Summary: Rejected by her sister and abandoned by her friend, Lily finds herself alone Christmas Eve. She is joined by a classmate with whom she rarely interacts (unless he's offended her), and realizes he, too, has nowhere to go.
Notes: I've taken some liberties with canon; her timeline for a certain event might be different from mine, but I felt mine worked best for the purposes of this fanfic. I would like to thank my beta readers, Aggiebell and vix_spes on LJ for their help.
For reasons that seemed entirely stupid in hindsight, Lily had opted out of going home for Christmas this year.
Things were stressful at home, for one. Petunia had gone from being jealous and petty but otherwise lovable to mean; anyone who was remotely different from her was taunted and frowned upon, and even some of her friends were subject to questionable treatment. Lily wasn't sure anyone in Petunia's circle truly liked Yvonne Acker, for instance - and she just couldn't approve of that.
It wasn't just about Petunia, although Petunia would like to think that it was. Christmas in her family was like being judged at a tournament; whose kids were the best behaved, whose eldest had been accepted to which University, whose Christmas tree had the finest decorations, until it turned into a Butting of the Heads more than the happiest day of the year. Lily had opted out, deciding to spend Christmas with her best friend instead.
What Lily didn't know was that Despina's boyfriend of twenty-four hours had also stayed. The entirety of Christmas Eve had been spent with him, and Lily only saw Despina at one in the morning when Despina stumbled into their dormitory, giggling madly. Lily had rolled her eyes, turned around, and fallen back to sleep. That morning, she and Despina exchanged a few words, but then Despina disappeared again to be with the boy she had now been seeing for forty-eight hours.
It was just a phase, and Lily knew that their other friend Mary had warned her of this possibility, so she should have known it would happen. But it still hurt, and it still left Lily without anyone to eat with on Christmas Day.
Lily was tired of sitting in the Great Hall, so she made her way back to the Common Room. She wished they had been allowed to go to Hogsmeade, but nobody felt safe there these days anyhow. It was close enough to Dumbledore that they were probably safe, but why take a chance? And Lily knew she would be You-Know-Who's first target. He might even be able to smell it on her. And, for all she knew Severus...
"No," Lily said quietly. "He wouldn't."
"Talking to yourself is the first sign you've gone mad."
The Common Room had appeared empty, but Lily now realized that someone was occupying a chair. Despite being very tall, he had managed to hide behind it.
"Sirius," Lily said. She and James Potter had been friendlier lately, maybe even friends, and on a first name basis now. She still thought Sirius was an idiot who brought the worst out in James, but it made sense for her to call him by his first name as well. He and James were practically the same person anyway.
"Evans - Lily."
"Why aren't you with James or one of the others?" Lily asked. "I know they all went home."
"Too much to do," Sirius said with a grin. "I have a few extra dungbombs and thought I'd make good use of them."
"Maybe you can send them to my friend Despina," Lily muttered.
Sirius's grin widened.
"Don't," Lily said quickly. "I was just..."
"Oh, but I want to. I saw you two talking earlier... rather, I saw you talking."
Lily shifted uncomfortably. "I'd rather not go there."
"Noted. Chocolate frog?"
"As long as it's not a prank," Lily said, sitting down next to him. She spotted something odd next to him.
"Why do you have your trunk?"
"I have all my things in here, James took the rest," Sirius said. "We're all joining him on New Year's."
"Why not now?"'
"He's visiting family, and they didn't want someone fromÉ my family at their house. Can't say I blame them. His parents like me – they were even going to stay home so I could join them – but I don't want to be the reason James didn't see his aunt and uncle on Christmas."
Sirius cringed, and Lily knew he hadn't meant to say the last part out loud.
"It's just what mates do," Sirius continued, as though to brush it off. "Besides, he thinks I'm at my cousin Andromeda's."
Lily frowned as she looked back at the trunk. It still didn't make sense; why did he need it downstairs, in front of the fire?
Then she realized he was also positioned by the window - perfect if an Owl happened to come by. And that was when she understood.
Everyone knew he hated his family - he never made it secret. In their first year, Narcissa Black and Sirius had exchanged hexes because he refused to stop saying such things. It was dangerous, possibly what Sirius liked best.
But it was still his family. They had still taught him to walk, responded to his infant cries, and he had still called them "Mum" and "Dad" at some point in his life. As sure as Lily was that she did not hate Petunia, as sure as she was that Snape would come around and apologize to her... Sirius was sure, despite all of his anger and distrust, that if he just did one right thing this one time, his Mum would invite him back for Christmas dinner.
Lily let out a curse. "Sirius... I'm so sorry."
"They're not sending for you." She hated saying it, but somehow she knew he needed it. As did she. "They're not sending for either of us, not this year. Maybe someday."
Sirius didn't say anything, but his grin vanished and his eyes suddenly seemed very dark. It scared Lily.
"Yeah, well, we're best rid of them," he contended.
"That's one way of looking at it, I suppose," Lily said.
"And anyway," Sirius continued, "we've got Hogwarts. The one place Voldemort's afraid of."
Lily let out a gasp. "You said the name!"
"I don't see the point in poking around it like it's Aunt Myrtle's horrid porridge we don't really want to eat. He's killed people; to not name their killer just takes away whatever dignity they've got left, and believe me, they haven't much. I was trying to get my mates to do it too, but..."
"Where are they?" Lily asked suddenly. "Remus and Peter, that is."
Sirius shrugged. "Home."
"And they didn't invite you?"
"I'm bored," Sirius said out of the blue, jumping onto his feet. "D'you fancy fresh air?"
"Fresh air? Where are we going?"
"How? You know Filch is watching the doors."
"I've a few secrets up my sleeve."
"Is it really safe, though?" Lily asked.
"'Course it isn't entirely safe, but... don't you realize that a Muggleborn and a blood traitor being hidden away is exactly what Death Eaters want?"
"If you want to wait for Despina, I won't hold it against you."
Lily didn't want to wait for anyone, as a matter of fact, and she had been bored to tears the night before, so she told Sirius to wait and hurried to her room for a coat and scarf.
The secret up Sirius's sleeve was a passage to Honeyduke's.
The two acquaintances made their way down the stairs, snuck out of the shop, and walked into a dark world lit mainly by Christmas lights.
There weren't as many as there ought to have been - things had been more somber as of late. But there had been an effort, anyway, and it showed. Red, green and silver lights hung from the lampposts, and a children's shop had snowmen wearing sparkling scarves out front. Several stores had their windows lit to reveal Christmas merchandise. There wasn't the usual music playing, there were fewer people on the street, fewer shoppers, but if Lily hadn't known the reason she wouldn't have thought much of it.
Most restaurants were closed, so they headed to The Hogshead.
"We're safer here anyway," Sirius told her. "There's no way they'd come here."
Lily eyed the cobweb above her head. "I don't suppose they would, no."
The pub was eerie tonight; a Hag sat in the back, and a man was singing to himself at a corner table. A mother was sitting in the center with her young children, staring at her soup and clearly trying not to cry.
"A pub filled with miserable beings. My kind of holiday," Sirius said.
They sat down and listened to a rendition of "Auld Lang Sang," apparently sung by goats.
"This may be the best version yet," Sirius said.
Lily grinned. "What's his deal with goats, anyway?"
"Goats are the best animal on the planet."
Lily's face reddened when she realized the pub owner was standing beside them.
"We'll both have a Firewhisky," Sirius said quickly. Lily nodded in agreement. The pub owner shot Lily one last dirty glance before going off.
"Now he's going to spit in it," Sirius warned her. "You may want to share mine."
"I don't think that waiters or pub owner really spit in people's drinks. I'll be fine."
"Lily, I know you like to think there's candy floss at the core of every man's heart-"
"No I don't!" Lily protested.
Sirius gave her a look. "Yes, you do. Look at the company you keep."
"Despina. I've been with Despina. She once talked about herself for so long I actually fell asleep and had to pretend I'd come down with something."
"She's not that bad, she was probably just nervous."
"She IS that bad! You two were supposed to spend Christmas together, I heard you talking!"
"So where are your faithful chums tonight?"
Sirius all but grabbed the Firewhisky glasses off of the pub owner's tray. "That's different! I'll have Yorkshire pudding, by the way," he added to the grumpy old man.
"Likewise," Lily said indifferently. "Anyway, how is it different? Who leaves their best friend alone on Christmas?"
"Some people deserve it, okay?" Sirius shot back. "Some people are just not good! Some people pray to God that they won't be like their filthy family, do anything they can to get off that roundabout, but end up riding the same goddamn thing anyway! Some people are just bad human beings. Full stop. Are you honestly surprised that your so-called best friends betrayed you? Or are you just sad that your bubble was burst? That they ended up giving into the worst part of themselves, because it was the easiest thing to fall back on?"
"We all have bad parts of ourselves," Lily shot back. "I'm not perfect either, you know."
"Of course not. But there's imperfection and there's plain effed up into oblivion. You've got yourself a common cold; Snape's got spattergroit."
"What do you have?"
"You're an idiot if you think I haven't figured out something's going on with you. So out with it. What do you have?"
"You've never called me a Mudblood, that's something."
"I lied to you. Sort of."
"When did you lie to me?"
"Earlier, but in my defense, it was a half-lie. James's parents would never let anything stop me from visiting them. The Potters are good people. I just came up with that story on a whim."
"What really happened?"
Sirius looked hesitant. "I did something really bad. I got mad at someone-"
"Severus? Is that what this is about? I know you pulled a nasty prank on him, but I didn't know whether to believe... everything he said about it."
"For once, he wasn't lying. He was talking to Regulus about Death Eaters" (Lily rubbed her temple at this development) "and I just lost all sense. One of my friends was in a... vulnerable situation, and I tried to use that to hurt Snape. Without this friend's knowledge. Now this friend doesn't trust me anymore, and Peter and James act like nothing's changed, but it has."
Lily had known there'd been a row, everyone in Gryffindor had heard the shouting coming from their dormitory, and now that she thought about it, they hadn't been the same. There hadn't been daily shenanigans in the Common Room, there hadn't been nearly as much laughter... and had James not been spending more time with her than usual?
"Have you tried talking to Remus about it?"
"I never said it was him."
"Who else would it be?"
"I do have other friends," Sirius pointed out.
"True, but not all of them are Remus, Peter and James. Just because I spent six years trying to ignore you doesn't mean I've done a good job at it. You make it hard; you lot enter a room and become the room. I think the reason none of us noticed something was amiss was because we don't even think to look for it."
"Well, I don't think you'll have much to look for anymore," Sirius said with a dry laugh.
Lily thought about Petunia never responding to a single letter, of Severus, of Despina. Those were completely different things, and maybe she wasn't entirely faultless either. Severus had been a lost cause, as it turned out, and Despina was just clueless, but what about Petunia? Had she not sometimes poked when she ought not to have? Provoked her sister just to get back at her? Maybe if Lily hadn't given into the heat, they could both be home tonight, sneak off somewhere like they had as young girls, huddled away from the bickering and passive aggressive Christmas wishes. And then there was another matter...
"Petunia has written to me, you know," Lily said quietly.
"Yeah. But I was so mad at her, I just put the letter away. And then I was too mad at myself for doing that to look at it. And here I am Christmas Eve hoping she'll show up, begging me to come home."
"Of course. That's how it works - we hate people for abandoning us, so we abandon them back, and then we want them to come to us."
"But sometimes it's for our own good. Like Severus."
"Believe it or not, I know how hard it was. But sometimes you'll go mad trying to change a person, so it's better to run."
"I suppose... do you ever miss them? Your family?"
Sirius hesitated. "I miss who I thought they could be."
The pub seemed unnaturally quiet now, and Lily found that even though she'd only half-finished her supper, she wasn't really hungry anymore.
"Let's head back, it's going to get cold," she said.
They stepped out into the cold night and made their way up the hill, automatically searching for any lurking figures or strange lights. It was almost instinct these days. Lily dreaded the day it was himbehind the mask, and hoped it never was, but had a feeling it would be for someone. It made her sick.
Silence carried them back to the passage, back to an empty corridor, and then, strangely enough, to an empty room.
"You should see this room," Sirius said as he led her. "It transforms into all kinds of things."
He shut the door, and to their surprise, the room became filled with Christmas decorations, the table covered with pasties and sweets.
"I wasn't expecting this," he added.
"Wow," Lily said, truly in awe. How had this happened? How was it that they were suddenly here, listening to Christmas music, standing only a few feet away from a tree? Where had the warm fireplace come from?
"Is this a trick?" she asked.
"No, it's just Hogwarts."
They sat at the table and, finding themselves mysteriously famished once again, helped themselves to Christmas biscuits and hot cocoa.
"I used to dream of rooms like this appearing," Lily said.
"Don't you dare tell James this," Sirius began, "But me too."
Lily gazed at the empty seat beside Sirius. He ought to be here, really, feasting with them. She had never thought that of all the people she'd miss, James Potter would be one of them. There was something about him these days... he'd grown up, and he'd been kinder. Sexier too, in a way. Lily had often wondered what she would do if he still fancied her...
"He still fancies you, you know," Sirius said, almost as though he'd read her mind.
Lily rolled her eyes. "Come off it, I hate when boys take the mickey like that."
"I haven't played the 'he fancies you, really,' game since I was eleven. I mean it."
Lily tried to act indifferent, but she couldn't hide her smile. "Really?"
"You haven't noticed? When we stopped... speaking as often, you were the first person he went to. He could've reached out to any number of people and they would have taken him, but he chose you."
A genuine smile crept on Lily's face.
They sat themselves in front of the fire, their bodies soaking into the chairs.
"Sirius?" Lily asked wearily. "Do you think people ever really change?"
"I don't know... do you?"
"I used to, but... now, I'm not so sure. Look at Severus. Maybe it's more that people change how they act."
"And nobody's just one thing. You can't only be good, or only be bad."
"No... besides, sometimes one man's good is another man's bad."
The music was making Lily more tired; she found her eyes growing heavy.
"They're going to forgive you, you know," she said.
"I know... James and Peter will, at least. Remus wouldn't, if he had any sense. "
"You have me," Lily told him in what was barely above a whisper.