words whisked away by the wind, lost to the night.
The stag heard her however, as it wandered over and lay down at her feet. It stared up at her with what Lily could only describe as a ‘James look’. She closed her eyes, unable to bear the silent words in the animal's gaze, before her attention was drawn to the bundle of blankets in her arms. Harry had begun to shift and squirm in his sleep. He was getting cold.
Lily stood and the stag’s eye’s followed her, before it too, slowly rose to its feet. As she opened the back door, she turned and gave the silver animal one final look.
“Merry Christmas, James.”