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Once Defied by pennyardelle

Format: Novel
Chapters: 33
Word Count: 161,202
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Snape, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Chapter: 04/28/2010
Last Updated: 06/10/2014

Summary:
banner by Alora at The Dark Arts

At the beginning of their seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Lily Evans and James Potter find themselves closer to one another than ever before. With darkness taking over the world around them, they discover that love—the mix of fluttering heartbeats, stolen glances, shared smiles, and squirming stomachs—is the most powerful magic of all.

:: 2012 Dobby Awards Winner for Best Canon ::


Chapter 12: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Chapter Twelve
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year




James went to bed and woke up the morning with a stupid smile on his face. He didn’t even look in the mirror, but he knew it was stupid, because he’d had it before. It really wasn’t that exciting or special, he kept telling himself. So he’d badgered Lily into giving him a hug that she was clearly uninterested in giving—there was no reason that it should fill him with more joy than Christmas could, but somehow, it did.

He and his friends walked down to Hogsmeade with their trunks the next day to Apparate home for the holidays. Predictably, they were curious as to what had happened with Ursula the previous night. He had actually almost forgotten about her after his run-in with Lily, but he knew he would never hear the end of it if his friends found out how pathetic he’d been.

“It went pretty much as you’d expect,” James said, with a bit of swagger. He was not really lying, was he? It wasn’t his fault how they chose to interpret this.

“Excellent,” Peter said.

“Good on you, Prongs,” Remus agreed.

Sirius had just laughed and clapped him on the back proudly. They reached Hogsmeade, wished each other happy holidays, and each Disapparated in turn. James landed in his parents’ back garden, which was covered in untouched snow.

“I’m home!” he called as he closed the back door behind him and shook snow off his feet and ankles. He heard his mother come bustling down the stairs; she appeared in the doorway moments later, smiling. James’ mother, Acantha Potter, was thin, with sharp cheekbones and jet-black hair, like James’. The only things that belied her advanced age were the grey streaks in her hair and fine wrinkles around her eyes.

“Hello, dear,” she said, kissing him on both of his cheeks. “We’re so happy you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be home,” he said, smiling back at his mum. “Sirius’ll be here in a few days.”

“Shall I get Sprotty to make something up for you, then?” she asked. “After she brings your trunk upstairs, of course. Oh, and James, darling, best not disturb your father. He hasn’t been feeling well these past few days, and he’s having a bit of a lie-down.”

James found this a bit odd, but his mother had already disappeared in the direction of the kitchen before he could question her further. He hoisted his trunk up the stairs towards his bedroom, ignoring his mother's intention to have their house elf bring it up to his room; as he passed his parents’ room, he heard his father cough a few times from beyond the closed door.

He returned to the kitchen, where Sprotty had already prepared a steaming bowl of potato soup for him. He sat down at the kitchen table and watched his mother staring out the window, noticing that she looked wearier than usual. James and his mother had the same hair and hazel eyes, the same nose and thin mouth. It was for this reason that he could tell when she was upset. Her brows were constantly knitted, and her jaw seemed to be clenched. She turned around and gave him a smile that did not quite reach her eyes.

“How has school been?” she asked. James shrugged and leaned back in his chair.

“Not bad,” he said, “we had a pretty nasty round of tests this past week, but the rest has been all right. Hard, but okay.”

“And how are all your friends?” she said, as a knife magically cut a loaf of bread on the counter behind her.

“Same as always,” James said. Silence fell in the kitchen. “So...Dad’s not feeling well, then?”

“Oh, yes, but it’s nothing,” his mother said vaguely. “He’s just got a very stubborn cold.”

“Did you try—”

“I said, it’s nothing,” his mother interrupted edgily. She quickly rearranged her features into a reassuring smile. “Please don’t worry yourself, dear. We both want you to have a wonderful Christmas.”

James tried his best to follow her advice over the next few days, but he was sure that his parents were hiding something. His father did not emerge from his room very often, and his mother did not get any less anxious-looking. The house was usually quiet as a tomb, and it unfortunately gave James a great deal too much time to think about Lily.

By the time Sirius arrived at the Potter home, James had come to two conclusions: first, he had somehow acquired the power to peer pressure Lily into doing things she usually wouldn’t, and second, that he was never going to use that power again. He was going to charm Lily until no sort of pressure was needed to make her go out with him, and for the first time, it seemed entirely possible that this could happen.

With this decision made, and with Sirius around to distract him from his parents’ malaise, James was able to enjoy his Christmas very much. He and Sirius spent many of their days playing Quidditch, despite the snow, having snowball fights, and enjoying the products of Sprotty’s delicious cooking.

Until Christmas morning, there was nothing to spoil his days except for the fact that his father remained shut away, and that he kept wishing he could go back to Hogwarts to find out what was going to happen with Lily. James was not awoken on Christmas morning with thoughts of presents or delicious meals, but with Sirius’ urgent shakes.

“Prongs! James! James, wake up!”

“It’s too early,” James groaned, for it was still pitch-black outside the window.

“Get up! Something’s happened,” Sirius said; James could tell by his voice that this “something” was not good.

“What is it?”

“Radio,” Sirius said shortly. James realized that the dusty radio stuffed in the corner of his room was already on, and Sirius turned it up.

“...early estimates indicate at least 100 dead, killed late last night in a Muggle shopping center in Manchester. Death Eaters fled the scene before Magical Law Enforcement arrived...”

“Christmas Eve,” Sirius said bitterly. “Figures.”

“Where did they say it was?” James asked, sitting up and putting his glasses on. He knew Lily lived somewhere near Manchester.

“Manchester.”

“Right in the city?”

“No idea. They probably don’t want to be too specific or they’ll have people Apparating from all of the country.”

“Was it all Muggles that died?” James asked.

“Prongs, I think you’re missing the big picture here. Over a hundred people got killed.”

“I know,” James said, rubbing his forehead.

“You okay?” Sirius asked.

“Yeah,” James said. He had a sinking feeling, maybe because of all the people who’d been killed, or maybe because he was irrationally worried about Lily, or maybe because he had felt guilty ever since Sirius had arrived about lying to him when they left Hogwarts. Sirius was his best friend, who had always been up-front and honest, even about the things that were really hard to admit, and James was lying to him simply to maintain bravado?

The radio suddenly turned to static. Sirius fiddled with the dials.

“What’s wrong with this thing?” he said, picking it up and shaking it.

“I never got off with Ursula,” James said.

Sirius put the radio back down and looked at James, his eyebrows contracted.

“What?”

“The whole date thing with Ursula didn’t really work out,” he explained, leaving out some of the finer points of the evening. “I don’t think I really like her that much.”

Sirius seemed fairly taken aback.

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” he asked.

“I thought you might take the mickey out of me,” James said, continuing hesitantly, “because I think I want to ask Lily out again.”

“Oh, Merlin,” Sirius said, rolling his eyes. “What prompted this regression?”

“I dunno,” James said, slightly defensive.

“You haven’t even talked to her in months!”

“We talked at Slughorn’s party, and we’re friends again,” James said. This stunned Sirius into silence for half a moment.

“Well, I don’t see why you think you’ve got more of a chance now than before,” Sirius said dismissively. James felt slightly stung. His friends had always poked fun at him about Lily, but he had never heard Sirius be so unsupportive.

“Never mind,” he said grumpily.

“Come on, Prongs, you know I’m right,” Sirius said.

“Yeah, but you don’t have to say it! Some friend you are.”

“All right, go on. Tell me what happened,” Sirius replied, exhaling loudly. James still felt a bit put off, but it was driving him crazy to keep it all to himself. He told Sirius the entire story, finding that it all sounded very odd when he described it.

“So...where was Ursula when you and Evans were having your little love fest?” Sirius asked when James had finished.

“No clue. She left early. I don’t think she was having a very good time.”

“You’re a dolt, you know that? Of course she wasn’t, if you were paying attention to another girl.”

“I suppose,” James admitted..

“And you’re a liar! Why didn’t you tell us any of this?”

“I’m telling you now! Besides, I wasn’t really lying. I just said that it went as you would expect. You took that to mean it had gone well with Ursula.”

“Don’t try and feed me that load of waffle. What are you going to do now?”

James sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Just—just explain to me,” Sirius said. “What is it about Evans? Why does it always come back to her?”

“I wish I knew, Padfoot,” James replied. And it was true: he really wished he did.

They sat in silence once again, and the news report on the WWN was audible once again.

“...being passed off as a structural failure in the Muggle news. What this attack will mean for the credibility of the new Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Bartemius Crouch, remains to be seen.”

“Happy Christmas, isn’t it?” Sirius asked.

The rest of the morning turned out much happier, for James’ parents had bought him the new Nimbus 1500, the newest and most advanced broom on the market. In the Potter household, however, gifts like this always came with the price of keeping up pretences. No matter what had happened the previous night, James and Sirius were expected to pretend like it was a perfectly normal, happy Christmas. Nobody mentioned the Death Eater attack all day. Mr Potter had only emerged from his bedroom the evening before, and while Sirius was in the washroom and Mrs Potter was talking to Sprotty in the kitchen, James remained at the table with his father.

“Sorry you haven’t seen much of me,” his father said. “Your mother’s been keeping me locked up because of this damned cough.”

Even as he said it, he was shaken with violent coughs. James’ stomach squirmed unpleasantly. There was no reason why his father would be sick with a mere cold for such a long time. When James had left for school, his father had been healthy, if aged. He seemed to have lost weight, and his wrinkles stood out more.

“How’s school been?” Mr Potter asked when he emerged from his coughing fit.

“Fine,” James said, resenting the way his parents kept avoiding the subject of Mr Potter’s illness.

“Don’t get too excited, now,” Mr Potter said, smirking.

“Just...it’s lots of studying,” James mumbled. “Hey—our new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor mentioned that he knows you and mum.”

“Caradoc and I used to work together, at the Ministry,” his father said.

“He’s interesting.”

“Always was,” Mr Potter replied. “How’s the Quidditch team this year?”

James gave in to the subject change. After years of being shielded and coddled by his parents, he had learned that pestering them for further information on subjects they did not want to discuss would get him nowhere. Though he was an adult, his parents always insisted on treating him like he was still in first year.

The only way to get honest conversation out of them was to eavesdrop. Which he did, later that evening.

James’ bedroom was right above his father’s study, and if he pulled up a loose floorboard, he could hear people talking below as if they were right next to him. His mother’s voice came to him first.

“—if they come to our door one more time. It was lucky James was out playing Quidditch! What would we have told him?”

“I can’t tell the Ministry what to do.”

“Then what was the purpose of all those years spent working for them? We cannot have people thinking that this family is under suspicion! Do you have any idea—?”

“It wasn’t just us; the Longbottoms, the Fudges, everyone all got the same treatment. And telling the Ministry not to come calling is only going to make us look more suspicious.”

“Well, they already seem to be quite suspicious about Dumbledore. I thought you told him you weren’t interested,” his mother said. James’ interest increased. Had his father and Dumbledore been corresponding secretly?

“I did. That won’t stop Crouch from trying to weed out Dumbledore’s allies. They’re pushing their luck with the Ministry.”

“All I want is for you to tell Barty Crouch that he has no business violating the privacy of a well-respected and long-established family—”

“Yes, my family.”

James heard a momentary pause, followed by a door slamming below him. He replaced the floorboard and sat against his bed, trying to sort through everything he had heard. The Ministry must have been at their house. James felt a passing sense of resentment that his parents had not told him, but he could not have expected more. More important was what his father had said about Dumbledore.

Sirius opened the door, interrupting James’ thoughts.

“Everything set for tomorrow night?” Sirius asked. They were planning on Apparating to Remus’ house to keep him company during the full moon. “Why are you sitting on the floor?”

“Floorboard,” James said.

“What’s on the airwaves tonight?” Sirius said, sitting in James’ desk chair.

“I think my house might’ve been searched,” James said.

“Bad luck there.”

“And they were saying something about Dumbledore having allies that were upsetting the Ministry,” James continued.

“What kind of allies?”

“Dunno...maybe people who work at the Ministry? Or...maybe it’s something more like his own group of Aurors,” James said.

“Who knew—Dumbledore, general of the anti-Voldy forces,” Sirius said lightly. “Makes sense, though, I suppose.”

“Yeah, it does,” James agreed. “I wish they’d said more about it.”

“Tell you what, we’ll just ask my parents,” Sirius grumbled. “I’m sure Voldemort told them all about it at their last Tea & Torture Party.”

James smiled uncomfortably. “You don’t really think your parents are Death Eaters?”

“I expect their instincts for self-preservation have kept them from joining up,” Sirius said bitterly, “but there’s no doubt in my mind about which side they’re cheering for.”

“Yeah, well, you should have heard my mum,” James said darkly. His parents were kind people, but they were also very traditional, and put a little too much stock in family lineage for James’ liking. It was hard to completely blame his parents for their archaic attitudes, for they had come from a different generation, but it was not enough to completely absolve them either.

“I think we should go out and marry a couple of Squibs, just to see their faces,” Sirius said, grinning.

“Well, I’m going to find out everything I can about these allies,” James said, quickly changing the subject. He did not particularly like talking about blood status with Sirius, because it always ended in one of two ways: either Sirius would get angry and stay in a bad mood for hours afterward, or he would end up saying something slightly tactless that made James feel like his friend was not entirely free of the very same biases they were discussing. He felt awful for thinking it at all.

“Thinking of enlisting?” Sirius joked.

“Yeah, actually,” James said. Sirius looked at him incredulously.

“I was joking!”

“I’m not,” James said firmly. Sirius rolled his eyes.

“I suppose this’ll just be a little side-hobby, will it? Instead of gardening, you’ll use your free time to fight Death Eaters?”

“I don’t know, but I mean it, I want to join,” James said. If there was one thing that James hated most, it was the Dark Arts. Anyone who exalted them was worthless in his mind, and opposing them was the most worthwhile pursuit possible. “Don’t you?”

Sirius smiled wryly. “Well, Prongs, I have stuck with you this long, haven’t I?”

“And have I ever led you astray?”

“Well, yes, actually—”

“You were supposed to say ‘no’ to that one, Padfoot,” James said, and Sirius laughed.

“I guess I can at least give people an answer now when they ask what I want to do after I’m done school,” Sirius said thoughtfully.

“And it’ll make their aspirations seem dead boring in comparison,” James pointed out. Sirius nodded slowly.

“All right, then, you’ve convinced me. Padfoot and Prongs: future fighting duo. Those Death Eaters won’t know what’s hit them.”



..........




Lily arrived at home feeling very much in the holiday spirit. There were no exams to study for, no prefects to keep in line, no detentions to hand out, and, most of all, no James to worry about. Everything felt normal and blessedly peaceful, leaving Lily all the time in the world to help trim the tree, hang lights, wrap gifts, drink hot cocoa, and watch Christmas specials on television.

Of course, there were times when her family wasn’t home (or, her parents, rather—even when Petunia was home, she pretended that Lily didn’t exist) that gave her a bit too much free time to think about the events of her last evening at Hogwarts. She could feel her face burning every time she thought about hugging James. Did she ever need to grow a backbone, and learn to not just do something because James Potter insinuated that she was chicken. She hoped he didn’t think that she wanted to be more than friends with him...but it was only a hug, right?  Even if he did think that, she would make it perfectly plain to him that there was no chance of that happening; even with her tendency to leap without looking, she knew that it would be a very bad idea to attempt anything beyond friendship. They could be good friends, she was quite sure of that, but nothing more.

Lily hummed along as her mother played carols on the piano on Christmas Eve. Her father was nodding off in a chair near the fireplace, and Petunia had kept herself busy making cookies in the kitchen, surely motivated by a desire to come into as little contact as possible with Lily. Mrs Evans had tried to coax Petunia into joining the rest of the family in the sitting room, but she had been met with adamant refusal. It was times like Christmas that Lily felt very guilty about her estrangement from her sister, because it so clearly troubled their parents, but, like Petunia, Lily did not feel bad enough to apologize, not when she had never done anything wrong to begin with.

Christmas at the Evans household was not usually a grand affair—their family was not extremely wealthy—but it did not make it any less enjoyable. Lily’s favourite gift was a very beautiful necklace that her mother had handed down to her.

“It was your Great-Aunt Josephine’s,” her mother explained, naming the relative that Lily had been given her middle name for.

“It’s beautiful,” Lily said, running her thumb over the emerald flower that hung on the silver chain.

“You know,” her mother said excitedly, “Aunt Josephine was always a bit of an outsider in the family. I liked her, but she kept to herself. Ever since we found out about you being a witch”—Petunia mumbled something about making tea and left the room—“I’ve always wondered whether she might have been one too, and just never told anyone. Didn’t you say there was probably someone magical back in our family tree?”

“Could be,” Lily said, although she had done some fairly thorough research on her relatives back in fourth year and had found nothing to indicate that Great-Aunt Josephine had ever been at Hogwarts. Of course, there was the possibility that her parents had not let her attend. It was more likely that Lily’s mother was endlessly excited that she might have been related to another witch.

Whenever Lily was home, her parents were eager to try and make magic a normal part of conversation, which was probably because it actually made them slightly nervous. They had something of a tendency to misuse words Lily had mentioned to them; her mother often muttered that she would like to “Patronus” rude people at the grocer’s.

“I had planned on giving it to you on your eighteenth birthday, but with you away at school...and your birthday is only a month away,” her mother said anxiously. Over her shoulder, Mr Evans shot Lily a look that said, Please make a big deal out of this, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

“I love it,” Lily said, leaning over to hug her mother. “Maybe I can give it to my daughter one day.”

Her mother looked incredibly pleased at this idea, and Lily suggested that someone else open a gift as Petunia re-entered the room.

That evening at dinner, talk turned to a different subject.

“Well, we have reason to feel very lucky this Christmas,” her father said, cutting into her meat. “We're lucky that no one we loved was killed in that shopping centre accident. Terrible thing to happen, on Christmas Eve.”

“What accident?” Lily asked. Petunia gave her a patronizing stare.

“Have you been living with your head under a rock?” her sister asked.

“Not at the table, Petunia,” their mother scolded.

Petunia rolled her eyes and adopted a tone that was a shade more pleasant. “The ceiling of a department store fell in last night and killed almost a hundred and fifty people. It’s been all over the news.”

“How would a ceiling just fall in?” Lily asked.

“They said it was structurally unsound, and the weight of snow weakened it further,” Lily’s father said. He suddenly looked at Lily with interest and said, "You know, it got me wondering if there's some sort of magic that could help in that sort of situation. Do you think the Ministry of Magic and our government have ever looked into it?"

Petunia made a derisive noise from across the table, but Lily ignored her. "No, Dad, we just hold our buildings up like everyone else." Although, she thought, there's certainly magic that could help bring a building down.

“Well, what a shame for those families,” her mother said. "We should talk about something else, though. It's Christmas; we should be cheerful."

Lily listened to the radio, watched the television, and read the newspaper, looking for something that might confirm her suspicions, but it was all explained very logically. She thought of writing to Anna, but it might take days to get a response. This was when it would have paid to have a subscription to the Daily Prophet. There was only one thing to do.

When her parents had gone to bed, she crept downstairs and pulled on her coat and boots by the light of her Christmas tree. The air outside made her nose feel like an icebox, but she was determined. The curiosity would eat away at her brain, and she didn’t want to return to Hogwarts sounding uninformed. It was a result of being a Muggle-born, the overcompensation when it came to staying in the loop. She had to know, which was why she was forcing herself to walk over to Severus Snape’s house.

She did not knock on the front door, remembering how frightening Severus’ parents were. Instead, she scooped snow off a drift, wadded it up, and threw it at his bedroom window. It was dark, but she saw a figure moving inside. A minute later, the door opened.

“I’m sorry for coming by so late,” she said. His face was unreadable.

“It’s fine. Come in,” he said, stepping aside to give her room.

“No,” she replied. He shifted back. “I just wanted to know if the accident at that store last night was what they’re saying it is.”

“What have you heard?” he asked, uncertain.

“You’re the last person I want to talk to this about,” Lily said. “Please just make this easy, for both of us?”

“Wait here,” he said, closing the door almost all the way. He returned with a folded Daily Prophet, which he handed to her. She opened it to the front page and got her answer.

“I should have known you wouldn’t be able to say it,” she said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know what it means. Are you going to go to the Ministry, tell them who did this?”

“Even if I knew—”

“Don’t lie,” Lily interrupted. He didn’t respond, and Lily folded the newspaper back up. “Don’t—can’t you see now, what they’re like? I mean, on Christmas Eve.”

“They’re great wizards,” Snape muttered.

“No.”

“They are, Lily. They’re experts, no one can deny that.”

“It doesn’t matter. They’re awful people.”

“You never used to make generalizations like that.”

Lily breathed out a laugh. “That was before I realized how many generalizations turn out to be true.” Especially the ones about people like you, Lily thought.

“You sound like Potter,” he said, sneering. Lily’s face reddened.

“Don’t bring him into this.”

“Sorry, I forgot that he’s your best friend now,” Snape spat.

Lily could hear muffled yells echoing from inside the house. There was a time when she would have tried to comfort him, but he had chosen to walk alone. He chose again and again to defend people who would like nothing better than people like Lily dead. Lily could see him now, more clearly than ever before.

“He’s a better friend than you ever were,” she said. Snape’s face hardened until Lily thought it might have become stone.

“Didn’t you ask me to stay away from you?” he asked.

“I did,” she replied, “and this time, I really mean it.”

“Fine,” he said, sounding petulant. “Have a nice life.”

“Good bye.”

Snow started to fall as she walked home. It would have been a beautiful winter’s night if it didn’t feel so lonely. Her house was unchanged from the moment she had stepped outside, except for the light on in the kitchen. Lily was about to sneak up the stairs when Petunia emerged into the front hall.

“Why were you outside?” she asked, already sounding accusatory.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Were you going to see that boy?”

“No,” Lily lied.

“I thought you said you weren’t friends with him anymore.”

“I’m not. And I was just taking a walk.”

“It’s not safe to walk around alone at night,” Petunia said.

“Well, it must not be that dangerous, or else I wouldn’t have made it back,” Lily said.

“You shouldn’t joke like that. It’s not funny.”

“I’m going to bed,” Lily said, feeling truly exhausted. She walked up the stairs to her bedroom and read the Daily Prophet from front to back before turning off the light. The next day, she would have to make sure to push it to the bottom of the bin. She did not know how her family would react if they found out about You-Know-Who, but she was certain it was risking more than upset appetites.



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