"Christmas is coming, the Ghoul is getting fat, please put a Pixie in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a Pixie, a Grindylow will do, if you haven't got a Grindylow then come by Floo!"
Remus could hear Sirius' singing echoing down the stairs as he sat in the Gryffindor common room completing his Herbology homework. He looked up as Sirius crossed the room and sat down across from him.
"Your lyrics don't make any sense, you know."
"What's that, Moony?"
"Ghouls don't get fat- comes from living off insects. And the Floo thing is nonsense, it doesn't even fit."
"You're sadly lacking in Christmas spirit, Moony. That song is a classic. Or it will be, someday, just like 'God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs'."
"I still maintain that Hippogriffs are far from merry. And I have plenty of Christmas spirit, I'll have you know." And Remus did love Christmas and looked forward to it all year, in fact; it was just that if Sirius was "God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs", then he was "The Holly and the Ivy". Perhaps unsurprisingly, while he favoured the quiet and mystical side of the winter holidays, Sirius preferred the loud and shiny portions. But secretly, Remus thought he had never enjoyed Christmas as much before he met Sirius Black; they complemented each other, and Sirius evoked the simple joy of the holidays for him in a way he always had missed at home, where Christmas was about candles and stars and Handel's Messiah, and not about tinsel and wassail and the ridiculous spur-of-the-moment carols Sirius took such delight in. Remus wondered whether he himself made Sirius more contemplative about the season and shuddered to think how hyperactive he must be without his influence if this was true.
"Did you buy all your Christmas presents yet?"
Remus was not, in fact, done with his Christmas shopping; he had no idea what to get Sirius, and it was driving him mad. What does a werewolf get the boy he fancies? The boy who's also his best friend? All his ideas seemed either too fraught with meaning, or meaningless and impersonal. He had given up even thinking about it a week ago, hoping something would come to him. But Sirius certainly didn't need to know any of that.
"Yeah, I finished about a week ago. I got Peter a bound set of Martin Miggs comics, and James a bunch of charmed Golden Snitch erasers. They'll all have flown off within a week, but he'll love them. You?"
"All done. I got Wormtail a new set of Gobstones, and Prongs and I are giving each other pranks for Christmas, so that's all set too."
"You and James are pranking each other for Christmas?"
"Not pranking each other, more like committing pranks in honour of each other. Sort of an homage. Mine's going to be brilliant, James'll love it."
Remus didn't say anything for a few moments, but went back to his Herbology, knowing the pause would infuriate Sirius, who was clearly itching to share. Finally, when Sirius' knee had begun to twitch violently under the table, Remus knew it was time to end his torment. "So, what do you have planned?"
"Snogging Nog. I've hoodwinked the House Elves and they'll be distributing it instead of the normal eggnog tonight at dinner."
"Snogging Nog? And what is that, exactly?"
"Eggnog that causes the drinker to spend the next hour or so kissing everyone he or she sees passionately, of course. Like supercharged liquid mistletoe."
Remus had to admit that this sounded like a pretty amusing idea. James would indeed love it. "What do you put in the eggnog to get that effect? I should think you've spent enough time with James to know that Love Potions are illegal."
"Yes, Moony, Love Potions are illegal. But Kissing Potions are not."
"What's the difference?"
"A Kissing Potion just makes you kiss people; it doesn't make you actually like them. And so it is perfectly acceptable under wizarding law."
"So this Snogging Nog of yours could make, say, Peter kiss Filch? And like it?"
"No, see that's the especially brilliant part! He wouldn't like it at all, but he wouldn't be able to stop himself. Imagine the looks on everyone's faces! But I'm afraid Peter's off the hook; I'll warn him and James not to have any of the eggnog."
"Won't it seem suspicious if we're the only ones not kissing?"
"Not really, because plenty of people will still be compelled to kiss us. Best of all, this might even get Prongs a kiss from Evans, if he angles it right. Just stay out of Snivellus' way, or he'll end up kissing you."
"I may just avoid dinner altogether, at this rate."
"What? Why, Moony? You can't, it'll be a shining moment in my pranking career! You don't want to miss it, do you?"
Put that way, no, he really didn't. Sirius would be in his element as the mayhem hit, laughing and tossing his gleaming black hair, grey eyes dancing, cheerfully kissing everyone who kissed him…maybe Remus could accidentally-on-purpose have some of the Snogging Nog? Then he could kiss Sirius, in the Great Hall, even, in front of everyone.
That thought brought him back to the matter at hand. The truth was, Remus didn't want to be at dinner when the Snogging Nog hit because he didn't want to kiss anyone he didn't genuinely care about. But how could he explain that to Sirius? He would laugh, and tell him he was a girl, and drag him down to dinner anyway. And he wasn't being a girl about it, not really; he thought it showed real emotional maturity to only want to engage in that sort of thing with someone he was serious about.
Oh, who was he kidding? If he could think that with a straight face, he really was a girl!
He decided to settle for a half-truth. "It's a great prank, really it is, Padfoot, and I'd love to see it. But I don't really fancy the idea of all the bad kissing that's likely to ensue."
"What do you mean, bad kissing? It's not meant to be bad kissing, just enforced kissing."
"Yes, and I've never had a good kiss with someone who didn't want to be kissing me." This was only a lie of omission, after all; he'd never kissed anyone who didn't want to kiss him at all, good or bad, so the statement was technically true. "I'm not keen on the idea of getting snogged if it's going to feel like being attacked by the squid, or a cold fish. Doesn't sound fun, so I'll just avoid it." He thought that had come off rather well; it even gave the impression that he had loads of experience, when really he had only kissed a couple of girls and just one boy.
He had forgotten to take into account Sirius' contrary nature. "So what you're saying, Moony, is that you think that any kiss with someone you don't fancy is automatically a bad kiss?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying."
"Moony, Moony, Moony, how wrong you are! I'm not saying there's no such thing as a bad kiss, but I've never noticed any link between feelings and quality. It's all about the skill of your kissing partner. Here, I'll prove it to you."
"What?" Remus felt he had lost control of the conversation, and it now seemed to be veering in a dangerous direction.
"I'll show you. Now, I know I'm a good kisser-" Of course he is, thought Remus- "and I don't fancy you, and you don't fancy me-" Remus decided to let that assumption pass unchallenged- " as we're both blokes, and good mates, and all that. So we can't possibly fancy each other, right?"
Remus tried not to let the disappointment show on his face. It was foolish; of course he knew the chances that Sirius, too, was interested in boys were slim, but Sirius was always so unconventional, so rebellious, that he had hoped he'd turn out to be exceptional in this, too. He was certain he had imagined the tiny quiver of uncertainty in Sirius' voice. Wishful thinking, was what it was.
"In fact," Sirius continued, "these are perfect conditions for a test: if I kiss you, it'll be a good kiss due to my talent, without any feelings involved."
Before Remus even had time to think oh my god, Sirius Black is about to kiss me, he actually was. And it was indeed a wonderful kiss. Sirius' lips were warm and soft, and the kiss somehow managed to be gentle but ardent at the same time. He was startled at first, but seeing as this might be his only chance to kiss Sirius, he only hesitated for a fraction of a second before beginning to kiss back. Surely that would be expected, even if they were just testing a theory? For a purely experimental kiss, it certainly seemed to go on and on, and Remus began to wonder what was happening- surely Sirius hadn't intended to kiss him this thoroughly just to prove a point? But Sirius showed no signs of stopping; and now, good lord he had his tongue in Remus' mouth and the balance had definitely tipped towards passionate. The part of Remus' brain that was still functioning began to put more faith in the imagined uncertainty in Sirius' voice. Maybe more than one theory was being tested with this kiss?
After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only several seconds, Sirius pulled away. He looked as dazed as Remus felt, and was staring at him as if he was looking right through him. Suddenly, he shook his head as if to clear it, and said, "So, there you go, Moony. Proved you wrong. That was a good kiss. Yes, good. And no emotions involved. Obviously. Blokes and all that. So I was right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere. And do something. Someplace that isn't here. So I'll just be going now."
Remus somehow managed to nod and pretended to turn his attention to his homework as Sirius got up and practically ran out the portrait hole. As soon as he was gone, though, he felt free to ask aloud the question that was pounding in his brain: "What the hell was that?"
After what had happened, Remus didn't feel any better about going down to dinner than he had when he was only facing the possibility of being snogged by Snape, so he stayed in the dorm. It was pretty likely none of the Marauders would get much eating done in the chaos sure to follow upon the first sips of eggnog, so he was sure he'd be able to convince James to lend him the Invisibility Cloak for a kitchen raid later.
The kiss with Sirius had left him with a lot to think about, so he spent the time organizing his rather incoherent thoughts in list format:
didn't act like he had a problem with kissing boys- hope!
Sirius said kiss was 'good'
Glazed look in his eyes reminiscent of James at his most lovelorn
that's not what he said- is it only false hope?
But he ran away afterwards
According to him, before and after, no feelings involved
Sirius flustered after kissing
When it came right down to it, the issue hinged on the item he couldn't place on either side of his list. Sirius had very clearly been flustered by their kiss- rendered practically incapable of coherent speech, Remus remembered with a flush of pride. He had made an incredibly transparent excuse to leave- so transparent, in fact, that Remus didn't think it could really qualify as an excuse. 'Go somewhere to do something', indeed. But why? Had Sirius (who practically oozed self-confidence most of the time), confused and shaken by what had happened, merely wanted to escape before Remus saw his uncertainty? It wouldn't be the first time Sirius had hidden from his fellow Marauders rather than show what he thought of as weakness. Remus supposed growing up in the House of Black could do that to a person.
But it seemed equally possible that Sirius had fled, not in order to puzzle out his own feelings, but to get away from Remus himself. What if he had found the kiss, not wonderful, but weird and awkward? Sure, he had said it was good, and Remus had duly noted that on his list, but he could have been just saying it. That had been what he was trying to prove by kissing Remus, after all. What if Sirius didn't want to be around him because he was uncomfortable about what had happened? Had Remus perhaps been too enthusiastic when he kissed back? But I'm not the one who stuck my tongue in his mouth, the hopeful part of him objected.
Worst of all, after the kiss Sirius had said that there were no feelings involved. If he really meant that, no matter if Sirius did sometimes fancy boys, no matter how much they had both enjoyed the kiss, it wouldn't be what Remus really wanted.
Remus could now hear his dorm-mates running up the stairs, sounding even more like a herd of elephants than usual, so he hastily hid his list in a musty Ancient Runes text that Sirius would never voluntarily open. It should be safe there.
"Moony! You look like you're feeling better. You missed out on quite the show at dinner," Peter greeted him.
"Feeling better?" Remus asked.
"Padfoot said you hadn't been feeling too well, so you had to miss dinner. He actually wasn't looking quite himself either, so I hope it isn't something going around. Anyway, you seem fine now. And you won't believe what you missed!"
"I take it the Snogging Nog was a great success?"
James, who had walked in looking as dazed as Sirius had earlier in the day, finally spoke. "She kissed me! Evans kissed me! Ah, my sweet Lily!" He collapsed rather overdramatically onto his bed.
"She really did, Remus. Though it was kind of odd, she somehow managed to kiss him and mutter curses at him at the same time. Anyway, he's been like this ever since. It was brilliant, I wish I'd got a Christmas present half as cool. Maybe we should all give each other pranks next year?"
"Sounds wonderful," Remus replied. "Who did Snape end up snogging?"
Sirius had been strangely quiet, but now he seemed to regain his enthusiasm. "He ended up with Bellatrix! It was even better than I could've planned it. She was snogging him right back, of course, but she looked fit to kill! When the eggnog wears off she'll probably hex his bollocks off. It was chaos, just like I predicted."
"I ended up getting kissed by Melanie Barrett and Evangeline Harkins. It was fabulous," Peter put in.
Remus couldn't help himself. He wanted, and didn't want, to know. "And who ended up kissing Sirius?" He tried to keep his tone neutral.
Sirius actually blushed, which Remus found quite gratifying. "Nobody important, Moony."
"Lily kissed him, too," Peter whispered.
"Yes," James added, "but I forgive her; she was acting under compulsion, after all. Plus, she swore at him even more than at me. It couldn't be clearer that it's me she fancies."
Sirius seemed eager to change the subject. "The best part, though, is that we aren't even in any trouble. You're really sorry you didn't see this, Moony. The teachers didn't get any Snogging Nog of their own, but when Goyle started to kiss Malfoy, McGonagall realized something was wrong. She rushed over to the Slytherin table and was trying to separate people and everything. When it didn't work she got really angry and started shouting about how she'd have the head of whoever had added an illegal Love Potion to the meal."
"That was when Dumbledore came to the rescue." Peter took up the tale. "He said, 'Minerva, I believe you will find that no Love Potion has been used here. The effects, to me, look characteristic of a Kissing Potion.' And then he asked Slughorn for his professional opinion, and he agreed. McGonagall was still pretty put out, but Dumbledore convinced her that a little Kissing Potion was 'no worse than mistletoe, of which there is plenty in this castle', so Sirius has nothing to worry about. Dumbledore and Slughorn seemed to think it was a splendid joke."
The rest of the evening passed with James and Sirius saying very little, while Peter filled in the silence with chatter about who had kissed whom and who had seemed to enjoy it. Remus occasionally encouraged him with questions, but he wasn't really concentrating on what he was saying. Sirius had seemed apologetic about having kissed someone else, which was encouraging, but then again the someone else was Lily, so he would have to seem apologetic for James' sake. But he had been talking to him, said "Moony" in that certain tone of voice that always made Remus' heart melt.
When Peter had finally talked himself out and the Marauders were all drifting off to sleep, Remus was left with a lot to think about. He knew Sirius, and he could be extremely evasive when there was something he didn't want to talk about. There would be no getting a direct answer out of him, even if he plucked up his Gryffindor courage and asked. If only something would happen that would force him to reveal how he felt about the kiss…