Gifts Worth Giving
It felt particularly warm under the covers, despite the fact that it was the middle of winter.
I generally have horrible circulation, so how is it possible that I feel almost unbearably warm right now? No, not unbearably. Comfortably. More comfortable than I ever felt in a bed. Well, my bed. But this doesn't even feel like my bed. For one thing… this bed seems to be breathing. And it doesn't feel soft and cushiony, but instead more… solid. I must be imagining it. Definitely imagining it.
But before I can roll over and get a few more minutes of shut-eye, the door suddenly bursts open and loud voices fill the room.
“Sirius dear, I wanted to speak to you about—oh my word!”
“Merlin’s beard, Mrs. Black. What do you make of this?”
“Well, Mr. Black, we can only assume the best. They have been involved for quite some time after all!”
“But at this age?”
“Oh, come dear. They’ve made such progress!”
Why are people yelling this early in the morning? I’m trying to sleep! And what are they talking about in my room anyway? I’m not their son… or wait.
As I slowly open my eyes, I hear the soft slamming of the door and then a completely different voice coming from somewhere above my head. “Blimey, they sure got the wrong idea about us. Not that I mind.”
My eyes snap open and suddenly every detail of why his parents were so awestruck strikes me. I was literally hugging him like a body pillow. My arms wrapped tightly around his torso and my head rested on his chest. Not to mention our clothes were predictably disheveled from our previous night’s sleep. Actually… more accurate would probably be “inappropriately disheveled.”
I immediately let out an ear-splitting shriek and scoot away from him on the bed before promptly falling right off.
“Whoa, you alright there?” I hear Sirius laughing from his place still on the bed.
“Yes—I mean, no!” I jump up and grab the blanket I fell over with, using it as an inadequate shield against the playboy. “Bloody hell, you were awake this whole time?!”
Sirius sits up in his bed with a yawn, not bothering to fix his own clothes. “Yeah, pretty much. Why?”
“Why didn't you wake me up? Or push me off? Or even just get off your own bed?” I babble furiously. “What were you doing, just watching me sleep?”
Sirius just grins before repeating, “Yeah, pretty much. Why?”
“YOU FREAK, YOU WERE REALLY WATCHING ME SLEEP?”
“You looked funny.” He shrugs, starting to laugh again at my manic behavior. Okay, so maybe I’m overreacting just a little bit, but—wait a minute… I looked funny?
I take a quick glance down at myself before looking back up at the perpetrator, who now sat leaned back on his bed with his arms propped behind him. “What did you do to me last night?” I demand, my eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Nothing really.” Sirius gives me an amused look. “What, do you not remember?”
My mind flashes back to those last few moments in the early morning. What exactly happened after… hmm, that’s not right… no way… I actually don’t remember? I can’t believe it! How could I completely forget something like this!
“Chances are it was so bad that my mind doesn’t even want me to remember…” I mutter under my breath.
Sirius snorts at my disbelieving answer. “Okay, I swear to everything holy that it’s not what you’re imagining, whatever that is.” He puts his hands up in surrender. “It was really small, honest! And I even told you the answer to your question! If that doesn't ring a bell, then it's your problem, not mine.”
“Wait, you answered my question too?” I say aghast.
He raises his eyebrows at me. “Yeah, I did. Wow, your memory is loads worse than I thought.”
“Argh, why am I so stupid!” I clutch my head in confusion. This makes absolutely no sense at all! Wait… wait a minute, I remember reading somewhere that the five minutes right before you fall asleep at night isn’t stored into your long-term memory… But this is bloody ridiculous. Does this mean I fell asleep right after he told me? What kind of bloody idiot am I?!
Sirius laughs again. “Yeah, stupid is right. I thought it was bizarre how you let me do all that crap to you and then have, like, no reaction after I told you the answer you worked so hard for. Turns out you totally conked out!”
“Wait, all what crap?” I shriek. “I thought you just said you did something really small!”
He just shrugs, a wicked smirk on his face. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But I could also just be pulling your leg and didn’t do anything at all. You’d know if you remembered, of course.” He jumps off the bed, whistling nonchalantly.
“I hate you!” I yell into the air in frustration. “I-hate-you-I-hate-you-I-really-really-hate-you!”
“Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too.” Sirius rolls his eyes and grabs the front of my shirt, well, his shirt and pulls me out the door. “Save your extreme hatred for another day and come open presents with me!”
“Wha…? Oh right, it’s Christmas!” I exclaim in realization.
I completely forgot last night was the Christmas Eve Dance thing, or rather, I was so preoccupied with having to suddenly be a full-fledged royal pureblood that I didn’t even realize. The guerrilla dating act with Sirius didn’t exactly help either.
Sirius continues dragging me through the hallway and down the stairs to the Christmas tree in the middle of his very grand living room (probably one of many).
My jaw drops in amazement at all the colorful boxes placed under the tree. “Blimey, I actually have presents!”
Sirius lets out an incredulous laugh. “What kind of reaction is that? Of course you do! What, did you think we wouldn't get you anything because we just met you this year or something?”
“Well, I mean, no,” I explain, still somewhat awestruck. “I’m so used to getting gifts just from my parents and sister that it’s a little fantastical to see all these presents for me.” I flop down on the ground by the huge stack of presents and catch a box thrown to me by Sirius.
“Here, from Lily.”
So, she figured out what to buy me after all! I'm actually interested as to what she ended up getting me since she was the one git who actually asked me what I wanted. Especially since I never actually answered her question. I rip open the packaging to find a cardboard box, and rip open the cover to find…
“She got me clothes? Seriously?” I say in disbelief as I hold up the stylish blouse and skirt she got me.
Hmm, Lily Evans… is this by any chance a super passive-aggressive way of telling me I need a new wardrobe? How insulting. I don’t dress that badly. Who said jeans, canvas shoes, and band t-shirts aren’t fashionable? The Weird Sisters is a great band! Alright, fine, I guess I shouldn’t be blaming her for making me dress more feminine. But I still can’t believe she got me clothes… though I probably shouldn’t be talking.
“Wait, you got me clothes?” Sirius says in even greater disbelief.
Case in point.
I turn to him, a very serious look on my face. “That is no ordinary t-shirt, Sirius Black. It’s the story of your life.”
Sirius raises an eyebrow at me as he rips off the wrapping paper. “So weird… why—oh.” He raises the shirt up to eye level. “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID,” he reads aloud before rolling his eyes. “Ha ha, very funny, Cecilia.”
“What can I say? You're just a walking sexual innuendo,” I reply, trying rather unsuccessfully to suppress a fit of giggles as I reach over for another box, a rather heavy one this time. “Wonder what this is…” I open the cover of the box and glance inside to see…
“The hell?” I hold back a shout of laughter and slam the cover back on the box.
Ignoring Sirius' “What?” from the other side of the Christmas tree, I slowly open the top again, hardly able to quell a fit of hysterics as I look at the cover of the photo album in the box.
It showed a moving picture of me and Remus doing quite possibly the most ridiculous faces I've ever seen in my life: me with my tongue lolling out of my mouth and my eyes half-crossed, and Remus, er, I'm not sure what he was doing with his face but it was bloody hilarious.
I open the cover of the photo album and let out another laugh.
It was filled with photos from one time we both stayed up late camera-whoring because we couldn't help procrastinating on homework. Needless to say, none of the pictures showed very attractive sides of us. Well, except for the picture on the back cover, which showed Remus with his arm around me, both of us grinning broadly at the camera I was holding.
I look under the huge photo album to find another present hidden at the bottom of the box, a little black notebook, and open it to find a short message inside:
Like the album? I nearly killed myself laughing while I was putting together all those pictures. We look mental! So anyways, about the notebook. It's essentially a two-way messaging system. Basically, if you write something in your book, the exact same message will get sent to mine and, well, vice versa. This way if you ever have anything to say to me, I'll always be around to hear it. Merry Christmas, mate.
Wow, that is… really sweet of him.
I can’t wait to try it out! I find a fountain pen on the nearby coffee table, open to an empty page in the notebook, and scribble in quickly, “Hey, thanks for the present! You're right, we do look pretty stupid. Merry Christmas to you too.”
I place the pen back on the table and, mere moments later, see Remus's hastily-written reply appear below my own words on the very same page: “At least we're looking stupid together then. And thanks for your present too. I was on the ground laughing for, like, five minutes straight.”
I smile to myself and place the box of goodies behind me to look through all the other Christmas presents I received: a fruit cake and some more sexy lingerie from Dad and Mum, which thankfully, Sirius didn't get a chance to see; a little souvenir from China from Sonata with a picture of her and her boyfriend Dan included; a book, The Trials of Marriage and Womanhood: The Life of a Mature Witch by Silvestra Manolo, from the very traditional parents of Sirius, which, er, I didn't really want; a box of Filibuster's Fireworks and a bag of dung bombs from James; and finally a… heart-shaped box of chocolates from Peter.
Sirius leans over my shoulder to finger the pink and red card with Peter's name on it. “Now, that's… just awkward.”
“Yeah…” I carefully place the box back under the tree and out of sight. “Really awkward.”
But there is still one gift left that I haven’t opened yet and surprisingly it isn't even under the tree. Huh, for real? I mean, I wouldn’t put it past him to forget my birthday when it rolls around in the spring, but Christmas? It takes some real effort to consciously ignore the capitalist gift-buying traditions of the biggest holiday of the year.
It seems like Sirius caught me scanning the room for his present because I then find him standing right behind me, fidgeting around like he always does when he's embarrassed. Wait, does he really always do that? Or did I become acutely aware of it after that dream I had?
He reaches into the pocket and pulls out a small silver box, turning it over in his hands. “So, yeah, here's what you're looking for. Merry Christmas.”
As he hands it to me, I hear a soft jingling of metal under the silver cover. I slowly undo the white ribbon and take off the cover to find two silver necklaces placed side by side: one a small, silver star in the middle of a shining moon, and the other a sun, also encircled by a crescent moon.
“Oh, wow…” I breathe out in awe.
While I'm gaping at the necklaces, I hear Sirius start to explain, “I, er, found them while wandering the antique shops of Diagon Alley one day and thought you might like them. Oh, here, I'll do it.” He reaches over my hand, takes the star and moon necklace, and before I could protest, clasps it around my neck.
I feel my face heat up when his hands brush against my bare skin. “T-thanks,” I mumble, looking down in embarrassment. But something else catches my eye. I raise up the box to my face questionably. “So, the other necklace is for...?”
At this, Sirius rubs the back of his neck and shrugs. “Well, when I asked to buy it from the old lady, she insisted that the necklaces had to be bought as a pair and wouldn't let me off with just the one. Maybe it's her way of bargaining, or there's some sort of spell on the necklaces, I don't know, but I was in a hurry, so I kind of just grabbed both.” He looks away momentarily and then back at me. “Go ahead and do whatever you want with it, I guess.”
Whatever I want with it?
I hold out the box to Sirius. “Well, you kind of paid for it. Why don't you have it?”
Sirius raises his eyebrow as he takes the necklace in his hands and brings it up to his face. “You want us to wear couple necklaces? Do you realize what you’re asking me?”
My face instantly poofs to a bright red. “Okay, well, it's your problem you bought two necklaces,” I retort hastily. “If you don't want it, then just toss it yourself!”
“What, I gave it to you!”
“Well, you told me to do what I want with it and what I want to do is give it to you! You said they were supposed to be bought as a pair, so of course you should wear it since you’re… my…” My voice trails off feebly as I realize exactly what it is that I’m implying.
Sirius apparently does as well because he abruptly turns away, as if suddenly embarrassed at the whole situation. And before I can say anything else to him, he turns his heel and stalks out the room, the necklace still clutched in his hand.
“Well, Merry Christmas then!”
“Merry Christmas to you too…?” I call back with an awkward wave.
Wait, did I upset him or something? Talk about dramatic…
But not a moment after Sirius had left, I hear the loud voices of his parents echoing down the hallway from a couple rooms away. Before I can stop myself, I instinctively dive behind the Christmas tree when I hear their footsteps draw nearer. Okay, not the most logical reaction, but they just saw me in bed with their son this morning, how was I supposed to act!
“My dear, did you hear about our Sirius’ gift for Cecilia?” Mrs. Black’s voice rings through the hall.
My eyebrows raise when I hear the mention of our names and my ears strain to hear more.
Mr. Black chuckles before replying, “Yes, a pair of necklaces, isn’t that right?”
“Indeed! He purchased them from that dear old Wringy Hableta. Remember how she used to rave on and on about legends of spells being put on her dusty old antiques?
“She was truly a mad witch.”
“But it’s why she refused to sell those necklaces apart! It is said that the owners of those necklaces are fated to be bound for life.”
“Goodness, an old wives’ tale, my dear!”
Heart beating faster than usual, I wait for the footsteps to retreat before emerging again from being the tree. Nooooo way is the only thought in my mind as I look down at my silver necklace again. An old wives’ tale. Definitely an old wives’ tale. What am I, in some cliched romantic drama? Since when would I be the owner of a romantic necklace of legends?
But still… I wonder if Sirius knew the raving witch’s story when he bought the necklaces. Is that why he bolted so fast when I insisted on him taking it?
Anyway, I’ll probably never find out the truth about that little conundrum, nor will I ever know what would happen if only half of a couple wore the necklace. But I didn’t need to worry that much about it because three days later, I caught a glimpse of silver under the collar of Sirius’ shirt.
I just smiled to myself.
Maybe he does know.