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The Brave at Heart by marauderfan
Chapter 30 : Holmes for the Holidays
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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December arrived with a fresh, thick layer of snow on the Hogwarts grounds, and, as was customary, a majority of students could be found making use of it by having a massive snowball fight. The first big snowball fight of the year was always great. It would start out as a bunch of small groups of friends having individual snowball fights, and then it would evolve into one massive one that involved people from all four Houses.

But as December went on, people started looking forward to the end of term, which meant being able to go home and spend Christmas with their families. Home was Mandy’s house now, and I was looking forward to the holidays, though the nostalgia of past Christmases when my family was whole and happy continued to pop up in my mind. The only downside of spending the holiday with Mandy this time was that it meant I’d have to spend a few weeks away from Sirius.

It had always seemed to me that time sped up when you had more things to do. And with N.E.W.T. work, Quidditch, figuring out my post-Hogwarts life, and trying to spend any free time with Sirius, half of December had slipped by before I knew it.

One Wednesday, about a week and a half before the end of term, I was in the library trying to catch up on my homework, a feat that was proving to be rather difficult due to the fact that Sirius was with me. I had actually convinced him to study for once, but rather than doing our work together we just kept getting distracted by each other.

Remus came by at one point to collect some books, and then walked over to where Sirius and I were sitting by the window. He was grinning. “Well, you’ve got Padfoot under your thumb, haven’t you,” he teased me. “I can’t remember the last time I was able to get him to study in the library.”

“I have my ways,” I said mysteriously. In truth, it hadn’t been that difficult – I had told him that I needed to study, and given how little time we had with each other anyway, he’d decided to join me. “N.E.W.T.s also have their ways of scaring people into studying,” I added. “No one is immune to that, no matter how smart you are.”

“I don’t think it’s the N.E.W.T.s that convinced him to study,” Remus said knowingly. “We had the same amount of homework yesterday but he was sitting in the common room making ink bottles chase each other for at least half an hour.”

“They were playing Quidditch,” said Sirius as if this had been obvious. “Get lost, Moony.”

“Are you ever going to tell me what those nicknames mean?” I asked, looking from Sirius to Remus hopefully.

The two boys glanced at one another. “Sometime,” said Sirius, shrugging. “But that’s neither here nor there. I thought you were worried about N.E.W.T.s.”

Remus left us and continued out of the library with his seven books, and Sirius and I went back to work. I was rather surprised to discover just how good at Transfiguration he was; of course, I had known that he was good at it, because he was always one of the first to manage a new spell in class, but I hadn’t realised how naturally it came to him.

At one point I paused from my work when I heard a muted buzzing noise. It sounded eerily familiar, putting into mind another time when I had been in the library and had discovered Mulciber using the Imperius Curse on Althea Seward.

“Do you hear that?” I asked Sirius.

“Yeah.” He looked around, and when neither of us could see any source for the noise, I got up out of my seat and went to investigate. I looked behind the nearest bookshelf. Sirius followed me. “What are you doing?”

In a low whisper I briefly related what had happened last time I heard that sound, and how it was a charm one of them had done to block out the noise of what they were doing. Sirius looked around the next bookshelf, and walked to the end of it. I followed behind him, and sure enough, there at a table were Lester Avery, Calvin Mulciber, and Severus Snape. On the table between them was a pile of useless trinkets and rubbish, including a very old looking book, an oddly shaped rock, and some pieces of jewellery, mostly bracelets. One of them even looked like the blue and gold watch from the trophy room last year…

I edged along the bookshelf even more. They didn’t seem to be practising Dark Magic on students this time, at any rate. But why were they so keen to not be overheard?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to determine anything. After a few minutes, the noise went away, and they were only talking about Selma Yaxley. Apart from the buzzing, nothing out of the ordinary had happened at the table. I had probably been here too long anyway; it was because of me that those three had got a month of detentions last time, so if they saw me lurking again, I’d be their next victim for sure. What I needed was to find a more subtle way of finding out what they were doing. I stepped back and shrugged, and Sirius stopped looking through the shelf and went with me back to our study corner.

“I feel sort of uneasy about that,” I told Sirius once we were seated again, away from the mysterious activities of the other Slytherins. “I mean, they could just want to be quiet when they talk about girls, but given what happened last time, I bet there was more going on than it looked like. I’m pretty sure they had that watch on the table, the one that made Remus unconscious last year.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” said Sirius with a nasty scowl. “Snivellus has never been up to anything good.”

I wondered how smart it had been of me to inform Sirius about what was going on. If anyone could find out what those three were up to, Sirius might be able to, but he and Snape had hated each other since first year, and I worried that Sirius might now try something extremely rash to attempt getting Snape in trouble.

“We can’t prove anything yet,” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder as if to stop him from suddenly leaping up and turning Snape into a buzzard. But he didn’t go anywhere. I pulled my Transfiguration textbook back onto my lap and we returned to the studying we had been doing, although now I was listening intently for any noise out of the ordinary.



Later, I sat in the common room composing an application letter for the three-year training course I’d have to take in the Department of Mysteries following Hogwarts. Gathered around me were a few crumpled bits of parchment, remnants of previous drafts of the application. It was now a week until the end of term, which meant a week until Slughorn’s annual Christmas party. That was the last thing on my mind because I was not going this year, and I had other things to think about such as this application, but Mandy had been talking about it for the past two days.

Mandy walked into the room and sat in a chair beside me, and almost instantly unleashed a string of nonsense about various boys she was considering asking to go to the Slug Club Christmas party with her. She seemed to be mulling it over to herself, but every once in a while she’d look over at me furtively. I knew from experience that this meant she wanted me to provide her with advice, but she didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. I sighed and put my quill down, careful to not leave a blot of ink in what was so far proving to be an excellent fifth try to this letter.

“Who’s the lucky man this time?” I asked. “Have you decided who to ask?”

She sighed dramatically. “I don’t know,” she said. “I want to ask Roderick Cadwallader, but I don’t think he really likes me that much. But maybe I’ll just go with someone as a friend, like I did with you last year. I have more options if I just go with someone as a friend. Russell would go with me. Or Hector. Or maybe I won’t ask anyone at all.”

“This doesn’t have to be so complicated, you know,” I said. “It’s only Slughorn’s party. Just pick someone.”

Her eyes widened and she stared at me like I was crazy. “It is complicated!”

“Well, one thing you told me ages ago, when I was doubting myself over the Yule Ball – you said it would be more fun going with James because we were friends, rather than worrying about whether Luke liked me. Maybe just ask a friend, someone you know really well.”

“So not Roderick,” she said to herself. She continued to sit there, her chin in her hands as she stared into the fire. “But… I don’t know…” Then she began picking at the upholstery of the chair.

I got the sense there was another complication she wasn’t telling me about. She usually told me everything about her love life, whether or not I wanted to hear it, so it had to be something significant. And then it hit me with the force of a stampeding hippogriff: There was one specific person she wanted to ask, but she didn’t know whether he fit into the category of friend or something more… Remus.

“What about Remus?” I asked. Her head jerked up. So that had indeed been the dilemma. “I’m sure he’d go with you; you are great friends, after all.”

“I’ll just make sure to clarify to him that it’s just as friends,” she said, looking heartened that I hadn’t thought it was a stupid idea to ask him. She grinned and stood up. “Thanks, Mel. And good luck on your application letter. I still can’t believe you’re applying for a top-secret job even though you can never keep your mouth shut. What are you looking at?”

While Mandy had been speaking, I had been staring past her at Lester, Mulciber, and Snape, who were gathered in a corner again, laughing; Mulciber had affixed a thick silver bracelet on his wrist. I performed a quick charm and held my wand up to my ear. The intention was for it to magnify sound, but rather than isolating the sound of the group in the corner, I just heard a lot of amplified voices from all over the entire room.

“That’s a great one, Sherlock Holmes,” said Mandy sarcastically. “Keep it up. No one can tell what you’re up to at all.”

“What?” I asked, taking my wand down.

“He’s a detective,” she explained. “Muggle books, so you probably haven’t read them. But he’s a much better detective than you.” I scowled. Mandy looked over at the three in the corner again. “Maybe he’s just getting in touch with his feminine side,” she mused.

“No idea,” I said. They had always gathered in corners and talked in secret – they’d been friends for years – but ever since I’d seen them hurting other students I’d been increasingly more distrustful of them and even the most commonplace things they did seemed sinister. And now I began thinking about that old watch again. I’d forgotten about it months ago, dismissing it as unimportant, but what if it wasn’t?

Mandy left and headed for the girls’ staircase. On the way she passed the group in the corner and I heard her say, “Nice bracelet, Mulciber. Where’d you get it from, your grandmother? Did she give you a tiara to go with it?”

They stared up at her disdainfully as she skipped off up the stairs. If they were doing anything illegal, they certainly couldn’t draw attention to themselves, so maybe they had to keep quiet. I just wished I knew what it was they were doing.

On Monday, Mandy finally got around to asking Remus about Slughorn’s party. I could hear her from a fair distance away as I walked up into the queue for Defence Against the Dark Arts that afternoon. “I’m only asking if you want to go with me as my friend,” she was saying. “We’re still friends, right? Last year I went with Melanie – that was hardly a date.”

I suppose she must have been convincing, because he agreed to go with her. Shortly after that, Professor Thornhill let the class in, and Mandy was rather distracted during the entire class period. That was not unusual for a girl in the class, because many of them, particularly Veronica Smethley, still spent more time staring at the professor rather than taking notes, but it was unusual for Mandy to be so unfocused in class.

After class that afternoon was the last Slytherin Quidditch practise of the term. The other three houses had each reserved one of the other days for their practises, and then we’d all be gone on Friday. Usually we had several practises in a week, but all the teams wanted some last minute time on the pitch before we all left for the holidays.

Hector worked us particularly hard since we wouldn’t be practising together again until January. The air was freezing, and snow blew in our faces, but these were the conditions we’d likely be dealing with when we played against Gryffindor in February. At the end of a grueling practise, Hector decided to send us off with some fun, so he replaced the Quaffle with a large snowball, and charmed two other snowballs to be Bludgers. Of course, it didn’t work as well, but we ended on a good note and it raised our spirits after two hours of hard practise. Hector reminded us to play Quidditch over the holidays if we got the chance, and then, completely soaked with snow and sweat, we all went back up to the castle.

Although I still had icy water dripping from my hair, I was more hungry than anything else, so rather than stopping to change my clothes, I went to the Great Hall for dinner instead. Sirius and James were in the middle of a discussion, but as I approached the Gryffindor table, Sirius looked up at me and grinned, even though James was talking to him. “Hi,” he said. Somehow, I’d out-competed even James for Sirius’s attention. I didn’t know that was possible, particularly when I looked as disgusting as I did right now.

I sat down beside Sirius and took a piece of bread from his plate. “Don’t let me interrupt you,” I said.

“You’re not interrupting,” said Sirius. “We were just talking about you, actually. I’m staying with Prongs for the holidays, as you know, and you should come visit for New Year’s! Lily is coming for a few days too, to see Prongs. And his parents loved you, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you coming to stay.”

I was a bit surprised to hear Sirius say that James’s parents had liked me – perhaps they’d missed the considerable amount of drama Mandy and I had created?

“Lily’s going to be there?” I said. “Ooh, she’ll be meeting James’s parents for the first time.” I dished an enormous helping of steak and kidney pie onto my plate, and an equally large serving of steamed vegetables. Quidditch had really tired me out today.

“I’m sure they’ll love her, though,” said Sirius. “James has told them nothing but good things about her for years.”

I laughed. “She’s got a reputation to live up to, then. I’d probably be nervous if I were her! At least the two of us will never have to be worried about meeting each other’s parents, because we’ve both been disowned.”

“Right. I think my parents would hate you, anyway; you’re not a pureblood and you’re far too outspoken. But that’s why I ran away; I don’t want to be surrounded by people like them.”

Not to mention my table manners, which must look pretty rubbish at the moment as I sat there with dripping robes and shoveled food into my mouth. Sirius’s family would probably disapprove of anyone who behaved thus. “My parents love the Blacks, because you’re a proper pureblood family, but I don’t think they’d take too kindly to a rebel like you.”

“Well, we don’t need their approval. So how about it then? Are you going to visit me?”

“Thanks, I’d love to,” I said. This Christmas holiday was looking better and better for me! I continued eating my mountain of food, and then I started to get rather cold because my hair and robes were still wet with melted snow. I wanted to sit there and kept talking with Sirius, which I did until he pointed out that I was shivering, so I finally left to go have a warm shower.



On the 23rd, I woke up with excitement. The Christmas holidays had arrived, and today we were going to catch the train back home. I looked over at Mandy’s bed and saw, with no surprise at all, that she was still asleep. Slughorn’s party had been last night, and based on the amount of mead that was usually present at these functions, I had a feeling Mandy would not be particularly sociable when she woke up.

Even though Rachel had been at Slughorn’s party as well, she was awake, having left all of her packing until this morning. She scowled at me as I stretched luxuriously and got out of bed. According to Rachel, it was never appropriate to be happy at this time of the morning.

“You have way too much energy for half seven in the morning,” she muttered. “Do you want to pack for me and let me sleep in an extra half hour?”

“Didn’t you ever learn the packing charm?” I asked. “It takes only half a minute!”

“I did learn it, but I can never get it to work properly,” she lamented. She demonstrated; items of clothing zoomed off the floor, books flew from under the bed, and they all landed in a haphazard mess in and around her trunk such that she was still not able to close it.

“That’s not so much the charm not working, it’s just that you have too many clothes.”

“I would use a Shrinking Charm, but it never seems to reverse properly when I unpack. Especially the jumpers, the sleeves never lengthen again to how they were.” She resumed packing by hand, rolling up her clothes tightly and wedging them into her trunk.

I didn’t have that much left to pack, so I took my time getting ready. I waited for Charlotte to wake up and then we went to breakfast together. Mandy was still sleeping, but I got some toast for her from the Great Hall. When we went back down to our dormitory, however, I finally woke Mandy up to make sure she wouldn’t miss the train.

After that, it was the typical hustle and bustle of all the students getting on the train, which always took a lot longer than it needed to, and always involved at least three or four people sprinting back to the castle a few minutes after they’d left it, having forgotten one item or another. But eventually everyone made it down to the train, walked aboard, and watched the snow swirl around the towers of Hogwarts from a distance as the train moved down the tracks.

I spent most of the train ride with Mandy, Charlotte, Hector, and Russell. That group always provided interesting conversation, what with Mandy’s inability to stop talking, and Hector’s weirdness. Mandy gave us a detailed list of all the things she was hoping to get for Christmas, which of her relatives always cooked the best Christmas feast, what her favourite Christmas carol was this year, and so on. Hector told us of his ambitious plans to build the most enormous snowman in existence and then charm it to climb on buildings like King Kong. I hoped he’d take a picture and owl it to all of us, but he insisted it would be so amazing that it’d be featured in the Daily Prophet at some point over the holiday and we should look for it.

Towards the end of the train journey, I left the compartment and went to join Sirius. He was sitting near the back of the train in a compartment with the other Gryffindor boys. He hadn’t seen me walk up, so I decided to do what he’d done on the train ride in September and smashed my hands up against the glass, grimacing. Then I walked in nonchalantly.

“You could have just said ‘hello,’” said Remus with a laugh.

“I could have, but I didn’t,” I said, sitting beside Sirius as he wrapped his arm around me. “How are you lot?”

It was only a few more minutes before Lily came in to the compartment as well and squeezed in next to James, and all six of us had a very pleasant last hour of the train ride. It was nice to be such good friends with Lily again – what with each of dating one of the Marauders, we’d spent a lot of time together recently. Of course, we’d been friends since first year, in that little group that had met on the train, but since that group had drifted apart, it was only recently that Lily and I were truly becoming close again.

The train eventually pulled into the King’s Cross station. I looked out the window happily. This was the first time I wouldn’t be getting off to face my father’s insults and glares, so I didn’t have my usual desire to remain on the train as long as humanly possible.

As it were, we couldn’t get off the train immediately anyway, because the corridor on the train was blocked. Hector and Althea had been going opposite directions in the corridor and had got their trunks stuck. Rather than fixing it, they had just stopped to talk. I smiled upon seeing them, and I made no move to hurry off the train, giving them a little extra time. That is, until Sirius wondered what was holding everyone up and charmed the trunks out of the door. Althea and Hector ran out after their belongings, and the six of us in our compartment filed out the door, trunks in hand.

“See you in about a week!” said Peter as he stepped off the train.

“A week?” I asked, confused.

“You didn’t think James would leave us to have a boring New Years by ourselves, did you?” said Remus, laughing as he walked off after me. “We’re going to be there too.”

“That’s great!” I said. New Year’s was going to be quite a celebration. We walked through the magical barrier into the Muggle world and I looked around for Mandy. I saw her waving at me from way up the platform, so I started getting ready to leave and join her.

Lily bade us goodbye and began walking towards a couple who were looking around happily at all the students carrying owl cages and broomsticks. Next to them was a thin blonde girl who looked rather similar to Lily, apart from the expression of obvious distaste on her face. As I remembered, Lily’s discovery that she was a witch when she was eleven had driven a wedge between her and her elder sister, and no matter how hard Lily tried for reconciliation, Petunia would have none of it.

My goodbye with Sirius was cut short when I heard Mandy say, “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, you’re going to see each other in a week. Come on.”

I laughed and gave Sirius one last kiss, then joined Mandy. Sirius went off to find James, which probably wasn’t too difficult given that much of the crowd of students had departed by this point. Mandy and I located her parents and hugged them in greeting, and then we set off for their flat. The city looked almost as lovely as Hogwarts did for the holidays, as we passed an ice skating rink and wound through snowy streets lined with lights of all colours and colossal Christmas trees.

Once we’d gotten home, now that we were away from the ears of all our friends and alone for the first time since before Slughorn’s party, Mandy told me about the debacle that the party had been in her opinion. Even though she and Remus had agreed they would go as friends, both of them knew that wasn’t entirely true, and still Remus kept holding back. She said all of their conversations had seemed very awkward. It couldn’t have been as bad as all that, because she came back from the party long after I’d gone to sleep. Regardless, I felt a bit guilty being so happy in my own relationship.

But having shared the whole story with me, Mandy felt much better and started to get back into Christmas mode. Christmas was Mandy’s favourite day of the year; some years she’d even start a countdown for it in September. The flat was all adorned with festive decorations, and yet there were still more preparations to be done while Mandy chattered excitedly the whole time.

Mandy’s grandparents came over on Christmas day (her mum’s parents, which meant we didn’t have to worry about the obvious magic all around the house), and there was a delicious feast and presents – it was the way Christmas was supposed to be.

After Christmas, Mandy and I passed our days baking more gingerbread, listening to our new records, and playing Muggle games that she had around her house. She insisted Cluedo was practise for my self-appointed detective mission of spying on the other Slytherins.

And even though I’d be seeing Sirius in a week, he still wrote to me. I had been trying to avoid getting roped into a six-hour game of Monopoly with Mandy when Sirius’s owl arrived, providing me with the perfect escape. I grabbed the letter from the owl and jumped onto my bed, curling up among the pillows as I read the letter. When I got out a quill and ink to reply, Mandy finally took the hint that I’d rather not play Monopoly.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, I opened up the Daily Prophet and nearly spat tea all over it when I saw an article near the bottom of the page entitled: “Snowman Climbs Big Ben Clock Tower And Startles Muggles.” The article went on to describe how twenty-nine Muggles had had to be Obliviated after a London teenager had caused a massive snow Yeti to scale the tower. It had not made it very high up before the perpetrator, a certain Hector Branstone, was caught by the Magical Law Enforcement. That was probably a good thing – scores more people would have needed to be Obliviated had the snowman made it any higher.

I tried to read the article aloud to Mandy when she came in, but I couldn’t stop laughing and finally just told her to come read it herself. We had never expected Hector’s scheme to amount to anything. And he’d even made it into the Daily Prophet, though perhaps not in the way he intended. I was really looking forward to hearing about it again from his point of view when we got back to school.

After breakfast, as I was packing a few things in preparation to set off for James’s house, I was again burdened by guilt. I was off to spend New Year’s with my boyfriend, and Mandy was going to be here. She hadn’t been invited, even though she was just as close with the other Gryffindors as I was. But she seemed to be more understanding of this than I expected.

“What are you doing for New Year’s?” I asked as I packed my toothbrush.

“I’m going to visit my cousins,” said Mandy. “Don’t you feel sorry for me, because I don’t. It’s not like James and Sirius could invite all of their friends – half of Hogwarts would be there. I’ll see you in a couple of days, okay?”

“Okay,” I said with a smile. “Have a great time!”

“You too!” I gave her a hug, and then grabbed my bag to leave.

With a twirl I Apparated onto James’s front porch steps, and Sirius answered the door. I grinned and flung my arms around him, and he kissed me in greeting. Then he led me inside. We stepped through the doorway into the elegant hall; I had almost forgotten how lovely James’s house was. But I kept my head this time and didn’t gawk at the chandelier.

James and Lily came around a corner into the hall. “You’re here!” said Lily excitedly. “I was just wondering when you’d arrive.”

“When did you get here?”

“Earlier this morning,” she said. “Do you want to put your bag down? You and I are sharing a room upstairs; you can drop off your stuff there.”

We walked upstairs and she led me into the same room Mandy and I had shared over the summer. I put my bag down near one of the beds and we went back downstairs where James and Sirius were talking.

Sirius wrapped his arm around my waist as I returned to the hall, and then the four of us began walking into the sitting room. James’s mum must have heard the noise of Lily and me running up and down the stairs, because she walked in, and upon seeing me, the most recent addition to the party, she greeted me warmly.

“Melanie, it’s lovely to see you again,” she said genuinely.

“Thank you so much for letting me stay here,” I told her.

“Of course, dear.” She smiled. “We love having people over to celebrate the New Year. And with you being Sirius’s girlfriend now – it’s wonderful to have you here. How was your Christmas?”

I conversed with Mrs Potter while Sirius stood beside me, looking pleased that I was getting on so well with his adoptive mother. After a few minutes, Sirius and I headed over to the sitting room where James and Lily were already sitting. We joined them and caught up on each other’s news from the past week.

Lily informed us that her sister Petunia had got a new boyfriend, who had visited them just after Christmas. His name was Vernon, and he seemed to be a very opinionated, controlling, and yet rather boring bloke whose greatest care in the world was that his car was shinier than that of his neighbours. This was quite a description coming from Lily, who usually could see the good in anyone. But there was nothing she liked about Vernon Dursley.

Remus and Peter showed up later in the afternoon, and it was a little like being back at Hogwarts, having so many of us back together in one place. The two of them had only come for the New Year, whereas Lily and I would be staying a couple of extra days, but it was sure to be a great time.

The hours until midnight ticked by very quickly among such pleasant company. After dinner, James’s parents had some of their own guests over as well, and we hung about in that room for a little while because they had the champagne, but eventually we left them to their own festivities. So while they all celebrated the New Year in a sophisticated manner, the boys, Lily, and I ran outside and whooped and set off fireworks the moment the clocks turned over to 1978.

Afterwards, we stayed up celebrating for maybe another hour and then Remus decided to go to sleep. Peter did the same about fifteen minutes later, so eventually it was just James, Lily, Sirius and me – and the murmur of voices down the hall where James’s parents were still entertaining a few guests who did not want to leave. James and Lily disappeared for a while, leaving Sirius and me alone in the sitting room.

It had been wonderful spending all day with my friends, but I had really been looking forward to some time with Sirius. After a day of excitement and people all over the house, it was nice to sit down and relax for a bit, cuddling against Sirius with his arm around my shoulders. Our conversation began to get more sparse as I grew tired, and I was so comfortable that I could have fallen asleep right there. Despite that, neither of us wanted to leave and go to sleep; we were content to just stay sitting there. Sirius wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in the curve of my neck, such that when he laughed it made my neck vibrate weirdly.

Eventually, the Potters and two other couples left the large room at the end of the hall, having finally decided to call it a night. They continued reminiscing about their own memories from Hogwarts until they walked out the door, and I could only assume that’s why they’d stayed so late, because they were reliving their school days.

As the previously quiet sitting room was filled with the noise of the couples in the hallway saying goodbye and bringing up a few more Hogwarts memories they’d forgotten to mention during the previous six hours, Sirius and I finally headed upstairs. We kissed each other goodnight, and then he went into his room, and I continued down the hall to Lily’s and my room.

I tried to be quiet, which meant moving very slowly in the dark, but then Lily’s voice told me that she was still awake, so I stopped trying to be so quiet and quickly put on my pyjamas and climbed into my bed.

“Did you have a good New Year?” Lily asked.

“Yeah, it was great,” I said. “I can’t think of any way it could have been better.”

“Me neither,” said Lily. “You know, last year I never would have thought James and I would be together now. And now I’m… just so happy.”

“I know what you mean,” I said. “If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be dating Sirius Black, I’d have thought you were mad! I’m sure he would have thought the same, too. But Sirius and James have both changed a lot since last year. And so have we.”

“It was a bit odd to see that change in Sirius,” said Lily. “It was more obvious to me, because as Gryffindors we spend a lot of time together. At first, to him you were just another Slytherin, then he used to gripe about you, but then in the autumn this year he started asking me and Carol for advice! He said he needed a girl’s perspective, or something.”

“And all James had to realise was that if he stopped pestering you, you’d change your mind about him,” I added, laughing.

Lily giggled. “Sometimes I liked it when he pestered me,” she admitted. “I could always count on him to boost my confidence. I know, it’s horrible of me, because all I did was reject him for a while, but it’s true.”

“We can’t all be saints, Lily,” I said, grinning. “So how was meeting his parents?”

“I was sort of nervous, but I think it went well,” she said. “They’re both really wonderful.”

“Yeah, they are.”

I curled my pillow and hugged it as our conversation dwindled into silence, until Lily asked me, “Melanie, do you ever think about the future?”

“I try not to,” I said. “What in particular about the future?”

“Just… since we’re so different from how we were a year ago, where do you think you’ll be in another year? I don’t know – meeting James’ parents just made everything so real all of a sudden, if that makes sense. It’s a big step.”

So I found myself considering the future of my relationship with Sirius. For the first time I pictured older versions of myself and Sirius in place of those couples staying behind for the New Year, and wondered if that would be my future. But were we serious about each other? I certainly loved being with him, and I felt that we had something special… My mind was filled with all sorts of questions, and I tossed and turned for a bit after Lily had fallen asleep. But my tiredness eventually took over my thoughts, and I finally dropped off to sleep as well.

Lily and I stayed for three more days at the Potters’, and then she went home and I went back to Mandy’s house for the last bit of the holiday. I learned how various household appliances worked, thanks to Mandy’s dad, and he, as always, enjoyed it immensely whenever we used magic around the house. And then on the fifteenth of January, after a refreshing holiday that seemed all too short, we were back on the train to Hogwarts. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for to hear Hector’s snowman story again, and he did not disappoint.

About a week into the new term, on a night like any other, apart from the fact that I was actually up to date with my homework for once, I suggested to Mandy that we go for a walk outside. It was really beautiful out tonight; I could see stars glittering through the window above Mandy’s head.

“Sure,” she whispered, leaning against the window. “It’s gorgeous with the moon like that. And it’s perfectly still.”

We left our dormitory and snuck through the corridors, pausing, as always, to briefly panic if we heard noise, and then out the front doors of the castle onto the grounds. Apart from the crunching of snow beneath our feet, all was silent and peaceful. In the sky, surrounded by clouds, the full moon shone brightly overhead.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Heh. How evil am I for leaving it there? Tell me in a review!

Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock Holmes, he is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.



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The Brave at Heart: Holmes for the Holidays

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