The Three Days of Christmas by Jess Pallas
Author's Notes: Written for the livejournal community metamorfic_moon's Winter Hallows Advent for the prompts: cobbles and lyrics from Do They Know it's Christmastime? It's been a while since I've written any HP so please forgive me any mistakes. The 1995 scene is a slightly self indulgent conclusion to my previous Meta Christmas stories, Mistletoe and My True Love Gave To Me. Finally I've written that first kiss! I'd intended to write a 2022 extract set in the Portalverse of A Little More Time as well but that seemed a little self indulgent so I'll leave it at just the three. :)
Christmas Eve 1981
The cobbles felt harsh and heavy beneath his feet, battering at the soles of his worn boots as his feet slip-slid on the cobbles of Diagon Alley. Lights gleamed, brighter than he'd ever seen, a riot of greens and red and blues and golds, all dancing together over the eaves and shop windows, boldly proclaiming the joy that still ran rampant through the Wizarding World now that You-Know-Who was apparently no more.
But to Remus they brought nothing but pain.
He didn't know why he'd come here. He hadn't even really thought about it. But it had just been too much, too much to cope with when he'd arrived home at his parents' house and had suddenly been assailed by the memories of James, of Peter… of Sirius, on their Christmas visit to him, of broomstick-back snowball fights over the meadow, of the snowman that James had made and then animated to follow Peter around for the next three days, of a giant black dog romping in a snowdrift and shaking himself all over his helpless friends…
He couldn't stand it. He'd apparated away.
He'd gone first to Hogsmeade but the memories there were even more pernicious and painful. Chased by an anxious patronus from his mother who'd seen him vanish, Diagon Alley had been his third choice and it wasn't really a good one either; Lily laughing at the singing baubles that rose glittering from the basket of a trader and circled her head humming "Jingle Bells" as James squeezed her shoulders and laughed, Peter tripping on an icy puddle and face-planting onto a heap of snow being magically swept along outside Madam Malkin's by a lone broom, Sirius lording it in the Leaky Cauldron as he enchanted three sprigs of holly to fly onto the chair of a Slytherin from the year below who was about to take a seat…
It seemed as though every piece of the world existed only to bring him pain. And there he was, lost in a sea of happy, laughing faces, trapped behind the grey, glass walls of his misery, unable to touch the colour and light and magic that swarmed without, unable to connect. He'd always thought he would be one of the first to celebrate the downfall of the greatest evil ever known.
But he couldn't.
He wasn't a part of this gleeful, triumphant world. He wasn't one of them. Perhaps he never had been. Perhaps he never could be and…
Tug tug tug.
Remus paused. What the…?
Tug tug tug. The tatty sleeve of his robe jerked again. For a moment, Remus could only stumble blankly to a halt, stilled from his mindless, melancholy reverie by the gentle but insistent yanking. Slowly, bewilderedly, like a man struggling to wake from a dream, he looked down.
A heart-shaped face stared back up at him. A little girl's face.
Her eyes were dark and her expression was quizzical as she stared at him from beneath an enormous woolly hat with lilac zig-zag stripes and a purple bobble that bobbed from side to side as she rocked slowly from one booted foot to the other. Two plaits, both a strange mixture of bronze, silver and gold strands peaked out from under her hat. In one mittened hand, she was grasping the red, glowing warmth of one of Florian Fortesque's Winter Warmer Snow-cones.
She tilted her head as she stared up at him. "You look sad," she said.
Remus swallowed hard, staring down at his strange apparition, not entirely sure what to say.
"I am," he managed hoarsely.
Little lips pursed thoughtfully. "Nobody should be sad at Christmas. Here!"
The glowing snow-cone was thrust towards him. Absently, almost instinctively Remus reached out one hand and accepted it. The warmth seeped into his fingers, trickling into his bones and suddenly the world around him seemed to come into stronger focus. The glow of lights congealed into shapes, banners, images of holly and snowflakes, robins and baubles that gleamed in every window with warmth and promise, glittering silver banners and eaves that dripped in magically conjured snow. And people, not just faces whose laughter seemed to mock his pain, but human beings, joyous and aglow with a light of their own, bundles tucked under their arms as they took each other's hands, dancing and singing and giggling together.
His friends had laughed here. They had been happy.
And that was what they would want him to remember.
He looked down at the expectant little face staring up at him and managed to muster a smile.
"Thank you," he said.
She beamed and her smile was like the sun coming up on a bright and breezy morning. "That's okay. I…"
"Nymphadora!" A woman's voice, loud and distinctly anxious, rose above the chatter. The girl jumped.
"I have to go now," she informed him solemnly. "I hope you like the cone. Happy Christmas!"
And then all at once she was gone, dashing over the cobbles. She stumbled once, dropping to her knees with a plop but before Remus could even gather himself to help her, she was on her feet again, glancing back and waving with one mittened hand before vanishing into the hubbub once more.
Remus stared after her. He stared down at the cone, feeling the heat from it simmer against the icy cold of his exposed fingers, creeping up his arms towards his chest. Gently, carefully, he lifted it and took a bite.
Warmth spread through his body like a flood. He smiled.
Perhaps he wasn't ready to celebrate yet. But maybe it was time to try and live in the world with those who did.
He finished the cone, slowly, carefully, deliberately taking in every single bit of warmth it had. And then, with a quick spin on the spot, he went home.
Christmas Day 1995
He hadn't expected her to be there.
It was late after all. Christmas Day was almost at an end. The Weasleys, Harry and Hermione had all gone to bed. Sirius was down in the kitchen getting cheerfully drunk with Kingsley, Mundungus and Mad-Eye and Remus had only adjourned on the grounds that firewhisky wasn't really his tipple of choice. And so he had made his way out of the kitchen, heading for his room, his mind mulling over the day, of gifts given and received, of the visit to St Mungo's, people greeted and faces seen…
He hadn't seen Tonks.
Of course he hadn't. She had her own family to go to, dear loved ones to spend time with. And despite the…understanding they had reached a few days before, that they liked each other, that they wanted to be more than just friends to each other and that, when the time was right and that perfect, special, private moment came, they would seal that understanding with an appropriate first kiss, it would have been unreasonable to expect her to duck out on her family for the sake of a man who was still, in the technical sense, just a good friend…
And then he'd passed the entrance to the drawing room and saw her.
He hadn't heard the door. His logical mind chimed in, pointing out that this was hardly surprising over the earlier raucous noise of Mundungus and Sirius' rendition of "Good Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs" complete with suggestive new lyrics and highly disturbing actions but that was about all the say that said logical mind got before it was utterly swamped by something very different.
She looked beautiful.
The room was aglow with the legacy of Sirius' mad decorating spree – swirling silver snowflakes danced around the corners of the room in a gentle, flowing spiral, casting twinkling light across the room in bursts of silver and shade and the tree glowed in the corner like a beacon of glorious bounty. And there, alone in the midst of it all stood Tonks, her hair a mass of glittering gold ringlets, her face upturned and her eyes bright with joy and wonder as silver light played in circles across her features, stroking her skin like a finger's gentle caress. Her smile lit up the room more that any enchanted Christmas tree ever could.
He was barely aware he was moving, that he was walking towards her, that one hand had reached out to stroke the cheek where silver light was dancing, binding around his fingers and tangling his skin with hers. Her face tilted with surprise at the contact, her eyes meeting his as the whisper of a special smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
"Happy Christmas, Remus," she said.
He did not reply. He did not need to. There was nothing more that need to be said.
And then slowly, tenderly he leaned forwards and for the first perfect, special, private time, he touched his lips to hers.
Christmas Day 1997
The world without was a dark place. Remus knew that.
He knew that beyond the window of his home, people were dying. He knew that good men and women – good witches and wizards – had been turned out onto the streets, denied their talents by an accident of blood or worse, imprisoned, hunted, punished for a crime that was no crime at all. He knew that dear friends were dead and many others were in hiding and that the fate of their entire way of life rested with a boy, barely of age, and nowhere to be found. He knew that this was a Christmas of fear, of prayers unanswered, of bitter tears and the shroud of doom. He knew that battles lay before them in which many more lives, including his own, might be lost.
So was it wrong, for just this one moment, to be happy?
He hoped not. Because he was.
Beneath the glow of their window full of everlasting icicles, Dora was sleeping. Her hair, a simple chestnut, was tickling his face, soft strands against his skin. Her face was so beautifully peaceful as she lay curled within his arms, one hand wrapped tenderly around her shoulders and the other, oh, the other resting against the fertile swell of her belly. And beneath his fingers, he could feel movement.
Their baby. Our baby.
How had he ever dared to abandon this? What had he been thinking?
Perhaps the world was a dark and terrible place. Perhaps he was going to die. But if that was the case, then Remus Lupin fully intended to treasure every moment he had left of it.
Life was too precious to waste.