A Norman Rockwell Holiday
Remus turned the vinyl over in his hands.
As soon as his parents left for that dinner with the Fawleys, he snuck into their room and took his mother's copy of the first Billy Joel album, Piano Man. It really wasn't his style of music, but he couldn't help it – it reminded him of her. It made him feel closer to Lisa somehow, without having to navigate complicated conversations and battle himself every five minutes. He put it on the record player and placed the needle at random, somewhere around the middle.
"If I only had the words to tell you, If you only had the time to understand..."
Remus smiled sadly. Maybe Billy Joel could start to grow on him.
He sat down on the table and stared at the blank parchment in front of him. He thought that if he could write it all down and memorize it, it'd be easier when he confronted her. Suddenly, there was faint tapping on the window. Getting up, he realized he's never seen this particular owl before. He opened the window and the bird flew in, landing on his shoulder and extending its leg. A message was tied to it. 'Front door.'
Remus' head whipped around. There was no knock, nothing to indicate someone was out there. His heart was thumping wildly within his chest, because he recognized the handwriting. It was Lisa's.
He took two giant steps towards the door, his hand resting on the handle. Was it really her? Could it be some sort of trap? She didn't know where he lived, but his parents could have told her, and way out here there wasn't even any Death Eater activity as of yet. But if it was her, would she yell at him? Would she ask why he wasn't at the dinner? Would she (rightly so) tell him he was an inconsiderate berk? He didn't know what to do, but he couldn't leave her out in the snow.
The door swung open, and she was there, a broom in one hand and a package in the other, an open Invisibility cloak over her shoulders.
"Remus," she said breathlessly.
They looked at each other for a moment, lasting decades. Then she suddenly flung herself forward and held him in a tight hug.
"Merry Christmas," she whispered.
He was frozen on the spot. After a bit of hesitation, his arms moved as if they had a mind of their own and slowly wrapped around her. He breathed in her sweet honey-like scent and closed his eyes in relief.
It wasn't long before the winter chill forced them apart, and they went inside. Remus glanced at the blank parchment on the table and steeled himself for an argument. He was just going to have to wing it.
"I'm sorry," she interrupted, taking off the cloak. "I did promise, I should've let it go. Please don't be cross with me."
He gaped at her. She was apologizing?
"I, um... I made this for you... it's a sort of peace offering. And it doubles as a Christmas present," she said shyly, giving him the green package in her hands. He held it, still too taken aback to say anything.
"I know, I suck at gift wrapping... and again, I'm really sorry. I should have respected your privacy..." she mumbled, as he unwrapped it. Inside was a short red scarf. His hand shook slightly.
"Yeah, I made it," she admitted sheepishly. "I started working on it last week... I know it's a bit uneven... I was just finishing it, when my sister threw a snowball at me."
Remus found himself at a loss for words. How could he express the guilt, the relief and the sheer happiness the last few minutes had brought him?
"I... I don't know what to say..."
"Just say you'll forgive me," Lisa said, eyes pleading.
"There's nothing to forgive." Remus felt a lump forming in his throat. "I overreacted. I'm sorry too, for the way I treated you. I was out of line and I was just—" He stopped himself before he could say it, but it was too late.
"You were... what?" she asked, a crease of confusion appearing between her eyebrows.
"I was afraid you'd see," he breathed.
"Your scars, you mean?" She took a step closer. "Remus, I... I know you said I couldn't help you, but are you sure? If it's Snape's gang or anyone else, if someone hurt you, I'd—"
"You promised you wouldn't ask," he reminded her softly. She bit her bottom lip.
"Alright then," she said after a small pause. "You know what you're doing... so I'll trust you."
The song that had been playing in the background ended and the next, more upbeat track started.
"Is that... Billy Joel?" Lisa asked with a grin, making him blush. The air in the room felt much warmer all of a sudden.
"It's my mother's. Since you seem to like him so much, I thought I'd check it out." She beamed at him, and before he could stop himself, Remus blurted impulsively, "Fancy a dance?"
She looked taken aback for a second, but took his outstretched hand and he pulled her close. One hand in hers and the other on her waist, he twirled her around the room with fast, flowing movements, as her laugh rang out merrily.
When Mr. and Mrs. Lupin neared their home, they were surprised to hear laughter coming from inside. Exchanging curious glances with her husband, Hope opened the door and was stunned to see her son and Lisa Fawley sitting at the table, each with a smoking mug in their hands, chatting happily. She looked at Lyall, who was just as surprised as her. Lisa's eyes fell on the couple and she shook with even more violent giggles.
"Mum! Dad!" Remus got up abruptly, as the girl next to him tried to cover her mouth to muffle her snickering.
"Lisa! Why aren't you at home?" Hope asked, moving her eyes from one teen to the other.
Lisa stopped laughing, flushed bright red and got up as well. "Please don't tell my parents," she said. "If my dad knew I snuck out, he'd lose it."
"In that case, you better get home," Lyall said, trying to be stern. "What were you thinking, sneaking out after dark in times like these?"
"I'll walk you back," Remus volunteered immediately.
"Don't be daft," Lisa said, enveloping herself in an Invisibility cloak. "I flew here. And I have to fly back, so I can reach the window."
"It's too dangerous!" he insisted, but she only rolled her eyes.
"No Death Eaters are stalking the streets of Low Row, Remus. I'll be fine."
She took her broom and walked by Mr. and Mrs. Lupin, giving them an awkward smile.
"Be careful, dear!" Hope called after her.
Remus rushed by to say goodbye, and they lingered at the door.
"Come on, love," Hope said and tugged at her husband's arm. "Let's give them some privacy."
Over the next few days, Remus and Lisa spent most of their time together. Sometimes they went for long walks in the snow-covered meadows, sometimes they had to babysit Julie and played with her, building snow forts and having snowball fights that lasted for hours. Mr. Fawley always made sure they had their Invisibility cloak with them and reminded Lisa often that the laws for underage wizards weren't being kept that vigorously.
One cold afternoon, they had planned to go for a walk again and Lisa practically ran to the door when she heard the knock.
"Ready?" Remus greeted her with a wide smile, making her feel all warm inside.
"Hold it!" Mr. Fawley shouted from behind, rushing to the door. "Lisa, you almost forgot your cloak!"
"Dad," Lisa whined. "No one is going to attack us out here! I'm tired of carrying it around everywhere!"
"You can never be too safe," he insisted stubbornly.
"Understood, sir," Remus said. "I promise I'll make sure no harm will come to her."
Mr. Fawley put a hand on his shoulder fatherly.
"Take care of my girl," he said imploringly and Remus nodded. Lisa rolled her eyes.
"If everyone is done being dramatic, I want to go out before it gets dark," she quipped.
"Remember, the Statue of Secrecy is not upheld that—"
"Yes, Dad, we know, bye now!" Lisa shoved Remus out the door and closed it quickly, sighing in aggravation.
"He's just looking out for you," Remus said, straightening his red scarf. "With all the things he's seen, you can't really blame him."
"I know, I know." She waved dismissively. "I don't blame him. I'm just annoyed."
They started down the snow-covered path, and she casually slipped her arm through his.
"Can you believe we've been living this close all along?" she asked, trying to distract him so he wouldn't pull away.
"Not all along," he said. "We only moved to Low Row shortly after I started Hogwarts. And you don't live here, your grandparents do."
"I guess you're right. And we haven't visited in a few years, because Julie becomes unbearable here."
"What do you mean?" Remus asked, surprised. He found the little girl quite charming.
"I mean, she's a kid with a lot of energy, and this is a small village in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. Do you know what happens to little kids that are bored? They become hurricanes of annoyance! She glues herself to me like gum and constantly talks and squeaks and asks stupid questions! I can't ignore her, I can't hex her, I can't even tell her off without earning a scolding! And when she throws tantrums and her magic goes out of control, who gets blamed? Me! Lisa, why did you provoke her? Lisa, why didn't you look after her?"
Remus chuckled. "Having a sibling sounds fun."
"Fun, until she pulls your covers off to wake you up," Lisa grumbled.
"At least you always have someone with you. Someone you can talk to, and play with even."
Lisa turned to look at him. She had never thought how lonely it must be to live in a small town like this, with no one but your parents for company. "Do you miss the Marauders? During breaks, I mean?"
"Of course I do. They may get me in trouble a lot, but they're my best mates. You miss Dorcas, don't you?"
"Yeah..." But she had a feeling it was a different for him somehow. "You know what else I miss? A movie theater."
"What?" He shot her an amused glance.
"A muggle movie theater. I went with Cass a couple of years ago, after Lily wouldn't shut up about it. It was third year, I think, around Christmas. They were showing this old muggle movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life'."
"Ah, a classic."
"You've seen it? It's one of my favorite movies."
He smiled. "Mine too."
"We should... go watch it sometime. We can floo to London," she suggested.
"Maybe..." he faltered.
"My dad probably wouldn't let me stalk around London anytime soon, now that I think about it," she quipped. "Muggle technology really is fascinating though, isn't it? I sometimes regret not taking Muggle Studies."
"If you had, you wouldn't invoke the wrath of burly store-owners," he said playfully.
"Hey! My mum gave that money to me and said it's what I needed! How was I supposed to know he'd want me to pay him in pounds!? How does that work anyway, do they starve you until you lose them, or do they cut off limbs?"
He looked at her in disbelief for a second, before erupting in a hearty laugh.
She pouted. "Don't make fun of me!"
He laughed even harder and it took a while, before he was able to answer her calmly.
"I'm not making fun of you! It's just ridiculous to think muggles in this day and age would be so... barbaric. A pound is a unit of currency, like a galleon. It's only a piece of paper."
"Okay, first of all, they should have less ambiguous names for things! And second, why do they use paper? It gets so easily worn out and it can blow right out of your hand in the slightest breeze!"
"How do you even know all this? I don't remember you signing up for Muggle Studies!"
"What's the point? My mother is a muggle; she's told me most of what I need to know. The class is for people like you, who grow up ignorant about muggle culture."
"Why would I do that, when I can just ask you," Lisa said and smiled widely. "You're like a walking Encyclopedia. What started The Great Fire of London in 1666? Go!"
"Er, a young Welsh Green Dragon kept in the basement of a house."
"See what I mean?"
"It's only because I read a lot."
"I read a lot too. I'm not half as clever as you."
"Rubbish. And James and Sirius are the most talented students in Hogwarts; I have to study like hell, just to catch up."
"Now that's rubbish. You're one of the most capable wizards I've ever met. I think you could take James in a duel."
He laughed and they argued the point playfully, continuing down the road until they came across a small flock of tiny sparrows. Remus stopped and pulled out a rumpled napkin out of his pocket. Lisa glimpsed a few slices of bread in there, before he knelt down and scattered some a couple of feet away, as the birds gathered around the crumbs.
"You've got to be kidding," she whispered to herself with a smile and knelt down next to him. "You're like a character from a Norman Rockwell painting, you know that?"
"Me? What makes you say that?" he asked, scattering more bread.
"You're just so... wholesome," she said.
He laughed, but there was no joy behind it. "There's nothing wholesome about me."
"Yeah, right. Kind and smart and a brilliant wizard... loves animals to boot! All you're missing is a bow tie and a whole tub of hair gel."
He laughed again, genuinely this time. "You think I'll look good with a bow tie?"
She shoved him playfully. 'I think you're perfect just the way you are,' she thought.
It was dark outside when they came back to the Lupin home, happy and freezing. Hope told them to sit in front of the fireplace and quickly wrapped two blankets around their shoulders.
"There's a package for you upstairs, dear," she said to Remus, handing him a mug of hot tea. "It seems rather large. Came by the post while you were out." Remus went slightly red in the face, but he was spared from Lisa's questioning, when Hope continued, "Your owl came by too, Lisa. It left the letter here, so..." She handed her a rather heavy envelope, along with her own mug.
Lisa opened it curiously and immediately recognized her best friend's handwriting.
"It's from Cass," she said happily, her eyes sliding down the page. "Mind if I borrow some parchment?"
He got up and returned shortly with a roll and quill. She thanked him and looked around for something hard to write on, her eyes falling on a book, resting on the fireplace mantle.
"Alchemy, Ancient Art and Science." She smiled fondly. "You still haven't finished it?"
"It's a big book! And I've been... preoccupied," he said awkwardly.
Lisa put the quill to the parchment and told Dorcas that she was spending the holidays at her grandparents', that Julie was being annoying as always, and about the indoors snowball fight they had and how they ruined the Christmas tree. Remus was leaning on his left hand, peeking behind her shoulder and his breath tickled her neck slightly. He was following her letter, so she thought it'd be weird if she didn't mention him.
'P.S: And you'll never believe who turned out to live in the same tiny, boring village...'
Remus chuckled next to her and his hand covered hers, moving the quill over the page.
'Remus Lupin says hi, and he wishes you a late Merry Christmas.'
She giggled and looked at him, and he was giving her that smile. The one that always made her melt. And his hand was still over hers, and he was sitting so close, she could smell the chamomile tea on his breath and see his lips were cracked a bit from the cold... Lisa felt the blood rush to her face and hastily folded the letter and left it on top of the fireplace, to take home later.
"So... since you took the time to listen to Piano Man... I was wondering if you could show me your favorite record," she said, trying to distract herself from thinking about his lips.
"My favorite?" He screwed up his face in thought. "Sure, I think I have one that I've listened to more than the others."
He got up again and went to his room, returning with a vinyl, then placed it on the record player and came back to sit on the ground. The soft sounds of a clarinet filled the room, as they stared into the fire.
"What's that one called?" she asked.
"The very thought of you. This is an old Pee Wee Russell album"
"His real name was Charles. Pee Wee is just a nickname."
Lisa shook her head with a soft chuckle at the stupid nicknames muggles came up with and the music was so relaxing, without thinking she closed her eyes, leaned back and nestled herself in his shoulder. A spark of electricity passed through Remus and he told himself to pull away, but his arm moved on its own accord again and wrapped around her gently.