Chapter 1 : 20 December, 1973
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20 December, 1973
“Happy Christmas, Dorcas!” Sirius chanted happily, throwing a wrapped parcel at the brunette lounging lazily on a nearby couch. The box hit her smack in the middle of her forehead. While Sirius and James howled with laughter, Lily narrowed her eyes and glared at them. Marlene took it upon herself to elbow Sirius in the ribs. Dorcas, however, chuckled and rolled her eyes.
“Thanks, Black,” she said with a grin, “though if that leaves a mark, I'll hex you into the new year.”
After three weeks of procrastinating followed by a mad dash on the last Hogsmeade trip before the holiday, the night for swapping Christmas presents finally arrived. The Secret Santa gift exchange between the Gryffindor third-years had been Lily's idea, and a well-liked one at that. Peter supplied a hat, Mary wrote down all nine names, and they'd each blindly selected a piece of parchment dictating who they'd be getting a gift for that year.
Remus had gotten lucky. He's not sure what he would have bought had he drawn one of the other girls' names from the hat, but shopping for Emmeline had been easy. She, James, and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team easily defeated Ravenclaw during their last match, but her hands had taken quite a beating. Her gloves were worn beyond repair and she desperately needed new ones, and he was able to find a quality pair in Spintwitches that were just below the one Galleon limit they'd all agreed upon.
The only problem was she wasn't around to give them to. Remus held the small box he'd neatly wrapped that morning and looked at the scene before him. His fellow third-years had taken over a corner of the common room for the occasion. James was already playing with the screaming yo-yo Peter had given him, much to Lily's dismay as she was attempting to read the preface of the book she'd received from Mary. Marlene was already As presents continued to be opened, the carpet became littered with shiny paper and ribbons. Hugging ensued, and laughter and thank-yous filled the air.
But Emmeline was nowhere to be found.
Remus sat down next to Dorcas, who was admiring the new quill from Sirius she'd finally gotten around to unwrapping.
“Hey, where's Emmy?” he queried. “I have her present.”
“She went lay down for a bit. Wasn't feeling well.”
“I can take that up to her for you, if you'd like.”
“No, that's alright. Thanks, though.”
Remus was oddly disappointed, as he'd been very much looking forward to giving Emmeline her present. He'd never had friends to share Christmastime with until he got to Hogwarts. Plus, he'd put some thought into it and was quite proud of himself for getting what he was certain was the perfect gift.
“What did you get?” Dorcas asked.
“Your present. What'd you get?”
“Oh, um... I didn't.” It hadn't crossed Remus's mind that he'd been the only one in the group who hadn't opened anything yet.
“Emmy must have had you, then. You sure you don't want me to get her? I'm sure she wouldn't mind.”
“No, let her be,” Remus said with a smile. “I'm not going to bother her if she's sick. I'll see her tomorrow before we get on the train.”
“Hey!” Sirius called. “Who's ready for Exploding Snap?”
“Me!” Dorcas shouted, gently tossing the box holding her new quill to the side. She turned to Remus. “You in?”
Remus wasn't particularly good at Exploding Snap, but it was always a laugh when Dorcas, Sirius, and James played together because they got terribly competitive. He gathered around the table with Marlene, Lily, Mary, and Peter to watch. They each took turns playing, all while passing around sweets and goblets of pumpkin juice. Remus even won a couple of games, though he did singe his eyebrows. Thankfully Marlene was gifted with charms and offered to fix them, but only after she'd allowed herself a good laugh.
Nonetheless, he couldn't have been happier. It was nights like this that helped him forget about full moons and what he really was, even if only for a little while. His friends were his escape from the worry and self-loathing. They made him feel like he was worth something. That friendship was the most wonderful gift he could have ever received, and he was more than grateful.
Emmeline's present lay forgotten on an end table until about an hour later.
“Hey,” Peter said cheekily, nudging Remus and jerking his head toward the stairs leading to the dormitories, “I think you have an admirer.”
Remus looked to see Emmeline standing on the stairs, waving him over. She appeared to be hiding, as she was only poking her head and hand around the stone wall. As she fully disappeared again, Remus shot Peter a look, grabbed Emmeline's present, and headed for the stairs.
He found Emmeline sitting on the boys' staircase with a wrapped box in her lap.
“Hi,” she mumbled apprehensively. “Sorry. I must look awful.”
“Don't be silly. You look fine,” he said, sitting next to her. It wasn't a lie. Her dirty-blonde hair was out of place in some spots, her eyes appeared slightly irritated, and her face was flushed, but when Remus considered the way he looked after transformations, Emmeline looked like royalty. “How are you feeling?”
“Weak,” she answered. “I think I'm getting the flu.”
“You're not completely grossed out to be around me, are you?”
Remus smiled. “Of course not.” He, most of all, would never shun someone for being a little less than healthy.
“Anyway, I... I just wanted to give you this,” Emmeline said, handing the box in her lap to Remus. “Happy Christmas.”
“Thanks,” he replied, taking the parcel while handing over hers in return. “And Happy Christmas to you as well.”
Emmeline grinned, raising an eyebrow. “You had me?” When Remus nodded, she giggled. “That's a strange coincidence.”
“I thought so, too,” Remus concurred. He gestured toward her present. “Well, what are you waiting for? Go on.”
“Why don't we open them at the same time?”
He shook his head, smiling. “Ladies first.”
“Fine,” she reluctantly agreed, though she didn't waste any time tearing at the ribbons Remus had carefully tied just hours before. A smile crept across her face as she popped open the box, revealing the pair of leather gloves from Spintwitches.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, slipping one on her hand to try it out. To Remus's delight, it fit perfectly. “I've been needing a new pair! How did you know?”
“Remember your last match? I'd never seen blisters like that on anyone.”
“Ah, yes,” she chuckled, “those lasted a week. But these are perfect. Thank you so much!”
“I'm glad you like them.”
“Like them? I love them!” she said happily, taking the glove off and placing it carefully back into the box. “Now it's your turn. Go on.”
Remus smiled as he opened his gift. Judging by the weight, size, and shape of it, he expected it to be a book. As the wrappings fell away, he saw a cover and pages, but no title. Instead, the book had a blank suede cover and came with a set of pencils.
“Wow, Emmy,” he breathed. He flipped through what he now knew was a sketchbook and discovered its pages were made with the finest parchment for drawing. The pencils were colored, charmed to never get dull, and guaranteed to never smudge.
“I know how much you like to doodle in History of Magic, and Transfiguration, and Potions...” her voice trailed off and she grinned.
Remus laughed. “Yes, I do, and this... this is lovely. Thanks so much, Em.”
“You're most welcome.” She sighed and looked at him. “I should probably get back upstairs, though.”
He really wished she could join the fun in the common room, even if only for a little while; he hated knowing that she was miserable while they were all having a blast with games and sweets. Remus didn't say this, though, as he didn't want to make her feel bad. Instead, he nodded in understanding.
“I really hope you feel better,” he said sincerely.
“Me, too. Thanks again for my present.”
“And thank you as well. Happy Christmas.”
She smiled. “Happy Christmas, Remus.” She gave him a quick hug before heading up the girls' staircase, leaving Remus alone with his new sketchbook and pencils.
He flipped through it again. It was a really nice set – so nice that he wanted to use it for something special. He didn't know what, exactly, but he was sure he didn't want to fill it mindless drawings while he was bored in class; it was too nice for that. No, he'd save it for something he would put effort into.
Remus climbed the boys' staircase two-at-a-time and breezed down the hall to the third-years' room. He tucked the sketchbook and pencils in his trunk for safekeeping next to the now-empty Honeydukes boxes he'd received from James, Sirius, and Peter last Christmas. Sweets made wonderful presents, but they were easy. As he considered how much thought went the gifts he and everyone downstairs had received, he realized just how much closer they were all becoming, how much they were all growing up.
The thought made him smile as he headed back downstairs to his friends, though he did still feel a twinge of sadness, and even guilt, as he passed the girls' staircase once more.
He truly wished Emmeline could have stayed for a while. He really liked having her around.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! :)