Lily sat on the floor in the common room, packing away the last of her schoolwork into a folder. Everyone else had already gone home for the holidays, but her parents hadn’t got any time off work except for Christmas day itself, and Petunia was spending Christmas with her new fiancée and his family. Lily wouldn’t travel home until tonight – Christmas Eve. She was sitting relatively close to the fire, and the heat from it was making her feel drowsy. She yawned sleepily and pushed her thick red hair back of her face, leaning back against the base of a tatty old armchair which was usually frequented by one of the Marauders. ‘Bloody boys’ she thought to herself, bitter that it was only now, when the room was empty that she could even get close to one of the comfy chairs. Then again, if she had ever said yes to James they could have squashed cosily together onto this one, with her on his knee. She laughed quietly to herself – it was sad that she was starting to warm to Potter now, as lately he had stopped asking her out. She had thought it was a blessing at first, but then he had started behaving differently, friendlier, less cocky. He hadn’t said a word to Severus in at least a month, not in her hearing anyway, and last week he had helped up that little Hufflepuff boy who tripped over his laces, didn’t even snigger. The old James would have just stood there and laughed. Lily’s eyelids began to droop, and she yawned again. She could shut her eyes for a few minutes, her parents weren’t coming to get her till twelve. ….
There was a loud crackle from the fire, and she jumped up, scared of the sparks. A dark shape was materialising out of the flames, the silhouette of someone bigger than her, and Lily slid behind the nearest chair, hiding from whoever it was, her heart pounding like a drum. A boy she recognized stepped out of the fireplace, looking miserable and dishevelled. He slumped into the chair she crouched behind, and put his head in his hands. From behind the chair she heard him break into hoarse, racking sobs.
“Sirius?” she asked, after an interval.
“Who – who’s there?” he sounded angry now, as well as miserable. Holding her breath, Lily scrambled to her feet and emerged into his sight. She smiled at him awkwardly.
“Evans! What, what are you doing here?” he sounded a bit confused, but not totally furious at her. This was good.
“Sirius are you…are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?”
“Well no, that’s why I asked.”
He laughed his frightening, bark-like laugh. “Thank you for your concern, “ he said in a mock-polite tone “but I’m afraid it’s none of your business.”
“Well it is actually Black, if you’re going to sit there being miserable and ruin my Christmas Eve”. She bit her lip then. He was obviously really upset and she would probably make it worse. “Sorry.” She said.
“Are you staying here for Christmas then?” His voice was rough but there was a note of hopefulness in it. Did he wish she was staying? She barely knew him. And why was he here anyway? His sharp grey eyes met hers with an intensity which made her breath catch in her throat.
“My Mum and Dad’ll be here to get me in an hour” she answered sympathetically.
“Sirius…” she began again.
“Don’t” he barked. “Don’t ask me what I’m doing here, didn’t I already tell you it’s none of your…”
“Okay , okay.” She ran her hand through her hair frustratedly, half turning her face away. When she turned back he was staring at her with his eyes narrowed. His mind was only half on her, she could tell. She went and sat beside him, on a rickety chair that Peter often used.
“I’m the only other one here and you still get the best chair” she muttered, half- teasing. Sirius sniggered.
“Well I deserve it, after what I’ve been through lately”.
They were quiet for a minute while Lily tried to think of a response. Silence was probably the best answer however, because soon Sirius continued.
“I ran away from home – that’s why I’m here. Didn’t know where else to go…”
“Well that’s stupid…” she began to say.
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew my mother,” he exploded. “I bet your life’s perfect isn’t it Evans? Your nice mummy and daddy coming to take you home, driving all the way up to Scotland just to get you? You’re a spoilt little brat so don’t tell me I’m thick, I think I know what I can stand and I can’t stand another second in that bloody place”
“I didn’t mean…”
“I’ll tell you what you meant…” he was standing over her now, his face was white and he was shaking with a combination of rage and misery. “You meant that I’m over-reacting, but if you ever set foot in my house you’d be cursed to God knows where, just for being a… for being muggleborn. They treat me like shit just because I’m in Gryffindor, and I’m their son for Merlin’s sake”
“You what?” he was breathing heavily and his dark hair had fallen into his eyes, those eyes which suddenly she couldn’t look away from. He pushed his hair back and sighed heavily, his anger had seemed to subside a bit at the distressed look on her face. He leaned forward, his hands on his knees and looked at the floor. “Sorry Lily” he said.
“It’s okay. I’m sorry too.” Sirius looked up into her face and her eyes met his. She smiled kindly at him. “So, you came back to Hogwarts?” He dropped onto the arm of his chair and looked down at her.
“Yeah, it’s the second home for all of us, isn’t it?”
“Ha, yeah I suppose so. There’s quite a few people staying for Christmas this year, I know Bertha Jorkins is, because her mum’s not well, and Severus always stays…”
“You know, that’s made me feel so much better.” She laughed and grinned at him.
“Sorry.” She said. He let out another bark- like laugh.
“You should be”.
His grin was much more menacing than hers had been. Lily always felt that there was a dangerous side to Sirius and sometimes it shone through, in a grin or a glint of the eye. James didn’t have that, he was much more safe.
“Sirius…” Lily began again, “when I said before, that you were stupid, I meant about you having no-where to go”. He looked at her disbelievingly.
“Well, what about James?”
“Er… yes. I’ve heard him say loads of times that if it ever gets too much you can stay at his. Does he not mean it then?”
“His parents wouldn’t want me.”
“His parents would do anything for him. He’s the spoilt brat, not me.” She looked pointedly at Sirius and he grinned again. “And you must have met them before?”
“Yeah.” He said. “They love me.”
Modest as ever, she thought, but out loud she said, smilingly “Who wouldn’t?” He laughed again, and jumped up. He looked happier.
“You know what? I think the Potter’s would have me. James is practically my brother, it’d be like casting out their own son!” His face clouded over. “Then again, that’s been done before.” Lily got to her feet then, feeling sorry for Sirius, but positive that James would take him in, and convince his parents to let him stay. She reached her hand up to his shoulder and looked him in the face.
“Go to James’s” she said. He looked back at her, and his piercing eyes scrutinized her determined face. She felt herself blush – it was impossible to deny how handsome he was.
“You know” he said slowly. “I’m beginning to see what Prongs sees in you”.
She smiled, but it was difficult to keep looking serene when her heart was beating so fast. She heard footsteps on the stairs.
“This’ll be Mcgonagal, to tell me that my parents are here.” She said.
“Yes.” said Sirius. His eyes still retained that intense, piercing look. “I should go.” He took hold of her hands and squeezed them, his gaze fixed on her face. “Thanks Lily”.
He turned and walked back to the fireplace, throwing a handful of green powder into the flames. The portrait of the fat lady swung open just as he disappeared, with a roguish wink at Lily (which was more like the Sirius she knew) and a bark of “Godric’s Hollow!”
“Lily!” said her mother, as she climbed through the portrait hole followed closely by her husband and Professor Mcgonagal. “We came to see where you live!” Lily laughed and hugged her parents.
“I’m almost ready to go,” she said. “Just need to shove a few more things in the trunk.”
And as she ran back up the girls’ staircase to her dormitory - to magic a few forgotten items into her luggage - she couldn’t quite help raising her hands to her face, and thinking that just a moment ago, Sirius Black had been holding them in his.
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