THIS MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE OF YOUR LIFE.

Okay. This has been pissing me off for so long, it's not even funny. Remus Lupin is not weak and boring. The boy's a werewolf, not some poncy little kid who starts to cry whenever anyone talks to him. I think anyone who had to hide a secret as big as he did would end up a bit removed from most of his classmates, but not the scared bookworm so many authors choose to write. (No offense to any of them. Lovely people.)

I wrote this to show the real Remus. The pranking mastermind. The smooth, eye-rolling genius. The vague, slightly awkward kid hidden behind a thin veneer of civilization and chocolate sauce.

There might be slash.

I own nothing.

Brace yourself.

Disclaimer: I'm using J. K. Rowling's characters. So sue me.

Rewrite: April 2012. That's right, bitches. IT'S ON.

1. Exploding Snap and Unplanned Nudity

It was the first of September, 1971, and the Hogwarts train had boarded. Two boys were huddled together in the corridor, peering into the last compartment. One had glasses and what appeared to be the remnants of a knotted black mop on his head. The other was already in his robes, and exuded an air of aristocratic nonchalance. (Well, he thought he did. Actually, his eyes were slightly crossed and he had a smear of jam on his chin.) The pair were hissing at each other angrily.

"I don't want to!"

"All the rest are full!"

"I said, I don't want to!"

"Calm down, mate, it won't be that bad."

"But he looks like such a nerd with all those books…"

"Is he in our year?"

"Must be. Bit taller than me, though."

"Well, that's not hard."

"Hey! Take that back!"

"No. Shorty."

A silent scuffle broke out and abruptly ended when the fighters crashed into a door and barreled into the compartment. The tall, pale boy who was sitting in the window seat raised an eyebrow and turned the page of his book with a quiet flick.

With his glasses hanging off one ear and his hair even more gravity-defying than it had been before, the shorter of the wrestlers jerked to his feet. He pulled the other boy up by his already-mangled tie. "Hi," he panted, "I'm James Potter." When his companion didn't say anything, James elbowed him in the ribs.

"Ow! What? Oh, yeah, yeah. And I'm Sirius Black, at your service." He swept into a low, elegant bow, which probably would have been more impressive if James hadn't still had such a firm grip on his tie.

The boy in the window seat marked his place in the book with a long finger and nodded politely at the tangle of limbs on the floor. "Nice to meet you both," he said with a small smile, before turning back to his book.

"And... you are?"

"Oh, right. I'm Remus Lupin." He smiled again faintly, as if forgetting to introduce himself was something he did every day, and returned to his book.

"Er... Everywhere else is full - can we sit here?" James asked.

Remus looked up with a slight frown. "Sure," he replied. He seemed to be wondering why they'd bothered to ask him. Sirius twirled a finger around his ear and mouthed insulting things about Lupin's sanity until James got out his last pack of Exploding Snap cards.

The rest of the journey passed in a haze of triumphant wins for James, games that could have been won (if James hadn't cheated, the bloody git) for Sirius and reading for Lupin. Through his indignant and self-righteous fog, Sirius noticed the fair-haired boy making notes in the margins with what looked like a small wooden stick. The other boy must be Muggleborn, or at least half-blood, he thought to himself. Or just plain weird. Who wrote notes by choice?"

With a quiet sigh and a sound that was eerily similar to a duck being squashed by a haddock wrapped in bacon - a sound that James, for some reason, was very familiar with - the train came to a halt. Lupin had collected his books and left the compartment in a blur of patched robes and parchment before James had even managed to put down his final card.

"Hey! James, look at this." Sirius picked up a book that Lupin had dropped on his way out, and was gazing at it with undisguised lust. It was thick and battered, bound with worn green cloth. A title picked out in gold embroidery looped and curled across the cover.

"No way," breathed the other boy reverently. "Best Jinxes, Curses and Hexes of the 60's!" James cracked it open, smoothing trembling fingers down the page. "This is practically illegal at Hogwarts! No one will even sell it to students anymore... I wonder how he got it?"

Sirius pulled the book from James' hands roughly and started to flick through the pages. "Who cares?" he muttered. "I just want to know if this volume has the one with all the orange spots and the showgirl dancing. My parents burnt my copy…" He trailed off as the passage he was reading abruptly blanked out. Handwritten, spidery words began to trace themselves across the page ever so slowly. They formed a message which began to read itself aloud in the quiet, dry voice of the boy who'd written it.

"Mr Remus Lupin," it began, "owner of this book, has placed a very strong jinx on whomever is holding it in their hands at this moment." Sirius all but threw it at James, who held it gingerly, as one might hold a screaming baby or a lit firework. The message continued. "This curse extends to anyone who has held the book at any point within the past fifteen seconds." At this, Sirius began to swear fluently. James was impressed in spite of himself, and made a mental note to try out some of the more creative phrases on his aunt. "Unless this book is returned to me, preferably sooner rather than later, the aforementioned book holder, or holders, will suddenly become transfixed with the desire to start a nudist colony, and to convert everyone they know by force. Fair warning has been given - the curse will begin to take effect in about half an hour. Thank you."

...

"Hey, James."

"Yeah?"

"Is it just me, or are robes awfully itchy? You know, I actually think we might be better off without them…"

"Keep your clothes on and help me find Lupin!"

As James dragged him out of the train and onto the platform by his tie, which was now looking decidedly worse for wear, Sirius clutched at his pants with trembling fingers. "Hurry! I don't want to be a stripper until I'm at least fifteen!"

"Lupin! Oi, LUPIN! We've got your book! Get over here and fix us!"

...

Several hours later, firmly dressed in two pairs of trousers (belted on), three shirts, a pair of socks and James' new blazer, Sirius decided that he had thoroughly underestimated Lupin. The boy wasn't a crazy nerd. He was a crazy genius.


2. The Obligatory Cliché Chapter

For the first time in his life, Fabian Prewett was watching the Sorting. Several incidents with a fish, some fireworks and a little creative curse-work had meant that he and his brother Gideon had been in detention during every Sorting at their time at Hogwarts. In fact, for their own first year Sorting, they'd had to go up to Dumbledore's office before the rest of the school had even arrived at the Great Hall. This was an incident they looked back at fondly as their first real accomplishment. Because of this, the twins were staring openly at the new students, making several of them even more terrified than they already were.

"Merlin. They're so tiny."

" I think that one wet his pants, look." Fabian pointed to a chubby blonde boy whose robes were puddling water all over the floor. The boy cringed away from the pointing finger and tried to hide behind a tall girl standing near him.

"Nah, that was the one that fell in the lake."

"Look, there's the Potter kid - Mum always has his parents over for tea."

The boy had his head bent together with someone who had the exact same shade of pitch black hair. The two dissolved into helpless laughter at something, their mingled hair bouncing with a life of its own.

"Is that his brother? A cousin maybe?"

"Dunno…" Gideon idly wondered how many tripping jinxes he could cast without getting caught. Ten? Maybe fifteen, if he spaced them out enough. He flicked his wand at a boy with long hair and an even longer nose, who stumbled into the little red haired witch beside him.

"Gid! Snap out of it! They started already!"

"Angus, Sinead."

"RAVENCLAW!"

A girl who was an easy head and shoulders shorter than everyone else in the room (even Flitwick) sauntered towards the Ravenclaw table. Gideon decided that the girl was very good at pretending to be confident, but the twitching in her hands gave her away. He let his gaze flick up and he stared at the enchanted ceiling. There was a half-moon and a smattering of stars in the clear velvet sky. Gideon idly wondered if there was a charm he could use to get the ceiling's stars to spell out dirty words. He'd have to ask Fabian about that one.

"Avery, Matthias."

"SLYTHERIN!"

"No surprises there," muttered Alice Finch, who was seated across the table from the twins. "The whole family are a bunch of Death Eaters. They're almost as bad as the-"

"Black, Sirius."

"The Blacks," finished Alice with a grim nod.

"Isn't that Potter's new friend?" Gideon asked quietly. Sure enough, as Sirius Black sat on the stool, Potter gave him a thumbs up and an encouraging grin.

"D'you know what's going on, Gid?"

"I've got a bit of an idea…"

The whole hall was silent. A minute passed. Two. The gathered students began to fidget, muttering to each other.

"What's taking him so long?"

"Can't the hat just shove him in Slytherin already? He's a Black, it's not that hard."

"Cissy, what on earth is wrong with your dear cousin?"

"Is he actually...arguing with it?"

Indeed, Sirius' face was screwed up and he seemed to be chanting something under his breath. Finally, as the tension in the hall began to reach boiling point-

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Unlike they had for the other new students, not a single person in the whole hall clapped. The boy got to his feet slowly, a look of pure relief and joy on his face.

"Thank Merlin," he said, voice ringing through the silence. "I thought I'd be stuck with the rest of my god-awful family."

Loud laughter exploded from the Gryffindor table, and the boy hurried over, throwing himself down on the bench between Alice and a tall seventh year who seemed to have more freckles than skin. Time passed in a blur of names and tripping jinxes, cast by both the twins and Sirius, who turned out to have bit of a talent for it.

"Lupin, Remus!"

A tall boy with floppy, ash-coloured hair looked up at Professor McGonagall. He was the only one in the entire pack of first years who didn't seem even a little scared or nervous. With his book under one arm, he took his place on the stool. Fabian had his wand raised and his mouth open, when Sirius threw himself across the table and forced down his arm.

"Not Lupin," he panted, "he knows better hexes than I do." He clutched his robes around himself protectively. Catching the twins' concerned glances, he flushed and tightened his tie.

"I don't want to talk about it. Ever."

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Lupin hitched his book to his chest with arms that seemed to have far too many elbows and slid into a seat at the end of the table. He smiled politely at the people who tried to introduce themselves, but tuned them out to focus on the rest of the Sorting. Watching him, Gideon started to turn a delicate shade of green.

"The book. He's got the damn book. I. Would. Kill. For. That. Book."

"Since when have you ever read books?" Fabian asked, craning his head to try and catch a glimpse of the cover.

"Only this book. It's nothing major, you know. Just a little something called Best Jinxes, Curses and Hexes of the 60's. I mean, it's not like we've been trying to find a copy since forever."

Fabian suddenly saw at Lupin in a new light. The boy seemed to be muttering something under his breath, still staring at the students yet to be Sorted. His wand was held to the tabletop by a casual hand, which gave it a little flick every now and then. "How does a first year have his own fucking copy? I've never even seen one."

"Never mind that," said Gideon impatiently, "D'you think he'd let us borrow it?"

"It gets worse," added Sirius, darkly. "I'm pretty sure he can pull off every spell in it. Look…" He trailed off as Lupin finished whatever incantation he was murmuring and gave his wand a complicated little wiggle.

The unsorted students erupted into chaos. Three quarters of them had been suddenly divided into their probable houses, their robes turning a bright red, yellow or blue. The remaining students didn't have green robes, though - every single item of clothing right down to the shoes on their feet had been painted a violent fuchsia.

"Silence!"

The racket vanished as if an invisible switch had been flicked. Professor McGonagall had flung out her arms, wand outstretched in a white knuckled grip. "If all first years will please continue with the Sorting, regardless of the colour of their attire. I do not wish to know who was responsible for this-" she glared at the Prewetts, but was a little put off by their utter confusion, "-but they should be feeling properly ashamed of themselves." At this, Lupin hid a small smile, not realizing that three of his new house-mates were watching him like hawks.

"Now, if we can proceed; Matherson, Rebecca."

A tiny girl with bright yellow robes that matched her thick ponytail bounced forward and shoved the hat on her head.

"HUFFLEPUFF."

Potter, James."

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Bedecked in robes of screaming scarlet, James ambled to his new house and squeezed himself in next to Sirius.

"It wasn't you with that jinx, was it?" he asked hopefully. When Sirius shook his head, James grinned. "Whoever it was should get a medal. Did you see the look on Nott's face? Pink is definitely his colour - brings out the ugly quite well, I think. It wasn't you two, was it?" he added, looking at Fabian and Gideon for the first time. "I've heard stories about you…"

"Nah, it wasn't us, sadly."

"Wish we'd thought of it, but-"

"-it was Lupin."

The twins looked at each other, their expressions eerily echoing a pair of freckly teenage Dumbledores.

"Mr Prewett?" Fabian gave his brother an inscrutable look from over an imaginary pair of glasses.

"Why, yes, Mr Prewett."

"I rather think we've found our successor, old chap."

"As do I, my dear fellow."

"Oh, but that hex was nothing," said James slyly. "You should have seen what he did to Sirius on the train…"

As James began to explain Lupin's security measures to the enraptured twins, Sirius sputtered blushing denials and compulsively unbuttoned and re-buttoned his blazer. None of the boys noticed the speculative looks coming from behind a book at the end of the table.

Until they tried to get up and leave and realized that their trousers had somehow become attached to the benches.


3. Dude Looks Like a Lady

Peter was confused. Really confused. He would go so far as to say he had never been this confused in his whole entire life. Not in all his eleven years, not even when his mother had decided to charm the whole family blue for a month (and that had been pretty confusing). He gazed into the bathroom mirror apprehensively, as if what he saw might bite him. He did a little twirl - his stupid reflection stayed the same.

He was sure his hair hadn't been that long yesterday.

Peter did another experimental spin, overbalanced and fell back against the sink. His reflection gaped back at him in horror, all long eyelashes and full lips and...prettiness.

"Uh, James? I've got a bit of a problem…"

"No, I won't do your tie for you, Pete!" echoed a faint voice from the adjoining room.

"That's not it. I think you'd better come and see." Peter kept turning back and forth in front of the mirror. James barged in through the door, toothbrush in one hand and wand in the other.

"Look, if you've gotten yourself wedged in the shower again, it's Sirius' turn to get you o-" He caught sight of Peter and stopped. Peter blushed. He twirled his hair around an oddly slim finger.

"I know, I'm kind of... I mean, I think-"

"You're a girl." stated James. "A girl. Oi! Sirius, c'mere! Pettigrew's a girl!"

Sirius poked his head into the crowded bathroom, and a wicked smile slid onto his face. "Brilliant."

Peter stamped his foot. "This is not brilliant!"

"Is he pouting? Good lord, I think he's pouting!"

"This is brilliant!" Sirius repeated. "Think of all the pranks we could pull on people, Pete - no one knows you like this!"

"I will not- I refuse-"

James cracked an evil grin. "Let me just go and borrow some clothes from Lily..."

"No!"

"Come on," said James slyly, "It won't be that bad!"

Peter grabbed his (her? He wasn't quite sure anymore) wand and pointed it at James wildly. "Don't make me hex you," he hissed.

Sirius wisely chose that moment to beat a hasty retreat from the bathroom. It didn't happen often, but when Peter got backed into a corner, the boy was scary. He'd bet good money on James getting on the wrong end of a jinx or three...

...

After they'd managed to deflate James' head from its alarming new shape and transfigure some more appropriate clothes for Peter, Sirius and James had shoved their friend back into the bathroom with several very tiny, very frilly pieces of fabric.

"You've both gone completely bat-shit crazy if you think I'm wearing these!" he hollered through the door.

"You have to, Pete," Sirius reasoned, as he double-charmed the lock and leaned against the door for good measure. "How else are we going to get you to McGonagall in time to change you back?"

"Yeah," added James. "It's not like any of your old clothes'll fit."

A few dull thuds and a small crash (probably caused by Peter cracking the mirror - he'd done it before) echoed into the dormitory. After a pause, Sirius opened the door. He and James were greeted by an ominous silence, but no Peter.

"I'll check the laundry basket." James almost skipped over to the corner of the room and flipped up the lid of the wicker hamper. "Oh! Here she is!"

"Bastards! Ow, ow, you're pulling my hair!"

Finally, a short curvy girl wearing a seething glare and not much else was extricated from the dirty laundry. Sirius let out a low whistle.

"Ew! Sirius, that's Peter!"

Sirius paled and made a noise like he'd thrown up in his mouth. "Right. I forgot. Forget the pranks, let's change him back, now."

"Well, it's about damn time!"

With that, Peter flounced - actually flounced - out of the bathroom and down past the dormitory. His friends followed him closely, trying very hard not to ogle at his arse.

"This is seriously disturbing," muttered James to Sirius, as they ran from the flabbergasted students in the common room.

"You got that right."

...

Later that night, James and Sirius escorted a newly masculine Peter back from Professor McGonagall's office. The woman had been extremely disconcerted by Peter's little problem and his even littler outfit. She'd quickly found him some suitable clothing, but it had taken her quite a while longer to find the counter-jinx. After a warning to not play around with such strong magic in the future, she'd had to let all three boys go. Even though there was no proof, she was sure that Potter or Black had been behind it somehow.

The boys were trying to figure out who the culprit had been, either to congratulate them, hex them in revenge, or to steal the spell for future use.

"Well, it wasn't me, because I would have tried to do the whole house, and it wasn't Sirius because he'd have tried to do the whole school. It wasn't you, Pete, was it?"

The smaller boy shook his head vigorously, glorying in his newly short hair. "Unlike you, James, I don't really need to get in touch with my feminine side."

"Oi!"

"What we really need to know," interrupted Sirius, "is who you've been pissing off lately... actually, give us a list. Just a recent one - I don't want to be here all night."

Peter cocked his head to the side and stared at the ceiling, counting off on his fingers. "Well, I spilt syrup on a group of fifth years at breakfast, I stood on some Hufflepuff's foot on the way to Herbology, I borrowed Longbottom's Arithmancy textbook and forgot to give it back, I spilt ink all over the Ravenclaw Prefects' meeting, I accidentally ate all Lupin's chocolate, I sneezed in Penny Arthur's hair-"

"Wait, what was that one?" James pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and looked at Peter expectantly.

"Penny? Er, fourth year, hair down to her knees, hates pineapple-"

"No, the one before…"

"Oh, Lupin. It won't be him - apart from that thing with the Slytherins on Sorting Day and the explosion in Potions a couple of weeks ago, he's been pretty quiet. And it wasn't even good chocolate. It left a funny taste in my mouth for the whole rest of the day. It made my head itchy too. I think I was allergic to something in the-" Peter frowned at James and Sirius, who both seemed to be trying not to laugh.

"Booby-trapped chocolate, James!"

"Inspired."

"Wish we'd thought of it first."

"It's official. Lupin's a god."

Peter felt vaguely disgruntled by this exchange. Didn't they care that he'd had to endure almost a whole day of mockery just because he hadn't been able to resist the smell of chocolate and keep his hands to himself? He turned to James as the other boy flung a comradely arm around his shoulders.

"Word to the wise, my man. Don't get between Lupin and his chocolate."

Peter shrugged off the arm, shuddering. "Don't worry, James - I don't think I'm ever going to eat chocolate again."

"Brace yourself Pete. We're coming up to the common room - I think the second year boys are working on a poem for you." Sirius smirked. "I might have helped a bit. They couldn't think of a proper rhyme for 'shaggable'."

"Password?"

"Sirius Black's a dickhead?" offered Peter, scowling darkly.

"Venomous Tentacular," James corrected. The portrait swung in, and he stopped dead at the sight of the notice board. Peter could not be allowed to see these. James twisted and tried to shield Peter's face with a well-placed armpit, but it was too late.

...

Up in the dormitories, Lupin lay back on his bed, munching on a bar that hadn't been eaten the night before. He absently wondered if Peter had seen the new photo-spread on the house notice board yet. As an embarrassed, horrified and shockingly girly shriek echoed up the stairs from the common room, Lupin grinned wolfishly.

Wait until Pettigrew figured out that those sticking charms were permanent.


4. Lurking Lurkers Who Lurk

Warning - due to nausea, dehydration and far too much porridge, the POV in this is a little flickery. It changes between James, Sirius and Remus, but it shouldn't be too confusing.

Sirius had discovered the school kitchens on his first Tuesday at Hogwarts. By the following Monday, he and James Potter were making nightly food expeditions, with a little help from James' invisibility cloak. Tonight was their thirty-second trip. Sirius wanted a cake to commemorate the occasion.

Preferably a big one.

With sprinkles.

He was arguing his case with James. The other boy didn't sound too convinced, though this was probably because he wanted icecream instead.

"Come on, James. You've got to admit it's pretty impressive."

"What? Your nose? Not a patch on Snape's, but-"

"No, you egg! It's been more than a whole month, and we haven't even seen anyone!" Sirius smiled happily, enveloped in the massive cloak.

James' voice hissed at him from his own bit of cloak. "Shut up! Look, there are people out tonight!"

"Well, there's a first. Who'd be out at ten in the evening on a Thursday?"

"Apart from us, you mean?"

"Well, yeah..."

The two boys huddled behind a statue of Isaac the Insomniac. (They'd forgotten that they were invisible.) James muffled Sirius' shocked gasp with a spare sock and peered out at the two figures facing each other in the middle of the deserted corridor.

"Ew," moaned Sirius, extracting the sock. "Why do your feet always taste like beetroot salad?"

James elbowed Sirius excitedly. "Look! The closer one's Remus Lupin! The book guy from the train! And I think that's one of the Slytherins with him." James squinted out from under Isaac's stone elbow. "Too old to be Snivellus. Too thin to be Crabbe…"

"It's Avery," said Sirius quietly, discarding the damp sock, "but what the hell does he want with Lupin?"

The boy in question didn't seem intimidated by the menacing way the older Slytherin had his wand pointed between his eyes. Dressed in his ever-present sweater and a pair of flannel pajama bottoms, Lupin had to crane his neck to meet the taller boy's malevolent glare. His own wand was sticking out of the back pocket of his pants.

It's not going to help him there! thought James wildly. It might as well be shoved up his bum!

Lupin had his arms folded across his chest and was looking up at the other boy with an air of... boredom? Sirius shook his head, trying to clear it. Something was off. Why wasn't Lupin afraid?

As if on cue, the younger boy started to speak, and James gripped Sirius' sleeve tightly, both boys leaning forward to hear better.

"I should warn you," said Lupin, coldly, "That threatening me is a very bad idea. I have a little... problem. With my temper. Bad things happen when people piss me off."

The tone of his voice sounded a little odd coming from the mouth of a skinny eleven-year-old, but Lupin managed to pull it off, narrowing his eyes slightly in an expression that almost made Sirius shiver.

Avery didn't notice and just laughed mirthlessly. "You don't even know a single decent curse yet, filthy little half-blood. Maybe I should show you a couple. A demonstration, if you like."

James contemplated running or screaming or trying to perform a curse that would stun the six foot Slytherin who loomed over the boy he barely knew, or at least turn him into a small can of tuna. Instead, he found that he couldn't speak. He couldn't move. He could barely even breathe. So much for the famous Gryffindor courage, he thought to himself bitterly. Sirius wasn't in much better shape - he was shaking, but James couldn't tell if it was in fear or rage. It might even have been the start of a drug induced coma - James wasn't quite sure where that sock had been.

Lupin's breathing became shallow and quick. As Avery began muttering a dark curse the others hadn't even heard of, Lupin cocked a fist and punched him in the face. It was obviously a well-practiced move, connecting with Avery's nose in a sickening crunch of bone and cartilage. James found himself wondering how many times Lupin had been forced to defend himself to get this good.

"You see? Adrenaline rush. Just like that," Lupin said to the groaning body lying at his feet. He kicked the wand out of Avery's hand carelessly, and it skittered away across the cold flagstones. "I'd go get that nose looked at, if I were you. It's probably broken." He rubbed his wrist absently and walked off, leaving a dumbstruck James and Sirius in the shadows. The two boys turned to each other, mouths hanging open, both eerily resembling goldfish.

"How did he do that?"

James just shook his head in admiration. "Let's forget the kitchens and just go back. I think this is enough excitement for one night."

"No. No. Lupin just broke Avery's nose. Avery. I always hated him. He used to practice all his new hexes on me, at my family's garden parties..." Sirius shuddered at the memory. Avery had a fairly extensive collection of nasty cursed, and he updated it very regularly. "No," he repeated, "this calls for some serious celebration." Ignoring his friend's protests, he dragged the other boy back towards the kitchens, leaving a whimpering figure slumped against the wall behind them.

Neither boy noticed that Lupin had stopped in the very place where they'd been hiding only a minute ago. The hint of a proud smile touched the corners of his lips, and he sniffed lightly at the statue. "Black and... hmm. Potter," he muttered to himself. "Interesting."

With that, he sauntered off in the general direction of the Gryffindor common room, humming happily under his breath, a wet sock dangling from one hand.

No one ever expected the Muggle approach.


5. And the Moral of This Story is: Never Run Anywhere

"The curious phenomenon of the famous "Hogwarts mistletoe" dates back to the origins of Hogwarts itself. Fabled to be the result of an argument between Helga Hufflepuff and Salazar Slytherin, this deadly plant (Hogwartus Snoggius) traps those who walk beneath it. The plant then keeps them magically bound until they kiss, faint or die. Though students have been known to fake unconsciousness on occasion, the mistletoe has never been fooled yet. Eradication has frequently been attempted, most notably by ex-Headmaster Phineas Black, after (according to school folklore) he was trapped underneath a sample of the plant for three days with the Astronomy Professor of the time, a Mr. Bartholomew Withers."

- An excerpt from Hogwarts, a History.

...

"God rest ye, merry Hippogriffs, let nothing ye dismay! Partake of chicken carcasses as feast on Christmas Day! Da da da da da da da da da I don't know the words, doodleoo doo, great tidings of pumpkin and Roy!"

"Black! Put a sock in it. Its four in the bloody morning."

"No. It's half seven. Get up."

"Nnnggg."

"Up, up, UP!"

"Who's Roy?"

"Shut up, Pete!"

"Sirius Orion Black, if you try and jump on me I will hex you where you stand."

Sirius seemed to have gone conveniently deaf, and bounced onto Remus' bed, landing with a solid thud in the middle of his friend's stomach.

"Aarggerroffme!"

"Sorry. Well, I'm not. Buuuut... Happy Christmas Moony!"

"Need. To. Breathe."

"Oh, right." He rolled off the bed and threw himself on another, which happened to have Peter in it. Ignoring the piteous moans coming from somewhere under his left leg, he broke into song again.

"God rest ye merry Hippogriffs, ye maulers maul away! For limbs are overrated and gangrene is here to stay!"

Remus stuck his head out from under the covers. His hair was disheveled in a way that only James' could hope to rival.

"Sirius," he said, "Peter can't breathe. Please get off his face. And I don't think that you've quite got the words right-"

An explosion from the last bed in the room knocked him off his train of thought.

"Shit. Bloody shit. Buggering fuckity fuck, shit."

"Ah. James is awake, I see. New alarm spell doesn't work, then?"

"Shut up, Moony. I can't feel my face." A soot blackened creature emerged from James' bed, feeling for the aforementioned face. A dirty hand latched onto what looked like a nose and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "No, wait. Hang on. Got it." The creature grinned triumphantly, white teeth gleaming through layers of soot. "Happy Christmas!"

"Happy Christmas, Jimmy boy! We've got presents!" Sirius flung himself from the bed, Peter choking in the remnants of his duvet, and landed amongst a heap of brightly coloured parcels. "This one's for you, Moony... here, Pete, these are yours... James, catch that one!" He threw the presents at his friends slightly harder than was safe.

"Oof. All I want for Christmas is a new kidney…"

"Shut up and open the thing. It's from me!"

Remus prodded the present gingerly. "It won't bite me, will it?"

"No. Well… no. That was your birthday, and it was a mistake, and we shall never speak of it again."

Remus eased off the paper gingerly, bracing himself for the worst. The wrapping fell away, and he stared at the gift, dumbfounded. It was a book. An expression of wonder bloomed across his face. Sirius had bought him a book. No dungbombs, no toilet seats, no fireworks (tempting as the last may be, with their lovely sparkle sparkle, flashy flashy). A book.

"Oh, Sirius! The Complete History of Wizarding Chocolate? Do you have any idea how long I've been looking for that?"

"Well, yeah. Do you have any idea how long I've been trying to stop you from buying the damn thing?"

"It was you!" Remus clutched his new book to his chest, as if Sirius might try to throw it out a window.

"Best Christmas present ever, right?" Sirius said hastily. "Better than socks?"

"Better than socks, yes. Thanks, Sirius. Really"

"Anytime," said the other boy, a big grin on his face. "I'm on a roll this year, present-wise. I even got one for my darling Minnie."

"Your who?" asked Peter. He was eye-deep in a massive sack of chocolate frogs, chocolate already smeared in his hair, his clothes, his bed and on his face.

"Professor McGonagall," James said. "He always gives her stuff. Got her a hat for Halloween, I think."

"That wasn't a hat," protested Sirius, "It was a work of art! It took me weeks to charm it to meow right! Anyway, this present is even better."

"Alright," sighed Remus. "What have you gone and done?" He was still absentmindedly nuzzling his book, running a hand up and down its embellished cover.

"Cat food," said Sirius proudly. "In her desk."

Peter threw a frog at his face. "Have some chocolate," he said, shaking his head mournfully. "It was nice knowing you. Sort of."

"He's dead, what's new," said James, flapping a hand impatiently. "I wrote a poem. For Lily." A dreamy glaze ghosted over his eyes.

Remus cradled his head in his hands, nestling his forehead against the book. "For the love of all that's holy. You. Poetry." He shook his head helplessly. "You," he repeated, "Poetry." This was not going to end well. A thought struck him and he jerked upright. "She hasn't read it yet," he said wildly, "or she'd have hexed you to the middle of next November! But there's still hope! You can burn it now and she'll never know!"

"I can read it for you now, if you want," James continued, totally oblivious. "I've got a copy here, hang on a tick-" He fished around in his pillowcase, extracting several crumpled sheets of parchment. He brandished them with a dramatic flourish, cleared his throat and began to read.

"My love for you is like a red, red-"

"-fish," Sirius interrupted in a deadpan voice. "Vaguely slimy, a little squiffy and with far too many tentacles."

James folded his arms and flopped down on the bed in a huff. "Well it sounds silly when you say it like that."

Remus groaned into his book. This was worse than the time he'd accidentally told James that Lily liked the Muggle band Queen. James had somehow gotten hold of all their records and presented them to Lily with a note asking if he could maybe listen to them with her (in a totally non-date-like fashion, of course). Lily, shocked, had actually agreed. James promptly ruined it by trying to kiss her, and she'd retracted her invitation.

The look of angelic victory on James' face had lasted even longer than the carrotyness of his nose.

"I'm going to go and see if she's read it yet," James announced. "Coming, Pete?"

"Of course. Someone's going to need to drag what's left of your mangled remains to the Hospital Wing."

"I'm going back to bed," said Remus decisively. He wriggled back into his crumpled bed, his body curled protectively around his new book.

Sirius pressed his ear against the wall and waited for the angry screaming that would signal James and Peter's arrival.

He didn't have to wait long.

Remus and Sirius fell asleep to the happy strains of their two best friends shrieking as they were attacked by one sleep-deprived, angry Gryffindor First Year girl. One who did not like poetry.

"Why didn't you wake me up, you plonker!"

Remus was racing towards the Great Hall, Sirius puffing in his wake. Both boys were trying to dress as they ran, shirts haphazardly buttoned and hanging off their shoulders.

"I was asleep too, Moony! This isn't my fault!"

Remus hurtled round the corner, bare feet slipping against the cold flagstones.

"Get a move on!" he yelled over his shoulder, "We're going to be late for Christmas lunch! Not even James is ever late for Christmas lunch!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming, keep your shirt on!" Sirius was booking it down the corridor behind him, sprinting flat out. He took the corner wide and skidded along the newly-waxed floor, his Herbology boots (they were the only shoes he'd been able to find in the mad panic to get downstairs before all the food was gone) leaving an impressive trail of dirt on the sparkling entrance-way. He smirked to himself, in spite of the situation. he could almost feel Filch shuddering. Just as Remus rounded the corner into the Great Hall, Sirius careened into him, knocking him flying into the path of some-

The two boys looked at each other, then up at the ceiling, then at each other. Then up at the ceiling again, just for kicks. Sirius glanced about the room, suddenly noticing that there were far more students than normal staying over the Christmas break. And every single one of them was staring at him.

"Sirius," said Remus in a tight little voice. "Tell me I'm hallucinating, and that's not mistletoe."

"You're hallucinating and that's not mistletoe," parroted Sirius dutifully. He'd gone very quiet.

The two boys simultaneously became aware of their compromising position - Sirus was pressed up full length against Remus, effectively pinning him to the floor. Remus lurched to his feet, held out a hand and pulled Sirius up with him.

"What do we do now?" he hissed. "I am not kissing you. You'd probably taste like dog or dead children or something."

Sirius grinned evilly. "Everyone's watching," he breathed. "I think we should give them a bit of a show, don't you?"

Remus quirked his eyebrow, but gave a tiny resigned nod. That was all the encouragement Sirius needed. He grabbed Remus by the wrist and yanked him into his arms. He gazed up at the taller boy with a love-struck expression, and took his face in two hands.

"Ah, Remus, my darling angel!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs. "For too long I have repressed the burning passion of my love for you!" He bit his lip, pretending to be overwhelmed by emotion, but actually trying not to crack up at Remus' gobsmacked expression. "Oh, Remus, this wondrous mistletoe has allowed me to claim that which is rightfully mine!"

As Remus and the rest of the Great Hall watched in fascinated horror, Sirius swooned against his friend's chest.

In for a knut...

"Sirius! What are you -"

"Shh! Just play along!"

...in for a Galleon.

"Wha-"

Remus just had time to turn his head to the side before Sirius stuck his tongue in his ear.

Tongue.

In.

His.

Ear.

"Ew! Arg! Rape!" Remus flailed wildly against Sirius, as sharp teeth bit down on his earlobe. "James, help, I'm being violated!"

Sirius grabbed Remus' chin and pressed a swift kiss to his lips. The mistletoe gave a loud bang, shooting red and green sparks over the two boys.

The students in the Great Hall had never cheered so loud.