Christmas Hope

He watched her walk across the silent grounds from where he sat beneath a willow tree, watched her feet crunch on the pristine snow, watched her smile a little, and then seat herself underneath the tree he and his friends were usually so fond of, closing her eyes and letting out a quiet sigh. As always, everything about her struck him as unpredictably beautiful—her hair, bundled up underneath her hat, the few strands that escaped bright and glossy; her fair, fair face, quite as white as the immaculate snow that lay underfoot; her green eyes, always so expressive, today rather sweetly melancholic.

He watched her absentmindedly trail a finger through the snow by her side, lost in contemplation. What could she be thinking of? He allowed himself a moment of hope. Could she, possibly, be thinking of him…? He quickly squelched the thought. No, no, no. He had to be content with her friendship. It was enough that he had managed to earn it this year—though how, he still wasn't entirely sure. He knew he had changed that year, but not that much.

She was staring into space, her beautiful eyes unfocused. Should he go to her? He wanted to, but would she be angry if he interrupted her? After a moment of quiet deliberation, where two James-voices argued in his head, he stood up and quietly walked over to where she was seated.

He stood beside her. She still hadn't noticed he was there. Should he continue? Get a grip on yourself, James. You've never been this nervous. Yes, well, I think I have good reason to be.

Shut it, he commanded the two James-voices, and they complied.

"Er… hi."

Not particularly eloquent, but it would do.

She gave a little start and looked up at his tall figure. "Oh! Hello. I didn't think anyone was here." She wrapped her arms around her knees and nodded at a patch of snow beside her. "Do you want to sit?"

"Okay." There was a silence as they both surveyed the Great Lake, which glittered in the bright wintry sunlight.

"So what are you doing here?"

She glanced sidelong at him. "I could be asking the same of you."

James laughed. "Whenever someone uses that line, it's a sure sign that they don't want to answer."

Lily shrugged. "I don't know… it just seemed like a good day and a good place to think."

His heart beat a little faster, but he mercilessly suppressed his excitement. It wouldn't do to get his hopes up… "Think about what?"

"About everything! Family and friends and feelings and changes… and Christmas…" she quickly tacked on the last topic and blushed a little. She was so pale that you could always tell when she was reddening.

He decided to spare her the embarrassment for the moment and, instead of asking her about the first few topics—though he wanted to very badly—, he commented on the last. "Are you going home for Christmas?"

"Of course," she said, grinning, whether from relief or from sincere joy at the thought of going home, James wasn't entirely sure. "Are you?"

"Oh, yeah, definitely. Padfoot's coming back with me, since my parents have all but adopted him."

They cast about for a new subject to discuss, and James wondered why they felt so awkward around each other today. They had talked to each other easily enough countless times in school; why should today be any different?

"So…" he finally said, "what about changes?"

She looked thoughtful, her finger twirling and delving deeper and deeper into the snow. "I don't know… This is our last year at Hogwarts, and sometimes it scares me that, after this, it's all going to be gone. Everything that's been so constant and established for the past seven years is going to be… over. Forever. And what if we don't do as well in the real world?" She looked up into his hazel eyes, and she laughed apologetically. "Sorry. I know it sounds overly dramatic."

"No, you're absolutely right," he said slowly. "And a lot of times I feel exactly the same way."

"It's just…" she shook her head wearily. "Everything's changing. Even people are changing. You are, too." Her finger continued to trace patterns on the snow.

James couldn't help but feel a little worried. "Is that a good thing?"

"For you? It's wonderful! I mean, you used to be pretty conceited, but now that you aren't that way anymore, and now that you aren't jinxing people left and right for fun, your better qualities come out, and they make you an amazing person! You're intelligent but funny, and really creative, but compassionate too, and… and I think I might even…"

James was growing warmer and warmer with every word she spoke, and he knew he was just as red as she was. Her finger was weaving frantically into the snow.

"And… I think I might even—OUCH!"

James was confused. "What?"

She pulled her finger out of the snow, and her scarlet blood dripped from a small wound onto the white surface of the ground. She pulled the culprit out with her other hand—a sharp splinter of wood.

James quickly took her bleeding finger in one hand and pulled his wand out with the other. "Are you okay?" he asked concernedly, even as he tried to remember the spell to cure small wounds.

"I'm fine, it's very small, you don't need to heal it, it'll do just as well on its own—" Her protests were cut off as he murmured a few words, and the wound closed. The only evidence that anything untoward had happened was the blood on the snow.

"Thank you," she said softly.

He didn't answer, but continued to hold onto the hand with the healed finger, not quite sure what he was planning to do. He saw that she noticed and she blushed harder than ever, but made no move to wrench her hand from his grasp.

He tried to remember what he had told himself… something about being content with friendship… but as he looked at her, as he held her warm hand in his, he felt his resolve slowly slipping away, and he knew he had to speak.

"Lily," he said. She looked at him, her eyes sparkling like the surface of the Great Lake. "You know that I care about you, but maybe you don't know that I've never felt about a girl the way I feel about you, and I never will."

She dropped her gaze to the ground. He was still holding her hand.

"Do you, maybe, feel the same way?" The words were out of his mouth before he could control himself, and suddenly all of his promises to be patient, to wait, to be content came rushing back, and he was afraid. Had he just ruined their friendship?

But all his fears dissolved in her smile.

"James Potter, I believe I do," she laughed, her face radiant.

He grinned and resisted the urge to kiss her. Nearly all his dreams had just come true—that would have to wait for another time.

Yes, I know, it's a miracle! Three non-Lord of the Rings stories in a row! I just had to write this one, you know, in the Christmas spirit. (Hate the name, by the way, if you could suggest something better, I'll credit you.) For those of you reading this who also burrow into the LOTR fandom now and then, a new Lord of the Rings story is coming your way in a few days. Thanks for reading, and don't forget to drop a review. :)

EDIT: I changed the "will you go out with me" line because it felt a bit too... cheesy. I think this one works better.