A trip to the kitchens
Wednesday's Quidditch practice was a nightmare.
Lisa was doing completely fine, until she saw with the corner of her eye Remus, Peter and Sirius climbing the stands. She tried to concentrate on what was happening on the field, but she couldn't help glancing in their direction every so often until a Bludger nearly took her head off. James blew the whistle and gestured for the team to land.
"Sirius, I want you off the bloody stands!" he called towards his friends, as they were making their way over.
"What did I do?" Sirius demanded indignantly.
"You're distracting Fawley! She was doing fine before you lot showed up! She keeps dropping the Quaffle and almost ran into O'Flaherty!"
"So I'm banned, just because she can't keep her eyes off me? Bloody hell Prongs, why don't you just ban me from Hogwarts, then?" he smirked. Lisa's face was steadily becoming redder than the Quaffle in her hands.
"You two can shag in any broom cupboards you can find inside the castle, but on this pitch I am Captain, so I forbid you to attend practice," James said seriously.
"You can't stop true love, Prongs," Sirius quipped, but shrugged and headed back with a final wink towards Lisa.
She stared adamantly at the ground, wishing it would just swallow her already. As if there weren't enough rumors about her and Sirius, he always had to go and make it worse with his near constant flirting. And it added an extra layer of uncomfortable that it was all happening right in front of Remus.
"I'm sorry, James," she uttered quietly. "You don't have to make them leave. I'll do better, I promise."
He regarded her skeptically for a second, then said, "Are you sure you'll be ok?"
She nodded, still too embarrassed to look up. He sighed and called after his friends.
"We're gonna get creamed on Friday, aren't we?" Eddie Cornhill murmured, glancing at Lisa.
"Shut your mouth, Cornhill, or you'll find out from the stands," James scowled.
"You don't tell her that," Eddie added scornfully. "If I hex a bunch of Slytherins in your name, will I get special treatment too?"
Lisa felt anger flare up inside her again, but the new seeker, Felicity Rickett, came to her defense.
"Shut up, Eddie. I doubt you can hold your own against them, even if the Captain had your back."
"Which I won't, if you keep this up," James added. "Everyone, back on your brooms. Fawley, pay attention to what's happening in the air this time."
The team soared through the sky and Lisa was thankful to be away from Sirius' flirting and Remus' eyes.
Lisa rolled around in her bed for three hours, before finally giving up. There was just no point in trying to fall asleep with that tight ball of nerves in her stomach. She threw away the covers and silently wrapped herself in her dressing gown, taking care not to wake her dorm mates and quietly opened the door, descending into the Common Room.
The fire was still flickering in the hearth, casting long shadows on the carpet. The room was empty, filled only with unfinished homework and forgotten knick-knacks strewed over the floor. Lisa found herself a comfortable chair and sank in it miserably. The day after tomorrow, she had to face the Slytherins in the first match of the season. Her performance had been pitiful lately, because the Marauders had made it a point to come to the last few Quidditch practices, which despite her best efforts, was very distracting. Whether they did it to mess with her for a laugh or they were genuinely interested in how the team was doing (an interest that wasn't nearly as prevalent last year), knowing Remus was looking at her made her clumsy as a troll.
Eddie started keeping his tongue, but he still threw her a glare here and there, whenever she'd mess up in a more spectacular way. James didn't say anything either, but she knew he was considering benching her if she wasn't up to playing decently in the match. Lisa worried more about letting her team down, than being told not to play. She prided herself in being an above average flyer, and just the thought of being told she sucks at the one thing she'd always thought she was good at... it felt like a punch in the gut.
Suddenly she heard the low creak of a door opening and someone's soft steps going down the staircase. She considered for a moment whether to lean back into the chair further or to peek and see who it was, but the choice was made for her.
Remus' hair was disheveled, his face pale and tired. He was wearing striped pajamas and an open dressing gown, his right hand bent behind him suspiciously.
"Couldn't sleep?" she supposed, getting up from the chair and approaching him. He shook his head.
"I... had a lot on my mind," he said, running a hand through his hair. "I was just going to pop by the kitchens for a glass of milk, or something..." His eyes wandered to the portrait hole.
"Can I come with? I've never been to the kitchens before," Lisa asked hopefully.
He regarded her with a long look, debating hotly within himself. Being alone with her in the middle of the night would be a very bad idea. But they were just going to the kitchens, nothing else, and all the house elves would be there, so it wasn't like they'd be alone. But if they used James' Invisibility cloak, which he was currently clutching in his fist, they'd have to walk very close together. But it wouldn't matter anyway, because she fancied Sirius, of that he was sure. And what harm could his own twisted feelings be, if he didn't act on them? And he would not, seeing as he now knew it was one-sided. She had said it, both in writing and face to face – they were just friends.
"Sure." He nodded, moving the cloak from behind his back.
"Is that an Invisibility Cloak?" Lisa asked intrigued, stepping closer. "My dad gave me one for my birthday last year. He makes it a point to remind me to take it every time I go out. They cost a fortune though, and I've heard they wear out quickly."
"It's James' actually. I'm just borrowing it," Remus explained, throwing the cloak over both of them. "But his family is loaded, so it wouldn't surprise me if it did cost a fortune."
They climbed out of the portrait hole and started down the corridor. Lisa's heart was beating so feverishly, she wondered if he could hear it. The school was empty and surprisingly creepy at night, as she was accustomed to seeing it filled with light and chatter.
"You know, this is my first time sneaking out after hours," she whispered.
"Really? My first time was halfway through first year. James and Sirius roped me into helping them charm the tables in the Great Hall to start dancing in the middle of breakfast."
She chuckled, enjoying the shivers his breath sent down her neck.
They crept silently down stairs and through shortcuts she'd never even known about, until they found themselves somewhere on the basement level. Walking down a well-lit corridor, Lisa noticed most of its paintings weren't portraits, but pictures of food. Remus stopped in front of the one with the huge silver fruit bowl and reached his hand out under the cloak, tickling the pained green pear making it suddenly erupt in loud giggles. Lisa looked around startled, fearing someone would hear and come running, and when her eyes fell on the image again, the pear was replaced with a doorknob, which Remus turned quickly. The whole painting swung forward and he pulled her inside, taking off the cloak of and folding it carefully.
The kitchen was less spectacular than Lisa had imagined it. A high ceiling room with heaps of pots along the walls and a giant fireplace on the other end. The only furniture seemed to consist of exact replicas of the long tables in the Great Hall. Before she could take in anymore of her surroundings, a small battalion of house elves surrounded them.
"Good evening, Masters! Would you like a cup of tea?" one of them squeaked.
"Just two cups of warm milk, if you please," Remus said politely and Lisa couldn't help but smile. "We would like to stay here for a while, if that's okay with you."
The elves all nodded vigorously and about a dozen of them heaped fluffy red pillows in front of the fire, so when the two Gryffindors sat down it felt like they were on a weird misshapen mattress.
"What?" he asked, when he noticed she was staring at him.
"Nothing." She blushed. "It just... it's great how polite you are, even to house elves," she told him, taking a few of the sweets one of them offered.
"House elves deserve to - thank you - deserve to be treated nicely too," he noted, gratefully accepting his cup of milk.
"Of course they do, I didn't mean it like that. It's just, well, they're you know, only house elves. It's their job to serve you."
"It is, but that doesn't mean you should treat them like objects. A few encouraging words could make a big difference in their lives. They have feelings too, you know."
"I've... never thought about it like that."
Having lived her whole life surrounded by the little creatures, she had seen them as more of a decoration than anything else. They always obeyed her command without question and she had never considered the possibility it could be unpleasant for them to do so. She looked around the kitchen guiltily.
"I'm sorry if we woke you up," she said apologetically to the many elves surrounding them.
"Not at all, Miss! We clean the Common Rooms and Class Rooms after everyone sleeps, we do. We are glad to serve," one of them squeaked.
Remus regarded her with a strange smile and brought the cup to his lips.
"So, what kept you up so late?"
Lisa drew her legs up to her chest. She wasn't sure how much she should tell him, feeling that if she admitted it was because he distracted her during practice it might put him in an uncomfortable position and make him feel guilty.
"It's... a bunch of things," she replied elusively. "I'm a bit nervous about the game on Friday."
"Oh. I'm... I'm sure you'll be great," he tried to encourage her.
"Thanks for saying that, but I don't know if I believe it. I've been pretty bad lately. To be honest... I'm afraid James will kick me off the team any day now," she admitted miserably. There was a pause, while Remus struggled for something comforting to say.
"I'm sure he wouldn't do that. He knows it's just temporary... you'll do better when the crowd is bigger."
"Maybe..." She tried to hide her blush in her knees. " If you knew what was distracting me, why did you come?"
He thought over his answer carefully. It had been upon his insistence that he, Sirius and Peter go watch the Gryffindor practices, under the pretext they had nothing else to do anyway and it would show support for James. But the real reason had been that he could freely look at her without seeming suspicious. He didn't expect Sirius being there would have such an effect on her.
"I... didn't think it through, I suppose. I'll make sure we stop."
"I don't want you to feel like you can't come and watch," she said quickly.
"Well, we can't very well leave Sirius on his own with only Peter to reign him in. Who knows what kind of trouble they'd get into," he quipped, making her laugh.
"I think I might prefer him in detention than on the pitch," she remarked, remembering his embarrassing wolf-calls. Then her thought jumped from Sirius, to his brother, to the Slytherins and the war. "Remus, can I... tell you something?" He nodded slowly. "Sometimes I feel... guilty about having such insignificant problems. Being on the Quidditch team, Snape... it all seems so small. What you read in the Prophet isn't even a quarter of the horror that's happening outside. And here I am in this big, safe castle, and it all seems so distant, almost like it isn't real."
He stared into the fire thoughtfully. "Your dad writes for the Prophet, right?" She nodded. "What aren't they telling us?"
"I don't know the details," she admitted. "I've heard my parents talk about it when they think I'm in bed. Cuffe, the editor, refuses to publish a number of my dad's articles. He doesn't want to spread panic, Dad says, and the pieces are too violent apparently, but my dad insists wizards have the right to know. They leave a Mark over a house they've been in, for example. Did you know that?"
He nodded grimly. "I believe the war's actually closer than you think. They do it from the shadows, but you heard Dorcas. The Death Eaters are recruiting, right here, in Hogwarts."
"Recruiting, yes," she agreed. "But what are you suggesting we do, write about it? If they did something openly, maybe we could defy them, but as it is now, who'd believe us? ... Oh, I'm just horrible, aren't I? Wishing for someone to get hurt, just so I could do something about it... I think I might have a Hero Complex."
Remus chuckled softly into his cup. "At least you admit it."
She threw a pillow at his head, making him spill the milk all over himself. For a second he looked like he'd scold her, but her giggles preceded it and soon the kitchen echoed with their laughter. When he got a hold of himself, Remus cleaned his pajamas with a wave of his wand.
"You're getting pretty good with silent spells," she noted, feeling a little bit better after a good laugh.
He shrugged. "I try. And no, I'm not suggesting we start a newspaper. If they're recruiting, then so should we."
"What're you saying? You want to start our own Anti-Death Eaters?"
"And why not? Something tells me that with the Death Eater supporters growing in number, the attacks against muggle-borns will increase within the school. Remember what happened to Mary last year? There must be someone willing to fight them. If we talk to certain people, we could help keep the muggle-borns safe. And once we graduate..." He lowered his voice. "We overheard McGonagall talking to Flitwick. Dumbledore has some people going on missions for him. He's fighting Voldemort, even if the rest of the wizarding world isn't aware of it. If the Slytherins are gathering support for him, then maybe we should do the same for Dumbledore."
She raised an eyebrow. "Are you suggesting we gather Dumbledore an army to fight the Death Eaters?"
"I wouldn't put it quite so dramatically," he laughed. "But yes, I do think we should start some sort of counter movement."
"You're mad," she concluded. "A complete nutter."
"They're gaining influence and confidence. They ambushed you only last week! With more of them joining, how long do you think it'll be before open attacks against muggle-borns do start? We must do something now, before everything gets worse."
She stared at him deep in thought. For a while now she'd been itching to do something to help the war effort, some way to fight back, but now that she was actually entertaining the idea, it all seemed crazy.
"And what would we do before we graduate and run off to Dumbledore? Just patrol the corridors? Hex anyone that looks suspicious?"
"Is that not heroic enough for you?" he asked, a smile playing on his lips.
"That's not... who would we even... how--"
"We'll figure it out," Remus interjected, a strange fire twinkling in his eyes. "Are you with me?"
He offered her his hand and everything instantly became clear. She placed her palm in his.
"As if you need to ask."