The Night Before Christmas

Author: Allocin
Rating: NC-17
Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until January 30th, 2005. After that, it's yours to do with as you will.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to. Extracts in italics from the poem 'The Night Before Christmas' by Clement Clarke Moore.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge #53: Sirius and Remus have their very own Christmas tradition.
Author Notes: Remus, I've decided, lives in Porthmadog (NW Wales). Sirius, at this point, is staying at Hogwarts until the end of Seventh Year. Because I'm the author, that's why. Beware the cheesy-fluff, that's all I have to say. Oh, and thankee to my betas, Elanor Isolda and Katie.



'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

Remus tiptoed quietly along the darkened landing, ears straining to catch any unusual sounds. His Aunt Meg and Uncle Rory were in the guest bedroom, their deep rumbling snores almost covering up the quieter sounds of sleep from his parents' room. This worked in Remus' favour, because if he somehow managed to forget where the dangerous floorboards were, Uncle Rory's impressive lungs would drown out any creaks and groans.

Not that Remus would ever forget how to navigate the landing, or the stairs, or the equally dubious hallway to the front door. The first time he had made the trip, back in Second Year, his palms had sweated and he had twitched at every miniscule noise. Every wrong step he had made that first time was imprinted on his mind to be replayed over and over, until Remus could follow his invisible path even if blindfolded. It was something of a tradition for him now; Sirius' letters over the holiday would start off as long, abusive rants about his family and prank plans for the new term, and would degenerate into prayers for entertainment, until eventually the suggestion would come.

"Remus: I need to get out of here. Same place as last time?"

Remus, naturally, agreed. It really didn't take much for Sirius to persuade him to go along with one of his crazy schemes.

Downstairs, Uncle Rory's effortless snores were somewhat muted, and Remus felt safer now that the hard part was over. He had specifically oiled the hinges of the front door yesterday so that it wouldn't squeak as it opened. The snow-chilled wind whipped in, flushing out all the heat that the fire had managed to build up over the course of the day. Remus quickly stepped outside and closed the door, grateful for his hat, mittens, scarf and coat. They were well worn, but warm enough. Huffing a breath just to see the vapour twist and writhe in the air, Remus began the arduous trek to the pub down the road, where he would Floo to his rendezvous with Sirius.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below

Overhead, the sky was clear and bright with glinting stars, but the moon dwarfed them all. Only a sliver was missing from its scarred face, and Remus could feel it under his skin already. It was like standing on the beach as the tide went out, feeling the water pull the supporting sand from around his feet. He watched it almost carelessly as he plodded through the snow. Sometimes, most of the time, he hated the moon for what she put him through; but there were times in his life, when the air was crisp and fresh, and he was warm and cold all at once, and he was sneaking out to see a friend for the first time since the end of November, when life didn't seem so bad and he could enjoy the moon for the beauty it truly was. Even if the following night it would be turning him into a bloodthirsty monster.

With such a bright light to guide him, Remus didn't have any trouble in reaching the pub. The landlord of The Dew Drop, Mr Pritchard, was not magical, but his late wife had been, and she had known the Lupins for many years. Consequently, the pub was connected to the Floo and had a number of wizarding regulars, Remus' father being one of them. It was a quaint old pub, and Remus couldn't help but admire it in the fresh snow; Muggle lights glowing softly in the velvet darkness, the windows golden with firelight. By this time, Remus was starting to feel the chill in his bones, and the warmth that washed over and through him when he pushed open the door was a blessed relief.

"Remus! Welcome lad," greeted Mr Pritchard from the bar. Some of the regulars raised their tankards to the son of a friend, but Remus' entrance was mostly ignored, for which he was very grateful. Mr Pritchard quickly finished wiping down the bar before coming over to Remus. "Seems only yesterday you were here on a Christmas Eve," he murmured with a smile. Remus smiled tentatively back, feeling twelve again, when Mrs Pritchard herself had had to show him how to use the Fireplace.

"Do you have the time?" Remus asked politely, conscious that he was supposed to be meeting Sirius at 11PM. Mr Pritchard had to squint over the top of his glasses to see his watch, finally declaring,

"Ten forty-seven, son. Time to be off?"

"Yes. I don't want to be late," Remus said. Mr Pritchard led the way upstairs to the sitting room, as was his habit, and showed Remus the same pot of Floo powder he had been using for the last six years.

"Here we are then," said Mr Pritchard, "Now what time do you expect to be back?" Remus took a generous handful of the powder and stepped into the hearth.

"About four? Thanks very much, Mr Pritchard," he said.

The landlord smiled toothily. "Bless you, now off you go!"

Remus took a deep breath and dropped the powder. "The Clock Inn, York," he said clearly, and with a bang was gone

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Sirius was not there first, which was exactly how it should have been, and had he been there already, Remus would have been very worried. He nodded briefly to the very busy barmaids and went straight to his normal position by the window. It wasn't snowing here, which Remus thought was a shame, but entirely expected ... a white Christmas in England was less likely than Dumbledore wearing clothes any shade duller than fluorescent. The cold seeping through the warped glass chilled all the air around it, so that on one side Remus was warm from the fire, and the other was pale and sort of numb.

He waited, arms crossed on the table, and watched the hands tick around on the clock opposite him. The closer it got to 11pm, the slower the minute hand seemed to go. He remembered being twelve, keeping one eye on the time and the other on the barmaids, afraid that any moment they would escort him out for being under-aged, even though he wasn't drinking; jumping every time one of the staff came near him, and trying to burrow into the shades in an attempt to go unnoticed. Of course, this had only attracted more attention to him to him. Now, though, he was far more relaxed. He still wasn't legally supposed to be in the pub, but Remus had always looked far older than his years, and the poor barmaids were being rushed off their feet by the regulars, so they didn't really pay attention to one young man sat by the back window.

Remus contemplated what might be different with Sirius this year. From Second to Fifth Year, Sirius had stolen away from home in a sour mood, barely able to be civil with Remus through his fury. Sixth Year had been a shock, because rather than bitter, Sirius had been very quiet and sad; that was the year he had moved in with the Potters, and was struggling with all manner of issues that Remus guessed at but didn't dare name. That had all come to a head after the mess with Snape, and in the ultimate twist of irony, it wasn't long after that when they unofficially officially got together. Despite nearly seven months with Sirius, Remus still had trouble thinking of them as a 'couple'.

There was a suspiciously muffled bump in the backroom with the fireplace, followed by loud coughing that caught Remus' attention. He could hear something of a commotion, which was possibly Sirius trying to seduce one of the barmaids or, more probably, Sirius attempting to kidnap some poor, hapless fruit basket.

And sure enough, Sirius' tall, lanky frame appeared in the doorway, clutching an armful of apples and pears and oranges. He scanned the room for Remus before heading towards the back window, beaming triumphantly.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot,

"Fruit?" he asked jovially. Remus felt a smile tugging at his lips the likes of which he hadn't felt since the end of term.

"Don't suppose you have any chocolate?" he said. Engrossed in destroying his apple in as few bites as possible, Sirius half-heartedly patted his pockets. Remus noticed, with no small amount of amusement, that his friend was absolutely covered in dust from the Floo. "You've got it all over you," he laughed. Sirius looked up, apple juice dribbling down his chin and his cheeks puffed out. Remus chuckled again and rubbed some of the soot from Sirius' forehead, though, truth be told, it was a lost cause.

"Did you have any trouble getting out?" Sirius asked when he had swallowed. Remus shook his head, glancing around him as he did so. The Clock Inn was just obscure enough that they probably wouldn't see anyone they recognised, but they still couldn't act too comfortably together or they risked being thrown out, or even arrested ... whether wizarding or not, gay people were subject to the law.

"What about you?" he said. Sirius snorted as he browsed for his next victim to devour.

"Getting out of Hogwarts has always been and will always be a piece of cake. Speaking of!" A rummage in his pockets revealed two sticks of multi-flavoured bubblegum, a Chocolate Frog ("I'll take that!" said Remus), a Filibuster Firework, three Dungbombs, and, finally, two slices of Victoria sponge cake. "The House-elves insisted I bring some with me," Sirius said as he passed one to Remus.

"I should be highly insulted if I were you," Remus said. Using his index finger, he cleaned out the middle layer of cream and licked it off eagerly.

Sirius swallowed. "W-Why's that?" he asked, his own slice temporarily forgotten. Remus glanced up, realised exactly what effect he was having on Sirius, and blushed a pleasant pink.

"Well, they're obviously trying to stop you from visiting so often. Clearly they don't want you to get any fatter than you are now," he teased.

Sirius gasped in indignation. "That's gratitude for you! You bring a man some cake and he insults your hibernating habits. Tsk tsk, Remus, I'm appalled. No chocolate for you!" And with that, he stole the Chocolate Frog back and dropped it in his pocket. Remus laughed.

His eyes ... how they twinkled ... his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

They didn't stay too long in the pub, though Remus was loathe to leave the comfortable warmth of the fire. Once outside, where it was persistently not snowing but still cold enough for dangerous patches of black ice on the paths and roads, Sirius took the bold move of pulling Remus into the warm, woolly expanse his coat, using his extra height to see over the top of Remus' head.

"People will see us," Remus whispered urgently, even whilst burrowing into Sirius' body heat. Sirius just snorted and held Remus tightly.

"And so they should! Everyone should know that I'm in love with Remus John Lupin!" he crowed delightedly. Remus giggled despite himself, and decided then and there that, just for one night, he was not going to worry about what people would think if they saw him with Sirius. A Christmas present to himself, he thought, and to Sirius by association.

They meandered their way to a nearby park, laughing and teasing each other in the manner of true Marauders. Being so late, the park was empty, everyone else being inside with their families or at the pubs getting merrily drunk. Remus, however, was perfectly happy exactly where he was, even though his fingers and toes were frozen and his nose was running.

"The pond's frozen!" Sirius cried, and before Remus could stop him, he had skidded down the bank and was slipping across the ice. Remus wisely chose to stay out of harm's way, and suffered the biting wind from the water's edge. Skating crazily over the pond, Sirius only narrowly missed collisions with various trees. "C'mon Moony!" he urged, managing to trip up at the bank and land more or less at Remus' feet. His eyes seemed to shine with happiness as he looked up imploringly, their glow only matched by the ruddy colour of his cheeks and nose. And the insane dimple on the left side of his mouth, the one that Remus secretly adored, was out in full force. Remus felt giddy with the good will springing up in him that only Sirius could generate, just by being himself.

"There is no way I am going on that ice, Sirius Black, and you know it," he said sternly, still grinning, and helped Sirius back to his feet. "Now if you insist on trying to break your neck, you'll have to do it by yourself."

This was another of their Christmas traditions, though it actually predated sneaking out of their family homes. Back in First Year, the Hogwarts lake froze solidly, so that the entire school managed to get out onto the ice without fear of drowning. That was the first, and last, time Remus had ever tried his hand at skating. He hadn't been able to sit comfortably for a week, something that he was now perfectly used to ... which was embarrassing enough, so he thought ... and Sirius and James had both laughed at him mercilessly. Peter had been quite sympathetic, but then he had himself fallen over so hard he concussed himself and had to go to the Hospital Wing.

"Have you had enough yet, Pads? Because I'm freezing over here, and I'd like to thaw out before I go home," Remus called. Sirius heaved an exaggerated sigh that Remus could hear from the other side of the pond.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," he grumbled as he trudged back up the bank, his feet crunching the frosted grass. Feeling daring, Remus tugged Sirius up with a hand on his coat collar and pressed a soft kiss to his cold lips. Their breaths mingled hot and wet between them, misting in the air around their faces. --I,-- kiss, --love,-- kiss,--you,-- Sirius gasped, peppering whispering butterfly kisses over Remus' cold face.

The stump of a pipe he held in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath,

They left the park wrapped together for warmth again, their twin footprints leaving marks in the white frost. Sirius pulled a pack of cigarettes from one of his many coat pockets and lit up, managing to keep the smoke from blowing anywhere near Remus' sensitive nose. For once, though, Remus wasn't going to complain. Usually he made some feeble attempt to stop Sirius from smoking, but now he was comfy and warm and just wanted to keep walking under the shining stars, even though his socks were wet with dew. The smoke twirled around Sirius' head like a ghostly halo, before being snatched away by the ever-increasing wind.

"You okay?" Sirius asked softly, flicking the cigarette butt into the air with a small shower of golden ashes. Remus nodded and burrowed closer, daring a quick peek up at the fat moon. Sirius followed his glance, staring at her scarred white face. "Will you be okay on your own?" Remus didn't answer for a long moment as they passed in and out of streetlamp-lit patches of road.

"Yeah," he answered, not altogether truthfully, but Sirius understood the intended message: It'll never be okay, but I'll get better, and school isn't far away. Sirius pressed an unreserved kiss to Remus' head. There was no one around now, as a quick look at his watch showed it was past midnight.

"Merry Christmas, Moony," Sirius murmured. Remus laughed, then shivered.

"I'm cold. Can we get inside some place?" he said. Sirius nodded, rubbing Remus' arms, before glancing around the street. Somehow, they had managed to reach the suburban district, where every house had its own garage and a well-tended lawn.

"Where are we?" Sirius asked, perplexed. Remus was no less bemused.

"It appears we've stumbled into a parallel universe, like we read about in Charms," he teased, earning a withering look from Sirius.

"Yes, Dr Watson, but how are we going to get you inside in a place like ..." he trailed off, squinting at something behind Remus. "Well I'll be the mother of a Hippogriff."

It was a garage door that had caught his attention, left wide open, clearly when someone had driven their car out. With a little whoop of triumph, Sirius started towards it. Remus grabbed his arm.

"Padfoot, we can't go in there! It's someone else's property!" he hissed, glancing furtively around. Sirius laughed and tugged Remus into the garage, quickly pulling the door down before he could argue. It was dark, and oily, and still cold, but the wind was gone, and once Remus found the light switch he could appreciate that yes, this was a good place to stay for a few hours until they had to go back.

"Monsieur Moony," Sirius said grandly as he swept his large cloak from his shoulders and laid it out on the cement floor as a blanket.

"My thanks to you, Monsieur Padfoot," Remus answered with just as much pomp, and gladly knelt on the soft wool.

"And you shall, of course, never doubt a word I say ever again, shall you, Monsieur Moony?" Sirius pressed, throwing himself down without a thought onto the concrete. Remus gave him a severe look.

"Monsieur Moony would like to remind Monsieur Padfoot that it is his constant doubt of Monsieur Padfoot's words and actions that have kept us out of trouble many times, especially with regard to dangerous pranks on the Slytherins and revising for exams; is this not so?" Sirius merely grinned and, leaning in closer, met Remus' lips in a hungry kiss.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread,

"Are we really going to do this here?" Remus asked, breathless, when they broke apart. There was a wicked glint in his eye, something that Sirius still considered the ultimate goal to attain. He winked in return. His hand trailed lightly up and down Remus' thigh, barely applying pressure but enough to tease ruthlessly.

"We can always go back to the Inn," he murmured huskily. His strokes became firmer, rubbing tantalising circles higher and higher up Remus' leg. Gasping, Remus pulled Sirius closer, mouths meeting wetly as their hands explored familiar territory. Dextrous fingers slid under jumpers and shirts, scrabbling with buttons until they reached the hot skin beneath.

"Wh-what if someone f-finds us!" Remus gasped out, though he made no move at all to stop Sirius from mouthing his neck. There was a muffled grunt as a reply, and that was the end of that argument. Some ineffectual tugging and creative cursing got both of them out of their jumpers and shirts, and though their skin prickled with the cold, they were both far too aroused to notice.

"Moony," Sirius groaned, nudging Remus onto his back. Their skin seemed to spark with delicious electricity wherever it touched, until they were writhing together on the coat. Trousers were quickly removed in the need to feel more of one another, and it was with blessed relief that Remus' cock was freed from its final constraints. The cold air had no effect on his heated flesh, not when Sirius was biting and kissing his way down Remus' torso, following every scar with loving reverence. Remus couldn't stop himself from pushing Sirius down a little faster, needing desperately to feel that velvety heat.

"God, Sirius, please," he whispered hoarsely. Normally Sirius would have given some cocky answer, or prolonged Remus' torture, but evidently he was just as eager, because no sooner had Remus got the words out than he was taken deep within Sirius' mouth. Over the last year, Sirius had had a lot of practice, and now he put every trick he knew to use on Remus. He swallowed around the swollen flesh, using his tongue to stroke firmly along the vein on the underside. When Remus was squirming and whimpering continuously, Sirius started to hum, delighting in the thrill it obviously sent through Remus. The other's arousal was so erotic to Sirius, he couldn't help but rub himself through his boxers.

"Oh. Oh!" Remus whimpered, his hips bucking up despite the hand trying to hold them still. He was so close he could almost taste it, so it was a frustrated moan that came when Sirius dragged himself away. "Padfoot!" he cried, and the tone of his voice suggested a swift and painful death if Sirius didn't finish the job.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

Sirius silenced him with a wet kiss, thrusting his tongue into Remus' pliant mouth as he shoved his trousers and boxers down. He kicked them off, then cursed when he realised his wand was still in one of the pockets.

"Merlin's balls, Padfoot, what are you doing?" Remus hissed. Sirius managed to free his wand with a small whoop of triumph, before descending on Remus once more. Their erections brushed against each other, causing them both to gasp. Even in the garage, their breaths misted in the cold air, but between them it was heat and fire. Remus scraped his nails down Sirius' back, sending shivers through him, and they kissed like criminals eating their last meal.

"Need you need you need you," Sirius chanted, gripping his wand tightly in his hand as he shifted Remus' legs. A quickly muttered charm and before Remus could quite follow what was happening, one then two then three fingers were stretching him and all he could do was howl. Remus' cock was painful now, ruddy purple and throbbing, with precome dripping steadily from the head. He couldn't hold out much longer, and he so wanted to wait for Sirius. Just when he was about to scream for more, Sirius removed his fingers and slid his cock home.

Time seemed to stop. Remus had a moment of clarity to appreciate how ridiculous it was, to be making love to the man he loved in a stranger's garage, surrounded by saws and drills, and the cloying smell of petrol. And then Sirius moved, time reasserted itself, and he was racing to meet Sirius' every thrust. He gripped his erection in one hand, pumping frantically to finally reach the ragged edge of sensation. Looking up, he could see Sirius' face caught in the dim light, biting his kiss-bruised lip, his cheeks flushed as he drove forcefully into Remus' body.

"Padfoot," Remus groaned, the fingers of his free hand digging into Sirius' arm. They kissed, open-mouthed and messily, an erotic joining that was hurried and inelegant. Every shared breath between them sparked greater desires in Remus, until he was biting his lip too, striving with thrust after thrust for that elusive point. Their voices were a chorus of grunts and moans. Every twist and roll of the hips sent tingles down to his toes. But now they were growing wilder; Sirius was groaning on every breath, and Remus watched through half-lidded, lust-filled eyes as Sirius' frown of concentration deepened and deepened with his thrusts.

And then his expression seemed to lift, eyes opening wide to meet Remus'.

"Remus!" he cried, coming hard into the willing body beneath him, filling Remus' hole with his seed. Then he was absolutely still, frozen, staring into amber eyes beneath him. Remus was nearly frantic with the overwhelming need for release.

"Please," he whimpered, arching up into his hand. Sirius gripped Remus' cock, fingers sliding over the sensitive skin and head in time with each slam home. Remus let his head thud back, feeling the pleasure wash over him through every nerve, sparking hot shivers in fingers and toes. The sensations collected in a ball in the pit of his stomach, coalescing and growing until they became too much and at long last he came, choking off a hoarse cry as his seed spurted in pearly lines over Sirius' hands.

"Merry Christmas, Padfoot," Remus murmured, stroking a lazy hand through Sirius' hair. Sirius laughed breathlessly, but decided not to move from his comforting position in Remus' arms.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

That decision was changed for him by some rather loud bangs coming from the door to the house, followed by a bellowing roar.

"Whoever's in there better get out before I find them!" Sirius and Remus scrambled, painfully, to their feet. They stared in horror at the door, until Sirius had the good sense to grab his wand and spell it locked.

"Here!" Remus hissed, tossing Sirius his shoes. They threw their clothes on haphazardly as the owner of the house tried to break the door down. "Hurry up!" Remus threw open the garage door, his expression caught between horror and amusement. Sirius grabbed his coat and together they tore out of the garage, just as the door went down.

"Oi! Get back here, thieves! I'm calling the police!" came an angry voice. Sirius laughed as they sprinted down the street.

"Merry Christmas!" he called back, earning him a swipe from Remus.

"Keep running!" he yelled, even while laughing, filled with adrenaline and the euphoria of Christmas with Sirius. They ran and ran, past the pond Sirius had skated on, until they came to The Clock Inn, which was nearly closing. They stopped outside the door, their lungs burning and knees shaking, but still chuckling at their last stunt of the year. "You!" Remus laughed, poking Sirius in the shoulder.

"I ... do ... try," Sirius returned. When they got their breaths back, they strolled into the pub, nodding to the tired barmaids as they collected all the leftover glasses. The backroom with the fireplace was empty, thankfully, giving them a sense of privacy that they didn't really have in a pub.

"I sent your present by owl this morning," Remus said quietly. "It should be at your house by now." Sirius smiled impishly.

"Can't wait," he said. "Yours will probably get there tomorrow." At this point Sirius smirked wickedly, and leaning close, whispered in Remus' ear, "Don't open it in front of your parents." Remus laughed, and threw his arms around Sirius' neck.

"Gonna miss you," he mumbled into Sirius' coat.

"You too," Sirius said, and kissed the top of Remus' head. There was a shattering of glass from the front room, making them jump apart in panic. Sirius looked mournfully at the fireplace while Remus glanced at the clock. It read three forty-seven.

"Time to go," he murmured with a sigh. Sirius nodded, dared one last peck on the lips before grabbing a handful of Floo powder and throwing it into the fireplace.

"Merry Christmas," he mouthed, "The Hog's Head."

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a

Remus watched the space where Sirius had been for a few minutes after he had gone. This, too, was an annual tradition for him; feeling the heartache when they went their separate ways, knowing it would be weeks before he would see any of his friends again. Finally, when the clock struck the hour, he tore himself away from his miserable contemplations to step into the fireplace.

"The Dew Dropp," he said. It was always a dizzying journey, and more than one wizard had come out at the wrong stop that was where the Muggle story about Santa Claus had come from but Remus was pretty good at keeping his head, and managed to make it back to Porthmadog in one piece. Mr Pritchard was waiting for him, shadows under his eyes but smiling nonetheless.

"Have a nice night, lad?" he asked as he led Remus to the door. Remus shrugged and smiled, and with a final wave, set off into the night. The wind had picked up, and it was snowing again, so that by the time he'd trudged up the hill to his house, his trousers were soaking wet and he was shivering.

The lights were still off in the house, and he made sure to muffle his steps when he opened the door and got into the blissful warmth. Remus was absolutely exhausted, but more than that he was very hungry, so he stopped by the kitchen on his way to the stairs.

Only to find his Uncle Rory breaking his diet plan, set down by Aunt Meg, by raiding the pantry. Remus worried for a disorientated second if his uncle would know. They were staring at each other so hard that, to Remus, it seemed impossible that Uncle Rory couldn't not know what he had been doing. Beneath the smell of snow and ale and oil on his clothing, his sensitive nose could still pick up traces of Sirius, on his shirt, trousers and skin. For that brief moment, Remus was certain that his uncle would be able to smell it too. They stood at opposite ends of the room, one covered in crumbs and the other in snow, staring guiltily at each other. Uncle Rory slowly put his tin of biscuits on the table, as if trying not to frighten a wild animal.

"I won't tell if you won't," he offered, colour flushing high in his cheeks. Remus, who was still deathly pale with cold, nodded jerkily and headed straight upstairs. Food could wait until morning, he decided. He was just grateful to change out of his wet trousers and into his pyjamas.

Though when he opened his bedroom door, there lay on his bed a glittering wrapped present, signed 'With Love From Sirius'.

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