Rating/Warnings: child abuse, suicide

Ship: Severus/Lily

Canon: Alternate Universe.Compliant with post-OotP canon. Ignores HBP and DH completely (i.e. Severus didn't tell Voldemort the prophecy).

AN: One or two of the 'what-if' scenes are based on some of my other fic ideas (none posted yet). Plot is loosely based on A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Vow

By Alexannah

Prologue: Planning Ahead

Darkness had fallen over the white-encrusted grounds. Most of the students had retreated inside, from their snowball fights and sled racing. Severus and Lily remained outside, however, having watched the sundown gloved-hand-in-gloved-hand. It was a clear, peaceful evening.

"What about you, Severus? What do you want to do after we leave school?"

It was their fifth year; the OWLs were fast approaching. Careers seemed to be on everyone's minds, even at Christmas. Lily had been spending the last few minutes relating her plans to him—she wanted to travel, and be a Healer, and marry, and have a multitude of children.

Severus' best subjects were Potions and Defence; he had a few ideas based on them but nothing solid yet. The only thing he was utterly certain of was that he wanted to be the lucky man in Lily's future.

He didn't tell her that. Nor did he tell her that he had already, for some years, been imagining their future together; the big house with lots of red-headed, flower-named rugrats running around. (Naturally, he wanted them to have Lily's features—he was nothing to write home about.) The thought of lots of screaming kids didn't scare him, only because he knew they were hers. He could imagine no-one else in his own future, and he wanted to give her everything she wanted.

"I don't know," he said instead.

"Oh, Severus!" Lily gave a half-exasperated giggle.

"Well, I don't. They can't expect everyone to have mapped out their entire career at the age of fifteen."

"Well then, forget the career bit." Lily squeezed his hand, and despite the cold, Severus wished they weren't wearing gloves. "Do you want to marry? Have kids?"

He gazed into her emerald eyes. "Absolutely," he whispered. But only with you.

Lily went slightly pink, as if she could have heard his silent addition. "Well, I definitely do."

"I know," Severus said, amused. "You said that already."

She giggled again. "Severus, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Well … what with this war and everything …" The atmosphere suddenly shifted unpleasantly. "You're my best friend, Severus. I trust you more than anyone."

He held his breath, waiting.

"If, once I had kids, if something were to happen to me … would you take care of them?"

"I—of course I would," Severus said, horrified at the thought of anything happening to her.

"You promise?"

"Yes!" Severus felt odd; a mixture of pleasure at her trusting him, but also getting the distinct feeling that she didn't plan for him to be those aforementioned kids' father—if she had, then there should have been no question about it. "Why ask now?"

Lily shrugged."I don't know. Just felt like I had to. I don't know why," she replied, sounding melancholy.

An uncomfortable silence fell. Wanting to break the unease, Severus took Lily's hand again and they began walking slowly up to the school. He was wracking his brain for things to say, but still no-one had spoken by the time they reached the Entrance Hall.

Lily suddenly looked up as they entered, and this time she went really red. "Oh … mistletoe."

Severus' heart leapt as she looked at him, and then with a small smile moved in. Though he realised too late she had been aiming for his cheek, he managed to capture her lips in a soft, if slightly clumsy, kiss. To his utter delight, she didn't pull back; she drew closer, and he lost himself in the girl he loved.

Maybe he had a chance at that future after all.