AN: Slight spoiler to Deathly Hallows. I don't own any of the characters or anything else about Harry Potter.

Broken Tradition

No moon illuminated the nightly scene. Still, the sky didn't look black – it was hardly seen through the large snow crystals falling to earth. The streets were already covered by a thick, white layer, as well as the roof tops, hedges and gardens of the little houses – those houses which provided the only sources of light with colourful Christmas illuminations. It was a peaceful scene.

Unfortunately, the only person around was unable to appreciate it.

His hair and cloak were as dark as the unseen sky, his skin only seemed to hold colour in contrast to the snow surrounding him, and his face wore an expression of solid determination. Severus Snape didn't care about Christmas and the Muggles' celebrations. For all he cared, Christmas Eve could be any other evening in the year – with one exception.

It was a tradition that lit up this evening even for a dark creature as Severus. It had started years ago, even before he had gone to Hogwarts. Every year on Christmas Eve he would walk down the lane and sneak into the Evans' garden. Sometimes he had to wait a long time, sometimes she would already be there, waiting for him. But every year on Christmas Eve they would meet, Severus Snape and Lily Evans, best friends – and maybe some day even more. Or at least this was Severus' hope.

But things had changed between them. Their friendship had cooled down during the years at Hogwarts. If Severus was to blame anyone for this estrangement, he would instantly name James Potter. Yes, James Big-Headed Jerk Potter, who had fancied Lily for ages and hated Severus on first sight – a feeling that was mutual.

A neutral observer might admit that James Potter did somehow cause the final break of their friendship – after all he had started that fateful incident that had led to Severus calling Lily a mudblood. However, a neutral observer would certainly agree with Lily that Severus had changed, too. He and his friends were showing interest in becoming Death Eaters, expressed their despise of muggle-borns, and researched about the Dark Arts. Lily, muggle-born herself, hated the Dark Arts with passion. So, Severus calling her a mudblood had only been the last spark lighting the fire to burn the bridge of their friendship. Severus had often tried to apologize to Lily, but she had only listened once, when she had told him that their friendship was over forever. He hadn't believed her words. But from that day on, Lily had never talked to him again. First, he had tried to live with it, letting his anger out in numerous fights against Potter. It had worked, he hadn't felt miserable – but he hadn't been happy, either.

Then, last year on Christmas, he had decided to go and see her. But she hadn't come. He had waited all night, but Lily had not come into the garden. Furiously, Severus had picked even more fights back at Hogwarts, but he had to notice that Potter seemed more reluctant to fight. Maybe he was scared.

If anyone had asked him, Severus couldn't have told why he expected things to be different this Christmas. Lily had given him not the slightest hint that she would come and meet him this year. But he was confident that she would come out, allowing him to apologize and reviving their tradition.

He had reached their house and sneaked into the garden, hiding behind the garden shed. And then, he started waiting. He heard voices from inside and felt slightly bad. A happy family, from what he heard, although he wasn't able to understand words. A comfortable evening… security… He had never experienced that…

But it only lasted for a moment. He was Severus Snape after all, he didn't need any of this. All he needed – no, wanted, he corrected himself – was Lily to come out and talk to him.

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the door. Someone was coming out. Carefully, he looked around the shed's wall, praying that it would be her.

And indeed, there she was. She looked beautiful, wearing a long, warm looking green coat with a dark scarf wrapped around her neck. A smile graced her lips as she walked towards the old swings still standing in the garden. Severus watched her, unable to move. Too great was his relief to see that she had actually come.

Lily brushed the snow from one of the swings and sat down. Severus flinched when she started to talk. So she had seen him…?

"You know… actually, I'm too old for this. I mean… I'll be eighteen in a month, but I still love this swing." She laughed lowly. Oh, how he had missed the sound of her laughter… That she would actually grace him with this sound again…

"But it's okay." Lily continued. "You… You're the only person I'd let see me like this. I know you won't laugh at me for it."

So… did she trust him again? He could hear his own heart, frantically beating against his chest. He hadn't expected this. This was far better than anything he had imagined…

"I'm glad you've come." Lily said lowly. "Things are so dark these days… But I can rely on you, I know." She hesitated a moment, then she stood up from the swing and turned around. "Why don't you say a thing?" she asked, her voice slightly shaking.

It nearly shocked him. He had to talk to her. Of course! He was about to step forward, when he heard another voice.

"I still can't believe it."

Severus froze in his movement. He knew the voice. And now he noticed that there was another person standing near the door who started walking towards Lily. It was James Potter. Upon reaching her, he put a hand onto her arm and smiled at her.

"I always hoped you would give me a chance. But now, that it's real…" his voice trailed off, while his arm shifted and pulled Lily into a lose embrace.

Severus stared at the scene, unable to realize what he was seeing. Later, he would wish the shock would have stopped him from hearing what they were saying, but every word was crystal clear.

"If you had told me this one year ago, I hadn't believed it, either." Lily said and giggled. "I can hardly believe how you changed. You really were horrible back then."

Potter laughed. "Well, can't deny that. But you see… I realized, if I ever wanted to get close to you, I'd have to change."

"Only for me?" Lily asked, her voice soft and… happy? No, it couldn't be! She couldn't be!

"At first, yes. But I did realize that my behaviour wasn't correct. Not that I'd become a saint or something…"

"I'd hate it if you did." Lily replied. Severus watched how she put her arms around Potter. The embrace became tighter. He couldn't believe this was happening! It couldn't be! What was he doing here? Why did Potter manage what he couldn't have – to find her forgiveness and – for heaven's sake, it couldn't be! – love?

Severus kept staring at the couple, although he vehemently denied them to be one. He couldn't avert his eyes. A part of him screamed that this was impossible – it had to be a nightmare. A nightmare! But he knew it was real.

Potter now had a hand in her wonderful hair. Severus felt the urge to cut it off for this crime – even more, when Potter talked again.

"I love you, Lily – you know that."

A last glint of hope filled Severus' heart. She would not… No, she could not…

"I fought this for ages." Lily said lowly. "I didn't want to accept it. But I'm fine with it now. I love you too, James."

If this hadn't been enough to break him, the following kiss was.

He couldn't take anymore of this. He stumbled backwards and ran away. The sound of his departure made the couple – it was pointless to deny it – break apart. Potter took out his wand and looked around. But Severus was already gone. He ran down the lane as fast as he could. He didn't go home. He kept running through the town, until he was out of breath and finally broke down to his knees in front of a large well on the market place.

He couldn't get rid of this image… the image of Potter – Potter, of all people! – kissing Lily… his Lily…

Furiously, Severus crushed his fist against the well. It was a sharp pain, but at least it distracted him from this forsaken image. So… this was good. He started hitting the stone well, until blood poured from his fists. Exhausted, he sank into the snow. It wasn't fair… It simply was not fair!

Then again… when had life ever been fair to him?

Slowly, he got up. Of course, it wasn't fair. But he would learn to live with it. Already, the pain was transforming into hatred – or at least disguising itself as hatred.

In the future, this "hatred" would drive him to the Dark Lord's side and into doing horrible crimes. But deep inside, Severus Snape would always harbour the pain of realizing that Lily's heart did never belong to him.