Chapter Thirty-Six: I promise I'll make it really special
I wish I could say that I told him as soon as he got back from the Hospital Wing the next day. But truthfully it took me a long time to talk myself into it. I suppose, at first, it had a lot to do with Gemma, but nothing significant had happened between them, so I wasn't feeling guilty about intruding anymore. Meanwhile, the two of us were spending more time together in the evenings. Sometimes Remus forced me to do homework, other times he just sat reading while I secretly continued to write my song. It was close to being finished, and once I stopped obsessing, I'd send it to Arson to see what he thought. Sometimes Remus asked me what I was writing, but I just pretended it was my diary, which led to teasing and on one momentous occasion, a rather sexually charged tickle fight.
So, I finally decided to tell him on his birthday in the second week of March.
The biggest problem was getting him alone. The lads were always very involved in each other's birthdays and I doubted they would let me get away with monopolizing his time for some 'special' plan. The other problem was; I was no good at special plans. While I was a secret romantic, I'd never really had someone prepare a special surprise for me and I had never done one for anyone. The closest was getting Sirius a leather jacket for his last birthday and planning (and failing) to go the whole way with him. Neither of these options would work for Remus, because I much preferred his casual t-shirts on him to the bad-boy persona that suited Sirius so well, and call me old fashioned, but I thought I'd really better kiss him before I thought about doing much else.
Lily and Dorcas were useless as well. Neither of them had ever planned a surprise for someone they liked. Both of them suggested a romantic moonlit picnic, but that made me want to throw up, so they huffed away and advised me to ask a 'Cheese Specialist' instead. Which gave me the idea for the perfect person to ask.
"James," I said, going over to sit near him during Care of Magical Creatures. "If you wanted to do something special to surprise Lily, what would you do?"
He glanced at Sirius, who chuckled, and then he smiled. "Who are you planning on surprising? Would it be a certain rakishly handsome boy whose birthday falls in March?"
I rolled my eyes. "Give it up – I know this one told you I fancy Remus."
James' eyebrows flew up and Sirius laughed, shaking his head.
"Remus!? I thought you meant me!" James said in shock.
"What? You thought I fancied you?"
He looked exasperated. "No! But I thought you wanted to surprise me on my birthday!"
I laughed and shoved his shoulder. "James, your birthday isn't for ages. Remus' is this weekend. And what in Merlin's name made you think I would feel the need to surprise you?"
He looked over my shoulder and when I turned, I saw that he was looking at Lily. When I turned back around, he was very red.
"I don't know," he mumbled.
"He thought Lily would do something for him after that riddle he did for her," Sirius said patting James' back with over-the-top sympathy. "Loser."
James shoved his head hard into a nearby feeding trough and then turned to me like he hadn't just been extraordinarily violent. "So you fancy Remus then?"
I nodded and he shrugged.
"Not surprising, I suppose. That's why the two of you have been extra polite and staying up to all hours, I assume."
"But you can't tell him on his birthday, Kate," Sirius said grumpily, emerging from the trough and shaking grain from his hair. "We're already planning a surprise party."
"What?" I groaned, collapsing onto the grass and staring at the sky. "You're the one who's been yelling at me to tell him."
"You've waited bloody ages, it can wait another day."
"Actually," James said, pulling me up from the grass. He was tapping his chin. "I think he suspects – maybe this will throw him off the scent."
"How d'you mean?" Sirius asked.
"Well if Kate keeps him occupied the night before, he'll forget that we try to surprise him every year on his birthday and she can lead him to the party once she's done."
"Provided they don't have a snog/sob fest once they get together," Sirius quipped.
James laughed as I threatened to shove Sirius back into the trough.
"Well, what did you have in mind, then?"
I grimaced. "That's why I came to you – I have no idea how to plan a special surprise."
Sirius scoffed, but James looked flattered, shaking his sleeves back.
"Well, you certainly came to the right place."
I rolled on to my stomach and propped my chin on my hand. "So, how do I do a cheese fest without being too cheesy."
He went from flattered to offended in half a beat. "It's not cheesy if it's from the heart! The important thing is doing something personal – something that only that person will enjoy."
"Like a scavenger hunt with a riddle for instructions?"
He smiled and nodded. "She pretended to hate it, but you know she loved it."
"But it's hard with Remus. He's gone off The Ghouls and I'm terrible when it comes to the books he likes."
"True…quite apart from that, I guess you're left with pumpkin pasties and firewhisky," James said with a frown.
"Gillywater actually," I said. "He likes to pretend he's hard with the firewhisky."
The boys exchanged a smirk.
"There's you," Sirius said. "That's the only other thing he's interested in."
I scrunched up my eyebrows and stuck my tongue out. "How bigheaded would that be? 'Oh here Remus – this is an ode to myself as a declaration of my feelings for you.' How lovely!"
The boys shared another look and eyed me with condescending patience.
"What he means is – stuff that only the two of you shared or would know about," James said. "Stuff that we couldn't plan for him, you know?"
I tapped my mouth and thought carefully and then groaned, letting out a little whine and covering my face.
"I can't think of a thing! I'm a terrible friend. I don't deserve him."
The boys were quiet as I sighed into my hands. What was wrong with me? I thought I knew Remus really well, but I felt completely lost about things he liked. It was one of those moments where you question everything and it didn't feel good at all. After a few minutes of me sighing, I heard Sirius get up and clear his throat.
"Well, as much as I enjoy seeing you being self deprecating, I need a slash," Sirius said, and when I moved my hands away, he looked annoyed. He didn't stay to explain himself however, and headed off to ask Kettleburn's permission.
"Don't mind him," James said, taking in my confusion. "He's trying to be cool with this, but I reckon it actually bothers him a bit."
I raised an eyebrow. "I thought he didn't tell you I liked Remus."
He looked sheepish and ran a hand over his hair. "He didn't. But I have known how Remus felt about you since you became friends. And I was sort of just waiting for you to catch on. And look, Sirius may be my best mate, but the two of you together never made as much sense as you and Remus do. He knows that too, but I reckon his ego's a bit bruised."
He laughed suddenly. "You've caused us a lot of drama."
"Well, it looks like I'll probably cause more when Remus sees me for the sham friend that I am," I sighed.
James rolled his eyes and abruptly pulled me into a one-armed hug. I frowned at him and he laughed and ruffled my hair.
"Don't be a prat. And don't put so much pressure on yourself. You know him just as well as any of us do and grand gestures aren't everyone's bag. Just be yourself, be honest and have a good time. And don't forget to bring him to the party."
Even though I wriggled from his grasp, I felt quite touched.
"Thanks James. I'm glad you don't hate me anymore."
He scoffed. "I've never hated you, but you are less annoying now. Having said that – start invading our space at every second once you're with Remus, and I can't promise I won't hex you."
"Just promise to let me know," I said getting up and patting his shoulder. "So I can laugh in your face."
I thought things over on the way to the Common room and decided that I'd better just very subtly ask Remus more questions. Maybe once I knew more about his favorite things, I could plan something that would floor him. As I was walking, I caught sight of him walking along the corridor with Peter through the mass of students getting out of lessons.
He didn't turn. He was laughing rather loudly at something Peter was saying, which was surprising, but not something I could dwell on while I was trying to get his attention.
"Remus!" I yelled more urgently, sidestepping a crowd of Ravenclaws only to get stuck behind a line of first years practicing the levitation charm. I coughed and muttered excuse me-s, dodging flying feathers and wishing I weren't trying to be a nicer person so I could just slam these idiots out of my way. Remus and Peter were turning the corner, still chortling.
"Coming through!" I shouted in desperation, flinging myself between two Slytherins and hurtling around the bend. To my utter dismay, the staircase Remus and Peter were on changed and I was left to circle around and find another route up to the Common Room. The things I did to prove myself, honestly!
I managed to take the shortcut through the tapestry on the third floor and arrived near the Portrait just as Remus said the password. Shockingly, Sirius and James seemed to have beat me up there and were now guffawing along to whatever incredibly hilarious joke Peter seemed to still be telling.
"Remus!" I shrieked in a pitch that could give Mafalda a run for her galleon.
The boys froze as the Portrait swung open and watched in bewilderment as I hurried forward, panting. I doubled over and clutched the stitch in my side and tried to ignore the smirk on James' face as I struggled for air.
Remus looked confused. "Kate, are you all right?"
I held a finger up and coughed a little more (perhaps in a more over-the-top fashion) than needed.
"Spit it out, Kate," Sirius said, rolling his eyes.
"I…" I cleared my throat and was suddenly horrifically embarrassed. Why had I raced up here when I knew that's where he'd be, anyway? Something was loose in my head.
"Um, I wanted to say hi."
Remus' eyebrows shot up and he glanced at the others. He cleared his throat.
"Again…is everything okay?"
I nodded, fanning my very red and sweaty head. "'Course. I just, uh wanted to ask you um…what's your favorite color?"
If possible, his eyebrows shot even higher up on his face.
"Did you honestly run after me to ask that?"
James coughed to unconvincingly cover up some laughter and then straightened his face at my look. "Um, come on lads…let's leave Remus to spill the secrets of his color preferences. Very important business."
The three losers burst into chortles and headed inside leaving Remus there to look at me with a very concerned, but amused expression.
"Honestly Kate," he said gently as the portrait closed. "What's up?"
"I was just curious. You've never told me stuff like that – the things you ought to know about mates, you know…?"
The corner of his mouth turned up with a curious half-smile and it was everything I could do not to reach forward and touch his lips.
"Does it really matter?"
"Of course it matters, Remus!" I said, tearing my eyes from his mouth to look into his way-more-green-than-I-remembered eyes. "Look, what am I to you?"
His face went slack. "Huh?"
I didn't answer, just raised my eyebrows. There was this odd, tickling sensation running up my spine up to the base of my ponytail and the sudden tingles on my arms prevented me from truly understanding the weight of my own words.
He swallowed. I waited.
And then I waited some more because I'd forgotten just how bloody long Remus took to answer the simplest of questions. Or rather – questions he considered difficult. Oh Merlin. And suddenly, I couldn't believe my nerve. Was this a difficult question? What was he going to say? 'Er, Kate we've only just got back to normal – isn't this a bit intense?'
'Um, I don't know. Mild acquaintances who seem closer than we actually are?'
'Truthfully, I've always hated you, Hopkirk. I'm glad I can finally be honest.'
"You're my mate, of course," he said, shaking me from the various imagined answers running through my scattered brain.
"Right," I replied, clearing my throat. "So, as your mate…"
"Well, my best mate, I should say."
I forgot what rant I was about to go on. The tingling was back: my desperate need to touch his mouth increased tenfold and for a moment, I just about made up my mind to snog him within an inch of his life, sod the consequences.
"Right," said the last shred of rational Kate. "So as your best mate, shouldn't I know things like that? Your favourites? And shouldn't you know mine?"
He sighed in that way I'd become accustomed to.
"My favourite color is brown. Has that unlocked the secret to the universe, or do you need me to start telling you what my hobbies are too?"
Hobbies! Blast it, asking someone what their hobbies were was like very forced, very ridiculous first date-type conversation. No wonder he looked like he was going to bust a gut holding back laughter.
"I don't need to know your hobbies. But well…can we hang out on your birthday? I…well, I want to plan a surprise for you, only I haven't quite come up with it yet."
I swallowed and watched his face change for what seemed like the millionth time and oh Merlin, how could I have ignored how absurdly attracted I was to him? How my heart leapt at the small pleased smile slipping on to his face, all because of something I'd said.
He nodded. "That would be brilliant."
"Great," I choked out because I was worried I might accidentally cheer. I forced my voice to get very even and unemotional, even though that might have been more of a give away. "I promise I'll make it really special."
And the smile became shy. "I'm sure it will be. As long as you're involved."
A/N: Hello! Yes, I am back and hopefully with enough inspiration to wrap this story up. I know it's been two years and I've likely lost the majority of you, but for those who are still interested in reading about Kate and Remus, I will do my best to give them a conclusion. Thanks all for reading and of course for all the reviews of encouragement you've left for me in my absence. You are spectacular humans.