Author's Note: Hi, this is just a little one shot bug that got into my head and wouldn't leave me alone. I've been feeling in a rather depressed and angsty mood lately, so it was a good thing to get it out. To put yourself in the right mood for this story, listen to Sarah MacLachlan's "Wintersong" from the Wintersong album. I wish everyone a happy holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate; and may we all have a happy and healthy new year. Mutt
The First and Last Christmas:
A "Knots" One-Shot
I was sitting on the floor beneath the tree, making silly faces at my nephew so that he would smile at me again. He liked it when I shook my hair, and he'd get this wide smile and loll his head back and forth. "Oh, look at what a big boy you are, you are growing too fast, Harry."
"Well, you look like a fool, Ellie, so I guess you're a matched pair," Jamie teased as he walked back into the room from the kitchen, carrying a warmed bottle for Harry. I snatched it from his hands and lifted Harry up so that I could feed him.
"Thanks, Jamie. Here I am, entertaining your son, and you tease me," I told him in mock indignation. "Maybe I won't help you on New Year's Eve!" I said with a quick expelling of air to let him know that I meant business.
"Ellie," he whispered sternly, "I've already made the reservations," he whined. Jamie was taking Lily away for a romantic date in London to celebrate New Year's Eve. It had been a hard year for both of them, between their jobs at the Ministry and St. Mungo's and their work with Dumbledore, they had little time to just relax and be in love. I was more than happy to help facilitate some alone time for them.
"Jamie, Jamie, Jamie, do you really think that I would get in the way of you and Lily having some time to yourselves? I love Harry, I love taking care of him. Heck, you haven't really changed my room, so staying here is like..." I trailed off, lost in the thought. Silence fell upon the room like a heavy quilt, and I struggled to keep from looking in my brothers eyes.
It had been a year since our father had died. Mummy had preceded him the spring before. All that was left of the once large Potter family was Jamie, Harry and I. Loosing them had been very hard, and it still brought chills to me when I thought about it.
"Ellie, this will always be your home. You know, you could just come live with us, give up that flat of yours and ..." I started to shake my head and he stopped. This was a conversation that we had often, and it usually ended the same way.
"Jamie, I can't leave there. As much as it hurts, it's where we were happy and I can't..."
I was interrupted by the front door flying open, and the wind whipping snow into the room. A man entered the room, his dark, heavy boots stomped their way in, and he was shrouded in a floor length cloak. Jamie immediately stood and pulled his wand, and I could feel a shield charm go up around Harry and I. The man took another step into the room and I reached down to slip my wand from the pocket in my skirt. My shield wasn't as strong as Jamie's, but it would still help.
I knew that they were being hunted by Death Eaters, he'd explained what was going on, but it wasn't real for me until this moment. The man seemed to tower over us, he was even taller than the tree. I pulled Harry to me and tried to shield as much of his body with mine as I could.
Lily must have sensed that something was wrong, because she came out of the kitchen with a phial of potion that she threw on the floor at the man's feet. Tendrils of smoke rose up and caressed around him, quickly turning solid and encasing the man. Jamie quickly commanded the door shut, and I watched as it glowed with a locking charm being put on it. As the vapors evaporated, I rose and moved with Harry toward the back door of the room. I knew if I needed to, I could apparate away from here, and Lily and James could fight the intruder.
James moved closer to the man encased in Lily's potion cage, and whipped the hood from his cloak off his head, revealing his face. While Lily and James relaxed their stance, my stomach lurched and I began to freeze. Lily threw the reversal potion onto the floor, quickly releasing the man from the cage. I moved over to where Harry's enchanted swing was, and put him in and set the charm so that he moved like a little pendulum.
"Nice greeting, Prongs!" Sirius yelled at him. "Hate to see the way you greet those that aren't supposed to be your best friend."
"You didn't announce yourself Padfoot," Jamie reprimanded him. "How was I supposed to know that it was you?"
"James, it's Christmas Eve, you have four wards on your house, so that people who are not invited cannot come in, and I built the last one for you; there are only six of us that can get through it. You should have known it was me," Sirius said going and hugging my brother. He then turned and hugged and kissed Lily hello. "Anyway, I wanted to surprise my godson."
Sirius turned to where Harry was sitting in his swing, and our eyes met. It felt like all of the oxygen had been sucked from the room and that the door was still gaping open, letting all the cold air in. I broke his gaze, and looked at the floor quickly.
"I didn't know that you'd be here," Sirius said, "I thought you were still in Japan."
"I just came back," I said, having a hard time controlling my emotions. "I wanted to spend the holidays with my family. Will you excuse me please?" I spit out before turning on my heels and rushing out of the house. I ran out the back door, and got about twenty feet before I realized that my cloak was still inside the house. I put a quick warming charm on me, and a waterproof charm on my shoes as I trudged through the snow.
Jamie had carved a beautiful stone bench near my parents graves, he'd done the work by hand -- not using any magic -- to make this place for us to come and sit and speak with our parents. Before I knew it, my face was covered in my tears and I was sobbing at the heartbreak I was feeling.
I thought back to my childhood celebrations, we'd start with Yule and then celebrate Christmas, going to services on Christmas Eve at the local parish. Christmas day was always spent at St. Mungo's with the sick children. The traditions stayed the same, even once Sirius was adopted into our family. Daddy would always find a way to have him here with us, recognizing that Sirius home life was sad and difficult.
The holidays became different once Sirius and I were together. Everything seemed more beautiful, more...magical. We'd go to Diagon Alley and shop together, we'd walk in the woods to find the perfect tree, and he'd watch as I baked with my Mummy; sneaking too many cookies. We went to the Longbottom's Christmas Ball together, I danced nearly every dance with him; only parting to dance with my Daddy, my brother or one of our friends from school. I hadn't been to the ball since the last time that we went together, the Christmas after we did the rite.
I looked at myself in the mirror, and I couldn't believe the transformation. Lily and Grace had insisted that we all get dressed together; and I was glad that we did. I was wearing a set of robes that my Mummy had taken out of the attic; they had once belonged to my Grandmummy Hightower. They were supposed to be a copy of some fancy ritual robes from her family. It had something to do with lineage and magic, but I sort of stopped listening as my Mummy droned on about the family history. I knew that it was important, but it was really dull, too.
The robes were made of material so fine that it seemed to float around me. They were a vibrant red, trimmed in silver. The color was so bright that it made my skin look like cream and my hair look like it was spun of gold. My shoulders were bare, and I had to have Grace help me transfigure the bust line slightly, as to make sure that the mark from the rite was covered. We'd still not told my parents.
My mother lent me her bloodstone necklace and earrings, and Grace had charmed my hair so it looked like there were little diamonds glistening within it.
"You look...that dress is...damn girl, you look better than I do," Grace said emphatically. Both Lily and I laughed, because we knew that whenever Grace walked into a room, everyone stopped to stare at her, she was just that beautiful.
"Thank you," I said humbly. I only wanted one person to think I was beautiful tonight; I suspected that he would.
We had dressed at Grace's house. It was a huge, grand manor, fitting a family that had such a rich magical history. The three of us would be going over to the ball with her parents. Remus would be there this year, as it was days past the full moon, and the guys had made sure that he wasn't hurt during this month's change.
I wished with all of my heart that he would tell her, but he stood fast that she couldn't know, as he was certain that Grace wouldn't love him if she knew. I thought that he wasn't giving her enough credit.
Lily was going alone, well, she was going without an escort as was my brother. The two of them had been dancing around each other for years now, pretty much since we had started at Hogwarts. I really thought that they made the perfect match, evened each other out. I thought that it was quite suspicious that Jamie -- my brother who had girls throwing themselves at his feet -- didn't have a date; and neither did the girl that he pined after.
We headed downstairs to where we were to meet Grace's parents. We tittered with nervous energy and we could barely contain our giggles to make sure that we held onto the portkey that was made to take us to the Longbottom's mansion.
Sirius was waiting outside the ballroom for me. My father had taken both he and Jamie to get new dress robes this year, and I was pleasantly surprised when his were trimmed in the same vibrant red of my dress. He walked toward me, holding an enchanted rose before him. It was a beautiful opal color, and as the light hit the petals, the shade shifted and danced across the bud.
"Sirius, it's beautiful, thank you," I told him as he handed me the flower. I tilted my head up and leaned toward him, letting him know that I wanted to kiss him.
"Nothing is as beautiful as you," he whispered when our lips parted.
"Okay, enough you two, blimey you're in public," I heard the voice of my brother tease.
"Go away, Jamie. I think that Lily needs someone to follow her around tonight, drooling at her." I heard him huff away, trailing after Lily, who was laughing at my comment.
"You look absolutely lovely, Ellie," Remus said as he kissed my cheek. "The color is quite like a little fox I know," he whispered in my ear. I had only achieved my full animagus a few months ago, and even though I was registered, it wasn't something that I shared with a lot of people. Sirius and I both had to choke back a laugh at the comment.
The ball was beautiful, and Sirius and I danced every waltz together, he held me tightly to him, telling me stories about what our future would be like, now that we were tied to one another. After a while, we broke away from the party, and found a quiet place in the library to be alone. We sat in one large winged back chair, I curled up in his lap, facing the fire. We had been engaged for one year, and tied to one another for almost four months. As we kissed, I felt Sirius hand gently slide away the neckline of my dress, and he broke the kiss so that he could down at his mark on me. His fingers dipped down and caressed it, causing me to get goosebumps.
"It's so beautiful, Lolly," he whispered as he looked at it. "Mine, always and forever mine. I love you so deeply."
"I love you too, Sirius, with all that is in me. I will always be with you, no matter what. I promise."
I was shaken out of my memory by my cloak being placed around my shoulders. I looked up at my brother and I didn't need to say anything, he just enveloped me in his arms and let me sob into his chest.
"Oh, Ellie, you know if I could take this pain for you, I would," he tried to soothe me. "I never liked to see you sad, even when we were kids." His words did quiet me some, but my heart still ached. We sat there, on the bench in front of our parents graves, under the barren, bending branches of the Willow tree. The snow had died down, and the sky was beginning to clear, enough so that you could see the stars. It didn't get past me that the star we could see was sirius. I pointed up at it, directing my brother's gaze upon it.
"Did you know that sirius is actually a double star? The companion star is very small, it's only visible through those high powered Muggle telescopes. It's little companion is trapped in an orbital dance, where they get close together, but they never quite join but they can't pull apart either." When I learned that, I always thought that it was an apt description of us. Perhaps we were destined to be this way, like it was written in the stars.
"Ellie, he hurts as much as you do." I shook my head furiously at my brother's comment.
"He can't Jamie. The rite it..." fresh tears started to fall, and I contemplated whether I wanted to tell my brother my biggest secret. "Jamie," I was sobbing now, "when he's with his wife...I know it. I can...feel it," I stopped to sob again. "It's like my heart is on fire and the mark it...I've never hurt him the way that he's hurt me."
Jamie hugged me tighter. "Ellie, I didn't...why didn't you tell me?"
"What difference would it make? You can't take the pain for me, there's nothing to make it stop. It's why I live alone, I can't awaken anyone when I scream."
"You have to tell him."
"No!" I told him, pulling away and grabbing his shoulders to shake them. "You can't tell him. Pinky swear that you will not tell him!" I commanded, lifting my little finger to my brother like we did when we were kids.
"Ellie, that isn't something that you should keep a secret from him. He loves you so much.."
"Jamie, swear to me that you will not tell him!" I nearly yelled at my big brother. "I can't do that to him. This is our secret, yours and mine alone. You can't even tell Lily or Remus."
Jamie looked at me, perplexed and then his face softened as he linked his little finger with mine. "Fine, but you're wrong here, El. He needs to know, he does still love you, as much as he ever did. He hurts so much for you. Right now, he's convinced that you left because your angry at him for ruining your life." I leaned down, resting my face in my palms as my elbows were on my knees. I blew out a deep breath and sighed.
"I don't hate him, Jamie. You have to tell him that. I left because...when I see him, I just want to wrap my arms around him and have him hold me and love me...and he can't. It was excruciating to have him that close and yet..."
"That's what I thought, and I told him so; but I think that he needs to hear it from you," Jamie explained and I nodded.
We stayed in the cold for a while longer, talking, finally saying our Christmas wishes to our parents -- not to their tombs, but to the night sky instead. We went back inside, where Lily had dinner prepared. After supper, we went to church. Harry was as good as gold, never crying or fussing. I think that he was fascinated by the candle light in the windows. I sat next to Lily, and Sirius was on the far side of James. I couldn't help but notice the way he was looking at me through the whole service. I was thankful when we got home, and we each retired to our own rooms.
A few hours later, I awoke with a start. When I traveled, I kept a sleeping potion with me, since the time changes were wickedly hard. Of course, in my flustered state after services tonight, I forgot to take it. I slid my feet into my slippers, and headed down to the kitchen, where I knew that Lily kept her potions stash. I was surprised when I reached the first floor and the tree was lit, and Sirius was sitting on the floor, looking up at it.
"I'm surprised that you're still here," I told him as I went and sat on the sofa across from the tree. Sirius back was to me, and he never took his gaze away from the tree as I sat down.
"They won't notice that I'm gone. Everyone is still at Bella's. They're still imbibing from their Yule celebrations," he explained. "My wife," he said, cursing out the word, "was all over Rabastan Lestrange. He's welcome to her."
"I'm so sorry, Sirius," I whispered. We sat there in the quiet for a while longer. After a few minutes I went to the kitchen and raided Jamie's wine cabinet, and poured us each a mug, which I warmed and added some of Lily's special spice mix to. I returned to the lounge and found that Sirius had moved himself up onto the couch, sitting at the far end, closest to the fireplace. I handed him one of the mugs and then went and sat at the other end.
"You always know just what I need," he whispered and his words brought tears to me again.
"Sirius, Jamie told me what you were thinking earlier. I don't hate you, I'm not angry with you, and you haven't ruined my life," I told him quietly. In response to my words, he stared at me, long and hard.
"How can you feel that way?"
"If I regretted what had happened, then that would mean that all that time we spent together, the words of devotion that we shared, the sweet love that we made; it would mean that none of that was real. I cling to those memories, Sirius."
"You're simply...remarkable, Lolly." We sat there in a comforting silence; if I had nothing else of him anymore, I could at least share his company. I watched the fairy lights dancing on the tree, and at some point, I put my empty mug down, and laid my head against the back of the couch. I was surprised when a small afghan floated over and landed on top of me.
"Thank you," I told Sirius as he put he wand back away in his pocket. He was still fully dressed, I wondered if he had any other clothes here or not.
"How long are you here for this time?"
"For good," I told him, and he raised his eyebrows at me. "I'm done with traveling and lecturing. I want to stay in Britain, I want to be here to watch Harry grow. It's like having my own..." I stopped, regretting the words as soon as they left my mouth.
"Merlin, Lolly, what I did to you. You have to know..."
"Sirius, stop. We can both wish and dream, but this is our reality. Someday, somehow, we will be together, I know it; even if it isn't until we're gone from this world," I told him, beginning to again cry. "You are mine for eternity. She may have your body right now, but I will always have your heart."
"Oh, Lolly," Sirius said, his eyes glistening with tears that had yet to fall. He reached across the couch and pulled me to him. Feeling his arms around me, his breath against my face, his lips on the crown of my head, it was all too much, and I started to sob into him. "Lolly, I love you, I love you so much. I want you so badly." His words were gentle caresses to my soul, just as his hands held my head and back. I could feel his tears mingling with mine, rolling their way down my face.
"I love you, too. So much, so very much."
We held each other and sobbed, but they were cleansing tears; washing away the pain and fear that we had each held onto for so long. At some point, Sirius stretched himself out, and then nestled me between his legs. My head laid on his chest, and his hands rubbed up and down my back, under the afghan that we now shared. I didn't want to say anything, didn't want to remind myself or him that this wasn't real, so I lifted my hand to my lips and placed a kiss upon my fingertips and then brushed them against his lips. I heard him sigh as I did this, and then he repeated the gesture with me. I fell asleep in his arms, and slept more soundly than I could ever remember doing so.
We awoke before Jamie, Lily and little Harry, and as Sirius and I untangled ourselves, we knew that the shelter of last night was gone, and that we needed to face the real world in the morning light, even if it was Christmas Day.
"Lolly, sweetheart, if you could have any wish for Christmas, what would it be?"
"I would wish that this was real. I would wish that you and I had a home, and our children who would be awakening to see what gifts were under the tree for them. That we would be happy. I would sacrifice anything for that to be real."
"So would I, Lolly," he said, reaching out for me again. "So would I," he vowed as his arms covered me again.