A/N: I shouldn't really have been spending any time on this, since I am behind on my writing schedule for Turning Tables, but hey, I have my reasons.

First, I've had this little scene kicking around in my head for a while, and it doesn't fit in with the time period of TT so I decided the best way to get it out of my head was to turn it into a one-shot. (I toyed with sticking it in as a flashback, but it simply doesn't suit.)

Second, I really wanted to post chapter 24 of Turning Tables for New Year's Eve, since that's when it's set, but I haven't even finished chapter 23 yet, so it will be posted too late!

So this is a little bit of Jily fluff for you guys to enjoy anyway.

Happy New Year! I hope 2013 brings all of you everything you wish for.

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31st December 1976, 8.05pm

The sound of hail lashing against the glass of her dormitory windows made Lily Evans flinch; the wind had been howling around Gryffindor tower for what seemed like days, and it felt like the December cold had actually managed to seep into her bones. The fire crackling in the hearth did little to ease the chill that had established itself in the room, though it did help put a measure of holiday cheer in her mood. Wrapping her duvet more tightly around her she clambered awkwardly off her bed and headed to check the window was as tightly shut as possible. Surely there had to be a draught or something to make this room as bloody cold as it was? Apparently not, since the drapes were tightly closed and there wasn't even a flicker of air movement around the windows themselves. Yanking the curtains open, Lily peered out at the storm pounding itself out against the grey stone walls.

She loved Hogwarts. She hated to think that that her time there would be over soon – sixth year was hurtling by, dragging her - unwilling and unhappy - along with it. Next year – Merlin, seventh year - would be her last, and the very thought made her stomach clench painfully. She loved it here. She loved the forest and grounds, the lake, the castle most of all. Now, with a blanket of winter snow covering everything as far as she could see the castle seemed even more like something from a fairy-tale.

That's what she'd thought she was getting when that letter from Hogwarts had arrived. She'd thought the world was handing her a fairy-tale. She hadn't known then how much it would eventually cost her, and she was glad for that, glad for the little bit of ignorance that had kept her eleven year-old self deliriously, untouchably happy about her magical abilities.

It was because of her magic that she was sat inside a beautiful, wonderful, enchanted castle on New Year's Eve, watching the unruly seasonal weather wreak havoc on the outside world while she was wrapped up inside.

It was because of her magic that she couldn't go home for the Christmas holidays and be with her family for her sister's engagement party on New Year's Eve.

Yeah. Something given with one hand always means something taken away with the other.

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31st December 1976, 10.15pm

Two hours later, and even though the hailstorm had died down and the night was quiet, Lily had given up entirely on ever warming up her dorm room. She had relocated, duvet and all to the largest sofa in the Gryffindor common room, which coincidentally was directly next to the fire. She tried desperately to focus on her book – a muggle novel by Michael Crichton – but the tale of the great train robbery just wasn't drawing her in, as her mind drifted time and again to her family. She couldn't help but wonder if her absence at Tuney's party that evening was noticed; if her relatives were asking questions, if her parents missed her, if Tuney felt any sadness at all that her only sister wasn't there with her.

You'd think after five and a half years, she'd have learnt to recognise wishful thinking. Hope was toxic; it raised your expectations, and it left you that much more broken when your anticipations were dashed.

The light tapping on the window of the common room made her jump and her book landed with a thud on its spine on the rug in front of the fire, pages flapping loose. The firelight threw eerie flickers of shadow against the window, and Lily let out a small shriek before she got a grip on herself.

Merlin girl, anyone would think it was Halloween and you'd been scaring yourself with ghost stories. Honestly, jumping at shadows…

She crossed to the window, telling herself that it was purely to check that it was just her imagination in overdrive, and was shocked and slightly appalled to see a small brown owl perched on the outside ledge, sheltering from the cold wind. She opened the window and the owl flew in, accompanied by a blast of wintry air; Lily slammed the window shut behind it as quickly as possible, anxious to block out any more of the freezing weather. The poor thing had landed on the back of an armchair near the fire, and perched there, shivering slightly, its wings hunched up; as Lily approached it, it held out its leg, somehow managing to give her a pleading look as it did so.

She took the rolled up piece of notepaper from it and couldn't help the small smile. 'Thank you. You can stay in if your owner doesn't need you back soon.'

She could have sworn the owl actually looked relieved as it ruffled its feathers and settled down to nap, appearing to be perfectly content with its perch. Lily glanced at the letter in her hand, and noting her name on the outside, she unrolled it immediately and began to read.

Happy New Year Sweetheart!

Your father and I just wanted to say that, since we aren't seeing you this year. Hope you are having a wonderful time, I'm sure you'll probably be too busy having fun to read this until tomorrow, but we wanted you to know that we were thinking of you, and we miss you sweetheart. Christmas wasn't the same without you. Tuney missed you too, though she'd never say it.

I'm sure you're wondering about the owl. Mrs McKinnon sent her to us with a Happy New Year message (wasn't that kind? We've been keeping in touch since you introduced us) and said we should feel free to use her if we wanted.

That's it sweetheart. We love you and miss you. Write soon.

Mum & Dad

Lily felt the tears well up, but refused to let them fall. The letter slipped from her hand and fluttered to the floor as she slumped back onto the sofa. She'd promised herself that she wouldn't cry over this again and she wasn't going to. She buried her face in her hands and focused on each breath she took, feeling her erratic heartbeat calm. The beginning of a headache pulsed in her temples.

'Evans?'

The voice was low and deep and came from the boy's staircase behind her. The tone suggested that the speaker was as surprised to find her there as she was to be found. Giving herself a brief moment to make an attempt at composing her expression, she lifted her head from her hands and tilted it all the way back until it rested on the back of the sofa.

'Potter. I thought everyone was at the New Year's party in the Hufflepuff common room.'

'Likewise.' The voice was closer now, and she felt the change in the air as he sat down alongside her, his leg brushing fleetingly and softly against hers.

'I don't feel like partying. If I did, the party would be here. Didn't you wonder why we weren't throwing one?'

She opened one eye and peeked sideways at him. His head was tilted back exactly as hers was, his eyes closed and his face seemingly relaxed. His glasses sat on his nose, slightly wonky as always and his dark hair was its usual messy self. He had a nice profile. Interesting. Kind of masculine, but soft in its own way and…shit, she was staring at James Potter's face. Shutting her eyes again and trying to pretend that it had never happened, she blurted out her rather delayed answer.

'I never thought about it. I didn't really realise someone actually organised any of the parties that go on in here, I kind of assumed they just spontaneously happened.'

'Nope.' His voice sounded passive somehow, unbothered with the world. 'We organise them. And by we, I mean the Marauders. But I'm not exactly in the party spirit this year, so the others are off having fun, and I'm playing Scrooge here by myself. Although apparently not as by myself as I thought.'

That last statement came out significantly quieter than the rest of his speech, and the tone sounded different. Opening the same eye as before and chancing a second glance, Lily noticed that he hadn't moved so much as a muscle, his face still set in that peaceful visage, his entire posture making him oddly appealing somehow.

'Why not?' The question came out before she had a moment to reconsider, and he turned his face towards her, his brow furrowing.

'I don't really understand the question?' He raised an eyebrow at her, and she realised that she hadn't actually asked a sensible query. The thought of her blurting incoherencies because of the strange reaction he was provoking in her made her flush.

'Oh, sorry! I meant, why aren't you in the party mood? You're normally in the thick of things aren't you?'

'Well, I generally like a good party, it's true. But…' He paused a moment and blew out a long breath. 'My parents have been sick. They're both still in St Mungos, that's why I've stayed here for the holidays. I guess I just don't feel much like celebrating.'

His face retained that calm expression, but this close she could see it was a product of practice rather than genuine tranquillity and that there was an unspoken layer of hurt and worry lying just beneath the gloss of his composure.

'Sorry. I shouldn't have been prying.' She spoke softly, feeling the need to give him some kind of sympathy, even if she could only express it through tone.

'You weren't. I wouldn't have answered if I wasn't comfortable with you knowing.' He gave her the smallest of smiles, but she was pleased to see it was a genuine one at least. She felt the corners of her mouth begin to rise slightly in response.

'What about you?' The question fell easily from his mouth, but it took her completely by surprise.

'What?' She registered how flustered she sounded – since when had James Potter been able to fluster her?

'You don't normally stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. I was just wondering why you did this year.'

'Stalking me Potter?'

'Hardly. You are nothing if not reliable Evans. You have followed exactly the same pattern since first year. Deviations do not go unnoticed.' He tilted his head slightly so he could look her in the eye, those bright hazel orbs of his boring into her vivid green pools. 'But they can go unexplained if you'd prefer not to tell me.'

Feeling the bile rising up her throat again, Lily couldn't stop herself from blurting everything, every painful little slight, every minor hurt and wound. Tuney's engagement, the party, the rift between them, Vernon's ignorance of her magic. How her presence at a family event wasn't acceptable anymore. How she stayed at Hogwarts because she wasn't welcome at home.

James listened to it all with a patient ear and a sympathetic expression, his eyes betraying a certain amount of anger when she described her sister's view of magical people that he nonetheless refrained from voicing. When she had finally wound down, when she had poured out all the injuries to her heart and pride, she felt her chest abruptly clench with uncertainty and insecurity. James Potter would not normally have been her first choice in confidante, and she was terrified that she had just handed him a load of ammunition to make her life more miserable; she reminded herself that he had volunteered something personal about himself first, and that he hadn't been anywhere near as objectionable this term as he had in previous years. She did her best to silently quash her self-doubt and waited patiently for his response. When it did come, she probably couldn't have been more surprised.

'Would you like some hot chocolate? That's where I was heading anyway.'

She snorted. 'Where are you planning to get hot chocolate from at this time of night?'

'Kitchens.'

She rolled her eyes at him. 'How do you even know where the kitchens are? You know, it doesn't matter, it's well past curfew and the kitchens are out of bounds to students in any case.'

'I'm sorry, were you under the impression you were talking to Remus?' He asked innocently. 'I have my ways, and I can promise you we won't get caught.'

She made the mistake of making eye contact again, and she never thought before tonight that she'd be happy to see that little gleam of mischief in his eyes. She'd always criticised him for it, but she'd never quite appreciated how much that little hint of trouble-maker made him more, well, him.

'What did you have in mind?'

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31st December 1976, 11.55pm

Lily couldn't have said at what point she began to relax. It could have been somewhere between the second and third cups of hot chocolate, or it could have been when James left her sitting at the little table in the corner while he went to search cupboards for chocolate cake because she'd said it was her favourite.

Anyway, it didn't matter because Lily had been laughing hysterically for at least an hour solid, and was currently in fits of giggles at James' impression of Peter on a broomstick.

'…flailing around like a pixie on ice, honestly I've never seen anyone with less co-ordination.'

'That's because you've never seen me on a broom.' Lily let out a nervous laugh and finished her hot chocolate off, swiping her finger around the inside to catch the last of the cream.

'You cannot be that bad.'

'I'm worse.' Lily made eye contact, raised her eyebrows and nodded her head slowly until his look of amusement became one of mock disbelief. 'Honestly. It's an awful thing actually, because I love Quidditch.'

'You do?' He seemed surprised. 'I mean, I know you come to the matches, but you never seemed that into it. I thought you were just kind of tagging along with the others.'

'Well, I couldn't offer you any encouragement could I? You have enough adulation without me fawning all over your Quidditch skills as well.'

James's smile spread slowly across his face. 'You're impressed by my Quidditch playing Lily?'

'I didn't say that!' She blurted the words as she realised that she had inadvertently let a little too much slip out. Who knew hot chocolate could loosen your tongue better than firewhiskey?

'Oh, yes you did, and remembering it is going to keep me warm at night.' James smile couldn't possibly get any wider, and even though his amusement was at her expense, she couldn't help but be glad that his earlier sadness had passed.

He stood and gathered up their mugs, gripping the handles easily in one large hand.

'Did you want another?'

'I think I'd explode, but thank you. I guess we should probably head back now.' James crossed the kitchen and abandoned their mugs in the capable hands of the house-elves before returning to her. Lily stood as well, and for the first time for several hours an edge of uneasiness was tangible between them. From somewhere far above them came the chiming of a clock, pealing twelve loud tolls.

'Midnight.' James spoke softly. 'Happy New Year Lily.'

He bent his head down and planted a kiss on her cheek, very softly and respectfully and with a slight hint of nervousness. Abandoning all rational thought and acting on impulse for once in her life, Lily closed her eyes, turned her head and caught his mouth in a soft but firm kiss. She could sense his shock at her boldness in the sudden change in his posture, the slight stiffening of his body before he allowed himself to relax. He didn't even attempt to move closer to her, though she could feel his desire to so radiate through him; he merely held himself perfectly still and in place and permitted her total control over the moment. She allowed her lips to pull themselves softly across his for a lingering moment then she took a shaky step back and opened her eyes to find his staring back at her, any lingering trace of unhappiness vanished in an instant.

'Happy New Year James.' If anything, her voice was even softer than his had been, and there was a shaky tone to it she felt betrayed her slightly; that ridiculously sweet smile reappeared and she felt the butterflies in her stomach renew their efforts to unsettle her. He gestured her towards the door and allowed her to get a step or two ahead of him, granting her some space between them before he followed. Lord knew she could do with the breathing room, and she felt a little impressed with his restraint, that he hadn't pressed an obvious advantage.

As they left the kitchen through the main door into the dungeons she could have sworn she heard him mutter under his breath.

'Happy New Year she says. Sodding hell. Should be a bloody interesting one, judging by tonight.'

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A/N: Thanks for reading, I'd love it if you'd leave me your thoughts in a review (or feel free to PM me if you prefer).