"Remus." James threw a Chocolate Frog wrapper at Remus, who ducked just in time. "Come on, Moony, it's the holidays. Exams are nearly over. Put the books down."
Remus shut the Potions textbook, but kept his finger in it to save his place. "There's no harm in getting in one last bit of studying before the last exam."
Sirius threw himself across Remus's bed, grinning hopefully up at Remus. "Yes, there is," Sirius corrected. "You're going to miss all the fun of Peter's Christmas present."
Remus blinked a few times, and then shut his eyes. "What did you two do to him?"
"Do?" James bounced up and down on his toes, the very model of innocence. "Do? Remus, my friend, you have absolutely no faith in the two of us to look out for the greater interests of our friends, do you. I'm hurt. I'm crushed. I'm --"
"Full of bullshit?" Sirius finished for him.
James waved one hand airily. "Academic, my dear Watson. Come on, let's see if Wormtail's noticed yet." He bounced on his toes again, in full-blown James I've-just-pulled-a-good-one-on-someone mood. "And besides, it's almost lunchtime. I'm hungry."
"You're always hungry," Remus corrected, but reached over to his nightstand for his bookmark. "What did you two do to Peter?"
"Hey," Sirius protested, rolling off the bed, "I had nothing to do with it. This one is all James's fault."
Seeing that the others were about ready to follow him, James turned around and strode towards the door, pausing only to turn around and gesture impatiently. "Come on. This is gonna be good."
Remus rolled his eyes and followed.
Lunch at Hogwarts -- as befitted a magical academy -- was usually barely controlled chaos. Today, with students high in end-of-term spirits, it was just barely one step on the sunny side of manic. The three friends took a seat at Gryffindor's long table, in their usual spot with the rest of the sixth-year students. They'd claimed those seats back in their second year at the academy, and their fellow Gryffindors were generally quite obliging about keeping them free. (The ghosts were less so; Nearly Headless Nick was sitting in the chair usually reserved for Peter and looking mournfully at the dishes.)
"...told him that he was going to do poorly in Potions, the poor boy, but he didn't listen to me," Sirius was saying as they sat down. "I think he's in the library for some last-minute cramming."
"He is," James confirmed. "I had to go and find him in order to deliver his present -- not that he saw me delivering his present, of course, but he'll notice sooner or later. It's just a question of how long it takes before he puts two and two together."
"All right, you've really gotten my curiosity up." Remus leaned forward. "Spill it. What did you do?"
James grinned, sparkling innocently. "Don't know what you're talking about, Moony. Haven't the faintest idea. Oh, look, Peter realized it was lunchtime!"
A quiet buzz was rippling through the banquet hall as Peter Pettigrew entered; Peter stopped in the doorway, blinking owlishly, as various people looked at him and looked away, whispering to their friends. Unconsciously, one of his hands rose to his face, as though checking to see that it was all still there; Sirius's last prank had left him a bit gun-shy, never sure that his skin was still going to be the same color it was when he woke up. Not finding anything overtly wrong to the touch, he frowned and made his way over to the Gryffindor table, passing through Nearly Headless Nick as he sat down distractedly.
Across from James, Remus had dropped his head down onto crossed arms and was laughing, silently, so hard that his shoulders were quivering.
Peter looked at Remus, frowning. "Moony? Are you all right?" He reached up and touched his cheek again, suspiciously. "Did you guys do something to me?"
When Remus straightened up, his face was perfectly composed, and in fact looked a little drawn. "No, no, I'm fine. I'm just a bit tired. Are you ready for the Potions exam this afternoon?"
Before Peter could answer, Mary Crockford -- a seventh-year student from Hufflepuff -- walked by their table. "Happy Christmas, Peter," she chimed, and leaned over to kiss Peter firmly on the lips before breezing off again.
Peter looked after her and lifted a hand to his face again, pressing his fingertips to his lips. "She kissed me," he said, sounding startled. "I haven't said more than two words to her all year and she kissed me. That's the seventh girl who's kissed me in the past two hours."
James had plenty of practice sounding innocent. He picked up his soup spoon and shrugged. "It's Christmas," he said, brightly. "Everyone's in a good mood."
Peter looked after Mary, still gaping slightly. "Yes, but ... I will never understand women."
"Why's that?" Lily arrived at the table in a swish of robes and a soft patter of ballet slippers, carrying her own Potions textbook and climbing past Peter to take her seat next to James. "We're really not all that much different than boys, you know. We simply smell better."
"And very rarely put frogs in others' beds," James chimed in, snaking one arm around Lily's waist in a half-hug.
Lily's cheeks pinkened. "I only did that once, Mister Potter," she said, archly, "and you deserved every moment of it." She looked up, her eyes falling on Peter, and her lips rounded in a quick smile. "Happy Christmas, Peter," she said, brightly, and leaned past James to kiss Peter on the cheek.
"That's eight of you who have done that!" Peter scowled a bit. "Come on, Lily, you're a mate, you'll tell me what's going on!"
Lily's eyes flicked over to James for half a second, but six years of being on the sidelines for one prank or another had taught her, if nothing more, the art of keeping a straight face. "It's Christmas, Peter. Or nearly so, anyway. Can't a girl be affectionate to her friends during the holidays?"
"Not when those three are around," Peter said, darkly, scowling at Sirius and Remus across the table. "What have they done?"
Sirius held up his hands in protest. "You know, Peter, most men are happy when beautiful women kiss them, instead of scowling at their friends. Just because you've been studying all morning doesn't mean that you can be rude."
"All right, all right," Peter said, retreating gracelessly. "I'm sorry, I'm going to be beastly until after this Potions exam. Mariella Connolly had this test earlier in the week, and she said it was ghastly. I don't know what I'm going to do if I fail."
"Potions?" Angie Jordan, also from Hufflepuff, was making her way down the aisle between the tables, and stopped next to the fivesome as she heard the topic of conversation. "Ugh, good luck. You're going to need it." She tapped Peter on the shoulder; startled, he looked up at her, and she leaned down to kiss him lightly. "Happy Christmas, Peter," she said, then bopped him lightly on the nose with one fingertip. "And good luck on the Potions exam."
"Uh ... thanks, Anj ..." Peter watched as she wandered off, and then turned back to face the others. "All right. One of you did something, and whomever did had better tell me what he did before I -- before I --"
Peter's voice -- which was steadily rising -- attracted notice at the Slytherin table, which was the only group of students who were more laughing at Peter than laughing with him. "Before you cast a dispel charm, Pettigrew?" called Snape, his voice snide; he was quickly hushed by a thrown roll from the Ravenclaw table, and a flurry of female voices telling him to be quiet.
The damage had been done, though. Peter grabbed his wand and whipped it around in a general sweep. "Finite incantatem!" he called, before Lily could get a good grip on his wand hand.
"Oh, now you've done it," Sirius griped, goodnaturedly. "Do you have any idea how long it took James to get that to work?"
Over Peter's head was hanging a brightly colored spring of mistletoe, with the vague shimmer to it that indicated that it had been bespelled. Worked around the inadvertent halo were three runes, also shimmering, informative rather than spellbinding: the rune for 'silence', the rune indicating that the person who had been enchanted was unaware of the enchantment, and the complex signature-rune that James used to sign his magical work.
"Oh, James," Peter said, with a sigh, turning to James. James, in a way that only he could manage, radiated innocence. James was the only one of them who could radiate innocence without a word being spoken, and Peter sighed and relaxed. "All right, all right, it was a good joke, okay?"
James leaned over and brushed his lips against Peter's cheek, still grinning like a maniac. "Happy Christmas, Peter," he said, peacefully.
"Happy Christmas, James," Peter echoed with a groan. "Now, can you get rid of it, please? We do have a Potions exam in another hour, and I don't relish the thought of taking it with that --" He pointed upwards. "-- hanging over my head. So to speak."
James sighed theatrically and waved his own wand; with a quick word of unbinding, the mistletoe shimmered and disappeared. "There. Happy now?"
"Yes." That having been done, Peter turned to the task of finishing his lunch.
Nobody commented on the fact that over at the Slytherin table, the spring of mistletoe was now hovering over Snape's head.
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