Sixth Aside - The Horror
It had been a difficult few weeks, what with rehearsals, trying to keep their friendship as just that and the vast quantity of homework, which on top of rehearsals was rendered almost farcical. Eleanor was glad that she didn’t have choir, Prefect duty or Quidditch practice; she and Alice were often the only ones without dark circles under their eyes of a morning.
Keeping her hands off Remus was a lot easier than keeping her thoughts away from him, particularly in light of their recent moment of weakness. He was there every time her mind drifted, and invariably her mind drifted to some aspect of that evening, whether it was the way his skin had felt under her fingers, the urgent, almost ferocious way he’d kissed her or the way his lips had burnt and nipped and caressed their way along her collar bone and down between and all over her breasts. If she closed her eyes she could still feel him there, and that was downright irritating.
Of course, what made it worse was that he generally knew when she was thinking about him. She’d noticed it several times now: he’d be carrying on as normal as she glanced in his direction, then as she got all hot and bothered his eyes would widen and flick up to meet hers; then he’d raise one of those damned irritating eyebrows and she’d blush so hard she was certain whoever was sat in front of her would feel the heat radiating off her in waves. Unconsciously making her squirm was one thing, but looking so self-satisfied once he’d realised what was going on was bloody annoying. It made her want to sneak into his dormitory and fix a really specific timed thundercloud to the underside of his bed hangings.
The last time it had happened the girls had been lounging around the Common Room having a detailed discussion of the merits of their male classmates; he’d been playing chess with Peter on the other side of the room, oblivious to the discussion until it had turned to him and Eleanor had let her mind get the better of her. His subsequent expression had been more than a little roguish that time, his eyes asking ‘Well, really Wren?’; Eleanor had had to scuttle off to her dormitory, throwing the bed hangings closed behind her and indulging in some much needed ‘alone time’. She’d become very adept at muffling charms of late.
February brought with it an easing of the winter frosts and subsequently one hell of a lot of rain; more than a few students were approaching Madame Pomfrey for her powerful Pepperup Potion. Despite the large quantities of steam this created in the corridors, a few people had caught colds that just wouldn’t budge; the beleaguered Matron had taken to turning those whose symptoms persisted back around and sending them up to their dormitories to sleep it off. There just weren’t enough beds in the Hospital Wing.
The conversations buzzing around the half of the school that wasn’t emitting great gusts of steams largely centred on Valentine’s Day, something that Eleanor was decidedly not looking forward to. The majority of her social circle now had more or less permanent significant others, leaving her, Remus and Sirius to fend for themselves.
Dropping into the seat next to hers in Potions one Friday Peter confided in her that he was worried about Sirius: he’d been neglecting his usual stream of nubile admirers. Needless to say, it put her in rather a glum mood.
“It’s like he’s sick or something, he’s not even actively staring at girls… If me or James make a comment he just ignores us, like he’s suddenly above us. I don’t know, it’s weird, like… I dunno.”
“Like he’s fallen in love?” she couldn’t help herself asking.
The thought apparently hadn’t occurred to Peter and he rubbed his chin absently, looking stricken.
“You might be on to something there… doesn’t it say somewhere in the play that Benedick was almost sick for Beatrice? And he’s really not himself… I wonder who it could be,” he said speculatively. “Probably not someone he’s gone out with before…”
“I’d imagine that narrows it down significantly,” said Eleanor, trying to look interested in the frothing cauldron in front of her. “Although there’s always the possibility of someone he has gone out with before, but has recently discovered he liked enough to be more than a one night stand.”
“You know,” said Peter, looking at her thoughtfully. “You sort of fit both of those criteria.”
“I suspect I’m not his type.”
“Well,” Peter began, but took in her expression. “No, you’re right, must be someone else…”
“To be honest, he’s not really my type, even if he is a great friend.”
Peter’s face suggested that that might well be why Sirius was acting so weirdly, but he let it go.
“Speaking of love,” he said, adding some shredded shrivelfig to the concoction and turning pinker than the liquid he was stirring. “Me, James and Frank were wondering if we could ask you for some advice…”
“This is going to be about Valentine’s Day isn’t it,” she stated in resignation.
“Er, yeah. Could we meet tonight? Say eleven o’clock in Flitwick’s classroom?”
“I guess,” she said, trying not to sound excited about sneaking out after curfew. It had been some time since she’d had sufficient reason to (in her mind, at least).
In the end, she arrived ten minutes early, and spent some time flicking through an interesting textbook that Professor Flitwick had left on his desk; it had some intriguing diagrams of specific wandwork, and she memorised the author and title for future reference.
“Great, you’re here!” said James, heaving a worryingly heavy bag with him and dumping it on a desk; Frank and Peter followed him, the latter casting a quick disillusionment spell behind them. Anyone who glanced through the door would see nothing but empty desks now.
Eleanor settled on a table, eyeing the bag worriedly.
“Right, so Peter told you we wanted your advice,” said James. “We’re having a bit of trouble with what we’re doing with Valentine’s Day. Don’t worry,” he said, waving a placating hand in her direction. “Not for a prank…”
“We just want everything to be perfect for the girls,” said Frank. “We thought if we ran things by you we won’t have gone too far wrong.”
She was still mildly dubious, but happy that they were trying so hard; Lily, Alice and Claire were lucky girls. And I will be too, someday, she thought.
“Alright,” she said. “But I have to warn you, I’ve never even had a Valentine before, let alone a date.”
“Really?” asked Frank, startled. “But you’re lovely!”
“Thanks,” said Eleanor, going a bit pink. “I’m going to put it down to the entire lack of young, faintly attractive males in the area. That and the caring if slightly overprotective natures of my housekeepers.”
“You know, when you go back I’m not sure your housekeepers will know what’s hit them,” he said.
Flattered and a little embarrassed, Eleanor steered them toward the matter in hand.
“So who’s first?”
“Ooh, me!” cried James.
Eleanor raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry, I’m still over the moon about Lily – I never thought I’d have the chance to do something like this.”
“Go on then.”
James reached in his satchel and pulled out a small, leather bound box.
“That’s not a –” started Frank, but James shook his head.
“Not that stupid – I mean, it’s where I want it to go in the end, but we’ve only been going out for a couple of months, she’d lynch me.”
Opening the box, he lifted a thin silvery chain with a delicate pendant in the shape of a tiny lily.
“Oh, that’s lovely,” said Eleanor, impressed, as Peter and Frank made noises of assent. James held up a finger.
“There’s more,” he said, and tapped the pendant gently with his wand. The tiny petals furled into a tight bud and unfurled into a larger, living flower whose petals were a silky cream spattered with the deepest pink; smaller flowers were bursting into life along the front of the chain and the necklace as a whole was giving off a faint floral scent.
“That’s… to be honest I think she might actually faint when she sees it. Really James, that’s just beautiful.”
The boy beamed.
“I wasn’t sure if it was too much.”
“No, it’s great,” she assured him. “Particularly as she can wear it just as the pendant when she’s not feeling particularly ostentatious – it’s like that part of it is your secret.”
If James smiled any more widely his head would probably fall off.
“And then there’s the date,” he said, carefully putting the necklace back into its box. “I know she’s already asked if she can commandeer the dormitory –”
“But first I’m taking her out to Hogsmeade – Puddifoot’s first, but not too long in there in case our teeth begin to rot, then there’s this mountain clearing we’re going to walk to, and then back to the Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer. Do you think that’s ok?” he asked, nervously. “I just want to check, because the lads keep telling me that I’m off track with stuff for Lily.”
“At least you’ve stopped calling her ‘Cupcake’,” said Peter.
Eleanor let that one go.
“I think she’ll love it,” she said, encouragingly.
“I’m taking Alice up to the Astronomy Tower – Prefect privilege,” said Frank, proudly. “– and I’m going to give her this.” He held out a bracelet of intertwining enamel ivy leaves, coiled into an elegant spiral. “Ivy’s supposed to mean eternity… you don’t think it’s too much, do you?” he asked, frowning slightly.
“I think it’s perfect – she’ll love it,” smiled Eleanor. At least someone was going to have a good Valentine’s Day.
Peter looked a little nervous when she turned to him.
“I’m not sure she’ll like mine as much, it’s nowhere near as fancy,” he said, pulling a small bundle out of his pocket. “I’m taking her to Puddifoot’s too… but there’s this clearing full of winter roses I thought she’d like to see – assuming we don’t run into Filch or Marilyn…”
“It sounds wonderful,” said Eleanor, and the boys nodded encouragingly.
“I’m going to give her these – they were my Grandma’s…” carefully, he unwrapped two tiny white rose earrings that glinted prettily in the torchlight.
“Wow,” said James, “are you sure, I mean if they were your Gran’s…”
“If it were you, would you give them to Lily?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, yeah I would.”
“That’s how much Claire means to me,” he said simply, wrapping the delicate petals up like treasure.
Eleanor smiled widely.
“You boys, you’re enough to make a girl jealous.”
“Aha,” said James, buoyantly. “But we didn’t want you to feel left out – particularly as you’ve snuck out to meet us and made sure we’re not being tits.”
He passed her the bag, which clinked.
“A crate of Butterbeer, liberated on a midnight raid some days ago, a pack of sugar quills, two Everlasting Gobstoppers and a packet of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Jelly Beans,” he announced with a flourish.
“And,” said Frank, “Prefect privileges when it comes to traversing the school after curfew for the next fortnight.”
“And,” said Peter. “If you ever need our help in the pranking department, you’ve got it.”
“Really boys, you’re spoiling me,” said Eleanor, laughing.
James waved a dismissive hand.
“Nah, we needed you. Think of it as payment for services rendered,” he said, with a grin.
“Don’t let anyone else hear you using that particular phrase will you, or my reputation will be shredded.”
“That reminds me: what’s this I hear about you sneaking off with Remus all the time?”
“We’re practicing for the play,” said Eleanor, with as much dignity as she could muster. “McGonagall keeps saying we all have to show up the Slytherins, after all, and Remus needs all the help he can get with his confidence.”
Frank nodded, accepting this, but James was giving her a sideways look.
“It’s what you’re doing to boost that confidence that’s the question,” he said, darkly.
“I beg your pardon?” asked Eleanor, shocked.
“Now Prongs,” started Peter, admonishing his friend, but James cut over him.
“I’m not trying to be funny Eleanor, but he’s one of my best mates, and I haven’t seen him as down as he is right now since that time in first year when we were figuring out that he was a you-know-what. I was just wondering if your sneaking off was what was getting him down – or if he’s said anything to you… I’m just worried about him, that’s all.”
“He’s not said anything to me,” lied Eleanor, hesitantly. “But he doesn’t seem entirely himself at the minute, it has to be said… maybe it’s just the play – I mean, he seems to really hate being the centre of attention, and there’s no way of getting out of it. Perhaps it’s just weighing on him is all.” She made a mental note to tell Remus that the boys were worrying about him; if they were right about Sirius, it would be very inconvenient for them to be keeping a close eye on the two of them.
“You might be right,” said James, but something in his eyes told her that either he didn’t believe her or he had different ideas about what was bothering their friend. “Anyway, if we all keep an unobtrusive eye on him for the time being, I’d be a lot happier. I’ll have a word with Sirius too.”
“He’s not himself either,” said Peter. “I was saying to Eleanor earlier.”
Eleanor swore, silently. Why did they have to suddenly be so observant?
Frank rubbed his chin.
“You know, you’re right, he’s not,” he said. “He’s been moping around lately… in fact I don’t think I’ve seen him get slapped for months.”
“Eleanor reckoned he was in love,” said Peter, pulling out a chocolate frog.
“Sirius?” asked Frank, incredulously. “No way.”
“Actually,” said James, thoughtfully. “You might have something there… Moony was saying he thought Sirius had a bit of a ‘thing’ for someone, way back in November.”
Eleanor stayed quiet, she had a feeling she already knew who Sirius had his ‘thing’ for, and was fervently hoping that he’d come to his senses about it as soon as possible.
“Who for?” Asked Peter, interested, but James just shrugged.
“Well if it was November, that’s when he asked Eleanor to the Gala…” said Frank, looking at her. Somehow, she managed to keep her expression reasonably blank.
“And I agreed to go as friends,” she reminded them. “If you recall, he stumbled off with Trixie halfway through the evening – actually, I don’t think any of you would have recalled, you were all rather distracted.”
“I have to admit, stumbling off with some bit of muslin halfway through a dance is not the way I’d show a girl my undying love,” said Frank, “but I’m thankfully not Sirius. His mind evolved in the gutter and as far as I can tell he has made no effort to escape… until now. This is the first time in six years he hasn’t had plans for Valentine’s Day, for example… and he didn’t try to molest you at the Gala, and he didn’t disappear under the mistletoe with anyone at Christmas.”
“The only difference is you, Eleanor,” said Peter, a little apologetically. “He was acting perfectly normally until you arrived, and you immediately made it perfectly clear that you weren’t going to have anything to do with him… and then he gave you that necklace…”
“Just because someone feels like being generous at Christmas doesn’t mean he’s in love with someone, ‘tis the season’ and all that,” said Eleanor firmly, though she didn’t quite believe it herself. “Besides, Sirius gave James a watch for his birthday and they’re not off shagging in broom cupboards.”
Although if they are, thought Eleanor, Lily will have a thing or two to say about it.
“Yeah, but I turned seventeen,” said James dismissively. “It’s tradition. Besides, there’s a bit more to it than that… he ran away from home in the summer and came to live with us – though you never heard that from me. I think it was his way of saying thanks.”
“I suppose,” she conceded. She’d never had guessed that he’d have such problems at home. At least Sirius’s general attitude towards life made more sense now… although… “Maybe that’s the reason he’s started acting strangely,” she suggested. “Maybe it wasn’t because I arrived, but as a reaction to whatever happened at home. Perhaps part of him feels he has to be a bit more responsible.”
Frank was looking at her as if she’d grown a second head, but Peter nodded speculatively.
“It makes a weird sort of sense,” he said. “Especially as it’s Padfoot… but that still doesn’t rule out the fact that he could be pining for y- someone…” he trailed off. Eleanor had given him another Look.
“We’ll keep an eye on him too,” said James, giving up. “We should probably head back…”
Frank glanced at his watch and swore.
“That’s gone fast,” he remarked, jovially. “If I met me in the corridors I’d have to take points from Ravenclaw.”
Eleanor picked up the bag, decided that it was far too obtrusive and pulled out her wand.
“Reducio,” she said, shrinking it so it fitted easily in the palm of her hand. To the boys’ surprise, she secreted it in her bra. “What?” she asked, on there stunned expressions. “Well Filch is hardly likely to search in there, is he?”
“You can be quite brilliant at times,” said Frank, smiling fondly. “I can’t help but think… you and these boys would make quite a team – I wouldn’t like to imagine the havoc you could cause between you, if you put your heads together.”
James and Peter grinned, and Eleanor was deeply flattered.
“Maybe we could put something together for the end of summer term,” she said. “I’d be glad to participate, and I suspect Lily and Alice would be too, as long as no one tells Lily who she’s helping.”
“We’ll take that under consideration Miss Wren,” said James with a small bow. “I expect you have some fresh ideas we could use.”
“You’re a little frightening sometimes,” commented Frank, easily, as Peter checked that the coast was clear. “I would keep friends with you, lady,” he quoted, and Eleanor smiled.
“Do, good friend.”
They parted ways at the main staircase, Frank heading deeper into the school towards the Ravenclaw Common Room, while the other three headed up the stairs.
“So, do you have any plans for Valentine’s Day?” asked Peter, as they climbed through the Portrait Hole.
“Not as such,” she said. “I’m intending to keep my head down and get some homework done. It’s not like I’ll get anything.”
“Oh, I doubt that,” said James. “You’re dead pretty, have a masterful sense of humour and are still sufficiently new about the place to stay in people’s heads. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you didn’t have more than a few of the men of Hogwarts lusting after you.”
“So delicately put,” she scoffed. “I’m truly flattered.”
“I mean it. Just you wait, come February the fourteenth you’ll be being swamped by admirers.”
Eleanor muttered something that sounded like: ‘Even more reason to keep my head down,’ and wished them both a good night.
“And I know who two of them will be,” continued James, as she moved out of earshot. “I think we’re going to have to keep a very close eye on her, Wormy…”
“Why? Because of Sirius? I know she keeps saying he doesn’t fancy her, but it’s fairly obvious to everyone else.” James nodded.
“Not just him… remember when Moony and Eleanor were hanging out, just after she’d told him not to be stupid about his Furry Little Problem, and you said you reckoned he fancied her?”
“Oh bloody hell, I’d forgotten that!” cried Peter. “So Padfoot’s down because he fancies her and she won’t give him the time of day, and Remus is down because he fancies her and knows Sirius does too?”
James nodded soberly; Peter put his hand to his head.
“Eventually one of them is going to make a move and the other one is going to kill him! What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know… maybe the first thing to do is to figure out which one of them she likes, and go from there…”
“Well, she does spend a lot of time with Moony,” said Peter.
“Yeah, but studying, it’s not like they’re snogging behind statues or tearing each others’ clothes off in the dorm’ or anything… although she did relinquish her pants to him last term,” he added thoughtfully. “I can’t see her giving them to Sirius.”
“But that was the night the two of them disappeared for ages… you remember, Sirius didn’t come back until well after two – I had to get up to go to the bathroom and I looked.”
James sighed. This wasn’t getting them anywhere.
“The trouble is, both of them would work well as a couple… we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“And then run damage control with whoever she doesn’t go for… or both of them, if she goes for someone else entirely – try to protect any innocent bystanders.”
The two boys looked at each other. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about.
The big day dawned slowly, as if the wasn’t certain it really wanted to, after all, and might just stay in bed and read, thank you very much. Since it was both a Saturday and a Hogsmeade visit, both Lily and Alice were up early, chattering excitedly about the day ahead and unconsciously preening. They both looked beautiful, and Eleanor told them so. Eleanor, who fully intended to go to Hogsmeade and speak to the absolute fewest number of people possible and then return to the castle and hide somewhere until after midnight, wasn’t really paying attention to her appearance, but apparently her room-mates were.
“You can’t go to breakfast like that,” said Alice, as Eleanor made a move towards the door.
“What?” she said, looking down at herself; she’d thrown on an old jumper and an ancient pair of jeans, not even bothering with a t-shirt or a hairbrush.
“It’s Valentine’s Day!” said Alice. “You should be wearing something that makes you feel fabulous…”
She was about to tell her that she was perfectly comfortable as she was, but stopped herself; the jumper was a little itchy, the jeans let in rather too much ventilation for February and her hair was, more or less, in the process of forming it’s own anarchic government and fleeing for safety in every direction it could.
“This is a cunning plan not to get noticed, isn’t it,” said Lily, flatly.
Eleanor looked sheepish.
“But I don’t want any attention,” she whined. “Not today, not from creepy boys who I don’t know!”
“Well then, we’ll just have to get you attention from the non-creepy boys you do know,” said Alice, matter-of-factly. “Remus and Sirius will look after you, or they’ll have to answer to us. You shouldn’t put yourself down on any day of the year, Ellie, because you’re lovely.”
Eleanor just stared at her; aware that she was being rude, she sputtered something akin to ‘thank you’ at her friend as Lily steered her back to her own wardrobe.
“Right,” she said. “Alice, you go and inform the boys we’ll be late for breakfast and not to worry, and that Remus and Sirius are required as chaperones for our lovely Eleanor today.”
“No arguments, Missy,” said Lily, as Alice saluted and ran out of the room. “Right, jumper and jeans off, please.”
“But Lily –”
“You will do as you’re told, or I’ll hex you,” she said, and Eleanor gave in. Sometimes it was just simpler. “You might be brimming with maiden scorn in the play, but today you’re going to be the biddable one my buxom cousin. Strip.”
By the time Alice had bustled back upstairs, Eleanor was stood in her underwear, shivering and grumbling under her breath as Lily rummaged in her wardrobe.
“They wait upon you,” she said, as Lily shot her a look. “I sent Remus to scrub up – he seems to have hit upon the same cunning plan as you Eleanor. Although I have to say, he might have looked a bit messy, but it was actually pretty sexy. His clothes were all rumpled – messy hair, shoes untied, the works.”
“I’ll tell Frank,” said Lily, smiling.
“No you won’t, because you agree and from how she’s blushing, so does Eleanor,” Alice replied, grinning.
“You don’t think I might be blushing because you two are making me stand here in naught but my knickers?”
“Oh… Look Lily, could you hurry up? I’m bloody freezing here,” she said, trying to sound more annoyed than anything else.
“Patience is a virtue,” came her friend’s voice from the inner depths of the cupboard.
“A virtue is a grace, grace is a little girl who never washed her face,” finished Eleanor, shivering.
“Morning ladies! Oh, sorry Eleanor, didn’t realise you were changing,” said Claire cheerfully as settled on Lily’s bed.
“Neither did I,” muttered Eleanor darkly, glaring at her. “You look lovely by the way.”
“Thanks! The boys filled me in.”
“And you didn’t think that perhaps I required a daring rescue?”
“No, I thought I’d come up and giggle – I mean: ‘give moral support’,” she said, grinning.
Eleanor grumbled something extremely rude; all three girls ignored her.
“Here,” commanded Lily, holding out a much newer pair of jeans. “And this top… and this jumper. Claire, you can have a rummage for jewellery – the box on the bedside table. Alice, you’re on hair.”
“I can brush my own hair!” protested Eleanor as Lily lost patience and simply held Eleanor’s arms up, pulling the pretty, floral dress over her head. “Why am I wearing a dress with jeans?” she asked in resignation.
“Because it’s February and the dress is short,” said Lily. “Your go, Alice.”
Eleanor sat on the bed with her arms crossed and a murderous look on her face as Alice somehow convinced her hair to stop its erratic vertiginous inclinations and instead frame her face with fronds of slightly tawny gold. Loath as she was to admit it, it looked really good. She even let them suggest light make-up; in for a penny, in for a pound, she thought.
By the time she was ushered into the Common Room she was feeling much more herself, if only by dint of the fact that she’d been allowed to bring a coat.
At least my jumper’s not itchy, she thought, surveying her chaperones. Sirius looked devilishly handsome as usual, and for once she didn’t mind the idea of being on his arm. Remus was hanging back, looking rather like she imagined she did: mutinous; vaguely she wondered whether he’d been treated to a similar forcible overhaul by the boys. His hair was still defiantly messy however, and he ran his hand through it again to make it worse as she wandered over. Alice had been right, it was sexy. Damn’ him.
“You two look after her,” instructed Lily, severely. Sirius snapped to attention and saluted, making both Eleanor and Remus roll their eyes; he poked Remus in the ribs until he did the same.
“Yes Lily,” he said, with a sigh.
They made a very forlorn pair as they traipsed down to breakfast, following Sirius who was chattering happily to a nervous fifth year that had made the mistake of asking him for dating advice.
“You look great,” said Remus glumly.
“You too. Sirius and James?”
“Sirius and James.”
“Merlin help us.”
“Let’s think of it this way,” he said to her as they crossed through the Entrance Hall. “We have the opportunity to spend a large quantity of time in one another’s company, flirting is practically a requirement, we can’t take it any further because there will never be a point where we’re alone… I think we should just enjoy ourselves.”
Debating the merits of this proposal, Eleanor was startled by a shrill whistle from the Slytherin table. Turning she saw Mulciber and his cronies raking their eyes over her appreciatively.
Yeurch, she thought, raising a disgusted eyebrow. Both Remus and Sirius were suddenly very close on either side of her.
“Why don’t you ditch those losers and join the real men?” rumbled Mulciber. “We can show you a really good time, over and over.” He and his friends leered unpleasantly.
“Over my dead body,” growled Remus, surprising everyone.
“That could be arranged, Golden Boy,” said Mulciber, leering and flexing his muscles. “It won’t take long, babe, and then we could be off – I know some quiet corridors where those scags wouldn’t walk in on us.”
“From what I hear Mulciber, you’re more than prepared to take care of yourself,” said Eleanor coolly. Sirius sniggered.
“Eh?” The mountain that was Mulciber’s forehead creased in confusion.
Evan Rosier poked his friend in the ribs.
“I think she’s calling you a wanker.”
“I am, Rosier, well done. Would you like a gold star?”
Beside her, Sirius leaned back slightly and remarked to a livid Remus:
“She’s good. We should piss her off more often.”
“Listen here you little bitch, I could give you something you’ve never even dreamed of,” Mulciber snarled, his brain finally catching up with the conversation.
This time both boys made angry moves towards their wands, but Eleanor took a step forward, drawing herself up.
“I can do without venereal disease thanks all the same, and frankly boys, I’d rather have sex with Slughorn. Enjoy Hogsmeade.”
She turned, pulling Sirius and Remus after her and strode off towards the Gryffindor table, leaving the two hulking Slytherins sputtering after them.
She’d rather enjoyed the altercation, she realised as she tucked in to her toast. When they eventually figured out what they’d said to her she’d be in trouble, but hopefully it would be the summer holidays by then.
Remus was still shaking with anger beside her and she laid a soothing hand on his leg as she ate. Sirius too, kept looking over at the Slytherin table and glaring, but there really was a limit to what they could do in public.
“Let it go, boys,” she said. “I was promised a pair of chaperones, not vengeful knights.”
“He’s odious!” spat Remus. “He had no right –”
“No, he didn’t, and I called him on it. It’s done with.”
“He gets away with too much,” said Sirius, angrily spearing a few rashers of bacon from a passing platter. “There was this girl, Mary MacDonald…” he trailed off as Remus shook his head.
“We don’t know that for sure, Pads.”
“We do know he’s a knobhead.”
“No argument,” said Eleanor, sipping her orange juice thoughtfully. “Who’s Mary MacDonald?”
Remus and Sirius exchanged a look loaded with inaccessible and irascible information.
“She left,” said Sirius shortly. He took a deep, calming breath. “So. I was thinking: Honeydukes, Gladrags and Zonkos today. That ok with you two?”
“I need to go to Scrivenshafts and Dervish and Banges,” said Remus, still frowning.
“I’d like to call in at the Post Office,” said Eleanor. “I need some wrapping paper and stuff, it’s Madame Estelle’s birthday and I want to send her some fudge.”
“Madame Estelle?” Sirius raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Sounds like some kind of back-street dominatrix affair.” Remus thwapped him with his fork.
“My aging and very sweet housekeeper,” said Eleanor. “Who would skin you alive if she found out you even thought you knew what you’d just accused her of.”
“She’d love me, I’m Prince Charming, me,” he grinned toothily, and Eleanor fought the urge to gag; Remus hit him with the fork again.
“Chew your food you uncultured mutt,” he half-growled, still fuming about Mulciber.
“I’m not uncultured!” protested Sirius. “I’ve read dirty books in almost every known language – and some dead ones.” He winked at Eleanor. “That is, dead sexy ones.”
He shot back as the fork embedded itself into the table in front of him and reverberated with a hum.