Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own it. If I did, a certain werewolf wouldn't be dead. Why, Jo, why?!
Note: Yes, I know it's a few days late, but I haven't had much time lately. My boss has been putting me on for tons of closings and my brain is pretty much melted by the time I get home at one-thirty in the morning. Ick. . . . And, yes, I am still working on the eleventh chapter of An Ironic Title if anyone cares.
Note: If you didn't read the summary, this isn't going to be one of the cute, baby Harry Christmas fan-fictions that you read so often. I started out writing that, but my muse just led me in a certain way and I ended up writing this; it has its' happy moments but it's also pretty depressing so, if you're one of those people that gets depressed around the holidays you might want to go to one of those cute, baby Harry Christmas stories instead. Just a warning.
The First and Last Christmas
December 25, 1980
Ding-dong, the doorbell went at the Potter's house in Godric's Hollow. James Potter answered the door, pushing his messy black hair out of his eyes. Before he had even uttered, "Merry Christmas!" in fact, before he had even started on the first syllable, he was nearly knocked over by an elephantine black dog jumping on him, its tail wagging furiously. Before James could even turn to the black dog, it had disappeared into the living-room with joyful barks. James was helped up by an amused-looking man with light-brown hair liberally streaked with gray.
"Merry Christmas, Prongs," said Remus, smiling.
"Merry Christmas, yourself, Moony," James said to one of his best friends, patting Remus on the back. "Need help with those?" he asked, gesturing at the brightly-wrapped packages that Remus was carrying which were threatening to topple over at any moment.
"Thanks," Remus said, handing a few packages to James, and, with a much more manageable load, going into the room with his host close behind where the big black dog was frantically licking a baby's face. Baby Harry was giggling while his mother, Lily, looked on amusedly. "Sirius left me to carry these while he showed off," he said glaring at the dog, but there was an amused twinkle in his eyes as well.
The animal gave a doggy grin and a moment later, the grinning face of Sirius Black was there, framed by shoulder-length black hair. "I had to say hello to my godson, didn't I?" he teased. "Right, Harry? Your Uncle Padfoot had to wish you a Merry Christmas, didn't he?" He grinned and Harry giggled at his godfather's antics. "See? He said 'yes'!" Sirius proclaimed. Remus rolled his eyes and set his packages under the Christmas Tree while Harry gazed at the large, brightly-wrapped packages in awe. He looked up at his mother, his emerald-green eyes pleading in his cherub-like face.
"Not yet, Harry," Lily said with a musical laugh. "You have to wait until after we have dinner, then you can open your presents."
"That's torture for a baby, Lily," Remus said wisely. "Look at him; he's such a sweet pup. Can't he just have one?"
"You're as excited about this as he is, aren't you?" Lily teased.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am," Remus pronounced with a grin. James and Sirius both chuckled.
Lily smiled sweetly, her eyes which matched her son's, sparkling with laughter. "Oh, alright," she said, addressing both Harry and Remus. "But just one." Remus grinned and picked up a gift in green wrapping paper.
"This is yours, Harry," he said, bringing the gift to the infant and reading the nametag aloud. "See? To: Harry. From: Uncle Moony." Harry cocked his head at Remus and gave a happy gurgle at the bright color.
"Stop with the English lessons and get on with it, Moony," James said teasingly. "I'm one hungry Marauder."
"We shouldn't eat until Wormtail joins us," Remus said, reminding his friend of the fourth Marauder.
"Where is Peter, anyway?" Lily asked.
"He told me he had some Order business to take care of tonight and was really sorry he couldn't make it," Sirius said.
"It's Christmas, though," Remus said incredulously.
"Peter is more dedicated than any of us," James commented. "Ever since Voldemort sent Death Eaters to kill his father, you know that."
"Indeed," Sirius said seriously.
Lily gave all of them a shrewd look. "What is it, hon?" James asked, noticing his wife's face.
"I just don't trust him," Lily said. "There's something suspicious about all of this. I really think we should make you our Secret-Keeper if Voldemort ends up coming after us, Sirius." Before any of the other adults could formulate answers to this observation, Harry began chewing on the wrapping paper.
"No, no, Harry, wrapping paper isn't for babies," Lily chided gently, prying her son's fingers away from the paper and divesting the slimy bits from his mouth.
"It's what's inside that's important, pup," Remus added, unwrapping the package for Harry. It revealed a stuffed wolf and when the man pressed a button on the wolf's underside, began to gambol around on the wrapping paper, now and then giving a miniature yip. Harry giggled and clapped his tiny hands in delight.
"Moo-ey, moo-ey!" he crowed. Lily smiled, glad that the uncomfortable silence had been breached.
"What do you say, Harry?" she asked.
"Thank-oo, Moo-ey!" Harry said, throwing his arms around Remus, and giving him a slobbery baby kiss.
"Never too early to teach a kid manners, is it, Lily?" Sirius teased.
"It's easier to teach him than it is to teach you, Sirius," Lily returned.
Remus chuckled appreciatively while James said, "Oh, she got you, Padfoot."
"You're just as bad, Prongs," said Sirius, hitting his friend playfully on the back of the head.
"Well, at least I've mastered the skill of chewing with my mouth closed."
"Oh, really?" said Sirius, doing an exaggerated impression of it with a cracker from the coffee table.
"Yeah!" said James teasingly, throwing a walnut at his friend. Sirius returned with a deviled egg and soon a vicious food-fight was underway.
"I'm going to check on the ham. Can you watch Harry for a moment, Remus? It seems that those two kids are busy," Lily said, gesturing at James and Sirius (who were both covered in some residue of food), placing the one-year-old in the werewolf's lap, and walking into the kitchen (where tantalizing scents were issuing from), without waiting for a reply.
"They are crazy, aren't they, Harry?" Remus commented. The baby looked up at him, his eyes leaving the toy wolf (dubbed "Moony" or "Moo-ey"), for an instant. "Then again, you are James's son and Sirius's godson, so you'll probably be just like them when you're older," he added, casting a quick Scourgify on the couch to get rid of a mess of food that Harry had been reaching toward.
"Moo-ey!" Harry said, lifting up the toy wolf which seemed to have run down. Remus pressed the button on it again and it began to run around once Remus placed it back on the couch.
"Or maybe it'll be me or your mother coming out in you, eh, Harry?" he mused. "You have her eyes, you know."
Remus's musings were cut short by a comment Sirius made. "Why do you talk to him like that, Moony? He doesn't understand a word you're saying."
"How do you know?" James asked. "He's a very intelligent baby."
"If he has your genes in him, then he's definitely not intelligent," Sirius teased.
"Excuse me, who got an O in our Transfiguration NEWT and who got an E?"
"Hey, I would have gotten an O if that stupid examiner hadn't jinxed me!"
"The examiner didn't jinx you. That's just your stupidity at work, Padfoot."
"Oh, yeah, let's see my 'stupidity' shove this walnut up your. . . ."
"Excuse me, gentlemen, but shouldn't we be keeping this conversation G-rated?" Remus asked, gesturing at Harry who had been watching his father and godfather's conversation as the watcher of a tennis match might, his head swinging to each speaker.
Sirius sighed. "There you go with the kid understanding what we're saying, Moony," Sirius sighed. "Right, Harry, you don't understand do you? Do you?"
"Pah-foo stipidy!" Harry said, giggling at Sirius's surprised expression.
"Guess it's my genes coming out in him," said James. "Right, Harry?" he asked, picking Harry up.
"Dada!" Harry said, placing a sloppy kiss on his father's cheek and getting off a residue of food from James and Sirius's food fight.
"Oh, we'd better clean ourselves up," Sirius said. "We don't want the pup getting sick."
"Right. Scourgify!" James said, pointing his wand at his stained robes. In an instant, they were clean again. He had done it just in time for at that moment, Lily poked her head through the door again.
"Come on, you kids," she said. "Everything's ready."
"Ah, Lily's cooking," Sirius sighed. "Even better than what they make at Hogwarts."
"Yeah, except I don't have a hundred house-elves to help make it," said Lily somewhat harshly. "Hogwarts is a great school, don't get me wrong, but the way it employs those elves. It's slavery! Why, if it weren't for its prestige, I'd enroll Harry somewhere else."
"Lily, listen to me," James said firmly. "They . . . like . . . it. A house-elf's life is doing chores, that's what they enjoy doing!"
"Still, I really think someone should put a stop to it. I couldn't do anything as I'm not in the Ministry, but one of you three, you're training to be Aurors, aren't you?" she said hopefully.
"Lily, besides the total unpopularity we'd get by doing that, there would be a bunch of elf uprisings, they'd be angry with us for trying to stop them," Sirius said. "Now, let's eat. I am one starving man."
Lily sighed. "Fine, fine," she said.
"Everything looks delicious, Lily," Remus said, licking his chops at the ham, steak-and-kidney pie, stuffing, pumpkin soup, breads, vegetables, and butterbeer.
"Thanks, Remus," Lily said, taking small amounts of everything while the men loaded their plates.
"'S, grt, Lly, than-oo," Sirius mumbled.
"Sorry, I've only taken Mermish and Gobbledegook, not Food Garble," Lily teased.
Sirius swallowed with great difficulty and then said, "It's great Lily, thanks."
Lily beamed at him, then said, "What about you, Harry? What do you think?" to her son who was busy smearing his face with the baby food that he had been given.
"Is it yummy?" James prompted with a grin.
Harry rubbed his stomach and Sirius burped, having already finished nearly all of the food on his plate, making Harry giggle at his godfather's silliness. Lily rolled her eyes, murmuring something indistinct.
"What's that, Lily?" James asked.
"It's not about me, is it?" Sirius asked. "Like my wonderfully good looks and how did you manage to fall in love with this idiot, right here," he said, socking James jokingly on the arm, "while it is obvious that I am the one with most class at this table. Why, I can even burp the alphabet, and can your wonderful James do that?"
Lily laughed, making James look at her adoringly and said, "No. It's just that I will never again wonder why you two are best friends. You're exactly the same."
"What? We're both handsome rogues?" James asked, raising his eyebrows.
"No, you both have every lack of hygiene, but are wonderful nonetheless. Right, Harry? You love your Daddy and your Uncle Padfoot, don't you?" Harry gurgled incoherently, yet, to Lily's experienced ear in Baby Language, it was an affectionate one.
"Wow, Lily thinks I'm wonderful! I guess there's hope for me yet," said Sirius with a roguish grin.
"Oh, shut up, you," said Lily, trying to sound stern, but failing abysmally. "You guys are such sarcastic, lovable idiots. Not meaning you, Remus," she said, addressing the werewolf.
"Oh, I know," said Remus politely.
James shook his head. "It's so weird that you became one of our best friends, too, Moony," he said. "You, the serious, kind kid that we saw on the train, remember? Why, if you hadn't hung out with us you might have been Minister of Magic by now."
"It's a good thing you chose us, then," Sirius added. "Or you would have been nearly as great a prat as Fudge."
Remus rolled his eyes at his two best friends, knowing that they were kidding. "The authorities wouldn't have let . . . someone like me become Minister or any high-ranking official, anyway," he commented.
"You know, that's really unfair," Lily replied vehemently. "I mean, I can understand those werewolves that are on Voldemort's side, but for people like Remus, with the Wolfsbane Potion, they're perfectly harmless on the full moon."
"There's nothing that can be done about it, Lily," Remus said. "A lot of people don't have any problems with werewolves, but for those narrow-minded idiots who do. . . ." Here he growled deep in his throat, making Harry start and gaze at him with fearful eyes.
"It's alright, pup," Sirius comforted his godson. "Your Uncle Moony's just a bit annoyed right now."
"And I can understand why," Lily said, stabbing moodily at her ham. "Those people like Cornelius Fudge and Dolores Umbridge in the authorities, they're nothing but prejudiced people who only want to see the oh, so wonderful pure-bloods in the Ministry. Pure-bloods, huh! Let's see what they have to say about the Malfoys!"
"They haven't proved anything, yet, hon," James said, trying to calm his wife's infamous temper, although he believed in the Malfoys guilt as Death Eaters as much as his wife did.
"Prove anything! They don't have to prove anything!" Lily said, outraged. "Lucius has been seen in suspicious places with suspicious people and is simply staying in the Ministry by his pocketful of gold! That's all anyone cares about these days. As long as you have money, you can go wherever you need to in this world, you can have everything you need, and Voldemort's using that to his advantage!"
"We know, Lily," Remus said, helping his friend. "But their mansion's been searched many times and so far no one's proved anything." Lily huffed angrily, her hair actually seeming to spark with electricity. "In fact, I think that's what Peter's doing tonight, going to check out their place again. That man really is dedicated."
This comment was all that was needed to set Lily off again. "And Peter's a pureblood too, isn't he? Isn't he?" she demanded. "I really don't trust him, he's been acting really suspicious for a while, now, skipping out on all these gatherings we're having, saying he has 'Order business.' Yeah, right, if he has Order business, then I'm a flobberworm, the only business he has is dealing with unsavory people, you mark my words."
"Lily!" James said, outraged. "You can't accuse him like that without proof. He's our best friend, he wouldn't rat on us like that! Peter is a perfectly loyal member of the Order, more dedicated than any of us!"
"I'm sorry, James, but I very much doubt that," Lily said. "He has missed a lot of these meetings and his excuses are becoming wilder and wilder. I know that he has split allegiance and he's going to be showing his true colors, soon, James, I know it!" She was standing up now and her voice was somewhat hysterical.
"But, Lily, you aren't even making sense," said Sirius. "There's no reason for Peter to go turncoat on us. Voldemort killed his father, remember?"
"Sirius, think the way that Peter would," said Lily, sitting down again and speaking to Sirius as a teacher would to a student. "Voldemort has just killed his father and his mother's hysterical. Think of what the Order's like: a run-down, rag-tag group who are outnumbered ten to one by the Death Eaters and other Voldemort supporters. Then think of Voldemort: right now - he has power, I'm sorry to say, he has the brutal magical creatures on his side along with Death Eaters who aren't afraid . . . in fact, they actually enjoy killing people in the most brutal way possible. Peter's always wanted power, but he was always the lowest of your little group, I know he was and Voldemort's basically advertising his power to everyone in the wizarding world, right now and, knowing Peter, I think he's taken the bait."
After Lily's rant, there was a very uncomfortable pause in which the only sound was Harry's slight whines from all the adults shouts and serious attitudes. Finally, Sirius said, "You're mad, Lily. You're being ridiculous. Peter would never, ever do that to us. Never!"
"He has, Sirius," said Lily. "He may not have taken the Dark Mark yet, maybe he's waiting for that, but I know that he has a split allegiance. I know that, if anyone were to betray us to Voldemort, it would be him. He's weak, I'm sorry to say, and that's what Voldemort preys upon, those who are weak but want power so much. Voldemort is promising that to him right now and Peter's taken it."
"Lily has a point, you know," Remus commented. He actually looked somewhat nervous as James and Sirius glared at him, obviously not sharing his opinion. "I mean, Peter's been acting suspicious and Voldemort has been offering what he's always wanted, all of us know he's always wanted it, all those times that he was teased by Lucius Malfoy and his cronies and we rescued him? He didn't have power, then, but now he does and I'm guessing that he's becoming good mates with Lucius and the rest."
"Why do you think that, Moony?" Sirius asked, his voice a near growl. Harry looked at his godfather nervously and Lily picked him up.
"It's logical," said Remus simply.
"I don't think so," Sirius growled. "I think it might be because you're the turncoat here and you're willing to shift the blame off of yourself." With that, he reached out and drew up the sleeve of Remus's robes on his left arm, to reveal . . . bare skin.
"Sirius!" James exclaimed. "This is Christmas for God's sake! We should be being friendly with each other and enjoying being with each other (for in this war who knows who we'll lose?), not blaming people like this! We're all friends here, so can't we just enjoy the day, for Harry especially?" he asked desperately. Sirius and Remus stared at James, it wasn't often that the head Marauder was this serious, but when he was, it meant that he was greatly angry or upset. In this case, it seemed a mixture of both.
"Sorry about that, Prongs," Sirius said, giving his friend a gruff, one-armed hug.
"Don't apologize to me, apologize to Remus, you git," James said, somewhat annoyed.
Sirius sighed and turned to the werewolf. "Sorry, Moony, old friend," he said, shaking Remus's hand.
"Don't mention it. Really," Remus said, trying to put a humorous air on the tense situation that they were in.
"Alright," Sirius said.
"Now, are we all finished?" Lily asked. "Because I for one would like to see who bought me those diamond earrings that I was hinting about," she said, going into the living-room with Harry in her arms. She wasn't willing to give up on the subject of Peter yet, but didn't want to ruin her son's first Christmas and hated the rift that this topic was creating between her friends on such a special day as this.
James, Sirius, and Remus glanced at each other and simultaneously said, "Did you?" before following Lily into the living-room and the waiting presents under the lighted tree.
The next few hours were a joy for all those assembled in Godric's Hollow that day. All grudges were forgotten (or at least seemed to be), while the Marauders and Lily all gave or received presents from each other. It turned out that Lily had not only received diamond earrings but also a pearl necklace and a diamond bracelet from James, Sirius, and Remus, which she exclaimed over, making even Sirius blush. Harry, of course, was perfectly content with all the gifts that the adults had given him, and had gurgled unintelligible words in his excitement that even Lily could not decipher. The Marauders and Lily found themselves living through Harry and their hearts were warmed even in this grim time when one wasn't sure who one could trust or not (and though it was unspoken, James and Sirius still trusted Peter with their lives).
The joyful time seemed to go on forever but finally came to a close to the dismay of those assembled and it ran down into the lazy aftermath of Christmas evening. James and Lily sat snuggled together on the loveseat while Remus sat across from them lounging in the chintz armchair. Harry lay on the hearthrug by the fire with Padfoot curled up next to him, keeping the baby warm. It was the perfect scene, one that a person might have painted a picture of and people dismissed as mere fantasy, saying that nothing could be that perfect these days. And indeed it couldn't.
"This'll be something to tell Harry about when he's older," Remus commented, gesturing at the baby and the dog curled up together. "Him sleeping with Sirius."
"I must say, Harry's better-looking than some of the chics Sirius has slept with, though," James said with a grin, noting Lily's grim expression.
Lily, however, refused to let her husband change the conversation. "That is if he has a future to look forward, to," she said grimly. "Suppose Voldemort attacks us, James? We can't hide forever, we're members of the Order, Voldemort's top enemies. Harry won't have a future if Voldemort finds us, we'll all die, James! We'll all die! I want a better life for my son than this!" Her voice was an angry hiss and she was somewhat hysterical.
"Remus, could you perform a Cheering Charm on her?" James asked his friend. Remus nodded and reached for his wand, but Lily stopped him, raising her own wand.
"We need to talk about this, James," she said. "I'm not going to let Harry be killed!"
"Lily, calm down," James said gently. "We'll have Albus do the Fidelius Charm on us. Harry will be kept safe, we'll all get through this, don't worry."
If anything, this made Lily more upset. "Not if we make Peter our Secret-Keeper," she said angrily. "I have told you a million times, James, that man has split allegiance. He's not working for us, he's working for Voldemort and he's just waiting to show his true colors! Sirius or Remus should be our Secret-Keeper, not Peter! Listen to me, please, before it's too late!"
"I would, Lily, really, but one of the effects of my lycanthropy is that I cannot take place in certain spells such as the Fidelius Charm and the Unbreakable Vow. At times, it is highly useful, but at these times, well . . . let's just say I curse Greyback every day of my life," Remus explained sadly.
"And Sirius wants to keep us safe, Lily and he doesn't believe you about Peter, and, to tell you the truth, neither do I. Peter is our best friend, you haven't known him nearly as well as we do and I know he would never do something about that. He and I think that Peter being the Secret-Keeper will be a good bluff, everyone will think that Sirius, being the strongest, would be, but when Peter, the weakest is, no one will expect it, right? And who knows if Voldemort will even come after us?"
Lily didn't answer James's question, but instead said, "But we know there's a spy somewhere in the Order. There have been too many coincidences, Death Eaters turning up at the exact spots that Order members were scheduled to be that night. Why, the Prewetts, that's a perfect example right there and everyone thought that it was just a coincidence." She laughed harshly. "Coincidence? I doubt it, more like a spy. Do you know anyone else who has been as absent as Peter?"
"Who else? Snape, of course!" James shouted, waking up Padfoot (who simply looked disgruntled) and Harry (whose lower lip began to wobble at his father's exclamation). Remus went to him and picked him up while Sirius turned back into his human form.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Lily was talking about a spy in the Order and she thinks it's Peter, but who's more obviously on the Dark side than Snape? I mean, he's missed plenty of Order meetings. . . ."
"You know exactly why that is," Lily snapped. "Albus has been having him work as a double-agent."
"Oh, and how do you know Peter isn't a double-agent, as well, then?"
"Albus would have told us if our best friend was involved."
"Oh?" James asked sarcastically. "What if he thought that Sirius or Remus was the spy? The only reason you're standing up for Snape is because you fancied him at Hogwarts."
"This has nothing to do with who I liked and didn't like at school!" Lily said angrily. "This has to do with common sense and my love for my son! I want to keep Harry safe, James!" Tears were streaming unheeded down Lily's face now as Harry's sobs were heard in the background.
"And James wants to keep you safe, Lily," Sirius said in an unnaturally gentle tone. "That's why we're going to make Peter the Secret-Keeper if we get wind of Voldemort coming after you."
"Shut up!" Lily screamed, her green eyes flaring with anger and her eyelashes sparkling with unshed tears. "Shut up, all of you! I'm tired of this, of you not seeing common sense even when it's staring you right in the face! I'm tired of this whole goddamn war! I just want my son to have a life!" She started sobbing now and stormed out of the room, going upstairs. A very grim James, Sirius, and Remus were left alone, along with a sobbing Harry who was now and then, saying, "Mum-my," in a despairing tone.
Remus handed a crying Harry to his father and Harry reached out to his father, saying "Da-da."
"Yes, Harry. Daddy's here," James said, trying to stop himself from crying at his wife and son's pain. He then sat down in an armchair and Sirius and Remus sat down on the loveseat. There was a very uncomfortable silence except for the creaking of springs and the occasional sigh from one of the men along with Harry's sniffles (as he was now starting to calm down from the combination of the silence and being in his father's arms). Finally, James said, "You two are welcome to stay the night. Lily and I have the guest rooms set up just in case. . . ."
"No thank you," Remus said and Sirius just shook his head.
"I should get going now, it's pretty late as it is," Sirius said, going to the fire and shouting, "Lupin's Place!" which was where he was staying. Remus soon followed suit with a nod to James and Harry. It hadn't been a fun night for any of the Marauders.
James sat in the living-room, holding his son in his lap and rocking him until he fell asleep. James heard Harry's gentle snores and whispered, "Merry Christmas, pup," before getting up and cleaning up the strewn wrapping paper with a quick Scourgify while Banishing Harry's toys to his room. Holding Harry over his shoulder, James climbed the stairs to the second landing and walked along the blue carpeted floor, turning right when he came to Harry's room. He put Harry in the crib and tucked "Moony" in with his son. Looking down at the innocent infant, James felt a huge feeling of parental tenderness and imagined what it would be like to lose his beloved son to Voldemort. A tear slid down his cheek and he said more to reassure himself than to reassure the sleeping infant, "It'll be alright, Harry, you'll see." Then, he left the room, hardly believing it himself.
Note: So did you love it? Hate it? Just leave a review, please!