Author’s Note: Intended to be a bit of fluff brought about by strengthfairy’s challenge, this fluff actually became a learning experience I had never expected. Slipping on some Christmas music as I typed away, I struggled with the happiness that I was trying to write (those who know my angst ridden stories will understand). It was taking everything I had not to throw something vile their way and, at one point, I did have a scene in which Voldemort made an appearance in London at a very inopportune time for the poor couple. But, as fate would have it, Luther Vandross’ version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas spun away on the CD causing me to delete the scene and re-write it as it currently stands…the moment of truth for Sirius as he confesses not love to Lily but something that is much more meaningful to a man that has had a life such as his. So, in essence, I failed at her challenge (I apologize, strength!) but gained a lot personally in the meantime. Merry Christmas to each one of you and, from me to you, I offer you the Christmas Noel of Sirius and Lily.
Sirius struggled up from bed, the flannel coverings twisting around his legs as he attempted to move. He dropped his feet to the hardwood floor to try and balance himself but a flurry of empty whiskey bottles clinked and rolled around in harmony with his movements. The cold glass made him recoil and he tucked his feet back under the covers. Waving his hand toward the windows, he slid the thick burgundy draperies closed to block out the blinding winter sun so that his eyes could adjust more slowly. He grabbed his head at the movement, a sure sign that he’d definitely imbibed in too much Christmas cheer the night before. Giving up on any sense of normalcy, he dropped his head back onto the down pillows, the fluffy fabric caressing the stubbly shadow of a beard that had grown while he slept.
“Sirius?” A familiar whispered voice echoed from somewhere nearby and he grabbed the pillow to cover his head.
“It’s after noon,” Lily prodded and he could feel the slight dent in the mattress as she sank down next to him. “How late did you stay out anyway?”
“Dunno,” he murmured and, realizing she wasn’t going to leave, he rearranged his pillow so he could talk to her better. “Did everyone get off all right?”
“James and Remus went off together and I assume Peter got them where they were supposed to be. Their parents were expecting them home for the holidays yesterday, you know.”
Sirius didn’t miss the frown on her face. “It was my fault, I know. They should’ve left with the other students weeks ago but they didn’t want to leave me alone for the holidays. I couldn’t right just send them off, now could I? Besides, everyone had a good time last night.”
“Leave you alone?” she bristled. “What am I? Hippogriff fodder?”
“It’s too early to argue, Lils,” he tugged gently on the cream colored sweater she was wearing. He knew it had been a gift from her parents for Christmas and he still couldn’t fathom why she was staying at school rather than go home. She protested only for a moment but his insistent tugging finally caused her to climb under the covers with him. He draped the blanket around them both and wrapped his arm around her waist as she pressed her back into his chest. “Tell me again why you stayed.”
“Sirius-" Lily’s exasperated voice made him grin. He blew a soft tendril of warm air across her neck and could feel the shivers ripple down her body. She reached up and popped his head so he would stop. “Because fending off your inappropriate advances is so much more fun than going home. You are just still too hung over to argue,” she said pointedly. “It’s Christmas Eve, Sirius. I have a few more gifts to buy.”
Sirius dropped his arm away from her and rolled onto his back. “Tell me again why I agreed to take you shopping? I detest shopping even more than the holidays.”
“Because you are one of my dearest friends and you’d never leave your friends to fend for themselves on the streets of London.”
“And we didn’t stay at my place instead of Hogwarts again why?” Sirius asked, rolling over her to get out of bed. Thankfully, she had cleaned up as she had come in, the glass bottles now standing in a neat pile along the wall and he easily managed to stay erect this time.
“As if I would stay in your bed,” she said with a huff.
Sirius turned a mischievous grin her direction, his eyebrow raised in challenge. She quickly realized where she was and jumped out of his bed with as much dignity as she could manage.
“You are such an arrogant twit,” she managed as she tried to untangle her long chestnut colored skirt from the woolen blankets. “And you stink of firewhiskey and cheap perfume.”
“Disgusted. Get cleaned up and I’ll meet you downstairs.” She tried to walk away but Sirius’ gaze held her back. He was staring at her with a look of utter concentration that almost frightened her. “What?”
“Are you okay with this?” he asked softly. “There’s still time to get you home in time for Christmas.”
Lily blanched. How could he possibly know she was having doubts about not spending the holiday with her family? Her teeth clenched around her bottom lip as she tried to find an appropriate response. When she had announced her plans to stay at Hogwarts for the holidays, everyone had been shocked. She’d gone home every year since they’d first arrived at school six years before. Most had taken it in stride or blamed it on hormones but Sirius had grilled her for days on end until she finally had to admit to the letter her sister Petunia had sent. Petunia didn’t want her home for Christmas…didn’t want her home ever again by the tone of her letter. Late one night after everyone had gone to bed, Lily had turned over the letter to Sirius. She didn’t know exactly what she had expected from him but whatever it was it wasn’t what she got. He had refused to let her run from her emotions and had stayed on the couch in the Gryffindor common room with her all night until her tears were finally spent. It was only days later that she remembered he had never gone home for Christmas. Occasionally he would go home with James but she’d never actually heard of him going back to his own family. She had known better than to ask why but the sudden and unexpected bond with him had made her more confident in her decision to stay at Hogwarts. She had even had the audacity to try and kiss him days earlier to which he had laughed and told her the mistletoe must have affected her brain. His light tone had been easy for her to recognize…it was his attempt to keep her from making a mistake he was afraid she would regret. Whether she would have regretted it or not, Lily wasn’t sure, but it had reminded her who he was….bond or no, he was still good old Sirius, her friend and confidant.
“I’m sure, Sirius,” she whispered, kissing his cheek in thanks before stepping toward the hall. “And take a shower, for goodness sakes.”
Sirius slipped into the steamy shower as soon as she left, the warm liquid making him temporarily forget about the frost that covered the window panes. Leaning against the warm ceramic tile, he couldn’t help but wonder if staying at Hogwarts was what Lily really wanted for Christmas. Everyone knew she always went home for the holidays and it bothered him more than he cared to admit how she was allowing her sister to dictate her actions. He knew she wasn’t exactly running but she was refusing to confront the issue just the same. Of course, he couldn’t really judge her considering the state of his relationship with his own family. He would’ve gone home with James, though, had it not been for her.
It had started weeks ago, when she began avoiding any discussion of her holiday plans- biting her lower lip when the subject even came up. He had harassed her about it for days, his own private way of showing he cared. It had escalated that single night when he’d come in late and found her curled up on the common room sofa, looking as if her entire world had collapsed around her in a single instant. He was covered in snow, the winter chill seeping into his clothes and making his cloak completely stiff with damp ice. But she hadn’t cared.
He had pulled her into his arms without a word and eventually, just as silently, she had turned over Petunia’s letter. Her sister was vicious, telling her it was time they got things in the open, and she ridiculed Lily for being “different.” She hadn’t needed to explain- if anything, he knew all about rejection from your own family. So, on a whim that wasn’t really a whim, he had decided to stay at Hogwarts with her.
He clicked off the shower, still wondering how he could convince her to go home. He was far beyond making amends with his family but Lily still had a chance…a chance he had lost years ago. He studied his clothes with distraction, finally pulling something out just as a house elf appeared to deliver some last minute gifts. Sirius blanched.
He had never really considered that they would be here together on Christmas day-had never thought that he might be expected to give her a gift. He frowned. He’d never bought for any woman other than his mother who had, of course, hated everything he bought anyway so he had never had a standard to uphold. What on earth would you get someone like Lily?
As he puzzled over what he could possibly give her that didn’t seem last minute or thoughtless, he glanced in the mirror, unhappy with his clothing choice. It wasn’t that he didn’t look good…he knew he probably looked better than Lily had ever seen him. He’d chosen to wear muggle jeans, a faded shade of blue that, were it not for the bleak winter clouds, would normally be as light as the English sky. In deference for the gray winter weather, he’d pulled on a white oxford and long black blazer. He’d left a slight stubble on his cheeks only because he knew Lily liked his rough image. She’d often said it made her feel like she was in the presence of a criminal without worries of being in danger.
He had no idea why he was taking such pains with his appearance. It wasn’t as if Lily hadn’t seen him in his skivvies before and she’d certainly seen him passed out drunk as a skunk before. Yes, he always wanted to look good, it was a defense mechanism to hide his inner turmoil (as Remus had so eloquently informed him) but to actually put on a tie when he didn’t have to was disconcerting. Just as he was pulling it back off, Lily appeared behind him in the mirror.
“Admiring yourself again?” she asked grinning but turned him to face her. She re-tied his tie carefully, her eyes not meeting his. “Don’t talk yourself out of looking good on my account.”
He nodded, his mind registering the fact that she had gone to change during his shower. Her relaxed sweater and skirt had been changed for a more festive red blouse, glittering gold strands woven into the fabric. It was nearly see-through, revealing a matching lacquer red tank top underneath. She had pulled her hair onto the top of her head, loose tendrils of curls framing her face. It was almost as if she had dressed up for him. Sirius shook his head at the ludicrous thought. “Ditching me to meet your boyfriend later?”
Lily frowned momentarily but then exchanged it for a mischievous grin. “Hoping I’ll get lucky with you, of course.”
Whether she was serious or joking, for once, Sirius couldn’t tell.
Sirius tightened Lily’s cloak around her as he watched her distracted amazement at the world around her. The ordinary streets of London had been turned into a fairytale wonderland of sorts and even Sirius found himself being ushered into the Christmas fantasy of peace and happiness as they strolled through the square. Christmas in London…it was impossible not to want to believe.
Ordinary trees, planted symmetrical along the street, took on a fascinating air as strands of tiny white lights bathed them in sea of milky white shadows. Fresh baked cookies, with their scents of vanilla and cinnamon, drifted from bakeries, their doors pushed open as shoppers strode in and out. A slight wind stirred the mounds of snow that had been painstakingly shoved along the walk, a flurry of children kicking it loose as they waited patiently for their parents to finish their last minute errands. Outside the stores, a group of men huddled in their coats, smoking apple clove cigars and pipes filled with cherry tobacco as they complained good naturedly about being dragged along to carry packages. Festive bell ringers and sweet noels harkened the coming of the holiday and a fluttering of new fallen snow caused everyone to pause in their place and remember the true gifts of the season weren’t to be found in the stores. Carolers rounded each corner, their velvet cloaks of currant red and high laced collars the color of parchment evoking memories of times of long ago. Couples walked hand in hand, stealing kisses under the mistletoe and kissing balls scattered around the stores and shops they entered caused Lily to drift closer to Sirius and, as if the atmosphere alone had blanketed him, he pulled her into him with a gentle welcome he’d never expected.
He had followed Lily into each store as she searched for a gift, he himself trying to find anything that actually grabbed her attention. Jewelry did nothing for her, cute little baubles were passed right by and even his standard gift of Christmas chocolates was ignored by Lily. Hours later as the sky darkened and the glittering Christmas lights decorating the shops began to flicker on, he’d grown tired of the search, becoming almost desperate to buy the next thing she even looked at, when she suggested they take a break for tea and biscuits.
They chatted about nothing particular as the tea was served, both in their own private world of shopping for the perfect gift. It wasn’t until a strolling caroler came to their table that they were finally shaken into the present, out of their own world and into each others. Sirius tossed a coin the caroler’s direction and he moved a few paces away, singing a ballad for the two.
Lily watched him for a moment, then her eyes drifted to Sirius who was concentrating so hard a furrow had developed on his forehead. She giggled which in turn caused him to stick out his tongue. “I hate shopping. It’s so wonderful here. Can’t we just stop shopping and enjoy the night?”
“Shopping was your idea, Lily. If it wasn’t for this trip of yours, I’d be snug in bed nicking the Christmas candy someone sent James this morning.”
Lily frowned. “Why did he have to go and buy something for me anyway? And something nice at that.”
Sirius tried to keep his expression as calm as possible. “Wait, we are shopping for James?”
“Well, yes, that’s why I wanted you here. You know him better than anyone.”
“Indeed.” Sirius nodded distractedly, sipping his tea to avoid her questioning gaze. He had no idea James had gotten her something and although that bothered him some, it was the twinge of jealousy he felt that cut into his soul. How could James, who’d barely held a civil conversation with Lily, know what she’d like? He’d been looking for hours now and had still come up empty handed. The scowl must have been evident on his face because Lily’s hand moved to cover his.
“It wasn’t that nice, Sirius,” she smiled gently.
“Hey, you are a good looking girl, I say take as many gifts as people will toss your way,” he shrugged her off. “One day you’ll be old and fat and barefoot and pregnant. No one’s going to be buying you gifts then.”
“You can be so nasty sometimes, you know that?” Lily seethed then jumped up from the table. When he realized she was headed for the door, Sirius tossed money onto the table and followed after her. She was still huffing when he caught up with her and she brushed off his attempts to put his arm around her shoulders. Finally, he slipped his hand into her pocket and interlaced his fingers with hers.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered tightly and although she still didn’t look his way, she didn’t push him away either. “I guess I got a little jealous.”
“A little?” Lily stopped in the street and turned to face him. She watched him expectantly.
“Okay, a lot. I dunno, it just caught me off guard, I guess.” Sirius tried to hide the redness he could feel rising in his cheeks. “I mean we’ve been friends for awhile and I just…”
“No more rationalizing tonight, Sirius,” she murmured. She kissed him softly, her words warm in his ear. “There’s no reason to be jealous. If there ever is, I’ll let you know in advance rather than just springing it on you, deal?”
He nodded, feeling a bit sheepish at how childish he had reacted. “My uncle always said the best gifts are an extension of yourself. Something only you can give,” he offered.
“Yes, I can see James loving a tin of homemade biscuits that I give him.” She shook her head. “No, he definitely gets something store bought that can be wrapped and sent off by a trashy store owl. Preferably something that will embarrass him to no end when he opens it in front of his parents.”
Her pronouncement at not caring so much about what she got James made him relax. He smiled. “You should have said that to begin with. Come on, I’ve got the perfect gift,” he pulled her toward a store a few blocks away…knowing it held a pair of plaid boxer shorts that sang “Holly Jolly Christmas” and blinked with magical Christmas lights. “The shopping will be done and we can enjoy the rest of the night.”
“Oh, hot rum cider and roasted chestnuts?” she asked snuggling closer to him. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will snow.”
Whether it was the soft lilt in her voice or the sweet noel of Christmas carols that were drifting through the streets, he couldn’t resist pulling her into his arms. The move was quick, too quick for her to protest, but the look in her eyes told him she didn’t want to anyway. He dropped his head closer to hers, his lips meeting hers without thought as to who might be near or watching. As her kiss grew deeper and his breath ragged, he moved inches away from her face. “Who needs luck,” he whispered, “when you have magic.”
Her eyes shifted above, a light dusting of snow falling all around them. It wasn’t cold, like normal snow would be, but soft crystalline flakes that barely stuck to their hair and eyelashes. She giggled like a child, memories of long ago Christmas’ with her family floating through her mind as the flakes continued to fall. He twirled her around under his arm and, as she spun, the snowflakes continued to follow her every move. “They’re mine!” She gasped, moving a pace away from him to test her theory. As she imagined, the snow continued to fall all around her without ever touching him.
“All yours,” he nodded, quelling the vicious thought that James could never compete with him. If there was one thing he knew how to do, it was make a girl happy.
Taking her hand in his, they strolled more leisurely now, drinking in the surroundings as if they had not really noticed them before. The twinkling lights glowed more brilliantly in the darkness, the couples seeming to move with more grace and elegance than the bustling crowd earlier in the afternoon. The Christmas carolers still strolled about, their songs now more melancholy and reflective. Sirius laughingly joked with each street vendor until Lily would tug him away, invariably to look at another window display that tried to capture the magic of Christmas under glass panes. Light pecks on the cheek at kissing balls slowly turned to more hesitant kisses on the lips and, as the night wore on, they became oblivious to the crowd around them as mistletoe beckoned them to wrap each other in tender embraces and gentle kisses that seemed endless. It was as if they had been kissing each other forever- as if walking arm in arm as lovers was a practiced habit they had garnered after years together. There was something about the glistening snow, the magical atmosphere of a muggle world that had never been anticipated, causing them to forget that had they rarely shared anything other than amicable kisses before this night and any brief moments they had had together had been merely stolen fragments of time under the cover of darkness when their emotions were safely hidden from anyone else.
He refused to allow the truth in, content in denial for one night where love was a possibility and they both had finally found a place where they could belong…a place where hope, love and family were possible if they only dared believe.
Guiding her effortlessly through the growing crowd, they cupped mugs of warm rum cider in their hands as they settled on a bench. From their perch, carolers had created a makeshift stage on a statue and were singing to an enraptured crowd. Couples…first one, then another, drawn into the joyous and tender carols began waltzing around the cobblestone street.
The couples twirled around the carolers and, if he watched close enough, he could see their slow movements causing the long velvet skirts to sway gently around their legs. Some seemed to be humming along with the Noels, others whispering words not meant to be heard by anyone else. An older man, gentle and slow in his pace, guided his tiny frail wife near the center of the crowd, his arm slipping around her waist with a dignified grace that the younger set seemed to miss. They moved with a comfortable ease that put the others to shame, neither whispering secrets to the other as if they had been together so long, words would only drown out the moment they were sharing.
His eyes met Lily’s in quiet reverence for the couple, a mutual understanding that such a life long commitment seemed unfathomable to them at this point in their lives. Lily was watching the couples forlornly, the sigh escaping her lips not going unnoticed. Normally, Sirius would have assumed it a sigh of resignation…a slight moment of jealousy for the ordinary but sometimes mundane world of a Muggle’s existence. But tonight he knew better…tonight it meant something else entirely. “Would you like to dance?” he asked quietly.
“No, I’m fine watching,” she smiled embarrassed by his questioning gaze. “Truth is, I’m not very good.”
He smiled, taking hold of her hand and leading her into the group. “It’s okay, I’m good enough for both of us.”
He hesitated, realizing his comment had come out sounding arrogant rather than reassuring as he had intended. But Lily settled into his arms without comment and he guided her along effortlessly to the sweet melodies of the acappella voices.
“You are good enough for both of us,” she whispered, laying her head on his chest and causing him to break the formal stance he had kept her in. “Years of lessons for the young Black, I assume?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “What do you think they whisper about?” She asked her as several couples twirled faster around them, ignoring the pace or rhythm of the song. “Something meaningful? Chit-chat? Corny jokes?”
“Probably the same thing we are,” he murmured. Curious glances from couples nearby reminded him that their snow cloud was still with them but even he couldn’t bring himself to care. The soft flakes had become heavier in the darkness, mingling with the light snow that was falling on the London square. It left them covered in more snow than anyone else, as if they had somehow been singled out among the mass of couples sharing the street. The smell of fresh citrus mingling with peppermint seemed to take over, and Sirius nuzzled her neck to replace the holiday smell with the scent that was only Lily.
“Which is?” she asked with a giggle as his nuzzling began to tickle her skin.
Without warning, Sirius felt the tug in heart move from something friendly and merry to connection he’d always refused to recognize. He couldn’t tell her he loved her…it seemed trite and overused. Besides, he did not love people…loving people only meant hurt and deceit. Love always led to broken hearts and bitter endings. He could not and would not allow her to love him.
But he knew that never in his life had he been so consumed by the need to touch the soul of another person. That it happened to be Lily only made the irony of fate that much more perfect. Not understanding if it was the time, the place or the sequence of events that had put them here together at this single convergence of all things good, Sirius quelled the habitual voices inside in his head…the ones that screamed “no!” and told him to shut himself off from the world to protect himself from being hurt. He dropped his voice, raspy broken words bursting with emotion refusing to be silenced.
“What could possibly be the perfect thing to say when the first completely perfect moment finally arrives in your life?”
In an instant, the world stopped. His gift of pure honesty, spun with a true admission of his previous failures all leading to a single moment of perfection, colored their world like lights reflecting through the brilliant prisms of a stained glass window. Her eyes drifted slowly to his, as if she hadn’t heard him right, as if, for once, her intelligence had failed her and she was without any comprehension. “Sirius,” her voice broke with feeling, tinges of heartache and a sudden need she didn’t know she had filtering through with more visibility that she had intended.
Cupping her face to his, her eyes still misted with the effect of his words he let his lips brush against hers. He pulled away to watch the confusion in her be replaced with something he had never expected. “Lily-" he took a step back from her, the intensity of her gaze catching him off guard.
“It’s the mistletoe,” she tried. “Or the music or…something.”
She was giving him the opportunity to take it back…he knew it but, for the first time in his life, he refused to accept the easy way out. Sliding his hand around her head, he pulled her into him their bodies colliding as if they had been drawn together from some far off place and were suddenly being thrust toward one another. “Or something,” he agreed and, as his lips sought hers again, he could feel the world disappearing around him. Her touch was light and gentle, almost as if she was afraid to frighten him off but he had already resigned himself to the pull of Lily Evans. A soft fragrance began to ascend from her as their kiss caused her body temperature to rise and something akin to a memory flooded through him even though he’d never experienced anything like her before. He could feel the weakness overcoming him and before he could hide it, his body let out the tiniest quiver in the safety of her arms. Sirius held her tight, the world spinning away from him in the softness of her voice and the gentleness of her touch.
Sirius slid his hand into hers, the shivering of her tiny body causing him to pull her closer. Alone on a cobblestone dance floor with dozens of people surrounding them, he drew her into him in a gentle, sweet, swaying noel that was only for them. “Happy Christmas, Lily,” he murmured.
“Happy Christmas, love.”
I wrote it all down in this form because I find writing letters hard
Close your eyes and listen to the Christmas in your heart
Can you hear the angels sing their songs, can you see the guiding star?
I may not be there with you but you are in my prayers
And I wish you all a world of peace on this Christmas that we share
Close your eyes and remember how the shepherds were like lambs
And they followed that bright and holy star on the road to Bethlehem
Hold the hand of a loved one because this is Christmas too
And remember that this is the greatest gift that God could give to you
-A Christmas Card, Doug Stone
Merry Christmas to my HPFF family!!
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