Written in January 2006.
'D'you think it'll work?'
I look up from the thick, heavy textbook I have open on my bed. 'Yes, Prongs, I'm sure it will work,' I say, just barely suppressing a sigh of exasperation. 'We've been over this several times, and each time I've reassured you that it's foolproof.'
'But she'll hate me after it, won't she?' James asks anxiously.
I quirk an eyebrow. 'You mean she doesn't hate you already?'
With a flick of his wand, James sends one of his pillows flying in my direction. Of course, being used to this form of retaliation, I duck in time. The pillow soars over my head and flies out the half-open window into the night air.
'You just lost me my pillow!' James exclaims indignantly.
'You just lost yourself your pillow,' I correct. 'Need I remind you who it was that threw it in the first place?'
He grins good-naturedly, flashing his blindingly white teeth at me. It's all I can do to not throw a hand up to shield my eyes from the glare.
'Anyway,' James continues, flopping down on his bed, 'run over our plan with me again.'
'It's not our plan,' I quickly say, 'it's your plan. I thought we agreed that my name wouldn't be associated with it.'
'Oh, come on, Moony; if she knows you helped, she won't be as–'
'–hard on you, just harder on me,' I finish pointedly.
James gives me the all-too-familiar puppy eyes — also known as the 'I'm your best friend, Remus, how can you deny me my happiness so heartlessly?' eyes. Over time, my resolve has toughened, as I've learned that it's usually better for my well-being to ignore those eyes. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling a bit of my heart melt — in a strictly compassionate way, of course — every time he uses them.
'Fine,' he mutters sullenly after a while, reminding me vaguely of a little boy denied of the chance to open his Christmas presents early, 'run over my plan with me again.'
I sigh. 'You go down to the common room. Lily will be there talking to her friends. You tell her you have to give her your gift, and she has to come up here to get it. She glares at you and says no. You plead with her relentlessly until she finally agrees to come upstairs, simply for the sake of getting you off her back. Once she's in here, lock the door and point out the fact that there's mistletoe hanging all over the ceiling. While she's stunned speechless, kiss her. Then prepare yourself for the slap.'
'You make it sound like I'm kidnapping her or something,' James says, wrinkling his nose in distaste.
'Cold, hard facts, Prongs,' I say matter-of-factly. I've returned to reading my book (it's Hogwarts, A History; Professor Binns recommended it to me as light reading for moments of boredom over Christmas break. Light, my arse. As interesting as this thing is, it's over a thousand pages of cramped, tiny print) by now, but I find that I can't concentrate on the words in front of me. Instead, I'm sneaking glances at James every once in a while to see what he's doing.
At the moment, he's holding a sprig of mistletoe between his thumb and forefinger and gazing at it thoughtfully. He seems to be contemplating something, which is new to me — James never really thinks about anything before he does it.
'Prongs?' I say tentatively, not sure whether I should snap him back to reality or not.
'Nothing; just wondering why you're so quiet all of a sudden.'
'I'm just thinking about some things.'
Silence. I check my watch. It's 11:38 pm, which means that Christmas will be here in exactly twenty-two minutes. And then…
'Yeah?' I sit up so I can look over at James.
He rolls over onto his back so that he can look over at me. 'Do you think Lily will ever like me?' he asks quietly.
I bite my lip. Gazing at him, I can't bear to say no — it would break poor James's heart. But I've heard what Lily says about him while we're on prefect duty, and to be honest, none of it is all that pleasant. Still…
'Of course she will.' I cringe. I'm going to hell for that one.
'Really?' James says, sitting up slightly. His eyes are shining with hope, and that beam he has on his face eats at my conscience like a Flobberworm eats at a lettuce leaf: incessantly. 'Does she talk about me while you're on prefect duty together?'
I knew it. This is the moment where I pay for that lie. 'Er… yeah,' I say uncomfortably.
'What does she say?' he asks eagerly. By now he's sitting all the way up and leaning forward slightly.
'Just… stuff,' I say. Coughing, I quickly add, 'But we usually just talk about school and classes.'
James looks crestfallen. I want to jump out the window after that pillow for lying to my best friend, but instead, I say nonchalantly, 'So where's Sirius?'
'Downstairs. He's probably trying to bargain with the house-elves for a bit of alcohol.'
'He must be barmy if he thinks even Christmas spirit is going to soften the elves enough for that,' I mutter, shaking my head slightly. Then again, it's Sirius, so I shouldn't be too surprised.
'How about Peter? He never told me why he had to go home this break, the git.'
'His mum said she wanted him home to take care of her. Y'know, since his grandmother died this summer.'
'Ah,' says James, nodding. He pauses, closes his eyes, and purses his lips. I gaze warily over at him, wondering whether he's okay. Then his eyes fly open, and he says brightly, 'So when should I put our plan into action?'
'Your plan,' I remind him patiently. 'And it doesn't really matter to me; just let me know when you're going to do it so I don't have to be in the room.' I cringe at the thought of bearing witness to James's next attempt to snog Lily — the last time wasn't so pleasant, both visually and verbally.
Then James speaks up again. 'Hey, Moony?'
I'm still sitting up and watching James placidly. 'Yes?' I say quietly.
'D'you think the four of us will be friends forever? I mean, after we're done with classes and pranks and trying to get Lily to fall in love with me.'
I look at him, mildly surprised. That's an odd question for him to ask right now. I shrug and say, 'I dunno. I guess it depends.'
'Depends on what?' James asks, sounding curious. He's sitting on the edge of his bed now, his chin resting on his hands and his elbows on his knees. He's looking straight at me.
'On the circumstances after we leave Hogwarts,' I explain, shifting uncomfortably under James's piercing gaze. 'I mean, if we all get jobs together or something, we'll obviously still be friends. At least' — I pause and bite my lip — 'I hope.'
James sighs quietly. He's still holding the mistletoe in his hand, and now he's turned his eyes away from me to stare at it fixedly. After a while, he says gloomily, 'Dumbledore says the times are getting darker.'
'Yeah,' I say quietly. I nervously twist my bed sheets between my fingers, trying to think of something tactful to say. Nothing comes to mind, though. Instead, I mutter, 'I don't want to leave Hogwarts.'
'Yeah, it is rather cosy here, isn't it?' says James lightly. He tussles up the back of his hair and pushes his glasses up his nose, before adding in a concerned tone of voice, 'Sorry about what I said. I didn't mean to sound so miserable.'
'It's okay.' I pause. 'So when're you planning on executing Operation Mistletoe?'
Much to my relief, James's trademark smirk is back. I have to say, I find this side of James much more attractive than his depressed, dark side. Er… that is, I'm sure Lily will find this side more attractive. Against my better will, I blush slightly, flustered by my thoughts.
'You okay?' says James, looking at me inquisitively.
Blast. He's noticed.
'Yeah,' I say quickly, blushing even more deeply. I resist the urge to curse myself out loud. 'Why don't you go down and find Lily?'
'I think I will,' says James, his eyes sparkling mischievously. 'Let me just go put this final sprig of mistletoe up.'
'Where are you putting it?' I ask, watching him get off his bed and slide on his slippers. Inwardly, I'm too relieved that I'm no longer blushing to care.
'Over the doorway,' he explains with an impish grin. 'That way, she'll be caught off guard the moment she enters our dorm.'
I laugh. The idiot; she'll kill him before he even has the chance to pounce on her. Regardless, I say out loud (with a completely believable straight face, might I add), 'Good idea.'
James heads over to the doorway, stands on his tip-toes, and begins trying to fix the mistletoe to the doorframe. I watch his struggles with interest. Without paying attention to the way the thin sheen of sweat covering his face makes him gleam in a most attractive way. Or the way his unbuttoned shirt gives me a very clear view of his… erm… chest…
'Moony, can you come over here and have a shufti at this? It's not staying up…'
'Why don't you use magic?' I ask, standing up and wondering when my voice became so bloody high-pitched. I walk over to where James is standing and reach up to help him attach the mistletoe to the little hook on the doorframe.
Once the mistletoe is fixed to the doorway, I begin to lower my hands. Unfortunately, James does too at the same time, and our fingers knock together.
Oh Merlin's beard, why am I blushing like this? I quickly jerk my hands away and let my arms fall to my sides rather stupidly. James, too, has done the same, only now he's gazing down at me (yeah, he's taller than me by a good few inches) with an expression that appears to be a mix of curiosity, embarrassment, and confusion.
I clear my throat awkwardly. 'Umm…' I mumble, my tongue twisting over the single syllable. 'Er… mistletoe,' I squeak, gesturing slightly above my head while fiercely wishing the doorway wasn't so narrow, as it made it very hard for two people to both stand in it and maintain some space between them at the same time.
I couldn't have chosen a worse thing to say.
'Yeah,' says James, his voice unnervingly husky. His hazel eyes are darker than usual. I can see the greenish flecks in them now… Oh God, he's leaning closer… This is so wrong but I can't move… Crud, now I'm leaning forward too…
And then our lips touch. We're kissing, and holy Hippogriffs, it's nothing like I ever imagined, and my fingers have found their way to the hair that he usually messes up himself, only now I'm doing it, and his hands are suddenly pressed against my back and pulling me closer to him, and his tongue is awkwardly running against my bottom lip, and I can't help but open my lips a little, and Merlin it feels so effing good that I swear if he let me go I'd lift off the ground…
And then it's over. Our hands are back at our sides, and I'm back on the ground, wondering what the hell just happened. Apparently the same thoughts are flying through his mind, because his mouth is gaping open and he seems to be unaware of the fact that his glasses are slightly skewed.
I lick my lips nervously and clear my throat. My eyes dart from side to side, trying to look anywhere but straight ahead. I clear my throat again and whisper in a trembling voice, 'I — I think I'm going to — maybe to the library — to er…'
I'm an idiot. I'm an idiot. I'm an idiot. But he did it too, so he's an idiot too. Oh Christ, we're all idiots. He's my best friend. What am I going to do?
'I'm — er — going to go find Lily,' he says, his voice barely audible. He's blushing now too, and he looks so goddamn cute…
'Yes,' I hastily say, all but pushing him out of the doorway, 'yes, yes, you go get Lily, and I'm going to head over to the library and stay there for the rest of the day — night — and do homework.'
He nods rapidly. His glasses are still tilted to one side, and I fight the urge to reach up and adjust them for him. He's trying to leave now, but we're practically stuck in the doorway because it's so bloody narrow.
After many awkward attempts to untangle ourselves — I think some higher power up there must be working against me, and I make a note to myself to never lie again — James finally manages to stumble away and out of our dorm. I'm still standing underneath the mistletoe, my face so hot that I'm sure I must look like a flaming tomato.
We stare at each other for a little while. I'm glad to see that he looks just as flustered as I feel. He's still blushing, and his black hair is more tussled than ever, and his mouth keeps silently opening and closing, as if he wants to say something but isn't quite sure how to phrase it.
At long last, he turns around and hurries down the staircase. I watch his quickly retreating form. Only when he's entirely out of sight do I slowly begin to make my way down the stairs after him, my heart beating wildly against my chest and my mind filled with jumbled, disjointed thoughts.
I pause on the middle step to glance at my watch. 12 am — it's Christmas day.
I can't help smiling as I descend the rest of the stairs. This is one Christmas I'll never forget.