Eleventh Aside - A Light in the Dark
It was a tiny sound that woke him; the quiet scraping of his hangings along their rail. He looked up, befuddled with sleep, to see a silent shape in the darkness, standing above him. Forcing himself to stay still, in case this was another brilliant idea of Padfoot’s, he sniffed the air, not making a sound. The shadow didn’t smell like Padfoot; it didn’t smell like any of the boys…
There was the smell of parchment about them… and darker, unfamiliar smells that he couldn’t quite place… but mostly, what he could smell was pure, unadulterated fear. He frowned. What reason could someone standing over a sleeping boy have to be afraid? It didn’t make sense; he inhaled again.
There was something under the fear, he realised, a note that was familiar: spiced wine… and fallen leaves… and frost… and wood smoke… and blood.
Oh Gods, he thought. Ellie!
He half sat up, moving over to give her room, and she sank, silent and trembling, into his arms. Grabbing his wand from the cabinet, he closed all the hangings around his bed.
“Muffliato,” he hissed, and the sounds of his friends’ snores faded.
He pulled her closer; she seemed to be quivering in his arms, curled up against him as if she were trying to make herself smaller…
“I’m here,” he murmured, soothingly, rubbing comforting circles across her back. “It’s alright, you’re safe, I’ve got you…” he could feel the frightened thump of her heart against his chest as he rocked her back and forth, yet still she was making no sound. “You’re safe, Ellie, it’s alright, I’m here,” he repeated, willing her to be ok and fighting against his own rising panic. Her face was damp, he realised, as she pressed it into his shoulder.
Running his hands up and down her back, his fingers caught on a snag in her shirt – then another – and another. Drawing back slightly, he raised his wand.
“Lumos,” he whispered, then swore.
The snags he’d felt in her shirt were rips and burns… someone had torn a whole sleeve off one side, and there was only one button left, hanging by a delicate thread as if by sheer will power alone. He glanced down, and saw that her skirt was similarly tattered; it had been ripped nearly in two on one side. Her tie was nowhere to be seen… For all that, someone had wrapped their jumper around her, the telltale gleam of green and silver stitching around the neck partially identifying its owner.
He realised then, that he was shaking almost as much as she was; a fury like he’d never known was taking hold of him, and he had no desire to stop it.
Gently, he lifted her chin, allowing her golden hair to fall away, and stared at her, aghast. She’d been crying mutely, as far as he could tell, for some time – her eyes were red and puffy, and there were tear tracks amongst the dirt on her face; he brushed some of them away with his thumb. She winced. Her face was swollen with deep bruises and cuts, and in places blood was mingling with her tears.
“Oh, my beautiful girl,” he said softly. “Who did this to you?”
She stared back at him numbly, unable even to speak.
He felt the growl start deep in his gut; the wolf was stirring now, baying for the blood of those who had hurt his mate. He could smell them on her… he wanted nothing more than to rip out the offending throats. Remus rather had to agree with him, but right now, Eleanor needed them.
“Please, you have to tell me – Ellie, I’ll never let them near you ever again,” he growled.
It might have been his choice of words, or the certainty with which he said them, or even the subtle tone of dark, possessive violence that did it, but her eyes focussed properly on his.
Her mouth opened and closed a few, soundless times.
“Please, love. You have to tell me,” he encouraged, rubbing her back.
She took a deep, steadying breath.
“M-mulciber,” she whispered, and the timbre of his growl deepened. “A-and Ros-ier,” she sobbed, wrapping her arms about herself. The fabric of her torn shirt shifted. Suddenly he realised what had been bothering him… under her shirt her skin was bruised and bare…
“They – your –” he reached out, unable to ask her, and touched the place that the strap of her bra should have been. He glanced down at her skirt: under the tear the very top of her thigh was visible, and there was no fabric there either. Eleanor gave another wracking sob. “Oh, my heart – they didn’t –” he said, shaking with rage and horror.
“N-no,” Eleanor managed. “They tried, but they didn’t get that far. Almost…”
She shuddered, and he pulled her closer.
“We have to get you to Madame Pomfrey –”
“No!” Eleanor cried, and Remus jumped in surprise. “No, I – not the Hospital Wing!”
“Shh, it’s alright, we can stay here, I won’t make you –” he held her and rocked her again, and she stopped struggling. “But… why not?”
“S-severus told me – he said, last time – they waited until Madame Pomfrey had gone to sleep – it – they – Mary MacDonald –”
Remus closed his eyes; Mary had been his friend… she’d pretty much been everyone’s friend. He’d always wondered why she’d refused to tell anyone about her attack – even though most of the student body had suspected…
“Severus?” he asked, looking down at the green-edged jumper that was wrapped around her like a blanket.
“H-he stopped them… came out of nowhere. If he hadn’t, they –” she broke down, clinging to him.
He held her tightly, making soothing noises and stroking her back and hair.
“They can’t get in here,” he said softly, and added privately and if they did they wouldn’t make it out again alive. “You’re safe now…”
Gently, he laid her down in the bed beside him and pulled the covers around her – she was shivering, despite the warmth of the summer night. Lying beside her, he pulled her once more into his arms.
“It’s alright, I’m here…” she clung to him as he extinguished his wand. “Shhh… it’s ok.”
Gradually, her wracking sobs quietened and became soft snores… she was holding his hand tightly in the darkness; it wasn’t until he knew she was asleep that he allowed himself to uncoil a little. Hot, angry tears splashed down his cheeks and into her hair.
Rosier and Mulciber were dead men walking.
It seemed to Remus that he was dragging his way to groggy wakefulness from the nightmare of his life…
He’d been chasing someone through the halls of Hogwarts, and every time he caught them he’d start ripping and tearing at them until there was nothing left but blood and gore and tatters of skin. Then it would begin again. All night he’d been tearing and flaying and dismembering… and that was the strangest thing, because he would have expected the wolf to have been sated by now, but he was still furious… they both were.
Someone shifted sleepily next to him, and he remembered the previous evening with vicious clarity. Turning to look at her, his hand balled into a fist. Even in the gloom of the four-poster bed he could see that she was in a bad way, the bruises and swellings making her almost unrecognisable. She was still holding his hand…
He could hear movement outside now, and very gently he pressed his fingers to her mouth.
She shot awake, and briefly struggled against him until she realised who he was; she stared at him in confusion, and Remus removed his hand from her mouth and pressed it to her lips. He motioned in the general direction of the morning boy noises emanating from the rest of the dormitory.
Getting the message, she settled against him once more, wincing as various of her injuries came into contact with him, or the bed, or just decided to make themselves known.
“Oy, Moony!” Sirius called, from somewhere beyond the muffling hangings. “You coming to breakfast or what?”
Making sure he sounded muffled and unwell, he let out a groan.
“You alright mate?” came James’s voice from the other side of the room.
“Feel like hell,” he said, groaning again. “Didn’t sleep.”
“You want us to get you to Madame Pomfrey?” asked Sirius, whose voice was now a lot less jovial and a good deal closer.
“No, ‘s alright, you’ll miss breakfast. I’ll catch up with some sleep and see you in Charms…”
He could smell Padfoot on the other side of the hangings now, pausing, as if trying to decide whether to leave him to it or just drag him straight to the Hospital Wing.
Despite everything, Eleanor smiled into Remus’s chest; these boys really did care for one another.
“Oh, come on Pads, leave it – he said he was fine…”
“Alright. But if you aren’t any better by the end of Charms I’ll drag you down there myself.”
“Poof,” said Peter good naturedly, apparently grabbing his stuff. There was the brief sound of a neighbourly scuffle.
Someone – probably James – sighed.
“See you later Moony,” he said, and left.
“Yeah, feel better mate,” came Peter’s voice, muffled because of the friendly head lock Sirius had him in.
“Yeah, you get some sleep Moons!”
There was the sound of a door slamming and the noise of the fight diminished along the corridor. Finally, everything in the dormitory was still.
“We should probably give it about half an hour before getting you to the Hospital Wing,” said Remus quietly. “Everyone will be in class…” he pulled one of the hangings open a crack so he could see her better. “Oh, Ellie,” he said, gently brushing a strand of hair out of her blotchy, purpling eyes.
She rested her battered head against his shoulder.
“I must look a right state,” she said, miserably.
He nodded, and she rolled her eyes.
“You weren’t supposed to agree,” she said, and suddenly he knew she’d be ok. With great relief he sent a silent prayer to whomever it was that looked over misbehaving teens; he chuckled, drily.
“Sorry… I didn’t want to lie to you though… and at some point you’ll see for yourself.”
Eleanor grimaced, and then grimaced some more as various parts of her face protested against the movement.
“But Madame Pomfrey will fix you up in no time, and then you’ll be as beautiful as ever…” he trailed off; Eleanor had begun to cry again. “Oh love, I’m sorry,” he said, pulling her into a warm hug.
“It’s – it’s just if I – I’ve never thought of myself as particularly pretty,” she said, sniffling. “But if this is what happens to people who are considered beautiful then I don’t want it. She should just leave my face the way it is…”
“No,” he said, firmly, rubbing her back. “Because then they will have won.”
Eleanor appeared to think about this.
“You’re right. They aren’t going to win,” she said, fiercely, and he was intensely proud of her. “If only I’d kept my mouth shut at Valentine’s…” she mused, quietly. As frightened as she had been, and as appalling an ordeal it had happened to be, her mind had painted a very different picture in the bright light of morning, wrapped tightly in Remus’s warm arms. “They’ve done this before, haven’t they…”
“Mary MacDonald,” confirmed Remus, sadly. “She never told anyone what happened…”
“They threatened her… crept up on her when she was sleeping… in the Hospital Wing… where she thought she was safe… I can see why she didn’t...” She paused, and he felt her stiffen against him. “Well it won’t work this time,” she said, and it was very nearly a growl; the wolf in him pricked up his ears. “I won’t let them hurt anyone else!”
Remus kissed her hair.
And that’s why I love you, he thought.
They’d managed to get all the way to the Hospital Wing without anyone other than a few very concerned portraits seeing them, which in Hogwarts was some kind of minor miracle. Madame Pomfrey wasn’t in her office when Remus tried the door (which was unusual for mid-morning), so they both sat down on a bed to wait. Eleanor’s earlier anger, which had carried her all the way to the Hospital Wing, muttering angry curses under her breath (some of them in French, Remus noted) had faded now, and left her weak and trembling. Remus was very glad that he’d thought to wrap his blanket around her as they’d left the dormitory… he couldn’t tell at the moment whether she was shaking with cold, fear, or annoyance with herself, but whichever it was it worried him. He put an arm around her shoulder, and she laid her head against his neck.
“Remus?” she asked, in a small voice.
“Nothing to thank me for, didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I –”
“I wouldn’t have got out of bed yet… let alone made it out of the dormitory. I wouldn’t have slept last night, and I certainly wouldn’t be this coherent,” she poked him gently in the ribs. “So shut up, and let me thank you.”
“Well, you’re welcome, then.”
They both looked up as Madame Pomfrey appeared at the far end of the corridor; she was accompanied by Professor Slughorn, who appeared to be levitating a stretcher ahead of him.
When they got into the Hospital Wing proper and caught sight of Eleanor, both of them stopped dead in their tracks.
“Merlin’s beard!” exclaimed Professor Slughorn, as Madame Pomfrey let fly a volley of French curses that made Eleanor blush under her bruises. “What in Hecate’s name is going on in this school?” the Potions Master exclaimed, clearly distressed. “First Mr Snape, and now you!”
Madame Pomfrey was advancing on Eleanor with a look torn between intense concern and abject rage at what someone had done to her, but Eleanor had shot out of Remus’s arms at her friend’s name, leaving the blanket crumpled at his side.
“Severus!” she cried, and rushed to the stretcher; its occupant gave a groan of recognition and she grabbed his hand.
“We – er – found him outside the Library,” said Slughorn, clearly astonished at this new development. “Seems to have been trying to get in – we think he was running from someone…”
Remus joined Eleanor by the stretcher, and suppressed a gasp. If Eleanor had looked roughed up it was nothing to what they’d done to Severus. The boy was in a bad way; he looked like he’d taken some pretty nasty hexes before they’d taken him down, and he was bruised and bloodied, as if someone had been kicking every inch of him they could reach. All for protecting Eleanor…
A fresh wave of anger washed over Remus, and he growled.
“I know who did this,” he said, through gritted teeth. Eleanor looked up at him and nodded, giving her permission.
“Wh-” began Professor Slughorn, but Madame Pomfrey got there first.
“You can tell us in a moment Mr Lupin, once I have them settled. Horace, if you would put Mr Snape over there, please? Miss Wren, follow me.”
Eleanor caught Remus’s hand as she passed him, and pulled him along; he was all too happy to acquiesce. Honestly, the thought of leaving Eleanor – even for a moment – galled him.
“See to Severus first,” said Eleanor. “He’s worse – and I’ve slept…”
Madame Pomfrey shot Remus a glance that suggested she understood perfectly where Eleanor had been, (and didn’t necessarily approve) but agreed.
He sat beside her while they waited for Severus’s skin to return to a more human shade (or at least, a more Snape-like shade).
Professor Slughorn was hovering in a worried and fatherly way, eyes flicking between Snape (who, after all, was one of his house) and Eleanor, whom he’d tried and failed to initiate into his ‘Slug Club’. Once or twice he eyed the way Remus and Eleanor were holding hands, but – probably in light of the situation – didn’t say anything.
Soon enough, Severus was being propped up against his pillows by the tutting matron; not for the first time, Remus was reminded of a prim, white hen, fussing about her brood. Severus looked over at Eleanor and grimaced.
“Didn’t look as bad in the dark,” he said, wincing as he spoke.
“I – if I’d known what they’d do I’d have let you into our Common Room,” said Eleanor, as Remus nodded emphatically.
“And wake up to forty-odd angry, un-fed Gryffindors? I’m not sure I’d be any better…”
“They would have stopped at a few hexes,” said Eleanor bluntly.
“Now, Miss Wren,” said Madame Pomfrey. “Your turn.”
She pulled Severus’s jumper from around Eleanor’s shoulders and let out a gasp.
“I – you’re –” the matron took a deep breath and collected herself. “Miss Wren, what happened to you? Your clothes are torn and – certain articles are… missing.”
Eleanor looked up at Madame Pomfrey, and whatever internal strength of will it was that had been holding her together shattered.
“Exactly what it looks like,” she said, and burst into noisy tears.
Madame Pomfrey stared at her for a moment before taking command.
“Horace, fetch Professor Dumbledore,” she ordered, and for once the notoriously vague Slytherin heeded her tone of voice and departed at a speed Remus had never before considered plausible in the rotund and older man. “Miss Wren, I’m going to get you looked at,” she said in a much gentler tone, and turned to Remus. “Mr Lupin, if you could leave –”
She got no further as Eleanor latched herself onto his shirt and refused to let go. He wrapped his arms around her again.
“It’s alright Ellie, I’m not going anywhere,” he said firmly, pointedly giving Madame Pomfrey a look of such defiance that the matron was visibly taken aback. She might have expected such behaviour from Sirius, or even James, but Remus was usually so biddable that her mind was required to make a flying u-turn.
“Very well,” she said, eyeing them with a frown, but I will need Mr Lupin to wait outside the screens – I do need to see to you…” Her expression had softened considerably, and Remus made an effort to unlace Eleanor’s fingers from his clothes as the older witch summoned the screens.
“Come on Ellie, she’s right – I’ll be right here, just next to Severus… all you need to do is call out for me…” reluctantly and miserably she allowed him to pull away. “I’ll be right here,” he repeated, as the screen whizzed past him.
“Now, Miss Wren, let’s get this off you…” said the matron from behind the screen. “That’s right… oh, my dear… what have they done to you…”
Remus turned away, angry and ashamed that he hadn’t been able to protect her. He looked at Severus, whose wounds were healing now; the Slytherin was frowning too, and moved his gaze from the screens to Remus’s troubled face.
“Thank you,” said Remus, quietly.
“I did it for her,” said Severus, not unkindly.
“I know… but if you hadn’t…”
The other boy nodded.
“I cut it pretty close – they’d got pretty far by the time I caught up with them…”
“I’m sorry – for what they did to you,” and this time he snarled audibly as he continued. “I will see them answer for that.”
Severus raised an eyebrow, both at his words and his tone.
Their eyes slid towards the screens as Eleanor let out a whimper.
“You two seem further on,” commented Severus, trying to quiet the cold rage that the sound had elicited in him.
Remus, too, was struggling to contain himself.
“A little… there are, well, complications.”
Severus looked him up and down, shaking his bruised head.
“Bloody Gryffindors, always being noble…”
“That’s enough bad language from you,” said Madame Pomfrey, tolerantly, drawing back the screens.
Eleanor was dressed in pyjamas now, and looking a good deal less bruised. She was still sniffling, however.
She reached out to him as soon as Madame Pomfrey left her side and he took her hand, sitting next to her on the crisp, white, Hospital Wing linen.
“You ok?” he asked, quietly, and she nodded.
Glancing at Madame Pomfrey, who was far enough away for them not to be heard.
“Tell the others,” she hissed, urgently. “I want them to know. I want everyone to know. They won’t get away with what they did to me, or Mary, or Severus,” she glanced at him, and he nodded his assent. “I have a feeling the teachers won’t want you to…”
“I told you, you’re worth breaking the rules for,” he said, gently, and she leaned in against him.
Severus shook his head at them, exasperated; try as he might, he couldn’t stop the corners of his lips twitching upward.
Remus walked slowly down to the Transfiguration courtyard, trying to decide how, precisely, he would murder Mulciber and Rosier.
Upon his arrival, Dumbledore had asked, very quietly, and clearly in some distress, what had transpired. Eleanor had told them: Professor Slughorn growing more agitated as her story progressed, Madame Pomfrey sitting on her other side and rubbing her back, Professor Dumbledore sitting before her, fingers steepled and the twinkle gone from his extraordinarily blue eyes. Remus had remained as quiet as he could, but it wasn’t always possible, given the topic.
She told them how she’d been walking back from Professor Sprout’s office and the torches had gone out… how the hex had held her in place while they took their time with her… how they’d hurt her, and touched her… fingers and hands and lips and teeth all over her petrified body, where they had no right to be… how they’d been about to enjoy her when Severus came sprinting around the corner, hurling hexes and screaming like he was demented.
He’d released her from the Body Bind and they’d run as hard as Eleanor could manage, and he’d wrapped his jumper around her when they had had to pause for breath. He’d taken her as far as the Gryffindor Common Room, and told her not to go to the Hospital Wing – Madame Pomfrey had looked appalled when Severus broke in and told them what had happened to Mary – and that he’d be alright. He’d made her promise to get someone to help her before he’d taken off at a sprint, and she’d retreated into the Common Room, and to Remus’s bed.
If any of the teachers were surprised or scandalised by this titbit, none of them showed it, instead assuring Eleanor that she had been Very Brave.
Then Severus had explained that he’d noticed Mulciber and Rosier watching Eleanor, and how everyone knew who had hurt Mary, and why she hadn’t spoken out – the bastards had actually bragged about it to the other Slytherins after she’d left – but he couldn’t say anything, because he knew what would happen if he did. He told them how he’d been keeping an eye on Eleanor, since no one was likely to believe him if he raised his suspicions with the staff, and how Crabbe had told him that his housemates were off somewhere that night – they’d asked him to create a distraction elsewhere with Peeves, so that the portraits wouldn’t be there. He made a point of expressing that Crabbe probably had no idea what they were about…
He’d been running through corridors at random, desperately trying to find them for nearly half an hour before he’d heard their cruel laughter. When he’d left Eleanor outside the Gryffindor Common Room he’d tried to get back into the Slytherin Common Room – they wouldn’t be able to hurt him there, he knew Slughorn had anti-hexing protocols in place – but they’d caught up with him at the entrance to the Dungeons.
It was fairly obvious what had happened next, but he’d described it anyway.
By the end of it, all three staff members were looking their own versions of murderous; Remus had never thought Slughorn could be that angry.
Dumbledore had made it very clear that Mulciber and Rosier would not escape punishment, to Slughorn’s fervent agreement, and that Eleanor and Severus should try to get some rest.
He’d commended Severus’s actions so highly that he’d blushed the same colour as his bruises, and had even praised Remus for staying with Eleanor through the night, before dismissing him.
He’d very deliberately looked at Eleanor for her permission to go, and she’d nodded; he’d promised to come back at lunchtime.
So here he was, kicking at flagstones and plotting the timely demise of two of his classmates…
He barely looked up when Professor McGonagall admonished him for lateness, and she was so stunned at his blatant disregard for her presence that she caught his arm.
“I don’t expect a lack of respect from you, Mr Lupin –” she began, but he simply held up the note Professor Dumbledore had asked him to deliver and dropped down next to Eleanor’s empty seat as soon as she took it, aware that the strictest teacher in Hogwarts was glaring at him, nostrils flaring. He could feel the eyes of the class on him, and for once, he didn’t care.
“Mr Lupin, you will see me after cl-” she began, but the contents of the note had caught her attention; she clutched at her chest in understandable horror. “By the Gods!” she exclaimed, and several people snickered, nervously. “You’ve just come from there?” she asked, aware of her audience, and he nodded, sullenly.
Professor McGonagall looked at the grandfather clock in the corner of her classroom. There were only about twenty minutes left until lunch.
“Very well, class dismissed,” she announced to her astonished students and strode out without a backwards glance.
It was with great presence of mind that Lily and Frank took charge and helped their classmates return their rather boisterous turkeys to their original turnip forms, and ushered them out to grab an early lunch.
Remus let the chaos unfold around him and sat slumped in his chair, frowning deeply at the place where his friend and lover should be.
He looked up when he heard the click of the classroom door, though, and found his friends sat on the desks around him, worried expressions on their faces.
“This is about Eleanor, isn’t it?” asked Alice. “Her bed wasn’t slept in last night…”
“She was with me,” he said, quietly, and waited for the sputters of shock to dissipate. “Not like that. She was attacked.”
“She was what?” demanded Sirius, as the others gasped and swore.
“On the way back from rehearsal…”
He told them what had happened to her, and how Severus had paid so dearly for helping his friend. By the end of his description the whole room looked murderous, and Lily, Claire and Alice were wiping angry and appalled tears from their cheeks. Both Sirius and James had punched the unsuspecting furniture so hard that their hands were bloodied and raw.
“Is she going to be ok?” asked Peter, a steely note in his voice that hadn’t been there before.
“Physically, she’s fine,” said Remus, suddenly weary. He needed to get back to her…
“But after something like that,” said Lily, anguished. “Oh Gods…”
“Did she say who it was?” asked Frank in a frighteningly calm tone.
Remus looked around. He’d omitted that particular detail in case they’d rushed off before he could finish, and wasn’t looking forward to telling them. He wanted to be the one inflicting intense agonies on them, and stopping his friends would be nearly impossible. He nodded.
“Who?” demanded James, fiercely.
“Rosier and Mulciber,” he said, gravely, watching the waves of fury break over his friends. He couldn’t blame them, really, he’d been just the same, only hours previously.
“I’ll kill them!” snarled James, eyes blazing.
“We knew it was them with Mary,” said Alice quietly, a strange sort of light in her eyes that Remus had never seen before. “And none of us said anything.”
There was a ringing silence after her universal accusation.
“We should make them pay for hurting them,” spat Sirius. “Eleanor, and Mary, and Severus too.”
Dimly, Remus registered that he hadn’t called him ‘Snivellus’.
Somewhere outside the classroom the bell rang for lunch, and they all jumped.
“I said I’d go back,” said Remus, standing up. “I don’t think they’ll let anyone else in… I’m probably not supposed to have told you.”
Lily nodded gravely.
“Send her our love,” she instructed. “And tell her we’re all here for her.”
Remus surveyed the dark features of his friends before nodding, and it was understood that Lily had said that they wouldn’t wait for the teachers to act, they’d do it themselves this time. It was understood, too, that Remus’s nod was a permission from Eleanor to do their very worst.
“Enough,” murmured Frank. “We are engaged.”
Remus reached the door to the classroom and turned, fingers wrapped around the handle.
“Make them pay,” he said, lips curling into a snarl.
Professors McGonagall and Slughorn seemed reluctant to let him back in, but Madame Pomfrey ushered him to a seat that had been set out between Eleanor’s and Severus’s beds, and Dumbledore gave him a tolerant nod. Eleanor claimed his hand almost as soon as he’d sat down, and managed to smile at him as the teachers withdrew to a corner to discuss the shortened futures of two of their students.
“How’re you two getting on?” he asked, looking between his two friends.
“Better,” said Severus, and to his absolute delight, Eleanor nodded.
“Between Slughorn’s potions and Madame Pomfrey’s charms we’ll be up and about in no time,” she said, looking much more like the Eleanor he’d fallen for. “How was class?” she asked, glancing at the teachers. Severus leaned imperceptibly closer.
“Informative,” said Remus, carefully, and they both understood perfectly.
Abruptly, a large tray of sandwiches appeared in front of the students; Remus was suddenly aware that he hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. Carefully, and without needing to be asked, he filled two plates with food and passed them to his convalescing friends before helping himself.
There was a companionable silence as the three of them masticated. Remus was astonished: surely food had never tasted this good! He’d never turn up his nose at a chicken sandwich again, that was for sure…
“You know, I’m surprised they let me in,” he said, through a mouthful of sandwich.
“They weren’t going to, but Eleanor made it perfectly clear that if you weren’t allowed in then she’d leave,” he sniggered. “So they gave in.”
Remus looked up at Eleanor.
“And?” she asked, though her cheeks were burning.
“Oh nothing,” said Severus, clearly enjoying himself. “Especially since you two are just friends.”
Eleanor threw a sandwich at him.
“Pass the pumpkin juice?” she asked Remus, with as much dignity as she could muster (Severus still laughing at them, between mouthfuls).
Checking that the teachers were otherwise engaged, Remus brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles.
“As you wish, my lady,” he said.
He very nearly dropped the jug, however, when Nearly-Headless-Nick glided through the opposite wall at top speed.
“Emergency in the Great Hall!” he shouted. “They’ll need you too, Madame,” he added to the matron as they hurried off, Nick explaining as they ran.
“Mr Lupin, they are not to leave their beds!” she shouted as she pelted after them, wand already drawn. “I’m holding you personally responsible for their welfare!”
Her shout echoed away down the corridor as they shared an eloquent look.
In all probability a variety of painful things were happening to two very specific people, only a few floors below them.
Eleanor stretched out more comfortably on her bed.
“Pass the sandwiches?” Severus asked, calmly. “Thanks.”
For the first time in nearly a day, Remus smiled, and wound his fingers around Eleanor’s.