Chapter 1 : A Christmas Conundrum
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“Gross. I am not drinking that.” Sirius frowned as Remus scooted a bit farther away from him on the hearth rug in the Gryffindor common room, holding up his hands as though warding away the bubonic plague.
“But I made it! It’s eggnog, it’s good!” he said, turning and offering the glass to Peter, who was sitting on his left side. Peter gamely took the glass, but his expression fell when he saw the contents more closely. Wordlessly, he turned the glass upside-down; the liquid inside didn’t budge.
Sirius winced as Remus, seeing this and laughing aloud, took the glass and poked the eggnog. “This feels like jelly,” he said, snorting a bit. “And it smells like James’s socks. Mate, this is all wrong. Chuck it out.” Scowling, Sirius grabbed the glass and stuffed it in the corner.
“You have no taste,” he muttered, although it had occurred to him on the afternoon’s jaunt into the kitchens that the eggnog had looked a bit thick. It wasn’t his fault that he had tried to make Christmas more exciting this year. Every year on Christmas Eve, after the rest of the castle had gone to bed, he and the others exchanged presents, too eager to wait until the morning, although James usually went home to his parents’ for the holidays. This was, of course, mostly for Sirius’s benefit, as he was the most impatient of the lot.
He instantly brightened as he remembered that it was still Christmas Eve, and the evening was far from over; the eggnog fiasco would be forgotten in a matter of minutes. “So,” he said matter-of-factly, rubbing his hands together. “Present time? Yes?”
“Oh – hang on,” said Peter suddenly, a brief look of consternation clouding his brow. “I’ve left the parcels upstairs.” He popped up from the rug and pattered up the spiral staircase, and Remus shook his head fondly.
“I think Wormy might forget his own brain if it wasn’t lodged solidly in his head,” he said, and Sirius nodded in silent agreement. He was now doing a little cross-legged bounce of anticipation, looking across the room every half-second to see if Peter had returned yet.
There was a crash from upstairs that sounded oddly as though Peter had tripped over a trunk – which was probably the case – and the two still sitting downstairs froze, hoping against hope that no one had woken up. “They’ll think it was Father Christmas,” Sirius muttered through gritted teeth as though trying to convince himself, eyes fixed on the ceiling. “But Merlin, he’d better not knock over anything else.”
He appeared then, panting slightly, two small boxes clutched in his pajama-clad arms. “Got them,” he said, staggering over and dumping them unceremoniously in the middle of the little ring. Sirius apparently took this as an invitation to dig in and yanked the nearest box toward him. “Remus,” he said, tossing the box to its owner. He only just managed to catch it by the tips of his fingers.
“You wrapped them in yesterday’s Daily Prophet?” Remus laughed, inspecting the exterior. Peter flushed a maroon sort of color.
“I forgot to get real wrapping paper,” he muttered, and for this comment received a little knock on his thatch of straw-blonde hair gently.
“Sounds solid enough. Can’t imagine what the trouble is,” Remus said, grinning and tearing the newspaper off his box. He opened the side flaps and drew out a small brown bottle, twisting it to see the label.
“Excellent.” Sirius, who had long since opened his own box and now found himself with an identical bottle, held it up to the light, squinting. “How’d you manage to nick the firewhisky, mate? This is brilliant!”
Peter shrugged, looked nonetheless pleased with himself. Sirius was now shaking the bottle, trying to gauge how much firewhisky was in it, and then packed it away, looking expectant once again. “Your turn,” he said, pointing at Remus.
The latter rolled his eyes and removed two slim rectangular packages from behind his back, passing them out accordingly. These, at least, were wrapped in real paper, thick and brown, which Sirius was pleased to see. It was always appreciated when someone went the extra step to make Christmas that much more authentic, he felt. However, he was less impressed by what was inside.
“You got me… a book,” he said, looking up at Remus as though surely it must be some sort of joke. The grin that was already plastered on his friend’s face said that he had been expecting this response. Peter, too, was examining the book, although not with as much confusion, for in all reality they might have been expecting this sort of present.
“It’s a good book,” Remus argued, attempting perhaps to save a little face, but Sirius had placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“You tried,” he said solemnly, and Remus stuck out his tongue at him.
“One of these years, you might actually read the books I give you –“
“There’s always next year, though, so I’m not too concerned yet.” With a flourish, Sirius crumpled up the brown paper and chucked it into the fire, narrowly missing Peter’s head. “And actually, hang on – James left our stuff here this year since his owl sort of dropped last year’s batch in a snowdrift –“ He all but dived headfirst beneath the Christmas tree that had been set up in the common room, rummaging through the parcels beneath it loudly. Peter mimed kicking him in the bum, and Remus snorted appreciatively before Sirius emerged again.
“Peter,” he said, again throwing presents so that they nearly missed their recipients. “Remus. And me.” He settled down happily, shaking the sloppily-wrapped parcel. “He’d better have gotten me new carpet slippers, after chucking mine in the fire the first night back at school.”
“That smelled horrible,” Remus said, wrinkling his nose as he recalled that event. “Like feet… burned feet.”
“Eloquent,” Peter snorted. He had already finished unwrapping his own box from James and now plopped a hat on his head gleefully, its flaps swinging to and fro by his ears. “This is warm,” he added happily, and Sirius found himself silently praying that he didn’t get an identical hat as he turned his attentions on his own parcel.
To his incredible delight, he found himself pulling out a pair of carpet slippers, apparently hand-knitted – Sirius assumed James’s mother had done it, not being able to picture his best friend learning solely to knit for the purpose of making slippers, and felt a sort of surge of affection for the woman who had always been more of a mother to him than his own. He promptly popped them on his feet and wiggled his toes around happily, making sure to keep them far away from the fire – just in case.
Across from him in the tight circle they had formed, Remus was looking down into his own parcel with a sort of bemused and curious expression on his face. Peter, who was now playing with the flaps of his hat, did not notice, but Sirius did. “What’s up?” he said, scooting over and trying to peek around the box’s lid.
“I… He gave me socks,” Remus said, in a voice that betrayed absolutely no emotion. Sirius snorted disbelievingly, but Remus held them up, and in the light from the fire it could be seen that they were most definitely socks – dark navy with a slightly odd gold and white argyle pattern boldly printed on both sides of each sock.
“Oh. Erm. They’re nice socks,” said Peter, who had finally diverted his attention from his hat long enough to inspect the other’s gift. “I’m sure they’re… warm. And things.” Sirius couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him, though, as Remus pulled on the socks, looking only slightly doleful about the whole affair.
“I guess that’s what you get for sending books year after year,” he said, thumping Remus cheerfully on the back; the latter tried to look offended about this, although he didn’t pull it off too well.
“They are rather warm,” he admitted grudgingly. “But next Christmas, he so owes me.”
So it happened that two rather humorous events ended that Christmas Eve, the first being that Remus was gifted a pair of slightly tacky, but nonetheless warm, argyle socks. And they were in fact so warm that when James revealed that he had mixed up the parcels, and had given his father the lovely new quill set intended for his friend, Remus point-blank refused to swap.
The second thing to happen was that Sirius’s homemade eggnog, which was promptly forgotten in its sad corner, was rumored to have been picked up by a house elf and smuggled down into the kitchens, where it made a remarkably good cleaning agent. And although they never received proof of this, Sirius always liked to think that it was true.
A/N: This story was written as a present for Missy (forsakenphoenix), and if you have the time, you should totally swing by and check out her stories -- they're fantastic! I hope you had a very merry Christmas, Missy, and have a very happy New Year as well. Thanks for reading!