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Marauderettes and Mistletoe by Victoire von Doom
Chapter 1 : Marauderettes and Mistletoe
 
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I rapped on the front door of the cozy accommodation with my knuckles, shivering in the cold.  The clouds were positively dumping snow on the ground, blanketing the homey little neighborhood of Godric’s Hollow in crystalline whiteness.  I heard the bolt slide back, then the door opened and bathed me in warmth and light.  Standing in the doorway, giving me that wide, reckless grin, was James Potter, looking just as he always had – tall, gangly, and with a mess of unkempt black hair atop his recently-deflated head.

 

Moony!” he cried, tackling me with a fierce hug.  Laughing, I hugged him back as best I could without crushing the gifts I’d brought.

 

“Happy Christmas, James,” I said, grinning.

 

“Happy Christmas to you, as well!” he said, releasing me.  “Now come in!  There’s no reason to be freezing our arses off when there’s a fire going inside!”

 

I laughed, then followed him inside.  He first instructed me to put my presents on the dining room table, then he led me into the living room, which was gloriously warm due to the fire in the fireplace that was engulfing the room in its orange glow.  It was a cozy place, James’s house – it reminded me strongly of the Gryffindor Common Room at Hogwarts, with its obscenely comfortable chairs and couches and the old paintings on the wall.  It was the sort of place that made you feel at home as soon as you walked inside.  I marveled at the fact that they could make it feel so distinctly theirs when they’d only been living there for about six months, but then, we were talking about James Potter and Lily Ev – I mean, uh, Potter.  I shook my head, grinning at the mistake.  Hard to imagine though it may be, it was Lily Potter now. 

 

When we reached the living room I heard my name simultaneously shouted in four different voices.  Then I was, once more, tackled by a hug.

 

“Ow!  Gah!  Sirius, you’re going to break me in half!” I complained.  Sirius Black barked laughter.  He was taller than he’d been, but otherwise not all that different from how he was during our Hogwarts days; shaggy black hair almost down to his chin, dark eyes that sparkled with mirth, and a wolfish smile that never failed to make girls swoon.

 

“Stop whining, you pansy.  I’m trying to give my best friend a hug.”  He let me go and I laughed, shaking my head.

 

“Favoritism!” James yelled, pointing at Sirius accusingly.  “Favoritism!  Did you see that, Lils?  He just clearly chose Remus over me!  Right in front of me!  It’s preposterous!

 

Lily Potter, slim and beautiful with long red curls and those magnificent green, almond-shaped eyes, stood up from her place on the couch and smirked at James, putting an arm around his waist.

 

“I can’t say I blame him,” she said, her smirk widening.  “He is, after all, far better-looking.”  She winked at me, and I blushed, grinning.

 

James staggered away from her, as though he’d been shot.  “Ouch!  My pride!” he shouted, clutching his chest.

 

Lily giggled at this display, then relented, kissing James sweetly on the nose.  Then she turned back to me, grinning hugely.

 

“Well, it’s good to have you, Remus.  Be sure and make yourself comfortable,” she said, gesturing to the couch and chairs in the living room.  There were two women still sitting on the couch, but at Lily’s gesture they stood.

 

“Hello, Remus,” said Marketa Prochazka in her quiet voice.  Her Czech accent was far less noticeable than it had been, and I felt a small twinge of nostalgia, remembering when it had been so strong that sometimes she was hard to understand.  She had soft, kind eyes and she had let her dark blond (or light brown – however you want to look at it) hair grow longer than she’d used to wear it.  She smiled gently at me, and I smiled gently back.

 

“Hello, Marketa, Happy Christmas!” I said.

 

“Happy Christmas to you, as well,” she said with a small smile. 

 

At this point Sirius had nonchalantly draped an arm over Marketa’s shoulders and smiled lovingly down at her, but I wasn’t looking at them anymore.  I was looking at the second girl who had gotten up from the couch to greet me.  She was petite in the extreme; slim and short.  She had light brown hair down to her chin and big, beautiful blue eyes.  They were that perfect blue that I always associated with her – the kind of blue you only saw in a box of paints.  I hadn’t seen her since James and Lily’s wedding earlier that year.

 

She was the third person to tackle me with a hug.  For the first time in what felt like decades I felt those wiry arms tightening around me like steel coils once more.

 

Remus!!” she squealed.

 

I laughed and hugged her back, my smile widening so that it was a wonder my head didn’t split clear in two.  I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed her until I got her back.

 

“Wendy Rivers…” I murmured into her hair.  “It’s been far too long.”

 

Just the feel of her name on my lips again took me back – all the way back to sixth year on the Hogwarts Express, where I’d first seen her, the timid little Ravenclaw with nowhere to sit. 

 

“U-um…”  I looked up at the sound of the compartment door opening and directly into the face of a tiny girl with short, light brown hair.  “I, er, I was wondering…  See, I got kicked out of my compartment, and I thought maybe…  Er…  Would you mind if I… sat in here?”  The poor girl’s cheeks were growing redder by the second as she timidly asked for a seat in the compartment of arguably the four most popular boys in the school – the Marauders.

 

“Wha - ?” Sirius began, taking a moment to recollect himself.  “Go ahead, come in!  We don’t bite!” he said, gesturing toward the empty seat beside me.

 

I rolled my eyes.  Good joke, Sirius, good joke… I thought bitterly.  The girl smiled at Sirius and laughed nervously.  “Thanks,” she said before taking her spot beside me.  She took a moment to take in those sitting around her – me, Sirius, James, Lily, and this new Czech girl Sirius had found, Marketa Somethingorother.

 

The moment she’d finished her perusal of the faces that the compartment door slid open again, this time to admit scrawny, mouse-like Peter Pettigrew, the fourth and final Marauder.

 

“Hey guys!  Took me ages to find you…  Did anyone happen to get anything off the trolley?  I’m starved!” was his greeting.  He sat down beside the little girl, who subconsciously scooted a bit closer to me.  I thought nothing of it – Peter had that effect on some people.

 

“Wormtail, mate!  ‘Bout time you showed up!  We were having a party!” Sirius cried jovially, giving me a wolfish smile as he discreetly placed his arm around Marketa’s shoulders.  I shook my head, grinning.

 

“A party, eh?” asked Peter.  “Is there food at this party?  I’m so hungry!”

 

“Share and share alike!” Sirius said, tossing Peter the remains of a Chocolate Frog.  “That should tide you over till the trolley comes, eh, Pete?”

 

Peter shoved the frog into his mouth like a starving child.  “Fanks Pads,” he mumbled through a mouthful of chocolate.

 

The little girl next to me continued to scoot further and further away from Peter, her nose wrinkled slightly in badly-concealed disgust.  Then both of us jumped as she accidentally inched right into me.

 

“Oh!  Sorry…”  She averted her eyes, blood flooding her face.

 

For the first time I actually looked at her.  She had small features (which I suppose I should’ve expected from a girl of her size) except for her eyes, which were big, round, and magnificently blue.  Her hair had a slightly tossed-around look, as though she’d been out in the wind or something, but it wasn’t messy – there was still the sleekness of having been brushed.  And it was in that moment, looking down upon this innocently adorable face, that my heart began to thud in time to the beginnings of a crush.

 

 

I could feel everyone’s eyes on Wendy and me – the only pair that wasn’t a couple.  At least, not anymore.

 

We finished hugging, and Lily giggled, moving to stand behind Wendy so she could smile at me over the smaller girl’s shoulder.  “Surprised, Remmy?” she asked.  Her cheerfulness was infectious.

 

“Pleasantly surprised, yes,” I said without breaking eye contact with Wendy, whose eyes filled with joy as a hopeful smile lit her face.  My heart swelled.  I remembered wanting her to smile at me like that forever…

 

“Lily sent me an owl saying she wanted to have a Christmas with the Marauders and the Marauderettes this year,” Wendy explained.  Her voice hadn’t changed an iota – shy striving to be bold.  “So naturally I stopped by, and I must say, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be celebrating Christmas Eve with!” she said, and though she was addressing everyone her eyes stayed locked on mine.

 

“And we couldn’t be more glad to have you with us,” James said, ruffling Wendy’s hair companionably.

 

“Speaking of Marauders,” I interrupted, “where’s Wormtail got to?”

 

“Couldn’t make it, poor lamb,” Lily said, her face falling.  “He’s come down with a dreadful bout of pneumonia.”

 

“Nuh-moan-ya?” asked Wendy, looking puzzled.  “What on earth is that?”

 

“Just a Muggle disease, he should come out of it all right,” Lily explained.  “Still, it’s a right shame he couldn’t be here.”

 

“Well, let’s not stand around all night!” James invited, changing the subject.  “There’s a fire going, let’s all have a seat and be at ease!”

 

 

The six of us made our way to the living room, Lily and James snuggling together in a loveseat, Marketa sitting on the couch with Sirius’s head in her lap, and Wendy and I sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace.  It didn’t take long for the couples to forget about us – James started a tickle war with Lily, which Lily soon began winning, and Sirius and Marketa were busy staring deeply into one another’s eyes as Marketa absently ran her fingers through Sirius’s black hair.  Feeling a bit like an intruder, I cleared my throat and turned to Wendy.

 

“So, I didn’t really get a chance to talk with you at the wedding; what’ve you been up to?” I asked.  She shrugged.

 

“You’ll never believe it,” she said, blushing a little and keeping her eyes on her hands, “but I actually make crosswords for the Prophet now.”

 

I laughed heartily, remembering how Daily Prophet crosswords had been a favorite pastime of Wendy’s back in school.  “That… doesn’t surprise me at all,” I said, shaking my head.  She laughed, too.

 

“I know, I know!  So very predictable of me, right?” she said, and I could tell from that sentence that she wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with her job, though I was sure she enjoyed it plenty.  Ever since she’d been sorted into Ravenclaw she’d been striving to prove that she was every bit as brave and eccentric as her Gryffindor brothers.  Having a mainstream job probably wasn’t helping her in this endeavor.

 

“Well, that’s fantastic!  Now every time I get hopelessly frustrated with a Prophet crossword I’ll know that the person putting me through that misery is you!” I joked, punching her lightly on the shoulder.  She giggled.

 

“What about you?” she asked.  “How’s the teaching coming along?”

 

I grimaced.  “Eh…  People are a bit… reluctant to hire me… because of my… condition…”  I lowered  my gaze.  Wendy did, too. 

 

“Sorry…” she murmured.  Then that smile, that full-throttle Wendy smile, lit her face once more.  “But, hey, keep your chin up!  No one ever achieved anything by giving up, did they?  Just gotta keep at it, that’s all!”

 

I gave a half-smile at her efforts to cheer me up.  She really was a gem – could never stand for anyone to be upset around her.  “Yeah, s’pose so.”

 

I glanced up at the two couples.  James and Lily had ceased their tickling and were now gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes, looking like they were trying incredibly hard to keep from snogging one another right then and there.  Sirius and Marketa were speaking in soft voices, and judging from the blush coloring Marketa’s face and the roguish smile on Sirius’s lips, it was probably about something incredibly cute and romantic.

 

Wendy and I exchanged a look, and I knew that our feelings were mutual; this was incredibly awkward.  She stood suddenly, clearing her throat.  “Er, well, I suppose I’ll go and make some hot chocolate.  Who wants some?” she asked.

 

“Oh, that’d be lovely,” Lily said absentmindedly, her eyes never leaving James’s for a moment.

 

“Yeah… lovely…” said James, who slightly resembled a hypnotized person.

 

“I could go for some, as well,” said Sirius, likewise never breaking eye contact with Marketa.

 

“Some for me, also, please,” Marketa said softly.

 

And suddenly I was hit with an idea.  A childish, fiendish, Marauderish idea.

 

“Here, I’ll help you,” I said to Wendy, standing up myself.  She blushed and smiled at the offer.

 

“That’s awful kind of you, but I think I can handle it,” she said.

 

“No, I insist!” I replied, ushering her quickly toward the kitchen.  Once we were there she pushed me off and appraised me curiously.

 

“Right, then.  So what’s all this about?” she asked.

 

“How good were you in Potions class?” I asked her in reply. 

 

She gave a modest shrug.  “Just about as good as I was in all my classes.  Why?”

 

“D’you remember how to brew a Forgetfulness Draft?”  A smirk crept across my face in anticipation of what I had in mind.

 

“Of course I do!  That’s a first year potion, Remus!” she said in tones of mock scolding.  I giggled giddily, which caused her to giggle, too.

 

“What about Liquid Hiccups?  D’you know that one?” I asked.  She nodded.

 

“Yeah.  Remus Lupin, what are you up to?” she asked suspiciously as she went about gathering the ingredients for hot chocolate.

 

I pondered whether or not I should tell her for a moment, then leaned in, giving her my goofiest smile.  “Wendy, do you still have enough kid left in you to help me with a mischievous scheme?”

 

She gave a twisted smirk, and I knew she was in.  “Perhaps…”

 

“Then here, let me make the drinks.  I need you to go ahead and brew a couple of potions for me…”

 

 

“Sweetness and warmth are served!” Wendy announced, flitting around to those still sitting in the living room and handing them mugs of delicious-looking hot chocolate.

 

“Thanks, darling,” said Lily once Wendy got around to her.  “What took you two so long in there?” she asked, her voice laced with implications.

 

“Oh, you know Remus,” Wendy answered easily.  “Whenever anyone’s fool enough to let him into a kitchen something goes awry.”  Everyone laughed, Wendy included.  I just smiled and shook my head.  I’ll get you back for that one, I thought, hoping my eyes conveyed the message.  She merely shook her head and continued laughing.

 

“Well, I think it’s high time we opened some presents, what say you?” said James jovially, removing himself from the loveseat so he could get his presents out of his bedroom.  We all cheered in response, and those of us who were visiting fetched our gifts from the dining room.

 

“I didn’t know you were going to be here, so I already sent my gift for you to your house by owl,” I apologized to Wendy as we made our way back into the living room laden with bags and bundles.  “Sorry.”  Wendy giggled.

 

“It’s not a problem; I just had my owl bring it here.”  She held up a large, flat, square package that sported my familiarly clumsy wrapping.  I blinked at it, shocked, then I laughed uneasily.

 

“Don’t miss a trick, do you?” I said, slightly bewildered.  She gave a toothy grin.

 

“Not a one!” she beamed.

 

We drew numbers from a hat to see in which order we would open our presents, and Sirius drew the number one.  He first opened Wendy’s gift – a Muggle music-player called a transistor radio.

 

“Blimey, would you look at that!” he exclaimed.  “Thanks, Wendy, that’s wicked!”

 

“What’s that you’ve got there, Padfoot?” James asked, craning his neck interestedly to see what his friend held.

 

“Muggle radio!” Sirius exclaimed proudly, holding it up so James could see.

 

“Ah, very nice!” James said, raising his mug to Sirius’s radio before taking a sip of hot chocolate.  He set his mug back down on the coffee table, then asked, “What’s that you’ve got there, Padfoot?”

 

Sirius, Marketa, and Lily all turned to blink perplexedly at him.  Next to me Wendy giggled softly into her lap.  I fought the smile that was trying to spread across my face.

 

“Er…  A Muggle radio…  I just… said that…” Sirius said, looking puzzled.

 

“Did you?  Hm.  Funny, that,” James said, looking slightly puzzled himself.  “Well, anyway, carry on!”

 

The next person was Marketa, and she chose to open James and Lily’s gift first.  They had given her a snow globe with three frolicking polar bear cubs inside.  When she took it out of its bag the cubs saw her and began pawing the glass in greeting.  She giggled and waved at them.

 

“Awwww!  Dey are adorable!  Tank you, you two!” she crooned, rubbing her nose up against the glass, then blushing at how ridiculous she must look.  My lips twitched in a grin – at least she still hadn’t gotten the “th” sound completely right.  She lifted her mug to her lips and took a draught of hot chocolate.

 

Next on the list was me, and I opened Wendy’s gift first, also, while she joked about how popular her gifts were amongst the Marauders.  Once I’d torn off the wrapping, I stared at it for a very long time before saying anything.  I opened my mouth and closed it again several times.  Finally I was able to whisper hoarsely, “This isn’t real, right?”

 

Wendy giggled.  “As real as real can be!” she said cheerily.

 

“But how…?”

 

“My dad got a backstage pass off his boss.”

 

Sitting before me was an Abbey Road LP signed by Paul McCartney himself.

 

“I can’t… you shouldn’t…  Wendy, I can’t accept this,” I said.  I tried not to show it, but I was getting a little fanboyish; my hands were shaking.

 

“Pfft, of course you can!  I’ve got one, too, so it’s not like I’m missing out on anything by giving it to you,” she teased, punching me in the arm.  “It’s all yours.”

 

“Thank you so much,” I said.  She blushed.  In the midst of this incredibly dramatic moment, there was a soft “Hic!” to my left.  I looked up to see Marketa blushing severely with her hand over her mouth.

 

“Sorry!  I seem to ‘ave the – hic! – hiccups,” she explained.

 

We all grinned, and did what everyone does whenever someone gets the hiccups – we began suggesting outlandish solutions to the bothersome problem.

 

“Balance your wand on your nose and count to 700,” requested Wendy.

 

“Spell the Unforgivable Curses backwards,” Sirius suggested.

 

“Pull down your earlobes and drink water sideways from a glass,” Lily said through giggles.

 

“Have some chocolate,” I said with a firm nod.  Chocolate, in my opinion, solves all problems.

 

“What’s the date?” James asked.

 

Lily and Sirius turned to stare incredulously at James while Marketa meekly took another sip of her drink, taking my advice, and Wendy and I exchanged knowing glances.

 

“Y-you’re serious?” Sirius asked.

 

“I am?  I thought you were, but I do suppose I could be…  I can’t remember…” James said, looking very bewildered.

 

“James, dear, are you all right?” asked Lily, looking concerned.  Marketa hiccupped again.  She took another sip of her drink.

 

“I am James then?  That’s good, I think I like that name better.  I think I’m all right…”  James adopted a supremely puzzled look, then he screwed up his face as though thinking incredibly hard about something.  “I know your name…”

 

Lily’s jaw dropped ever-so-slightly.  “Lily,” she breathed.  “Your wife!” she said, a bit firmer.

 

James jumped a little.  “I’m married?  Oh… oh yes… I’d forgotten…”

 

In the meantime Marketa’s hiccups hadn’t gotten better at all – on the contrary, they’d gotten much, much worse.  Every breath she took was released as a hiccup – she couldn’t even hold her mug anymore for shaking.

 

“All right, Mar?” Sirius asked, placing a worried hand on her shoulder.  She nodded, but couldn’t speak without hiccups getting in the way.  She was blushing bright red, knowing how amusing she must sound.  Her hiccups began to get louder.

 

“I can’t imagine what could’ve happened!” Lily exclaimed frantically.  “There hasn’t been time for him to have hit his head on anything…”

 

At this I coughed obnoxiously loud to disguise my giddy laughter.

 

Sirius wasn’t listening to Lily, however, being preoccupied with Marketa’s strange case of perpetual hiccups.  “D’you think you… blimey, I dunno… had an allergic reaction to something?”  Marketa shook her head rapidly, clutching her throat as the hiccups started to get painful.

 

“Oh, that tree’s lovely,” James said, a dazed smile on his face now as he observed the Christmas tree.  Then he looked puzzled again.  “What’s the date?”

 

Lily and Sirius exchanged helpless looks.  “I think we’ve had our fun,” I murmured to Wendy.  She nodded, and I could see that she wouldn’t hold out much longer without bursting into hysterical laughter.

 

“Very well then, I suppose I should go brew some antidote, then, shouldn’t I?” I said, loud enough for Lily and Sirius to hear.  Their heads both snapped in my direction, eyes wide.

 

You two did this?!” the cried in unison.  Wendy nodded again, this time allowing herself to double over with giggles.

 

Lily looked positively furious, but Sirius let out a small laugh, shaking his head.  Though he was smiling, however, his message was less than pleasant: “Remus Lupin, I’ll wring your twiggy little neck.”

 

Give.  My.  Husband.  His.  Brain.  Back!” Lily hissed.

 

Giggling like kids, Wendy and I shuffled back into the kitchen.

 

“No regrets,” I said.  Wendy giggled louder.

 

“None whatsoever!”

 

I leaned on the counter as Wendy went about preparing the antidotes to the potions we’d put in James and Marketa’s mugs.  There was a companionable silence between us, broken by the occasional giggle.  Neither of us saw Sirius’s wand poking around the edge of the doorframe.

 

“There we are!” Wendy said when she was finished, handing the two small glasses to me.  “Orange one’s for James; blue’s for Mar.”

 

“Brilliant,” I said, but suddenly Wendy didn’t seem to be listening to me.  Something on the ceiling had caught her eye.  Following her glance, my stomach dropped when I saw what it was.  Mistletoe.  At the sight of it I was propelled back in time once more – back to the day I’d broken her heart.

 

 

Snowflakes landed gently on her hair and eyelashes.  Her breath rose into the frigid air in little puffs.  Her cheeks and nose were flushed as her blood attempted to keep her face warm.  Her eyes accented the wintery atmosphere, emphasizing it, making it beautiful.  My heart plummeted.  Leave it to Wendy Rivers to look enchantingly adorable on the worst day of my life.

 

We sat beneath a beech tree on the vast grounds, snuggled close together for warmth.  Sirius and Marketa were making snow angels a little ways off, and I suspected that James and Lily were being smart, warm, and inside (possibly in an empty classroom, snogging).  It was a perfectly wonderful February day.  For most people, anyway.

 

Sirius had pleaded with me in the dormitory last night not to do this.  And contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to do this.  But this was the only way.  This was the way it had to be.

 

“Wendy,” my voice was heavy with dread, and suddenly those brilliant eyes were searching mine, full of concern.

 

“Yeah?” she replied.

 

“You were attacked by a werewolf last week.”  It wasn’t a question; I’d gotten what I’d needed out of the others.

 

Her eyes widened as she wondered how I knew, then she shifted her gaze guiltily to her feet.  “Well, not technically,” she said.  “He never got to me.  I didn’t think there was a point in worrying you.”

 

I closed my eyes.  “You could’ve been killed.”

 

“Well, yeah, but I wasn’t, right?  Come on, let’s not worry about things like that…” Wendy pleaded – I knew she didn’t want the memory marring her perfect Saturday.  “Who told you, anyway?”

 

“Doesn’t matter,” I muttered.  I took a deep breath.  It was now or never.  “Wendz, I, I can’t do this anymore…”  Her eyes shot wide as she stared at me, disbelieving, shocked.  Hurt.

 

“Wh-what do you mean?” she asked, even though she knew.

 

“I mean I’m no good for you.  I can’t really explain… you just have to get away from me.  For your own good.”

 

She turned away so I wouldn’t see the tears that filled her eyes.  I saw them anyway.

 

“This isn’t just about the werewolf thing.  What else?  What did I do?  What’s the matter?”  She was pleading, and I knew it was because I’d given her such inadequate information.  I knew it must be torturing her – me dumping her so suddenly without explanation.

 

“I wish I could make it more clear,” I said.  “I’m not trying to be cryptic, honest.  It’s just… I have to be.  Try and understand.”

 

“I don’t,” she whispered.  I looked away.

 

“I’m sorry.”  My tone suggested that the conversation was over with.  Fighting back tears, Wendy got to her feet, slipping a little in the snow.

 

When she passed Sirius he leapt to his feet, his expression worried.  He slung a comforting arm over her shoulder, then looked at me over his.  His scorching glare pierced my heart.  I flinched and turned away.

 

 

Eventually Sirius talked me into approaching her again and explain the whole werewolf thing to her.  I’d done so, thinking that as soon as she heard what a monster I was she’d keep her distance as I’d originally instructed her.  But she surprised me, just as James and Sirius and Peter had, by accepting me anyway.  She didn’t even hold a grudge – all it took was that explanation, and suddenly it was as though I’d never tried to rip her throat out, never shattered her heart to pieces.  We never went back to being a couple; both of us agreed that the relationship hadn’t felt right – Wendy felt more like a little sister to me than a girlfriend.  But none of that had ever shaken my guilt.  The pain I’d seen in those perfect eyes haunted me to this day, and I hated myself for putting her through that.  No one should ever hurt her, least of all me…

 

All of this I thought staring disbelievingly at the mistletoe.  When finally I wrenched my eyes away from it I saw that Wendy was waiting.  She’d made it my move.

 

“Wendy…” I said tiredly.  She smiled, but it was shaky.  Fake.

 

“Can’t blame a girl for trying…?” she said weakly.

 

“Wendy,” I said again.  “You agreed that we weren’t… like that.”

 

She sighed, and the sigh seemed to sweep all the energy out of her.  She slouched.  “I know, Remus, I’m sorry.  It’s just – oh, but nevermind.  They’ll be needing that antidote…”

 

A spear of guilt lanced my heart; the pain had reclaimed her eyes.

 

“Just what?” I demanded.

 

“Nothing.  James, in the meantime, has probably forgotten his own mother – “

 

“Just what?” I said more firmly.

 

“ – and Marketa is probably unable to breathe,” she finished as though I hadn’t spoken.

 

I put the antidotes on the counter, took both of her hands in mine, and stared intently into the jewels that were her eyes.  “Tell me,” I murmured.  I didn’t care that I’d sworn to distance myself from the female species as much as was possible – she was hurt and I needed to fix it.

 

“It’s nothing,” she growled, glaring, her eyes blue ice.  “I’ve just never been kissed!”  She groaned pitifully, taking one of her hands out of one of mine so she could cover her face ashamedly with it.  “I’ve had one boyfriend in my entire life – you – and I’ve never once been properly kissed!  There!”  She slid to the floor, fighting back tears exactly as she had six years ago under the beech tree.  “Right pathetic sight this must be,” she whimpered miserably.  “I’m twenty-two for Merlin’s sake, and here I am blubbering and whining like a schoolgirl…”  She wiped her nose and eyes, furious with herself for breaking.  “Bloody hell!”

 

I stood motionless for a moment, bewildered.  There was absolutely no way what she was saying was possible.  I was a year older than her, light-years uglier than her, a werewolf, and I’d been kissed.  She had those gems for eyes, that chipper personality, and was one of the smartest people I’d ever met.  What was wrong with this world?

 

Then I felt guilty again.  I’d been her one boyfriend.  I’d been the one with the opportunity to kiss her… why hadn’t I?

 

I knelt beside her with a sense of duty.  I hesitated for a moment, then awkwardly stroked her arm in an effort to comfort her.

 

“Wendz, I… I’m so sorry…” I said, and something shifted behind her eyes when I used her old pet name.

 

“Oh, don’t be,” she said.  “It’s no big thing, really.  I’m just being overemotional…  It’s fine, really.”

 

I shrugged.  “Well, perhaps you are,” I said, and she laughed.  “Even so, I suppose I do… I do owe you…”

 

She looked up at me, and I could see that she was trying not to get her hopes up.  I leaned in and kissed her, forcing them up.  Her lips were soft, and I wondered again why no one had taken this opportunity yet – she was just so much of everything wonderful.  When I pulled back, my lips tasted salty from her tears.

 

She blinked at me for a moment.  Then she smiled, and I smiled, too, my heart soaring – the pain had left those deep blue pools.  We sat in silence for a moment before she smirked.  “So, we’re still friends, right?  Nothing’s going to get awkward?” she teased.  I laughed heartily.

 

“I dunno, things might get a little weird; we might have to sever contact for a bit,” I jabbed back.  She giggled.

 

“Thanks, though,” she said, suddenly serious again.  “Honestly.”

 

I smiled warmly down at petite, adorable little Wendy Rivers.  “Happy Christmas,” I said in reply, before getting  up and grabbing the antidotes in order to distribute them to the victims of our pranks so that the gift-opening could resume.  And for the first time since 7th year, everything about Wendy and me was in the right place.




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