"Christmas's are bigger now," Remus said, surveying the mess he had refused to let Cho and Charlie clean up for them.
"There are more kids," Sirius said, with a shrug from his place on the couch. "And they grow bigger every year. Baby-George can say things now."
Remus smiled. Hermione and Ron's son was three, and Remus doubted they would be able to call him baby much longer. Especially if Hermione was pregnant again.
Remus was only aware of the possibility because he had finally been allowed in the kitchen. It was the fourth Christmas Remus and Sirius had officially hosted, and although the food was always prepared by Molly with help from Ginny, Fred and Hermione, Remus had always offered to help.
The first three times he had offered, Molly had told him not to be silly. Arthur always hid in his shed on Christmas morning between presents and lunch, she had said, and she hardly thought Remus should have to do more than her husband had. Remus had wanted to protest, but Sirius had taken him away, telling him to be careful of drawing attention to the absences.
"He can say 'Sirius' now," Remus said, with an exasperated chuckled.
Sirius shrugged again. "That's a very important thing," he said.
"You're just jealous that my name is easier for the kids to pronounce," Remus said.
It was true; Harry and Cho's twin girls had called Sirius 'Remus' months before they could say his own name properly.
Sirius scowled; his brow furrowed, eyebrows pointing down like bull's horns, and lower jaw jutting forward. Remus crossed the room and used his thumbs to push Sirius's eyebrows back to their usual place on his forehead. Sirius grabbed Remus's wrists and pushed his hands away, but didn't let go. Remus narrowed one eye with mock suspicion.
Sirius slowly shifted his grip on Remus's wrists so he could trace patterns on his palms, and leant forward so he could lick the pads of Remus's thumbs. Remus shivered and tried to pull his hands free, laughing.
"I have to clean up," he said.
"You won't be here tomorrow?"
Sirius had been converted to Mark Twain's life philosophy — 'Never put off til tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow,' — sometime in their third year at Hogwarts. He also sounded much too plaintive for a man who had spent most of the day with his friends. Remus cuffed him lightly across the head.
"Anyway," Sirius said. "Harry's first word was 'Padfoot.'"
Remus gripped the sides of Sirius face to force eye contact.
"Harry's first word was 'li-li,'" Remus said deliberately. "And when he first said 'Padfoot' it was a word that meant dessert."
Sirius laughed delightedly.
"You don't think that I'm sweet?" he demanded.
Remus rolled his eyes and pushed himself upright. He turned back to the table and began collecting glasses. Christmas lunch was for twenty-three adults and three children, so there were close to sixty glasses to wash.
"You really don't think I'm sweet?" Sirius asked, pouting theatrically, when Remus returned from the kitchen.
"Sugary," Remus said, collecting more glasses. "Aren't you going to prove your sweetness by helping me clean up?"
Sirius shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm the master of the house," he said. "I don't do helping. Although I see that Molly let you help this year."
"I think Hermione may be pregnant," Remus said, carrying the glasses away.
"Nah, it's Ginny who's pregnant," Sirius said, when he retuned.
"Really?" Remus asked.
Remus hadn't been sure that Simon was comfortable with magic enough to start a family. He still didn't think that Ginny was old enough to be a mother herself, all of twenty-eight years old now.
"Molly told me," Sirius said. "I don't think Simon knows yet."
"He's going to be freaked out when strange things start happening around the house," Remus said with a chuckle. He wasn't surprised that Sirius knew before the father. Sirius spent most of Christmas day with the widows, although really what Emmeline, Molly and Sirius had in common was a mystery to Remus.
"Do you remember how freaked Lily's mum was when all the ice-cream was suddenly English Toffee?"
Lily had been almost six months pregnant at the time. Mrs Evans had brought chocolate icecream because it was Lily's favourite, it just didn't happen to be Harry's, apparently.
"Do you remember how pleased James was, that the baby's first magic was transfiguration?"
"Ah, dear Prongs. Lily was more than willing to claim that it had been a piece of Charms work."
"She had a point," Remus said, setting the glasses back down and turning to Sirius. "Most food magic is Charms work; you can't conjure real food."
"But the ice-cream was already there," Sirius said.
"But not the toffee."
"He wasn't even born yet, he didn't know what real toffee tasted like. Besides, Peter always preferred raw conjured chocolate to the real stuff."
Remus shuddered. He had wanted chocolate one day in second year to keep him awake while he caught up on work. The others hadn't known either why he was behind, or about his sensitivity to food and Peter had supplied him chocolate he had conjured himself. Remus had felt horribly ill for the rest of the week.
"Please, can we go one Christmas without you haunting me with Peter's eating habits; the rest of him haunts us enough."
Remus turned his back on Sirius to collect the second load of glasses and take them down to the kitchen.
"I don't know why you don't just send them to the kitchen," Sirius said, completely unrepentant for having brought Peter into the conversation.
Remus glared at him over an armful of tumblers. Sirius rolled his eyes.
"It you must do it like that, leave it til tomorrow."
"If I took your advice on everything, the house would never be properly cleaned," Remus said.
"Now you sound like the old women," Sirius warned him.
"That doesn't mean I don't have a point," Remus said. "Has Moira Granger ever even let you enter her house?"
"Only when we carried Hermione there," Sirius said. He frowned. "Even then she didn't want to let me in."
"I don't know why I put up with you," Remus said.
"Of course not," Sirius said. "The only person who did was Mrs Potter. She thought I was funny."
"You're a lazy slob," Remus retorted.
He would have turned away and left the room again, but suddenly his arms were empty. He couldn't help glancing at the now cleared table, and Sirius was grinning in a far too smug a manner when he caught his eye again.
"And a cheeky bastard."
"But you love me anyway," Sirius said.
Remus paused to consider the proposition a moment.
"You know I don't think that's entirely true," he said slowly.
Sirius was instantly on his feet in the uncertain but defensive pose that reminded Remus of their first night at Hogwarts. James had known who the Blacks were, and even with Peter's assurances, Sirius's presence was an anomaly Remus hadn't understood and James had been suspicious of. Remus had spent most of the first term watching Sirius very carefully; until he could almost predict how Sirius would react in any given circumstances. He smiled gently.
"I think I love you because you're a cheeky bastard."
It took Sirius a beat to hear and understand — then he glared. He crossed the space between them in two strides and threw his arms around Remus to hold him close and kiss him forcefully. Remus returned the kiss warmly, thinking that this was just the way to end Christmas day.
Sirius pulled back; the cheeky grin returned. "You only think you love me?"
Remus kissed him again, knowing that for all his bravado, Sirius had always been uncertain of his place.
"I love you," he said, and was rewarded with a bright and sincere smile.
"I love you, too," Sirius said.
It was lovely to see everyone on Christmas, Remus thought briefly as Sirius kissed him gently once more. But it was always much nicer after everyone had left and the house was clean again.