Eighth Aside - Tacit Permission
At Sirius’s insistence, they spent a merry afternoon in the Three Broomsticks, which was emptier than usual since most of the usual clientele were otherwise engaged. That said, the village residents who generally made themselves scarce on the appearance of a large volume of Hogwarts students, along with several hilariously rowdy teachers, had retaken the pub. The three of them had found a reasonably empty corner and had spent much of the last few hours simply watching their teachers being drunk.
“I’m telling you, if we slipped the odd shot into Minnie’s pumpkin juice she’d not give us half the detentions we’ve got so far this year,” said Sirius, gesticulating wildly with his Butterbeer.
“Yes, and then when she sobered up she’d let Filch at us with his thumb-screws,” said Remus, as Professor McGonagall giggled girlishly at something Professor Sprout had just said. “Honestly, I’ve never seen people put drink away like that lot are.”
“You can’t really blame them,” said Eleanor, finishing her drink. “They have to put up with you lot the rest of the time.”
“Oy,” said Sirius, smacking her lightly and good naturedly on the arm. “We’re not that bad.”
“Yes we are,” said Remus, with a smile. “I’d have thought you’d have counted it as a mark of our success that we’ve driven some of Hogwarts finest teachers to seek solace in the bottle.”
“I happen to know for a fact that they’ve been heavy clandestine drinkers for a while – it can’t just be us. Imagine what having to deal with pillocks like Mulicber every day is like. We, my good friends,” and he gestured widely to include the both of them, “are a veritable breath of fresh air!”
They looked back over at their teachers as Hagrid and Professor Kettleburn began singing a bawdy goblin tune, Professor Flitwick conducting them cheerfully with his tankard.
“There is really no way we can justifiably be held responsible for that,” said Sirius. “That’s years of unruly classes at work, right there.”
“Yes, but you have to admit you must be a contributing factor,” observed Eleanor.
“We keep them on their toes, that’s all,” said Sirius firmly. “About time for a refill, eh Moony?” he wiggled his tankard at his friend, who nodded and collected their assorted drinking vessels, fingers accidentally grazing Eleanor’s hand as he picked up her glass.
“Actually, I fancy a mead if you’ll stretch to it.”
“No worries, lunch was fabulous darling,” Remus drawled, making Eleanor giggle.
“See, I told you he fancied me,” Sirius grinned as Remus joined the long queue at the bar. He was just behind Professor Sprout who noticed her student and clapped him on the back merrily, nearly knocking him over. Sirius and Eleanor roared with laughter; whatever Professor Sprout was saying to Remus was making him alternately blanch and blush, and it made for entertaining viewing. He must have heard their laughter as he turned and gave them his most ferocious glare at the earliest opportunity. They stuck their tongues out at him.
Still watching her hapless tutors, Eleanor became aware of Sirius’s eyes on her.
“What?” she asked, turning to look at him. He was wearing that same wistful expression he’d had in Dervish and Banges. Somewhere in the back of Eleanor’s mind, alarm bells began to go off.
“Ellie, can I ask you something?” he asked, quietly. She nodded and Sirius took a deep breath.
“Have you ever… no it’s silly,” he trailed off, looking uncomfortable.
“Go on Sirius, whatever it is is clearly bothering you.”
“Well, ok, but you’re not allowed to laugh… have you ever fallen in love?”
“See, I told you it was silly,” said Sirius, unhappily. “Forget I said anything.” His body language said quite clearly that the matter was closed.
Eleanor shut her eyes briefly. Why did everything have to be this damned complicated?
“No, it’s not silly. I have, actually.”
“You have?” Just the barest glimmer of hope was shining from behind his armour. She’d never really noticed it before but Sirius always seemed to hide behind something – his garrulous friends, his larger than life personality, his sexuality, his rather odd sense of humour. She wondered what it was that he was hiding from.
“Yes, I have.”
She tried really hard to ignore the hope in his voice.
“I’d probably have been too young for it really to count as love if it weren’t.”
“Oh, I dunno – look at James and Lily.”
“I think that’s more of a lasting obsession that has matured into love.”
“I suppose,” he was quiet for a moment, giving her a sidelong look, as if he couldn’t quite meet her eyes. “Is it supposed to hurt?”
Eleanor thought about this.
“Well, when you’re little everyone tells you that it’s all love-at-first-sight and happily-ever-after, but I think that basically that’s bollocks. There’s a wealth of literature from the past millennium suggesting that it’s akin to torture – I suspect I could subject you to a lengthy philosophical debate on the matter, but that’s not what you’re after is it?”
“No… so, it’s not supposed to hurt, but generally it does?”
“So it would seem. But there have to be good bits too, otherwise it’s not love but obsession… and that’s just not good for anyone.”
Sirius appeared to consider this, his handsome features darkened in contemplation.
“Why do you ask?”
“Oh… er… can you keep a secret?”
Was Sirius actually blushing?
“Right, well, there’s this girl.” He shot her another sideways look. “She’s funny, and smart, and sexy, and lovely… and I think – I know – I’ve fallen for her. Sounds a bit girly when you say it out loud like that,” he said, frowning at himself.
“Not really,” Eleanor said, trying not to look as panicked as she felt. “Men fall in love too – it’s just part of life.”
He flashed her a twisted and eloquent grin.
“But,” he said, “I’m not good enough for her.”
A faint hope awoke in Eleanor.
“You’ve spoken to her?”
“No,” he said, and the Eleanor in her own mind smacked her head on an imagined desk. “But I know it – I’m an arrogant, oversexed prat. I cause trouble wherever I go – and I enjoy it – I’m unstable, I upset people without meaning to, I’m uncouth, and frankly, a bit of a whore. She’s everything I never thought I’d want… and I’m just a mess,” he finished miserably.
Despite how potentially dangerous this could be, she couldn’t let her friend continue like this.
“Well to hell with that, Sirius, you’re not that bad –” she began, but he gave her a look that was equal parts disbelief and abject distress, and she stopped. “Do you remember that night you boys were sneaking up to the girls’ dormitory and you ran off with my knickers?” she asked, and he looked up at her, confused.
“Yeah,” he said, wondering where this was going.
“And when you hexed me I just broke down?”
“Exactly – all I can do is mess up! Ow! What was that for?”
“Interrupting,” she said, folding her arms. “You noticed that I was upset and you did something about it. You looked after me and then stayed with me until I felt better. Those are not the actions of an arrogant, oversexed prat.”
He looked at her, thinking it through.
“Even if mostly I was trying not to imagine you in naught but your underwear?”
Eleanor winced internally.
“You’re a teenage boy, that’s par for the course.”
“Hmm,” he said, ruminating.
“And at the Autumn Gala, you were the perfect gentleman,” Eleanor continued.
“Yeah, until I abandoned you and ran off with – how did you put it? A ‘bit of muslin’?”
“That was a bit…”
“Stupid. But I didn’t mind, and you and Trixie were clearly enjoying yourselves.”
Eleanor sighed. One way or another Sirius was going to have to sort himself out, and she was going to help him, even if it meant staying apart from Remus for a bit longer. He’d understand.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“You’re not going to spend the rest of the year moping about are you?”
Eleanor gave him a Look.
“I don’t really know what to do,” he clarified. “I mean, usually I’m just about love them and leave them – or nip off to the nearest broom closet between classes and leave them – but this is just love them and love them, and… well, she deserves more than I know how to offer. A girl like that warrants the royal treatment –” he looked up at her, “-like you, for example. If I were going to seduce you, I wouldn’t be messing about with all my usual tricks – for one thing you’d see straight through them, and I wouldn’t want to hurt you.”
Eleanor blanched, but he didn’t seem to have noticed.
“I’ve been trying to be more responsible – not running off with the nearest totty, not making lewd suggestions all the time – I’m even trying harder in classes, and in the play – and I’d hoped that would be an opportunity to get to know her better … but…”
“You still don’t think it’s enough?” Eleanor tried hard not to remember how much he’d wanted to play Benedick…
“No, I don’t… and on top of that I’m really bloody horny all the damned time.”
He sat back, a picture of frustration, and Eleanor filed that particular outburst under ‘too much information’.
“I can see why you’re feeling a bit off…” she said, and he grunted. They watched Remus sag with relief as Professor Sprout reached the bar and turned her attention to her order.
“Listen, Sirius. Am I right in thinking you haven’t approached this girl yet?”
“Not in any conventional way…”
“Right, so you’re not tied to her, not really?”
“Other than the fact I can’t even shut my eyes without seeing her? No, not at all,” he grumbled.
“Well then what’s wrong with seeing someone else for a few hours?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s not like you and ‘Miss Perfect’ are actually dating, is it?”
“No…” he said, following her line of thought.
“Then surely it would be alright, every so often, to see someone else. If nothing else, you’ll be less frustrated, and you never know, it might make her a little jealous.”
“She really doesn’t think of me like that, Ellie.”
“Even so. Trixie’s over there, you know,” she nodded to the corner behind her and watched as his eyes followed the line of the buxom seventh year’s body.
“I’ve been trying not to notice…” he said, wretchedly; he looked at her. “Is it really alright, Ellie? I mean –” he bit his lip. “If it were you I’d fallen for… and you knew what I’ve just told you…”
Eleanor leaned forward slightly.
“Sirius, are you asking my permission?”
He looked at her for a good few moments.
“I… Yes. I reckon I am.”
“You’re really not my type you know.”
“I know,” and this time his smile was much more like the devilish Sirius she knew. She leaned back again.
“Then I’d say go for it. If you’re not going to do anything sensible about this, then you may as well enjoy Trixie’s company before she finishes school this summer. If this girl is in our year,” she raised an eyebrow and he nodded, “then you’ve got all summer to sort yourself out.”
He stared at her for a moment, then his whole body relaxed.
“Thanks love,” he said, and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
Eleanor shrugged. She appeared to have cheered Sirius up at least… If she’d needed any confirmation that it was her he’d fallen for, he’d just given it. Great.
She gave Remus a half-hearted smile as he returned with their drinks, indicating on his questioning look that she’d tell him later. Sirius was once again his happy-go-lucky self, and chattered along cheerfully with Remus; Eleanor suddenly didn’t feel as talkative as she had earlier. She drank her Butterbeer rather more quickly than she’d intended and was soon left staring out at the crowd of revellers with nothing to do. She noticed Frank and Alice leaving the pub and absently wondered how long they’d been there; she waved at Alice, but the other girl mustn’t have been able to see her, as she left without a second glance.
She’d been debating making her own way back up to the Castle – it was dark outside now and torches were flickering in their brackets – when a shadow fell across the table. Both her friends tensed; she knew without looking that Sirius was already holding his wand under the table.
“May I have a word with you, Eleanor?”
“You may bloody not,” Sirius snarled. Remus stayed quiet; whatever there was between him and Severus he was clearly not proud of.
“I rather think that’s up to me, Sirius,” said Eleanor pointedly.
He was about to argue, but she didn’t give him time.
“Remus, would you look after my stuff for a minute? Thanks.”
She piloted Severus around the tables and out of the pub.
“Was coming up to me when I was sat next to Sirius the most sensible idea you’ve ever had?” she asked as they stamped their feet in the cold.
“Probably not, but it was now or never,” he said, trying to chafe some heat into his hands.
“I had to talk to you – now don’t look like that, this isn’t some ill-advised moment of Valentine’s Day foolishness,” he smiled, and Eleanor noticed that when he did he looked younger, healthier. “I’ve been meaning to speak to you for a while but the opportunity hasn’t arisen. I wanted to thank you again for your help last month – and to give you this –” he held out a package wrapped in sleek black paper. “It only just arrived – really, you’ll have to forgive me but my intentions are about as un-romantic as you can get.”
Eleanor smiled, a little relieved.
“Believe me that’s a delight to hear, after the day I’ve had,” she said, taking the proffered package and beginning to unwrap it with numb and uncooperative fingers. Severus chuckled.
“Yes, I heard about Mulciber and Rosier… and the girls. Algie told me you’d been very kind when you turned him down too… and given your chaperones…” he gave her a hard look. “Just what have you been doing to the male population of Hogwarts?”
Eleanor contrived to look withering.
“No really Wren, if I didn’t know you better – and if you were Slytherin – I’d say you’d been brewing love potions.”
“I’ll take that as an attempt at humour.”
“As it was meant,” Severus smiled.
“We have an… alliance of sorts. Neither of us are particularly impressed by the other goons in our house,” he paused, and smiled. “Since we’re Slytherin we have a mutually beneficial relationship: he can prevent most of the in-house damage my… status incurs, and I can prevent him from failing Potions.”
“That’s good,” said Eleanor. “It’s nice to know that you aren’t stuck in there on your own.” Finally managing to get into the tightly wrapped package she gave a little squeal of delight. “Oh Severus, you shouldn’t have!”
“Yes I should,” he said, smiling. “I’ve never healed that fast, and since I knew how much you enjoy Potions...”
Eleanor grinned as she prised open the case of ‘The Advanced Potion Master’s Kit’: inside were a series of no-nonsense crystal vials and silver instruments, along with several paper packages of rare ingredients. The accompanying book was satisfyingly practical looking and, from the look of is as Eleanor gave it a brief flick through, informative. Carefully, she closed the case again, and gave Severus a kiss on the cheek.
“You really are a peach, Severus,” she said, and grinned at him. “For a Slytherin.”
“You aren’t so bad yourself,” he said, “for a Gryffindor.”
They grinned at one another as the door behind them opened.
“Ah, there you are,” said Remus amiably; if Eleanor hadn’t known him as well as she did she might have missed the slight tension in his voice. “Sorry to interrupt, but Sirius said that if one of us didn’t come out he was going to hex Snape into the next century.” He sounded almost apologetic. “I thought that perhaps it would be less explosive if I were the one to come out – although given how impatient he is it’s only a matter of time…”
“Thanks,” said Eleanor. “Better go then, I suppose,” she added to Severus, who nodded.
“Not to worry. See you in Potions?”
“Absolutely, and thanks again,” she grinned, and turned to go back into the pub, but Remus was still stood looking at Severus.
“Look,” he said, looking deeply uncomfortable. “About last year –”
“I know,” said Severus. “It wasn’t your idea.”
Eleanor looked from one boy to the other, trying to work out what they were talking about.
“I shouldn’t have let them –”
“You didn’t know… and I should have respected your privacy.”
From the way they were both wringing their hands, bodies tense, she guessed that this was a moment neither had suspected would ever come.
“Still… I’m sorry. And thank you for not –”
“I was ordered not to… but I wouldn’t. Not anymore.”
“Well then,” he said, and turned to go.
“Lupin?” Severus sounded uncertain now.
“What you said – at the Gala – thanks…” he said, quietly.
“Oh – er – no problem…” he glanced at Eleanor before continuing, and again she wondered if she were intruding on something. “Er – did it help?”
Severus gave a hollow laugh.
“No,” and he too glanced at Eleanor, though his eyes seemed to be saying something different than Remus’s had. “Did it help you?”
“Not at all,” Remus chuckled.
This time as they turned to leave there was a new acceptance in the boys’ faces; a tacit acknowledgment of a truce neither of them had expected, but neither of them would reject. As they strode off in opposite directions, Eleanor wondered what on earth it was she had just witnessed.
“I can’t believe him!” said Remus angrily as he and Eleanor walked back up to the Castle, the golden lights from the hundreds of windows spilling out into the cold grounds. “First he’s all over you and then he goes off with that trollop!” he spat, his breath forming an angry cloud of steam above his head.
“Calm down, Remus!” cried Eleanor. “And Trixie isn’t a trollop – at least, I’ve never seen her sneak off with anyone other than Sirius…”
“I wish he’d just bloody well make his mind up!” he growled. “And then either I could try to get over you or kiss you until your toes curl up – I’m just sick of being stuck in between the two!”
He was really angry now, and when he turned to her there was a tinge of amber in his grey eyes.
“And you don’t help! Being all beautiful and kind and funny and there! Driving me wild without knowing it – you have to know you’re doing it!” he snarled, and for the first time Eleanor was a little afraid of him. “And he takes your arm and holds your hand and puts his arm around you like no one else cares! And he calls you ‘Ellie’ and ‘love’ like it’s his right! Like he’s claimed you, and you’re MINE!” he shouted, face only inches from hers. Eleanor fought the urge to back away, recognising that it wasn’t just Remus who was screaming at her, but the wolf too; if there was one thing she knew about wolves it was that if something ran their instinct was to chase, and Eleanor knew without a doubt that there was no way she’d ever be able to run fast enough.
“Mine,” he said, breathing hard, and the angry swirl of amber in his eyes had almost hidden the grey. Eleanor was suddenly very glad that it wasn’t full moon for another week and a half.
“Not his…” he reached out a hand to her face, and she knew that he could tell she was shaking; his fingers felt rough against the skin of her face. She could see the hurt and anger in his eyes – although she’d known Remus was hers if she could only take him, she hadn’t realised that the wolf might want her too.
Without thinking and without fear she wrapped her arms around his neck, nuzzling her face into his warm shoulder; she felt him start in surprise before his arms encircled her body. She could feel him shaking with anger still, heart beating fast.
“Mine,” he growled into her hair, but she didn’t let go. No matter how angry Remus was, she was willing to bet that neither he nor the wolf would try to hurt her.
“Yours,” she said simply, though her words were largely absorbed by his jumper.
He pulled away from her then, still holding on to her arms, and she could see that the grey was returning to his eyes as he searched her face.
“Both?” he asked, and she understood that the wolf was asking if she meant him too.
“Both,” she said, and kissed him gently. “I’m always yours.”
“Padfoot is pack,” he said, slowly.
“Yes, it’s something of a problem,” she agreed.
“My human is right to wait,” he said, and took a half step away from her, agitated. “It is making him… unhappy.”
Eleanor gave him a grim smile.
“He’s not the only one.”
He looked away into the dark grounds for a few moments, and when he looked back the amber was just a light smudge across his eyes.
“You are worth waiting for,” he said, firmly. She watched his confident expression fade to one of horror as Remus once more assumed control.
“Ellie? Oh Gods – did I hurt you? Did I –”
Eleanor didn’t let him finish, and held him tightly until he stopped panicking.
“I’m fine – you didn’t hurt me, just gave me a bit of a scare, that’s all.” She felt him sag against her in relief.
“Thank Merlin,” he said, and pulled away. He walked a little way up the path and sat on a large rock, taking long, shuddering breaths. “I’m so sorry – I don’t usually let him get the better of me like that,” he said, running his hand through his hair.
“Does that happen often?” Eleanor asked, sitting down beside him.
“Not really… I mean, it used to a lot more before the boys worked out that pushing me to my absolute limit wasn’t a very good idea – I start feeling a lot more wolfish when I’m angry.”
“I suppose that’s why you’ve cultivated an almost endless supply of patience.”
“Yes…” he looked up at her. “You remember that first time we kissed?”
“You mean that time you dragged me out of the library and pushed me up against –”
“That statue, yes,” he finished, uncomfortably. “The closer it is to full moon the more the wolf can push me – so it wasn’t him chasing after you, it was me, but with considerably less self control. What you just saw was him controlling my body…” he trailed off, suddenly afraid that this would be the moment that Eleanor saw sense and made a run for it.
“I don’t think he’d hurt me,” she said, staring off into the dark forest.
“No, he wouldn’t,” said Remus quietly. “He likes you… well, you heard.”
Eleanor took his hand, looking up at him.
“And you both heard me, right?”
“Yes… though you know I don’t think I ever doubted it.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“Remus,” Eleanor asked, softly. “When you change – it’s not really you, I know that… is it really the wolf?”
“No. The werewolf is the worst of both of us – he hates it as much as I do… we get on quite well the rest of the month. Although, having said that, he thinks I’m a bit of a wimp most of the time.”
“I don’t think he’s right,” Eleanor said, giving his hand a squeeze. “I think you’re just brave in a quiet way – I mean, I saw how hard it was for Antoine just to get through each day…”
“Your housekeeper’s nephew?”
“Yes… you know, his own mother threw him out when he was bitten. Wouldn’t even
acknowledge him when she visited… she was furious when she found out that Henrì and Estelle had taken him in, wrote to Maman and tried to convince her to get rid of him. He was fifteen,” Eleanor shook her head. Antoine’s mother had not expected quite the reaction she had got. “Maman made sure that he had a comfortable room in the chalet, provided food and good tutors and rebuilt the barn so he could transform in there and not hurt anyone. He used to give me piggy-backs when I was little… then, when I was thirteen, some local boys broke into the barn to take a look at what was making all the noise. None of them were hurt, thank Merlin, but they ran back to the village in terror. You can imagine what happened the next night – they chased him out of the province… people can be so stupid.”
“They were afraid.”
“They had no reason to be,” said Eleanor firmly. “And when his new neighbours found out about him in Toulouse, they didn’t do anything – they recognised that he wasn’t a threat – they just treat him like anyone else. And they’re Muggles.”
Remus laughed out loud at that.
“You know, that’s one of the reasons I love being around you, Ellie,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulders. “You give me hope.”
Eleanor leant against him, chuckling.
“You know,” he said, a frown creeping onto his face and into his voice. “If Padfoot eventually does declare his undying love for you I don’t know if I will be able to give you up…”
“I was thinking the same thing,” said Eleanor, sadly. “We’re not very good at this ‘not acting on our feelings thing’, are we…”
They sat in glum silence for a few minutes, until the oppressive cold forced them to move their numbing limbs and start back up the hill.
Remus gave a great sigh.
“Thou and I are too wise to woo,” he said.
“Hmm? Oh yes, I know. But thou and I are too wise to woo.”
“Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably,” repeated Eleanor.
“Yes well, Beatrice and Benedick didn’t have to worry about Don John’s feelings, did they.”
“I still can’t believe he went off with Trixie like that,” grumbled Remus as they reached a small circle of standing stones at the crest of the hill.
“Er-” said Eleanor, and Remus turned to look at her.
“I was going to tell you before you went all wolf-man on me…” she told him about the unsettling conversations she and Sirius had had in Dervish and Banges and The Three Broomsticks. By the time she’d finished they were halfway up the Great Staircase.
“Well, bollocks,” said Remus, with feeling. “I guess we were right about him then…”
“He asked your permission…”
“Like you were…”
“Bugger,” he said, and appeared to think about it some more. “Zebra bastard, bastard zebra fucker!” he said.* Several nearby portraits stared at him, scandalised; one of them was covering the ears of a young lady who must have been his daughter. She was giggling.
“Sorry,” said Remus, looking sheepish.
“I don’t think ‘zebra’ is actually an expletive.”
“No, but it’s fun to say…”
“You know, I’ve been thinking… since Sirius is knowingly off with someone else tonight…”
“We could be off together somewhere?” Remus finished, thoughtfully. “He did ask your permission…”
“Which is tantamount to giving me his…”
They looked at one another.
“We couldn’t… could we?” asked Eleanor; Remus looked at his watch.
“Well we’ve missed dinner, either way…” he said. “Want to drop off our stuff and go in search of sustenance?”
“That’s the best offer I’ve had all day,” said Eleanor, happily, taking his arm. “Except I can’t leave my stuff in my room – Lily asked if she and James could use it tonight.”
“Well, you can leave it in mine if you want… ‘Cassiopeia’.”
“You watch your mouth young man,” said the Fat Lady imperiously as she swung forward to admit them. “Violet’s been telling me you’ve the most inventive uses of the word ‘zebra’ she’s ever heard.”
“Shut up,” he said to Eleanor as she sniggered at him. “Give me your bag, I’ll just drop them up-”
“I wouldn’t,” said a voice behind them. It was Corin, the Pygmy Puff torturer. “I made the younger girls go to bed,” he said, and Eleanor remembered that that included his sister. “It was just a bit too weird.”
Eleanor cocked her head to one side. The sounds of someone moaning in pleasure were emanating from the direction of the sixth-year boys’ dormitory, along with rhythmic thumping.
“Oh. Lovely,” she said.
Remus made a face.
“Alright, wait here a moment,” he said, and ran up the stairs. Abruptly the noises stopped. “He always forgets silencing charms,” he said, coming back down. “Sorry about that Corin – quick thinking about the younger kids though… where are the boys?”
“Holed up in the dormitories. It’s quieter in there… we’re taking it in turns to warn people off,” he said.
“Well… you shouldn’t need to from now,” Remus said. “I’d try to get some sleep if you can.”
Despite herself, Eleanor nearly laughed; the younger boy had very nearly saluted.
“So,” said Remus, taking her arm. “May I have the honour of escorting you tonight Miss Wren?”
“Indeed you may, Mr Lupin,” she laughed. “Particularly since it appears that neither of us is likely to get any sleep this evening.”
“Where are we going?” asked Eleanor, as Remus led her through the dark school.
“The kitchens,” he replied, pausing before a large oil painting of a bowl of fruit.
“Why does it not surprise me that you, a prefect, would know how to sneak into the kitchens? Surely they’re out of bounds.”
“I may be a prefect,” said Remus, with a roguish grin. “But I am also a Marauder, and you –” he said, reaching out and tickling the pear in the painting, “–are worth breaking a few rules for. Besides,” he said, as he helped her through the painting. “The vast majority of our teachers are probably still getting drunk in the Three Broomsticks… believe me when I say that Professor Sprout would be in no fit state to discipline anyone.” He shuddered.
“What was she saying to you, anyway?”
“I’m not telling you,” he said, firmly. “Ever. Ah, here we are… Evening chaps!” he called brightly, as a veritable hoard of house elves approached them, chattering excitedly in their high pitched voices. “This is Eleanor, and I promised her an evening to remember –”
“Hello,” said Eleanor, giving a small wave.
“But we seem to have missed dinner – do you think you could help us out?”
“Absolutely, Sir!” cried an elf near Remus’s knees. “Hoskin will be glad to help, Sir!”
Remus beamed down at the elf, which only seemed to make him and his friends more excited.
“Thank you, Hoskin,” he said, and knelt down beside the elf to whisper in his bat-like ear. Eleanor craned to hear him, but she couldn’t hear a thing over the general burble of delighted elf-kind. Hoskin gave an impressive salute for someone of his size and the elves scattered about the kitchens, apparently intent upon their own missions.
“I’d be prepared to eat a lot,” said Remus quietly as he led her to a reasonably secluded corner of the first cavernous room. “They’re really enthusiastic.”
“So I can see,” said Eleanor, watching a table and chairs appear as if from nowhere, being set at lightening speed. “I didn’t know they could move this fast.”
“It’s why you tend not to see them at work – it’s a matter of pride to them.”
“Well I think they do a splendid job,” said Eleanor, loud enough for the nearest elves to hear her. They seemed to grow a few inches and scurried off so fast that she had to shake her head to keep from seeing spots. “Sweet Merlin.”
“Now, Miss Wren, if I might take your satchel? Thank you. I’m afraid I must ask you to shut your eyes.”
“Do you trust me?”
Eleanor bit her lip.
“Then close your eyes,” he said, walking behind her and covering her eyes with his hands.
There was the sound of quite a large amount of movement occurring at roughly knee height; she could feel his body pressing against her back and his warm breath on her neck. She relaxed against him, and heard the slight hitch in his breath that this caused.
“Yes, my love?”
“What are you up to?”
“Something devious, I assure you.”
“Ah, good. Here was me thinking we were just having dinner…”
“We are… ah, I think you can open them again,” he said lowering his hands.
The elves had surpassed themselves; where before had been nothing but a dusty corner there was now a table set for two, complete with a candle and a rose in a jam jar. The elves were nowhere to be seen.
“May I?” asked Remus, pulling out a chair for her; Eleanor took her seat, amused and flattered by his gallantry.
“I meant to thank you, earlier,” Eleanor said. “For the tea-rose. It’s beautiful.”
“It’s charmed not to fade,” he said. “And you’re welcome. I couldn’t let today go past without any acknowledgement.”
“Nor could I,” said Eleanor, extracting two packages from her satchel. “I wasn’t going to give them to you today, but since we have ‘permission’…”
“Thank you…” Remus said, unwrapping the first box. “Oh, Ellie, this is great!” She smiled fondly as he carefully picked through the writing kit. “I’ve always wanted a decent set of quills, but I’ve never been able to aff-” he broke off, laughing. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she said. “Although it’s sort of a selfish gift…”
“I like watching you write,” she shrugged. “And this way I’ll be absolutely certain that you’ll write to me over the summer.”
“I would have anyway,” he said, chuckling. “Before I open this,” he said, hand lying over the second package. “I have something else for you… I was going to save it for a special occasion, but I suppose this sort of counts.”
He passed her a small leather box and bit his lip. Lifting the lid she found a slim chrome bracelet, the metal twisting on itself around the circle. Tiny vine roses were engraved on both sides.
“It’s beautiful, Remus…” she said, holding it up to the light to admire it.
“It’s a Möbius strip,” he said. “It’s a surface with one continuous side formed by joining the ends of something after twisting one end over on itself…” he continued, aware that he sounded embarrassingly like a dictionary. “It symbolises infinity… or eternity… here,” he said blushing. Leaning forwards, he tapped the bracelet with the tip of his wand. Subtly, and as if they’d always been there, words formed amongst the vines and leaves and flowers. Twisting it around, Eleanor read the inscription:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. **
“Sonnet one hundred and sixteen…”
“You do love your Shakespeare… I mean every word.”
“I… I love it, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he beamed as she slipped it onto her wrist.
“Oh, right,” he said, realising he’d been gazing at her. He glanced up at her as he applied himself to the wrappings; she was fingering the bracelet absently, a warm smile on her face. He grinned.
“This is –” he said, staring at the book in his hands. He opened the cover: “Signed!”
Eleanor had to cover her mouth to stop from laughing out loud; he’d practically squealed.
“Well I saw that your copy was from the library, and I thought, since I know him…”
“It’s brilliant, Ellie, thank you! I – thanks!”
They beamed at each other.
*I hold my other half Erador and his mate JaffaCakeLover fully responsible for this. They found this ‘Buffy swears’ soundboard on the internet and now when I’m really peeved (or if I stub my toe or something) this is what comes to mind.
** There should be a rhyming couplet at the end of this sonnet (as with all sonnets) but I didn’t think the words suited. The sonnet finishes as follows:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.