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James Potter’s eyes snapped open.

The memory of the Quidditch dream he’d been having slowly fizzled away as he lay perfectly still, warm and content under the thick red duvet. The sound of gentle snoring filled the room; his best friends were all still asleep. Judging by the dim room, it was far too early to be awake, especially considering they'd stayed up late the night before scheming and planning to make sure they would long be remembered after their final few months of school. James rolled onto his back, wondering why he’d woken up so early. After a second, however, a smile slowly crept onto his face as he realised it was his favourite day of the year. It was Christmas.

Reaching over to his bedside table, he fumbled around aimlessly until his fingers grasped the cool frame of his glasses. His darkened room was pulled into focus when he slid them on, showing him the members of his favourite team, the Falmouth Falcons, whizzing around on a poster covering his wall. Excitement filled him for the day ahead and he didn’t want to waste any more of it sleeping. Tugging back the duvet, he swung his legs over to sit on the edge of the bed, pushed his arms above his head with a yawn and then tipped his head to both sides, stretching until his neck gave a satisfying crack; a bad habit he'd had for years. He retrieved last night’s crumpled top from the floor and pulled it on before pocketing his wand and creeping out of the room, careful to miss the creaky floorboard.

Running his hand through his hair, he couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he jumped barefoot down the stairs two at a time. Christmas was going to be extra special this year and it was all down to a green-eyed girl with flaming red hair who would be joining them for the day. He still couldn’t quite work out how it had happened, but somehow over the course of the first term both Lily Evans and Marlene McKinnon had gradually been spending more and more time with the four of them and had almost instantly accepted their invites to the Potters rather than spend Christmas at home. It was a well-known fact Marlene had always felt second best to her brother in her parent’s eyes and would do anything to avoid family time; Lily, on the other hand, usually loved going back home but James had decided not to push her for information when she muttered something about her sister’s new boyfriend. Regardless of the underlying reasons, he couldn’t deny his excitement that the two girls were due to arrive at his house within the next few hours.

As he entered the bright yellow kitchen he found his mother and father were already sat at the table in their dressing gowns with steaming cups of coffee in front of them. According to their morning ritual, his father was reading the paper and his mother a book in comfortable silence; a magical knife buttered toast in front of them before they ate it.

"Merry Christmas," he said, strolling straight for the cupboards in search of breakfast.

"Mia, is that James up before 8am in the holidays?" his father said in a staged whisper. "Do you think he's sleepwalking?"

"No, I'm awake, and you’re as hilarious as ever dad. Seriously, your jokes never get old." James threw a smirk over his shoulder as he opened every cupboard within his reach.

"Do you know, it was so much easier when you were young and didn't answer back.”

"You just don't like that he beats you at your own game, Fleamont," his mother smiled, taking a sip of her coffee. "Happy Christmas, dear, but why on earth are you ransacking my kitchen? You've lived here all your life, you know where we keep things."

"I don't know what I fancy," James replied opening another cupboard and looking for something to catch his eye. He finally decided cereal would have to do and grabbed a bowl before joining his parents at the little wooden table.

"Those doors can close again," his mother said, raising her eyebrows as she peered over her book. With a theatrical sigh James pulled out his wand and aimed it over his shoulder.

“Cercafermer,” he muttered, twirling his wand and jabbing it towards the cupboards. Each door in the kitchen slammed shut with a loud bang that resonated through the whole house.

“James Henry Potter. There is no need to use your wand for every little thing just because you can and there was certainly no need for that.”

“Sorry, Mum,” James just about managed to get out, his mouth full of cereal. Out of the corner of his eye he could see his father trying to keep a straight face behind the paper.

“And please don’t talk with your mouth full. Anyone would think we dragged you up,” she sighed looking exasperated, her book now forgotten on the table as her son took her attention. Swallowing hard, James threw his most charming smile towards her.

“Sorry, Mum.”

Despite herself, Euphemia smiled too, unable to actually be cross at her only son for any length of time. James of course knew this, and used it to his advantage whenever he could.

"So, Lily and Marlene?" His father said, deciding it was safe to come out of hiding and change the subject as he folded his newspaper.

"Is Marlene the one that Sirius..."

"Yep, she is,” James interrupted, knowing instantly what his mother was going to ask. Marlene and Sirius had a history, and it wasn’t a very pretty one.

"And has he..."

"Nope. Course not,” James interjected once again, shovelling cereal down his throat. “This is Sirius we're talking about. I swear, if we have to hear the phrase 'we were on a break' one more time..."

"He really should apologise to the poor girl."

"Nah, as much as I love Sirius I think she's probably better off without him in this case. Besides, they’re okay with each other now. They’re just friends and that’s better, safer in fact for everyone. Especially for the two of them.” James gave an involuntary shudder at the memory of being trapped in the bathroom for hours, starving, with Remus and Peter while Sirius and Marlene argued in their dormitory, neither of them knowing their friends were there and could hear every word and spell they threw at each other.

“To be teenagers again, eh, Mia?” his father laughed. “Such complicated lives. And how are you and the charming Miss Evans?”

“I got through a whole term without her hexing me once,” James shrugged, trying to be as casual as he could. His parents had never met Lily before, but knew nearly everything about her since Sirius delighted in telling them every detail he could. He and Lily had come so far in the last four months, far further than in the six years before that and he was terrified of doing something to ruin it. He’d made her smile and laugh more times than he could count and there had been a few times in the last month where, if he hadn’t have known any better, he’d have thought she’d been flirting with him. He did know better though and he wouldn’t risk the progress they’d made for anything. He would happily stay nothing more than good friends with her than go back to how they were before.

“I’m sure she’ll come around and see what a wonderful young man you are, dear,” his mother said, glowing with pride as she leaned forward and squeezed his hand.

“Aww Mum, you’re making me blush,” James laughed, letting his spoon drop into his bowl with a clatter. “But I know you’re biased, you’re my mother.”

“I may be your mother but I’m not being biased,” she smiled, letting go of his hand and picking her book back up as she settled back in her chair.

“Well, thanks for the pep talk but I think I’m going to go and take a shower before the girls arrive.”

“Good idea, you stink,” he father grinned. James rolled his eyes at him before leaning forwards, grabbing his mother’s drink and downing it quickly before she could protest.

“Thanks Ma,” he grinned, winking, and then jumped up and headed for the door before she could reprimand him. He’d only taken two steps down the hallway when he retreated back, poking his head around the doorframe.

“Oh, and guys... Any chance you could not embarrass me on purpose too much today please?”

“We make no promises,” his father laughed, eyes dancing with humour.

“Parents. Who’d have them?” James muttered, rolling his eyes again. He continued up to the bathroom, knowing there was no point in arguing. It would only make them worse.




An hour later James re-emerged into the kitchen, dressed in jeans and a knitted blue Christmas jumper with a snowman on the front that his mother had given him the year before. In an effort to look smart, he’d shaved and even tried to smooth his hair into a somewhat neat style but had quickly given it up as a bad job when the mass of black refused to be tamed. Of course the only person Fleamont Potter’s hair potion didn’t work on was his son. He only hoped his efforts wouldn’t go unnoticed.

His mother and father had gone to presumably get ready, but the kitchen was now occupied by two teenage boys, still in their pyjamas, who had their backs to James and were whispering urgently to one another over a muffled whining.

“Shit. Can you not get it off? What about if you spread the legs a bit more?”

“Why don’t you come here and try that?”

“Er, are you guys alright?” James asked, folding his arms and leaning against the doorframe. Sirius and Remus jumped slightly and turned around, keeping their shoulders close together to hide something from view.

“Yep, fine,” Sirius said with an innocent tone that James saw straight through while Remus nodded at his side.

“Where’s Peter?” James asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed as he tried to work out what they were up to.

“Er… Well,” Remus started, biting his lip and looking to Sirius for help. Before Sirius could even start concocting some ridiculous story, James saw one of the strangest sights he’d ever seen. A turkey appeared above the boy’s shoulders and pushed past them with what appeared to be a human body.

“I’m here!” came Peter’s muffled voice from within the turkey, and it took James a moment to realise that the turkey was actually wedged on his head. He wrinkled his nose in disgust, not even wanting to consider what he’d put his head through.

“We were trying to come up with a way to scare the girls when they arrived,” Sirius shrugged, scratching the back of his head.

“And it kind of got stuck,” Remus finished, gesturing unnecessarily at Peter.

“My mum’s going to kill you,” was all James could manage before bursting into fits of laughter. Remus and Sirius quickly joined in and the protests coming from the turkey as Peter bent double, helplessly trying to get his head free, did nothing to help them stop.

“Okay, okay, okay,” James managed to get out, calming down a little as he wiped his eyes. “Let’s see if we can get this thing off you.”

Pulling out his wand he walked over to Peter and examined exactly where he was stuck.

“If you use anything to powerful you might hurt him,” Remus frowned, coming around to join him.

“Hmm,” James said. “I think this will be okay, but could you guys just hold him still?”

The two boys grabbed an arm each and held Peter steady as the protesting from within the turkey got louder and looked to James. Taking a deep breath, James aimed his wand carefully.

“Liberi eritis.”

With a horrible squelching noise Peter’s head appeared as he toppled backwards onto the kitchen floor.

“Merlin, it stinks in there,” he said, wrinkling his nose and wiping his face. A noise that sounded very much like stifled laughter came from behind him and James felt his lips start to curve upwards as he watched Peter’s disgusted face. Within seconds the three boys were in heaps of laughter once again. Despite himself, even Peter joined in before announcing he was going to shower. After murmuring a quick spell to clean the turkey, Remus and Sirius also made their way upstairs to get changed since the girls were due to arrive soon. James was left alone with nothing but the clock to watch.

He made his way to the living room and flopped down onto the chair. A small meow instantly grabbed his attention and a small ginger ball of fur made its way onto his lap.

“Hey, smelly cat.”

Treacle purred contently as he stroked her, padding her claws into his leg.

“Ow! Do you really have to do that?”

She meowed in response but continued anyway. He sighed as she eventually made herself comfy and he continued stroking her absentmindedly. His focus was instead taken by the ginormous tree sitting in the bay window, decorated with carefully placed baubles, all matching in colour. He’d once believed himself to be the master tree decorator, since throwing the decorations on as he did somehow resulted in it looking nothing short of perfect. It wasn’t until he was older that he’d realised his mother rearranged them behind him, unable to resist making the tree look exactly how she wanted. The effort she went to always made him smile.

A small stack of presents lay underneath and he felt the usual itch in his fingers, wanting to tear into the paper and find out what was inside. As a child, he’d started an annual tradition of trying to find his mother’s hiding place for the presents before she wrapped them and had even got Sirius to help him. Despite searching the house from top to bottom multiple times, both boys had always come back empty-handed, a fact that amused his mother greatly.

This year he was extra excited for the presents as Lily and Marlene had convinced them all to join in with Secret Santa. He’d hoped beyond everything he would get to buy Lily a present when they’d picked names out at the start of the month – after all, he’d had the perfect idea for her. He hadn’t been that lucky though, and with the special spells Lily had added to stop any trading and revealing before the presents were opened, he’d had no choice but to stick with buying something for Peter. He wasn’t part of the Marauders for nothing however, and with a bit of careful observation he was fairly confident who had picked her and he’d dropped more than enough hints so that she would get something he knew she would love.

Before he had time to dwell too much on what lay inside the carefully wrapped parcels, a knock on the door stole his attention. Jumping up, an indignant meow told him Treacle wasn’t happy at being thrown off his knee, but he ignored her and instead checked his reflection quickly in the mirror, ruffling his hair and pushing the glasses up his nose. He made his way to the front door, stomach clenching with nerves and anticipation. Through the frosted glass he could see a blur of red and blonde hair waiting. Grasping the cool metal of the handle, he swung open the door.

His breath immediately caught in his throat when he looked at Lily. Snowflakes gently floated around her pale face that was tinged pink from the bitter cold and she stood with her arm linked through Marlene’s, her breath visible in the freezing air. Even with the warm-looking deep blue coat that was hugging her shoulders and thick woolly scarf, Lily was huddled as close as she possibly could be to her friend in what seemed like a futile attempt to share some body heat. The fluffy white earmuffs atop her flaming locks of hair just made her look more adorable than ever in James’ opinion.

For a second he just stared, captivated by the girl in front of him while her cheeks flushed darker, a happy smile forming on her lips as she waited for him to make a move.

“So, are you going to invite us in, or just leave us freezing to death on the bloody door step?” Marlene asked innocently, her lips pulled into a knowing smile. James jumped, realising he'd paused just a moment too long. Fixing an easy smile onto his face, he stood back to let them through, running his hand through his hair and inwardly cursing himself.

"Of course, come on in. Merry Christmas!"

"And the same to you. Nice jumper," Lily smiled, as both girls hurried past him into the warm hallway, rubbing their hands together. James hung up their coats and scarfs while they removed their boots.

"Did you find us alright?" James smiled to himself, breathing in a flowery scent he always associated with Lily from the coats.

"Yeah... we Apparated... to that... little... side street... you told us about," Marlene panted as she tried to pull off her boot. It finally slid off her foot, revealing a pair of thick spotty socks. "And then just walked up."

"The snow is much worse here though than at Marlene's. I'm glad we wore our wellies!"

"Yeah, it's been like this since we got back. Great for snowball fights," James said enthusiastically as he started to lead them through the house, pointing as he went. "Loo’s through there, lounge is here, my dad’s study, dining room and finally here's the kitchen, feel free to grab a seat and make yourselves at home.”

“Thank you. We made a dessert, here,” Lily said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear as she passing him a freezing plate covered in foil. For a second their fingers gently brushed and James felt his stomach jolt.

“Oh, thanks, you didn’t have to.”

“We wanted to. I put a cooling charm on it so it should keep until after dinner.”

James smiled in response, and then turned to put the dish on the worktop.

“Can I get you guys a drink?"

"Um, yeah sure," Lily replied looking around the kitchen curiously. "I'll have a..."

"Weak tea, plenty of milk and half a sugar?" James interrupted with a grin.

"Yeah, but how did you know?" Lily asked suspiciously, looking back at him. Marlene however rolled her eyes.

"Just because you've stalked her for six years…”

“Marlene!” Lily scolded, her eyes wide to warn her friend.

“Well he near enough has. Anyway, it doesn't mean..."

"So you don't want a black coffee with two sugars?" James once again interrupted, folding his arms but smirking, his eyebrows raised slightly in amusement.

"Okay, now even I'm confused," she said, walking over to the table and sitting down.

"Come on, we've been at the same school for six years. I think I know a lot about you," James shrugged, pulling mugs from the cupboard and flicking his wand toward the kettle, starting a small fire underneath it.

"But still, I didn't expect you to know stuff like that," Lily said, tilting her head to one side.

"What's this?" A new voice boomed as Sirius entered the kitchen, followed closely by Remus and Peter. They strolled in casually, obviously at home. "Ooh, I'll have cuppa if you're making one Prongs."

"Yeah, and me."

"Coffee for me, please."

Shaking his head, James rolled his eyes but didn't argue. He pulled out three extra mugs and topped up the water in the kettle with another twirl of his wand.

"James was just impressing us with his knowledge of our drink preferences," Lily replied. James was glad he was turned away from them as he couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face when she complimented him. Sirius, however, just laughed.

"Well, we do see you every morning with your warm milk. Do you actually dunk your teabag in it? I'm sure you only threaten to."

"And Marlene on the other hand has an aversion to milk," Remus added quietly.

"Maybe we just know you better than you know us?" Peter suggested while James stirred the drinks.

"So you know what we like to drink, big whoop. It doesn't mean you know us better," Marlene argued.

"I bet you ten Galleons we do," James countered, levitating each drink over to the person who wanted it.

"But how can you prove it?" Lily asked wrapping her fingers around the steaming mug. James caught Sirius' eye and smirked, knowing exactly what he was going to say.

"I’m glad you asked, Evans. I’m thinking we have ourselves a little quiz."




A few hours later, the group of teenagers were gathered around the living room coffee table having been ushered out of the kitchen by a flustered Euphemia wanting to get on with dinner. James had thought it best not to mention the turkey incident from earlier; it would have only added to her agitation.

After Sirius's dramatic announcement and much deliberation it had been decided that he and James would face Lily and Marlene in a round of trivia about the other team to see who knew who best. Remus and Peter had volunteered to do the questions and had both spent the last hour or so scribbling on bits of parchment and quietly asking the girls questions to double-check a few answers. James couldn’t wait. There was no way they could lose. He knew Lily inside out.

While they waited, James and Sirius had taken the time to tell the girls stories of Christmases they'd shared at the Potters.

"Oh, there was one Christmas," James recalled excitedly. "I think it was in our third year? Me and Padfoot were waiting for Moony and Wormy to arrive so we just started tossing a Quaffle around and by the time they'd got here we'd been doing it like an hour and a half without dropping it!"

"So, we let these pair join in even though we were worried about Moony, he's definitely a dropper..."

"Oi!" Remus shouted, looking at Sirius and banging his fists together twice in front of his face to the bemusement of the girls.

"... And we managed to keep it going for nearly six hours."

"Then my mum shouted us for dinner. She wasn’t impressed about the fact we took the Quaffle in and kept tossing it around during dinner. So, mid-throw, she takes her wand and fires it straight at the Quaffle and hits it bang on. I’ve never seen a shot like it.”

“It was unbelievable,” Sirius said with admiration pouring into his voice. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Or the sight of Prongs diving for the damn thing and missing completely.”

“Chaser reflexes,” James grinned. “I couldn’t help it.”

“Not only did you end up on the floor but you also took the chair with you and flattened Treacle!” Sirius said, exasperatedly while Lily and Marlene sat giggling on the sofa.

“What I wouldn’t give to have seen that,” Lily laughed, wiping her eyes.

“I don’t think Treacle’s ever quite forgiven me for that.”

“Well, she always preferred me anyway.”

“Guys, it’s ready,” Remus interrupted dramatically, standing up.

The girls hastily stopped laughing, the tension in the room rising very quickly. Sirius grinned.

“Let’s do this.”

James and Sirius quickly jumped up and squashed on the sofa next to Lily and Marlene. James felt a smile creep on his face as his arm brushed against Lily’s, her flowery scent once again enveloping him. He shook his head; he couldn’t get distracted now. He switched his attention to Remus and Peter who had placed themselves across the coffee table from them, matching looks of mischief on their faces.

“So, the rules are simple. We’ve written ten questions about each team. The other team has thirty seconds to get through as many they can, no passing; we have to have an answer. Whoever answers the most correctly wins ten Galleons each from the other team.”

“And, of course, complete bragging rights,” Peter added with a smirk.

“Ten Galleons is boring,” Sirius interrupted. “How about we up the ante a little more?”

“Twenty Galleons?” Marlene suggested.

“Nah, more money still isn’t entertaining. I think we need to come up with something more personal. What do you think Pads?”

“Couldn’t have put it better myself Prongsy, but what?”

There was a pause and James thought hard about what he could get from the girls. His thirteen year old self begged him to suggest a date with Lily but he pushed it back down. Not only would they never agree to it, but he knew he didn’t want a date with Lily that way. If they went on a date, it would be because she wanted to, not for a bet.

“How about, if we win, you guys stop whatever prank you’re planning to pull for the end of the year?” Lily proposed innocently, a small smirk on her own face that made James’ heart thud erratically.

“How do you know we’re even…”

“Oh please,” Marlene interrupted Peter, waving her hand dismissively. “There’s no way on this earth you guys aren’t planning to leave this year with a bang. I like Lily’s plan. Are you guys too chicken too accept?”

James’ mind reeled. It was a steep bet but there was no way they could back down now. The Marauders were not chickens. The girls had them and they knew it. He looked at Sirius and wordlessly tried to find a way out of it when an idea struck.

“Okay, okay. If you win, we’ll give up what we’re planning.”

“Prongs!” Sirius exclaimed, his hand shooting to James’ shoulder as though trying to stop him. James shrugged it off however; he’d chosen his words carefully.

“If we win, however.” He paused for effect. “You have to help us with it.”

The atmosphere in the room instantly changed. James could practically feel the glee radiating from Sirius and out of the corner of his eye Remus and Peter were both waiting the girls’ answer. He kept his eyes trained on them, looking as casual as he could. They had the upper hand now.

Lily expression remained unchanged, but James knew her well enough that under the surface she was thinking as hard as she could to get them out of this mess. Marlene, on the other hand, had a recklessness that could rival Sirius’.

“Deal.”

“Marlene!”

“What? Lily, there’s no way they’re going to beat us. Come on.”

James waited as Lily looked between the boys and Marlene biting her lip. Finally, she sighed.

“Fine, if you win we’ll help with your prank. It just better not get us expelled.”

“I’m hurt you’d even consider that,” James said with mock offence, nudging Lily with his shoulder. He was lifted to see her smile shyly back at him through a curtain of red hair.

“Excellent,” Remus smiled. “Ten questions, thirty seconds to answer, no passing.”

“Heads or tails?” Peter asked the girls, pulling a coin out his pocket and flicking it up in the air. He caught it easily, placing it on the back of his hand and looked expectantly at the girls.

“Heads.”

“Tails, I’m afraid. First or second?” he asked James and Sirius. They looked at each other and turned back to him.

“Second,” they said in unison.

“Numerare,” Remus whispered, tracing out a three and zero in the air with his wand so that it shimmered in gold. Lily and Marlene stood and prepared themselves for the questions.

“Your time starts… Now!” Remus shouted, and the gold numbers instantly started to count back to zero. “What is James’ middle name?”

“Er… Henry,” Lily answered without a pause. Despite wanting to win, James felt himself smile at the fact she knew.

“Correct! What is Sirius’ favourite pick up line?”

“How you doing?” Marlene sounded unimpressed. James heard Sirius give a small groan beside him.

“Correct,” Peter smirked. “What is James allergic to?”

“Oh, I’m not sure…” Lily said looking worried.

“Nuts are the most obvious don’t you think?”

“Yeah… I don’t think I’ve ever seen him eat any?”

“Nuts?” Marlene asked more than answered.

Sirius grabbed James’ arm with anticipation. It was true that he didn’t eat nuts, but that was due to dislike, not an allergy.

“Nope, I’m afraid the answer is cinnamon. What spell backfired on Sirius in his third year, affecting a part of his body?”

“Oh, oh! I know this, I know this! He tried to whiten his teeth but ended making them so bright they blinded everyone,” Marlene laughed.

“Correct! How many goals did James score in the last Quidditch game against Ravenclaw?”

“Seven?” Lily guessed wildly, realising they had no time to debate the answer.

“Unbelievably that is correct! And just in the nick of time too. You scored four. That’s not a bad effort. Guys, you need to get five to win the game.”

James and Sirius jumped up from the sofa, James cracking his neck while Sirius rubbed his hands together. Remus reset his counter. “Your time starts… now!”

“What is Marlene afraid of?” Peter asked, kicking off the questions. James instantly tried to remember what her Boggart had changed into back in Defence Against the Dark Arts but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what it was.

“Irish Dancing,” Sirius answered, barely pausing.

“Correct.”

“I still think that’s weird,” James heard Lily whisper and Marlene nudged her.

“What is Lily’s favourite subject?”

“Arithmancy,” James answered easily. She was great at most subjects, but there was only one that made her smile. He’d listened to her talk enthusiastically about it enough to know it was without a doubt her favourite.

“Correct. What is Marlene’s Patronus?”

“A dove,” Sirius answered again without thinking. James clapped him on the back; they could do this easily.

“What is Lily’s sister called?”

“Shit,” James paused, running his hands through his hair in frustration. He knew this. He’d heard her speak about her sister enough, but why would the name not come to him now? “No, shit, shit, shit. I can’t think of it! It’s a flower, same as hers.”

“Rose? Daisy?” Sirius guessed randomly.

“No…”

“You need this or you’ll lose…” Peter warned.

“Prongs, I swear…”

“Petunia!” James shouted from nowhere, a triumphant look on his face. “It’s Petunia, right?” James looked between Remus and Peter and felt his heart falter at the expressions on their faces.

“It is mate, but your time was up I’m afraid… the girls won.”

A squealing from his left side told him the girls were celebrating and he slumped back down on the settee, covering his face. He’d cost them the game. He could hear Sirius steadily letting out a stream of obscenities next to him mixed in with a few mentions of ‘not fair’ and ’cheats’.

“Looks like we’re going to have a nice, quiet, Marauder-prank-free last term,” Marlene smiled smugly at the boys. Sirius’ language worsened, but James just looked up at her carefully.

“What makes you say that?”

“You lost the bet,” Lily said, her brows furrowed, looking at him suspiciously. “You can’t pull a prank for the rest of the year.”

“Ah, I see. That wasn’t quite what we agreed though was it?”

“What do you mean? Of course it was. We all heard you,” Marlene stated. The whole room had gone silent, everyone was holding their breath. James could feel the other Marauders looking at him, waiting to hear how he could possibly get them out of this.

“I agreed that, if you win, which you did, we’ll give up what we’re planning, which we will. It doesn’t mean we can’t plan something else,” he responded, trying to keep as much smugness out his voice as possible, but he couldn’t stop the smirk from creeping on his face at the look on the girls’ faces.

“No way, Potter. You are not getting out of this on a technicality.”

“No, he’s right,” Peter said, a laugh bursting from his lips. “They only agreed to give up what we’d planned so far.”

“Prongs, you genius you,” Sirius said, beaming at him and pulling him into a hug. “You had me worried for a minute there.”

James grinned easily as the Marauders celebrated their unconventional victory. So, they would have to give up their current plan. It wasn’t that great anyway; James was sure they could come up with something better.

“Dinner’s ready!” His mother called, interrupting them not a moment too soon. They quickly headed to the dining room and towards the promising smell of a perfect Christmas dinner, although he could still hear the girls chuntering behind him.




“Mum, that was… the most amazing… Christmas dinner… yet.” James panted, letting his knife and fork fall to the plate with a clatter and wiping his forehead underneath the blue paper party hat he now donned. He felt fuller than he’d ever thought possible, but he knew he would do it all again to eat the feast he’d just devoured. His mother had cooked no less than six different vegetables, two types of stuffing, and three types of potatoes to please everyone. The rest of the table’s occupants looked just as he felt: content and fit to burst.

“Thank you, dear – anyone up for dessert?”

The room stayed silent for a moment. James thought there was no way he could manage anymore food for at least a week, but Lily had made dessert and he wanted her to know it was appreciated.

“I’ll have some,” Peter smiled, not looking phased at the thought of eating anything else.

“Wormy, where the hell do you put it all? I don’t understand how you can eat anymore!” Sirius moaned, rubbing his stomach while Euphemia bustled off to the kitchen. Peter just shrugged.

“I like food.”

“Remember the sandwich?” Remus muttered darkly to James, so only he could hear. He flashed him a grin in response.

“Lily dear, would you like to dish out the dessert as you made it?” his mother asked, levitating the masterpiece into the centre of the table. James smiled at how fond she already seemed of Lily. She hadn’t stopped talking to her throughout dinner, and Lily had just been as enthusiastic.

“Um, sure,” Lily smiled, although a faint blush tainted her cheeks. “Although, Marlene helped out too. We made a cheesecake.”

She unwrapped the foil carefully, revealing a large, rather yellow looking pudding. Frowning slightly, she started cutting slices of the cake into the bowls that Euphemia had brought in. James didn’t know too much about food, but he was pretty sure cheesecake wasn’t supposed to look stringy.

“It looks lovely, dear,” Euphemia smiled, although James could tell she too was eyeing up the dessert suspiciously.

The bowls were given out one by one and James looked down on his warily but from his left he felt Lily watching him anxiously as he went to take a bite. He slid his fork into the dessert and put a piece in his mouth.

The taste was disgusting; there was something definitely wrong with the cake but he couldn’t put his finger on what. He somehow kept his face smiling as he chewed and chewed and chewed and finally managed to swallow. The aftertaste was even worse. For a second he didn’t know how to react; just stopping his body heaving was effort enough. Around him, the rest of the table were all about to eat their first piece and there was no way he could stop them or somehow tell them all to pretend the dessert was nice for Lily’s sake.

“Delicious,” he shot over the table, making Lily light up with happiness. He only hoped everyone else followed his lead.

“Really?” she asked.

“Hmm, very interesting flavour,” his father piped up.

“Tasty.”

“Excellent!”

James made a mental note to thank everyone later as he tried to convince himself the second bite of cheesecake couldn’t possibly be worse than the first when he realised Lily was going to eat her own piece.

“Don’t mind if I have some more, right?” James asked her, quickly grabbing her bowl, adding it to his own and trying to scoff it as quickly as possible before she could protest.

“Merlin, that’s disgusting!”

James froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. He turned and looked at Marlene who had spat her piece back out.

“How are you guys eating this?” she asked incredulously. “I don’t know what we’ve done but that’s foul.”

Lily’s blush turned from one of happiness to embarrassment quicker than an oncoming Bludger. She reached over Sirius’ arm and took a piece before he could stop her and instantly started coughing.

“What did you put in the top bit, Marlene?” she asked looking alarmed.

“Um, just what the recipe said! Some cream, cheddar cheese…”

“Wait, cheddar cheese? It’s supposed to be cream cheese!”

“Oh…” Marlene’s cheeks were now the ones to tinge red as she realised her mistake. Unfortunately, James couldn’t help the laughter that had started bubbling up inside of him from coming out.

“And you guys, you all pretended it was nice!” Marlene said with horror, covering her face with embarrassment as the whole table ended up in hysterics.

“A toast!” his father exclaimed over the laughter. “To a fine Christmas dinner followed by a wonderful dessert,” he grinned cheekily at Marlene and Lily. “And to friends and family. May we all remember to look after each other in these dark times.”

James smiled at his father as he grabbed the wine glass in front of him and held it up. “To friends and family,” he murmured with everyone else and took a deep mouthful of the fizzy drink. He couldn’t help glancing over to Lily, and was surprised to see she was already watching him, a funny look in her eye.

“Now, who wants to see some baby pictures of James?” his father asked, breaking into James’ thoughts.

“Oh Merlin, Dad, no!”




The afternoon hadn’t been too bad. There had been a good hour of humiliation as his parents showed Lily and Marlene through some of his old photos unnecessarily. Luckily for him, he hadn’t been the only one embarrassed. Sirius had also been dragged into it as pictures of them both riding on brooms in the back garden had been shown and much to their dismay, so had the picture his mother had caught of all four of them performing the routine they’d made up as a laugh to one of Celestina Warbeck’s old tracks. To his surprise though, Lily and Marlene had smiled through the whole ordeal, and Lily had even been encouraging his Dad’s crappy jokes.

Glancing at Marlene he thought back to what she’d said when she’d cornered him in the kitchen. He’d been taking some pots through and without him realising she’d quietly followed.

“You’ll end up together you know.”

He’d spun around, almost dropping the stack of plates he’d been carrying.

“Marlene! Merlin, you made me jump. Wait, what?”

She’d smiled at him knowingly, her arms folded as she leant against the doorframe.

“You and Lily. You’re going to end up together. We all know it. She’s your Stobler.” Her voice made it sound as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“My what now?” James had asked, thoroughly confused.

“Your Stobler,” she’d sighed, irritated. “Seriously, you should start reading that new magazine, The Quibbler. It’s great. It has tonnes of things in we haven’t learnt yet from school.”

“Okay… So, what exactly is a Stobler?”

“It’s a creature that lives near water and basically, once it falls in love, it mates for life.”

“And you’re saying…”

“That you and Lily will end up together. She’s your Stobler, yes,” Marlene had grinned but then suddenly turned serious. “But as her best friend, it’s my duty to warn you that if your break her heart, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

“Okay, got it,” James had said as solemnly as he could manage. He was having a hard time imagining the five foot four blonde in front of him hunting down anyone, but the look on her face told him she was being deadly serious. She’d seemed satisfied, giving him a small nod and then skipped back off to join the others, leaving him standing thoroughly confused.

After deciding they’d put him through enough, his parents had retired to the kitchen for a warm drink and so James had lead his friends back to the living room where they were finally opening their Secret Santa presents. Lily handed them out, and James watched carefully, unable to help himself solving who had got who what. So far, he only knew that he’d bought a present for Peter, who was eyeing up his clumsily wrapped parcel with amusement, and Lily’s tiny pink package had almost certainly come from Sirius.

Looking down at the small rectangular package neatly wrapped in green paper with golden snitches flying around on it James knew with some certainty that his present was from Lily or Marlene as neither Peter nor Remus could wrap this nicely. Glancing around, he saw Remus had a present wrapped similar to his own and deduced his present must also be from one of the girls. He ran his fingers along the edges and felt sure he was going to open a book. His mind instantly flicked to Lily; a book was certainly something she would buy. A ripping sound distracted him though, as everyone around him started opening their presents.

“A Zonko’s deluxe set, excellent!” Peter enthused as the black bag of tricks fell on to his lap. James smiled at him, trying hard not to say they were from him.

“No effing way!” Sirius yelled with excitement as he unwrapped his own gift. James looked over and saw him holding up a pair of black leather trousers in front of his waist. The group laughed at Sirius’s happiness at his present and the girls egged him to try them on. James couldn’t help but glance at Remus, who was looking at Sirius with a quiet satisfaction over his reaction, confirming his suspicions. Sirius disappeared out the room with his new trousers, leaving the rest of them to open their gifts.

Marlene was more than happy with her Madam Lavage Beauty Set that James reasoned must be from Peter and he suspected Lily had bought the huge slab of Honeydukes chocolate for Remus from the blush that reached her cheeks when he opened it. That meant the Quidditch book that James was now flicking through eagerly must have been from Marlene, and he threw a grateful smile her way.

“No, it can’t be!”

James tore his eyes away from the chapter on memorable Quidditch captains to see Lily had opened her present. In his eagerness, he’d momentarily forgotten to watch as she unwrapped the delicate green brooch he’d caught her staring at on their last Hogsmeade visit.

“What is it Lily?” Marlene asked, moving closer to look.

“It’s a brooch,” she smiled, twisting it in her fingers, causing the light to bounce from it all across the room. “I know it’s not possible because she was a Muggle, but my Gran had one so similar.”

James felt his heart swell at the look of wonder on Lily’s face at her gift. So what if he hadn’t been the one to officially give it to her? He didn’t need the acknowledgment; the happiness it clearly brought her was enough for him.

“Guys, seriously, look how awesome these are,” Sirius bounded back into the room wearing his leather trousers. He looked up and saw Lily holding her brooch. “Oh good, you like your present Evans? Prongs said you would.”

James felt rather than saw everyone’s eyes in the room turn to him as he looked hard at the book in his hands, his face getting very warm very quickly. He mentally cursed Sirius for giving the game away.

“Oh, shit,” he heard him mumble.

James didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t think of a joke to take the attention away from what he’d done and still everybody kept staring. He heard a movement from where Lily was sitting and closed his eyes, not knowing how she was going to react.

Nothing came but her flowery scent and the sense that someone was in front of him. Without warning, soft hands placed themselves on the sides of his face and warm lips found his. His eyes opened wide in shock and he saw Lily’s face closer to his than ever before. Without thinking he wrapped his arms tightly around her and kissed her back. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

“See! He’s her Stobler!”

“Jeez, get a room.”

Lily pulled away and James reluctantly let her, keeping his eyes closed for a second and desperately wanting to pinch himself to make sure this was really happening. Lily Evans had just kissed him. Voluntarily. Heck, she’d initiated it. She’d kissed him.

“Have you um, got a minute to talk?” she asked nervously, her cheekbones flushing as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Sure,” James breathed, becoming suddenly aware that everyone was staring at them with various degrees of amusement. Grabbing her hand, he led her out to the dining room to the sound of Sirius wolf-whistling them.




“So I’ll see you on Thursday?” Lily asked, her beautiful grin lighting up her face as she stood on his doorstep, about to leave. James could feel his own goofy smile filling his face as he looked at her.

“I’ll come and pick you up around ten, okay?”

“Okay,” she breathed. More than anything James wanted to lean down and kiss her again. The feeling had left him dizzy earlier and now he felt addicted, desperate to try it another time.

“Merlin, can you quit with the googly eyes. You’re making me want to barf.”

“Sorry, Marlene – come on, we should go.”

She hesitated a second longer, but then turned to go. James quickly grabbed her and pulled her back, and bringing her hand up to his lips he kissed it gently.

“Until Thursday.”

Lily grinned again but quickly made her way down to where Marlene was waiting and making undisguised gagging sounds. James watched them both walk down the path until he could no longer see them.

Closing the door, he leant against it for a second, closing his eyes and grinning so hard he thought his cheeks might break. He could hardly believe his luck. Lily Evans had agreed to go on a date with him. Lily Evans had kissed him. Of all the ways the day could have possibly ended, this was the one he thought could never be possible and yet, here he was. He’d waved goodbye to the girl of his dreams with the promise of picking her up for a date in two days’ time. He felt like he was walking around in a daze.

He made his way to the kitchen and got himself a hot chocolate. Peter had left to see his mother about half an hour before the girls had gone, his parents had gone up to bed and he’d left Remus and Sirius playing a game of chess in the living room so he took a minute to go over the past few hours’ events alone as he stirred his drink. He couldn’t help the small bubble of laughter from bursting out. He had to go and talk to Sirius and Remus about it.

“You guys are never going to guess…”

A gentle snoring took his attention as he opened the door and he quickly shut up. Sirius was asleep on the sofa, head back, mouth open and still in his leather trousers. James’ eyes followed down his friend’s arm where he saw a very comfy looking Remus underneath, laid on his chest. A small smile turned James’ lips upwards and he backed out of the room, closing the door quietly. The sight was nothing new to him, but it was one he would never mention to either of them.

Instead, he took his hot chocolate upstairs to his room, knowing the two would come up when they were ready. It had been a long day, but he knew for sure it was the best Christmas he had ever had.



AN
Hi all!

So, if you hadn’t already guessed, this was written for the Fandom challenge and I was trying to reference Friends as much as possible. Hopefully if you are a fan you’ll have caught them! I think I wrote in 25, so you’ll have to tell me how many you spotted! I also wanted to say thanks to Lizzie for setting up the challenge! It was such great fun! I’d love to hear all your thoughts and comments in the grey box below :D

“We were on a break” is used by Ross Gellar and “How you doing?” is used by Joey Tribbiani in various episodes of Friends. All the other Friends references belong to David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Anything else you recognise will belong to JK Rowling.

Finally, a huge thank you to Sian (nott theodore) for beta reading this for me. The girl is amazing, patient, sweet and just an all-round wonder woman. I’m so grateful for all she does ♥ Do yourself a favour and check out her work – you’ll thank me later ;)

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