The Birthday Kiss

Remus awoke the next morning, thanks to a rather noisy argument amongst his friends that had penetrated his sleep. As he sat up and yawned, he suddenly realized that sometime in the night, his bed had been decorated with long, trailing strips of… toilet paper?

"Sirius," he said dryly, though still half-asleep.

At the mention of his name, the person in question turned around and grinned innocently. "So, the sleeping beast awakens. Say, how do you like your birthday decorations?"

"They're lovely," Remus said with a touch of irony, "though as I remember, one is supposed to use ribbons and streamers, rather than toilet paper."

Sirius shrugged innocently and grinned. "I did my best."

"At least it was clean toilet paper," Peter put in, receiving a glare from Sirius.

"Happy birthday, mate," said James, elbowing past Peter and Sirius and rescuing the situation. "We were just discussing, er, plans. For this joyous occasion. But first, I think, breakfast."

The four trooped down to the Great Hall and sat down to break the fast. Remus was, of course, treated to a rousing chorus of For he's a jolly good fellow that was initiated, and dramatically conducted, by Sirius. After the clamor had settled down, Sirius dropped into his seat and remarked on the pleasing tomato-ish hue spreading across his friend's face.

"Sadly, this year will not see a reenactment of the House-Elf Birthday Hat, but don't worry; I have far better plans," Sirius announced.

"I look forward to it," Remus retorted.

"The House-Elf Hat was nothing," Peter said solemnly, "compared to my humiliating fourteenth birthday."

"What did I do then?" asked Sirius innocently.

"You enchanted a pair of firecrackers to continuously explode over my head and shout 'Happy birthday!' all day long," Peter reminded him, not too fondly. "I couldn't get to sleep until past midnight, when it was not my birthday anymore."

"Ah, such brilliance," Sirius rejoined with a grin.

As they were discussing the ridiculous pranks Sirius had played on each of their birthdays before, Remus noticed that James had quite suddenly gone pale. "Prongs? Your breakfast disagreeing with you?"

James swallowed and whispered, "No." After a long pause, he said, "Look at Camille."

The other three slowly turned their heads to her table, where she sat staring unhappily at James, her eyes red and puffy, her complexion blotchy from crying.

"Merlin, James, what did you do?" Sirius asked.

"Nothing! Absolutely nothing!" he protested. "Why is she crying? I've no idea! I've barely spoken to her the past few days – which might, come to think of it, have something to do with this, but how should I know?!"

"You'll find out soon enough," Peter noted. "It looks like she's coming over here."

With the anxious, wild-eyed expression of a deer about to bolt, James slowly rose from the table and met Camille halfway, where she pulled him aside to talk.

"Flowers?" suggested Sirius, as a possible remedy for their friend's unhappy predicament. "Chocolates?"

Remus shook his head. "I don't think anything would appease Camille at this point except perhaps a marriage proposal."

They watched, half amused and half distressed for James' sake, as Camille reproached him severely; it appeared she was alternating between tears and anger. Remus distinctly heard James defending himself: "I've had Quidditch practice a lot," as well as "time with my friends" and "absence makes the heart grow fonder". Not a wise move, Remus thought, wincing.

"I just don't feel like I'm your—" Camille complained before James interrupted to hush her loud protestations.

By this time, most eyes in the Great Hall were observing the affair with interest. Their bits of toast and eggs forgotten, the students watched with curiosity, amusement, or a mixture of the two, as the quarrel escalated – except for Lily, Remus noticed, who wore a thoughtful and puzzled expression. Perhaps her mind was on other things, but it certainly looked like she was paying attention to James and Camille's fight, although she didn't seem to care too much.

And suddenly, almost faster than anyone could notice, Camille's hand flew up as if to slap James; just as he recoiled, she lowered it just as quickly, seeming to have changed her mind. And somehow, while this disturbance was holding everyone else's attention, Remus' eyes found Sirius'. Grey eyes seemed to twinkle, and Sirius gave an almost imperceptible jerk of his head, leaned across the table, and whispered quickly, "Shrieking Shack. Tonight, after lights out." Remus barely had time to nod before James suddenly slid onto the bench beside him, his color high. "Can we get out of here, please? Before this gets any worse?"

"How much worse can it get?" Sirius asked as the four of them rose to their feet and began to make their way out of the Great Hall, but his question was soon answered.

Remus, who had been lagging behind a bit, was suddenly overtaken by Lily Evans, who had caught his arm and said breathlessly, "I wanted to say happy birthday, Remus. I've just remembered, it's today, isn't it?"

He nodded and glanced at James, Sirius, and Peter, who had stopped and turned around to wait for him. James, in particular, looked affronted by this sudden interruption from Lily. It looked like he was about to call out to her, but something stopped him and he just watched Remus and Lily with a strange expression on his face.

"Well, thanks, Lily," Remus said, bemused. "I mean, I—"

Before he could further express his thanks, Lily leaned over and kissed his cheek swiftly and said again, "Happy birthday, Remus."

He felt his entire face grow hot as she flashed a smile at him, determinedly ignored the shock that was quickly registering on everyone's faces, and moved away to sit with her friends again. Lily Evans had just kissed his cheek – Lily Evans, who was pretty, popular, and would probably never have noticed him if they didn't have Prefect duty together; but why, of all things, had she chosen to do this to him, who probably least appreciated it? She knew how James—

James. Remus whirled around to catch the expressions that were frozen on his friends' faces. Peter looked just as bewildered as Remus felt, and Sirius' reaction flickered between amusement and apprehension. But James… James was staring at Remus, his jaw dropped, looking all at once stunned, angry, and betrayed.

Remus swallowed heavily. He was not looking forward to the aftermath of this birthday kiss.