Prompt Set: 100.1
Prompt: 096 Outside
Word Count: 1007
Summary: Lily goes walking down a familiar path on Christmas, meeting a familiar face.
Warnings: No warnings, this is pretty gen
Disclaimer: This is JK’s world, I merely play in it.
The wind is bitterly cold and Lily shoves her hands in her pockets, nestling her nose deep into her muffler. It's Christmas evening; her family is finished eating and she's tired of sitting around the house, listening to Vernon prattle on about work. He gives her the eye when he thinks she's not looking, and sometimes when he knows she's looking, and she wonders if Petunia has shared her "secret". Lily doesn't like Vernon much, and although she tries to be nice for Petunia's sake, it doesn't seem worth it half the time. It's not quite Christmas this year, without her dad. She misses the amused glances they'd share when Vernon and Tuney got excited about something exceedingly boring and trivial.
And so she's decided to go out for some fresh air, admiring the fairylit streets down a path she's walked many times before. Smells of cooking roast beef and Christmas fires waft through the air, and she imagines the scenes inside of the houses -- children playing with their trains and dolls and elderly couples listening to Christmas specials over the wireless, teenagers secluded in their rooms listening to new albums and avoiding the hustle and bustle downstairs. The farther she walks, the dimmer the lights get and the streets look less merry; the trees that twinkle in the windows are sparse and the wreathed doors fewer and farther between.
She turns down a narrow, cobbled lane. The two up, two down houses remind her of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with a little family crowded at a dinner table adorned with a humble meal and modest decor. Spinner's End is filled with families who work at the textile mill, and Lily knows that makes Christmas cheer is harder to find, particularly because many will be working for the extra money tonight. Her eyes rest on one house in particular, barren of any pine boughs or lights, and she studies it for a long moment before deciding to go home. Just as she turns to go, the door to the house opens and a slim figure slips out the door. He doesn't see her at first and swipes his hair out of his eyes, turning up the collar of his shabby coat.
Her eyes harden. They haven't spoken all term, her out of pure stubbornness and disappointment, he, she was fairly certain, out of anger and resentment. It's too late for her to turn around and pretend that she hasn't seen him, and she winces internally when he looks up and spots her across the way. There's a tiny flicker of surprise that makes his brows lift a fraction and he freezes on the pavement.
"Lily." He sounds somewhat surprised, but there's something else there, as well. Hope, perhaps, and suspicion. He still doesn't move and she clears her throat uncertainly.
"Severus." Somehow, that doesn't seem enough, and she shifts her weight, trying to stave off the cold now that she's not moving. "Happy Christmas."
He nods; it's a slight, jerky movement. "I didn't know you were coming home," he says. Meeting her eyes, he watches her, his gaze so penetrating and needy that she has to glance away uncomfortably.
"I had to," she says. "Mum shouldn't be alone this Christmas, especially with only Tuney and Vernon to deal with."
"He's there?" he asks. There is a distinct note of displeasure in his voice. "I thought they were rowing."
"They were," she says. Well, they had been last spring, which seems ages ago. "They're engaged now. He got her a ring for Christmas." Petunia was pleased, nattering on about wedding plans and guest lists and making Lily hope that she'd never, ever, act that way.
"I'm sorry," Severus says, so seriously that Lily laughs. It cuts through the air between them and dissipates into the night. His mouth twitches, just slightly, and Lily knows that he's struggling with something internally. Several seconds pass while they stand there awkwardly -- stupidly, even -- and finally he speaks up. "What are you doing here?"
Lily shrugs. She's not sure what she's doing there, except that it was a familiar path and she didn't want to be at home. "I was out for a walk," she tells him. "Looking at the lights and decorations." He raises an eyebrow at her, and she shrugs ruefully. "I was turning around when you came out of the house."
He's disappointed, she can tell, but he veils it quickly. "Where are you off to?" she asks, for lack of something more conversational.
"A party." She must have looked surprised because he frowns, almost defensively. "At Avery's."
"Oh." It's her turn to sound disappointed, and she wonders if she'd told him she'd wanted to see him, might he decide not to go to the party at all. That's not the case, however, and hearing that he's off to meet them sends another flare of anger and bitterness through her. "Well, I should be going, anyway," she tells him. It's dreadfully cold outside, and standing here, talking with Severus, makes her miss the way things used to be. She misses a lot of things, lately.
"I'll see you at school," she adds hastily, knowing fully well that she won't seek him out, and that they probably won't say more than five words to each other.
Severus nods again, this time more carefully, deliberately slow. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah." He waits a beat and then adds, "Happy Christmas."
Lily nods, offering him something that is not quite a smile, then pulls her muffler tight and turns around, heading for home. She's hoped for some sort of reconciliation, after all this time, but the more time passes the more she doubts that their friendship will rekindle. Forcing herself not to turn and give Severus a second glance, she takes her time on the way home, soaking in the tightly knit houses and the looming mill tower ahead. Who knows, she thinks. It may be the last time she walks these particular streets again.