This Christmas story was written for the following challenges on the HPFF forums:
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Songfic Challenge by raven_child
A Christmas Tale Challenge (featuring Marauders and angst) by PadfootBlack16
Thanks to both of you for your inspiring challenges!
Like Angels in the Falling Snow
The snow under my boots makes a steady crunching noise. My breath flows out and is suspended in the night air, surrounding me like a misty veil. Lacy white flakes fall relentlessly, and they cling to my eyelashes until I can barely see the dark road ahead. I take one stiff hand from my coat pocket and brush them away, along with tears I hadn't even realized were there.
The moor is a coal-black sea stretching to either side of me, and the village in the distance glows like a jewel amidst all the darkness. It is my destination; it has been my destination every Christmas Eve for ten years. My feet plod on of their own accord, for the way is familiar enough to walk in my sleep.
He believed in the things
That he always thought he knew
And had done all the things
That he always wanted to do
Collecting each thing reflecting his worth
But now he pondered how he had wandered this earth
Walking in the dark has a curious effect on the mind: you are aware that your eyes are open, and yet it feels as though they're shut tight. What do you
see when your eyes are closed? All I can see is her face.
* * *
"Let's make snow angels!" she says to me, clapping her mittened hands together.
I look at her incredulously. "Snow angels?" I echo, looking down at my tattered, over-large coat. "But I'll get wet!"
She laughs at me. "That's the fun of it, silly!" She goes over to a large snowdrift and lies down, right in the middle of the playground. Her vivid hair contrasts sharply with the snow. She starts waving her arms and legs up and down, shifting the snow beneath her.
"Lily!" I exclaim with a mixture of scorn and envy.
, Sevvy!" she cries, exasperated.
At the tone of her voice, I reluctantly lie down beside her. The wintry bed is cold and wet, but not unpleasant. I wriggle my shoulders slightly and feel myself sinking a bit. I turn my head to see her smiling broadly.
"See?" she points out, her little nose wrinkling with amusement. "Now move your arms and legs." I mimic her movements, and then we both stand up to admire our work. Two little snow angels lying side by side, their wings touching as though holding hands. "Look how beautiful they are!" she declares proudly.
"Beautiful," I agree, but I am looking at her.
It is Christmas Eve, and the sky is growing dark. "I need to be home for dinner," she tells me, and I picture her in a cheerful kitchen fragrant with cinnamon, watching her mother bake cookies. "Is your mummy making anything?"
I think of my own mother's 'kitchen' - nothing but an old stove shoved into a spidery corner by the icebox. "Yes," I say hesitantly.
But she always knows when I'm not telling the truth. Her face is sympathetic under the woolen hat with the big pompom on top. She gives me her hand, encased in a mitten decorated with penguins. "Come on, Sevvy," she says gently, "walk me home."
On the ground behind us, the angels are still touching as though they were meant for each other.
* * *
The village is still miles away, but the twinkling lights seem to get closer on the rare occasions that I glance up. I never Apparate. For ten Christmas Eves, I have walked in the bitter cold of twilight with only my everyday cloak for warmth. This is my punishment. This is my atonement for the past. I relish my burning lungs, my chapped face, my frozen bloodless fingers. This kind of pain is easy.
For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
Until on this evening
When the year is leaving
We all try to find our way home
I know what they think of me, the meddling colleagues and smug students who whisper behind my back. I am feared, ostracized, and even hated. The rumors get wilder with every school year: I'm a vampire; I drink diluted poison to build up my immunity; I have troll blood in my veins. I let them talk, because I couldn't care less. The more far-fetched the stories, the more they stray from the truth.
None of them knows that Severus Snape once had a heart. None of them knows that it has been buried in the West Country for a decade.
* * *
Students begin to crowd the corridor, chattering loudly as they make their way to the Christmas banquet. The Great Hall is resplendent in evergreen wreaths, cranberry candles, and glittering gold tinsel.
"Who are you looking for, Snape?" Avery sneers, and Mulciber and Rosier stare at me curiously.
I shrug wordlessly, and stuff my hand further into the pocket of my robes.
Avery draws me aside. "Listen to me, Severus," he says in a low voice. "You have got to stop being friends with that Mudblood."
I snatch my arm away from him. "Don't call her that!" I snap.
"Why? It's what she is, isn't it?" he replies coldly. "You're a Slytherin. Your mother's a witch. You deserve
to be here, and people like her don't. It's third year, you should know that by now."
I cannot argue with him. I cannot argue with what seems to be pure logic. So I turn away, and it is then that I see her. "Lily!" I call, running to her.
"Sev!" she exclaims joyfully.
I pull my hand out of my pocket and hand her the flower I found by the lake. "This is for you. It's a snowdrop," I explain unnecessarily.
She takes it, sticks it behind her ear, and gives me a hug. "Thanks, Sevvy." She smiles up at me, eyes shining like emeralds. "Will I see you over break?"
"The playground on Christmas Eve," I respond, and we grin at each other.
"Lily!" calls one of her friends, a short blond girl in Gryffindor robes. "Let's go in, Sirius is saving us seats."
"Be ready to make snow angels," Lily tells me, winking cheekily as she walks away.
"Looking forward to it," I answer. Those few hours of making snow angels with Lily are the reason I come home for Christmas at all.
I watch wistfully as she leaves me to join her friends at the Gryffindor table. The boys sitting with her are a good-looking, rowdy, cheerful bunch. I despise them for being themselves, and they despise me
for being me. Fair enough. James Potter catches me looking at him and blows me a raspberry. Everyone around him laughs, because that's what you do when James Potter does anything remotely funny. Only Lily is quiet. She adjusts the snowdrop in her hair and smiles affectionately at me.
I carry the warmth of that smile with me to the Slytherin table.
* * *
It is beginning to snow in earnest but I continue on doggedly, clutching my useless cloak with trembling hands. I have reached the outskirts of the village, and snug little cottages begin appearing to my left and right. They are neat, cozy little dwellings sheltered by trees, and I can't help but scowl when I think of her sharing one with him
. Had circumstances been different, had I not been an imbecile ...
He had time
Or at least then, he always thought he did
And mistakes, well, he thought that time
Always would forgive
I bite my lip and concentrate hard on the decorations around me. An unusual wreath hanging on one cottage door catches my eye. It is made entirely of silvery tinsel, with a green velvet bow at the top.
I stop in my tracks. "My God," I murmur. "It looks just like..."
* * *
Lily's Christmas present is burning a hole in my pocket. I look around cautiously. It is long past curfew, and the corridors are completely empty. At the risk of getting caught and receiving a detention right before the Christmas holidays, I pull the tiny box out again. Just one look
, I tell myself. The emerald is set into a simple band of silver, and it glitters in the light of the torches.
It had been a triumph when I finally bought it at the shop in Diagon Alley, after two long years of working at the lumber mill in the summer and tutoring for Slughorn while at school.
Tucking it back into my pocket, I proceed cautiously. I arrive safely at the stairs and race upward, pushing open the heavy door at the top. The Astronomy Tower is covered with snow, but someone has already made a path through the knee-deep drifts. Lily is standing with her back to me, her hands resting on the railing, her face lifted to the stars. I cough so as not to scare her, and she turns around.
"Hi, Sev," she greets me, beaming. "You'll be happy to know I made it past Peeves, Slughorn, and
Pringle on my way here."
I grin at her. "Good thing you didn't get caught," I reply. "Otherwise you'd have to kiss your prefect badge goodbye."
She tosses her head. "Not a chance! But what's so important that can't wait until after Christmas?"
"You'll see," I say casually, moving to stand beside her. "Anyway, does this mean you're not happy to meet me here?"
Lily rolls her eyes. "Of course I'm happy, you big prat," she retorts. "I was thrilled to get your note. I hardly ever see you anymore. You're always working during the summer. And lately ... whenever we're here ..." Her voice trails off, but we both know what she meant to say. Here at Hogwarts, you're in your house and I'm in mine.
I reach out instinctively and touch her shoulder. "I don't care what they say. I'm proud to have a Gryffindor for a friend," I declare bravely. It's much easier to say when my friends aren't breathing down my neck.
"Really, Sev?" There is an expression in her eyes I have never seen before, something like tired resignation.
I hold her face in my hands. "Lily, why do you look so sad?"
always know when she's
lying, which she promptly does. "Because I'm going to France for the holidays," she says lightly, looking away. "And we won't get to make snow angels, like we do every year."
I glance at the plentiful snowdrifts around us. "Well, what's stopping us now?"
Within seconds we are lying side by side, flapping our limbs and giggling like first-years rather than the lofty fifth-years that we really are. After a while we just lie there, looking silently up at the stars.
"Lily, I want to ask you something."
She turns her head to look at me, and her hair gleams like cold fire. "Yes?"
"Do you - do you like James Potter?" I ask, as offhandedly as I can.
She frowns and smiles at the same time. "What? No! Why would you ask something like that?" Before I can speak, she reaches over and squeezes my hand. "I like somebody else ... but I wish he would just admit to liking me
, when his friends are around."
I turn to look into her eyes. "Do you really mean that?" I raise myself up on an elbow and pull out the ring. "It's not very much, Lily, but I've been saving up to buy it for you. That's why I've been working all the time."
Lily gasps. "Oh, Sevvy -!"
I put it on her finger and she holds her hand up to the sky, watching the emerald sparkle. Spangles of moonlight dance through it and onto the snow. "Will you promise to wear it for me?"
"Only if you promise not to be ashamed to be with me," she returns. "Deal?"
I hesitate for only a second. "Deal," I say. She laughs delightedly and grabs me round the neck, kissing me hard. Neither of us notice that our snow angels have melted together, so that you couldn't tell where one ended and the other began.
* * *
A group of carolers dressed in Victorian clothes are going door to door, apparently trying to sing at every house in the village. A few of them turn to look at me, and I stare back. In my dowdy cloak, I must look as strange to them as they do to me.
"Happy Christmas!" one of them calls.
I turn my head without answering and keep on walking.
One of them mutters to the others, and the word Scrooge
clearly reaches me on the breeze. They immediately forget me when the door flies open, and burst into a rousing rendition of "Good King Wenceslas." I hear exclamations of joy from the owners of the cottage, and then the laughter of a small child. It fills me with bitterness and I quicken my pace, eager to flee.
Away in the distance
The carolers sing in the snow
The world is celebrating
And everyone's so happy
Except for me tonight
Because I miss you most at Christmas time
And I can't get you, get you off my mind
I don't know how I have survived without Lily these fifteen years. But as long as my heart keeps beating, I will never stop loving her. I will never stop dreaming of the life I could have shared with her, the Christmases we could have spent teaching our children to make snow angels.
... the saddest words I can think of. Crushed hopes and bitter regret in one simple phrase.
* * *
I pace around on the icy rooftop of the Astronomy Tower, unable to stand still. I'm a bundle of nerves tonight, and questions flutter through my mind like persistent moths. Why does she want me to meet her? Is she ready to be friends again? Why tonight, of all nights?
Lily and I haven't spoken since last spring, under circumstances I still despise myself for.
I promised her that I would not be ashamed of her. I swore that I would not be embarrassed to love a lowly Muggleborn. She gave me a chance, and I threw it away to follow my destiny at the side of a man whose fanatical prejudice ran deep. My broken promises broke her heart, and for almost a year now, we have passed each other in the corridors and classrooms without speaking. Never again could I find her at the old playground back home, no matter how much I wanted to.
Behind me, the heavy oak door suddenly swings open and my heart jumps into my throat.
Lily is standing in the dimly lit doorway, as beautiful as ever. The shiny Head Girl badge on the front of her robes catches the light. She peers into the darkness and when she finally sees me, it's like she's looking right through me. The expression in her eyes is so different now, I could be looking at a stranger and not the girl I love.
"Hello," she says quietly. "Thanks for meeting with me."
"H-hello, Lily," I stammer. "How have you been?"
"Fine. Look ... I don't want to take up too much of your time," she responds coldly, and any hope of reconciliation I had cherished flies right off the Tower. "I'm sure you have important meetings
to go to."
I let out a sigh. "I've said it so many times, Lily. I'm sor -"
"Don't apologize," Lily orders sharply, holding up her hand. "I didn't come here for that. You've said what you had to say, and anyway, I've heard enough." She brings her other hand forward, and the emerald ring stares at me from her palm. "I have something of yours that I need to return," she states.
"No, Lily!" I cry.
"Take it, Severus," she commands. When I don't move, she grabs my hand and shoves the ring into it.
I start sobbing, and I can't control the shuddering gasps no matter how hard I try. "Lily, this was for you," I keep repeating over and over. "I got it for you." She just shakes her head and turns quickly to leave. "Lily, I'm still in love with you!"
She whirls around and for the first time, I see that she's crying too. "Don't you dare say that!" she shouts, storming back over to me. "If you ever cared for me, you would never hurt me the way you have! You would never look down on me, you would never call me a - a Mudblood!
Loving somebody is wanting to shout it over the rooftops! Not being ashamed!" She starts crying brokenly, but twists away when I try to touch her. "It's over between us, Sev. I told you that last year. You've chosen your way, and I've chosen mine."
I just look at her in disbelief. "So this is it?" I ask. "You're giving me back my ring, and we never speak again?"
The snow starts to fall in heavy, wet flakes. She hugs herself and looks out over the railing, her wet eyes on the distant mountains. "I'm giving you back your promise," she answers in a low voice.
"Now I go my way, and you go off into the sunset with Potter?" I demand bitterly.
"Don't bring James into this! He's got nothing to do with you," she snaps. She turns her back to me, and it is then that she sees it: a lone snow angel in the snowbank along the wall.
I give out a ragged laugh. "I made it when I was waiting for you. Lily ..." I step closer to her. "Won't you make one too? Just for old time's sake?" I beg her, my heart racing. Somehow, if only her snow angel would lie beside mine, everything would be all right again.
Lily turns and looks directly into my eyes. "Have you ever thought that people are just like these snow angels?" she ponders aloud. "They're just fleeting impressions in time, they never last." She wipes her eyes with a sleeve, chuckling weakly. "They always get erased. They'll melt, or more snow will fall and bury them."
"Lily, what are you trying to say?" I urge her.
"We were never meant to last, you and I." She reaches up and touches my face. "No, Sevvy. I won't make another snow angel." She walks toward the door again and this time, I let her go.
Had I known it would be the last time we would ever speak, I would have called her back once more.
The snow keeps falling, and I stand on the Tower alone with only a disappearing snow angel for company.
* * *
The village square of Godric's Hollow is empty on this quiet night before Christmas. The surrounding pub, post office, and shops are all dark and silent. I make my way towards the large war memorial that lies in the center of the square, and even as I gaze up it, it begins to change in front of my eyes.
The monument looks exactly the same as the day it had been placed there. A couple sit side by side, their stone faces alight with joy, and in the woman's arms a baby boy laughs upward at the stars. I have eyes only for her, that granite woman who, even in eternal silence, gives off a radiant glow of love and beauty. But even in the form of a statue, she is looking at her child and leaning against her husband; the thought of me never crosses her mind.
I tear my hungry eyes from her face and cross the road, making my way to the church. Beyond it, the graveyard is a mountainous mass of snow, with odd lumps and shadows that are the tombstones. I push open the gate and it closes behind me with a dull clatter. No footsteps mar the fresh-fallen snow, so I am forced to make a path for myself.
Finally I reach it
- the reason I have traveled so far on this cold winter's evening.
The marble headstone is completely covered in snow, and I have found it only by memory. With one sleeve I clear away the right half, revealing a name, two dates, and only part of a quotation beneath that. The other half of the stone is still covered, and I am content to leave it that way.
L I L Y P O T T E R
BORN 30 JANUARY 1960
DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981
destroyed is death.
"Lily," I say out loud, and my voice sounds dry and harsh in the brisk air. I clear my throat and try again. "Lily. I've come to see you again. How have you been?" From my robes I pull out my wand and conjure a bouquet of moon-colored calla lilies, placing them at the base of the grave. All the while, I am talking to her like a madman. "I'm still teaching at Hogwarts. Your ... your son is there. It's his first year."
I kneel down and lean my head against the tombstone. It's still hard to believe that she who was so full of life now sleeps in that frozen ground. "He's nothing like you," I continue in a low voice, almost a whisper. "Except for the eyes. But what does that matter, when he's got your enduring love?" I trace her name etched into the marble, aching to touch her instead, a fierce jealousy for her husband and her son burning in my heart.
There is something about this night
...That reaches deep into our souls
And causes us to want to change
I don't know how long I sit there, but when I finally look up, I see that the snow underneath me has begun to melt. It gives me an idea, a crazy idea, and when I kiss her name and turn to leave, the notion is still with me. I leave the graveyard and cross the road again in a daze, heading back out of the village.
Outside of Godric's Hollow, surrounded by the vast dark moor again, I veer off the road and walk into one of the open fields beneath the sky. Hardly conscious of my own actions, I drop down upon my back and stare up at the moon. The snow is falling much more gently now, and it touches my face like the lightest of breaths. I start moving my arms and legs, slowly but purposefully. And when my snow angel is finished, I rise to my feet and look down at it.
Lily was partly right. We are nothing more than fading impressions, nothing more than momentary traces in the snow. Time will pass and erase us all, but what matters most is that we were there.
Just because you can't see a snow angel doesn't mean it never existed. Just because someone isn't with you anymore, doesn't mean your memories of them will go too.
And angels know things about us
That no one else can know
And this angel's heart, it formed a plan
And caused the night to snow
And then I smile for the first time in a long while, knowing that my angel is not really alone; that his mate has only been invisible beside him all along. And as long as he is there, she will be.
Destroyed is death.
Happy Christmas, Lily.
: The following songs were used in this story and in this style of text:
"Find Our Way Home"
by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
"Miss You Most At Christmas Time"
by Mariah Carey
The inscription on Lily's gravestone is taken directly from Chapter Sixteen: Godric's Hollow, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling. The full quote on the gravestone reads: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.