"You're sure you don't mind?" Remus asked, stifling yet another yawn with the back of his hand.
"Yes, I'll be fine, Remus—go to bed," Lily assured him, waving him from the kitchen. "Thanks for the tea. And the company."
"Of course," Remus said, though he still looked uncertain. But without another word, he kissed her cheek and stood from the table.
After her friend's footsteps had receded down the hall, Lily sat back in her chair with a sigh. Her eyes traveled around the small room, taking in the pile of dirty dishes marring the otherwise meticulously ordered space. Grimacing, Lily wondered whether she should clean them, knowing that Emmeline wouldn't take their party as an excuse for the state of her kitchen. She'd decided early on that the woman who'd graciously lent her house as headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix was as stern and formidable as Professor McGonagall. Most of the new recruits were too scared to say more than a passing greeting to the woman. Except Sirius, of course. He flirted with the matronly woman every chance he got.
Some things never change, Lily thought, though her slight smile quickly faded at as she remembered all that had.
That night, for instance—it was only Christmas Eve, and yet the resistance group Dumbledore founded had celebrated the holiday early, considering it was the only time the majority of them would be together for the next several weeks.
Lily glanced down at the parchment laid out before her. She'd been working on guard assignments for the next week when Remus had interrupted to offer his much-welcome conversation. Originally, Lily had taken the job because it reminded her of handing out prefect duties, something familiar amid the terror and anxiety of her new life.
But it was far from equal to the mundane chore that had occupied much of her last year at Hogwarts. Now Lily couldn't help wondering as she carefully quilled in each name who would survive their assignment unscathed, and who would return with grievous injuries, or worse, not at all.
"You are still awake." A voice cut into Lily's thoughts, and she looked up to see her husband in the doorway. James moved to fill the seat Remus had recently vacated, lips brushing his wife's swiftly.
"And you're supposed to be asleep," Lily chided him, though her stomach gave a nervous leap at the reason. James, along with Sirius and Remus and many of the others Lily had learned to call friends in the months since she'd left school, were conducting a raid on a suspected Death Eater hideout the following morning.
"Well, the bed's too cold without you in it," James said, flashing the crooked grin Lily had fallen in love with. When she didn't return it, he continued more seriously, "It'll be fine, Lil. The whole reason we're doing it on Christmas is that they'll never expect it."
Lily nodded, but she knew "fine" was far from likely. She thought of the sleepless night she'd spent when James and Sirius had been sent on their first raid, and the seemingly endless hours she'd waited for them to come back. She had broken down sobbing with a mixture of relief and exhaustion when they'd returned with the sun, barely a scratch between them and grinning as though they'd done nothing more dangerous than face Slytherin in the Quidditch finals.
Every time she'd been separated from James since had been the same, though she'd learned to control her tears. She didn't relish facing another day of worry, and on Christmas no less.
She knew James could read her thoughts on her face, even if he hadn't chosen that moment to give her arm a reassuring squeeze. He'd always known what she was thinking, sometimes even when Lily didn't know it herself.
"D'you think I'd miss the chance to kiss you under the mistletoe?" James asked, trying once again to cheer her up.
This time Lily did smile. "You never missed trying in the past," she acknowledged.
"Except first year. Remember McGonagall forced the Gryffindor Quidditch team to help Flitwick decorate the Great Hall after they sabotaged Slytherin's brooms in their first match?"
"And you hero-worshiped the lot of them so much you offered to help?" Lily rolled her eyes at the memory.
James grinned. "Only time I volunteered to do work, I think. And I still managed to break the rules while I was at it."
Lily frowned, and James's grin widened.
"As their own personal touch, the team put Snitches instead of stars at the top of the trees." Lily nodded, remembering. "Well…" James trailed off significantly, raising his eyebrows.
In spite of herself, Lily laughed. "That's where you got that annoying Snitch of yours?"
James nodded, smirking, and for a moment Lily saw a flash of what he must have looked like first year, smug and victorious at his steal.
"Merlin, if only McGonagall had chosen another punishment, I might have escaped years of torture," she said.
"Don't act like you weren't impressed, Evans," James said, slipping back into the banter they'd shared so often during their time at Hogwarts, and still enjoyed now. "I was a Chaser, after all." He dug into his pocket, producing the very same fluttering golden ball and tossing it up, only to grab it out of the air seconds later.
"You still have it?" Lily asked in disbelief.
James shrugged. "I bring it with me when I'm on duty. For luck, I guess." He glanced away at that, as though embarrassed to admit he needed to rely on something so trivial. But Lily thought it was only luck that let all of them make it through each day. "Anyway, even though you might not have appreciated it at the time, I'm sure you're glad now that I have such quick, nimble fingers." He winked, and Lily flushed, shaking her head but laughing nonetheless.
At that moment, Emmeline's hall clock began to chime the hour. Midnight. Lily's stomach lurched again. How was it time had passed so quickly, that day was upon them already? She looked at James and was surprised to find him smiling.
"Happy Christmas, Lily," he said.
"Happy Chri—" she started to return, but stopped when James reached into his pocket once more to produce a sprig of mistletoe. Lily frowned. "Where did you…."
"Nicked it from the party tonight," James explained. "Told you I wasn't going to miss out on kissing you today, didn't I?"
And as he proceeded to do just that, Lily forgot her worries about what the day would hold. Because at that moment they were just Lily and James, sharing a Christmas kiss as they had done the year before, and as she hoped they would continue to do for many years to come.
A/N: Merry (Happy) Christmas everyone!