Twelfth Aside - With Friends Like These
He was always edgy when Remus wasn’t well. He couldn’t help it. Remus had told him once that when he was sick the wolf had more control over him… was closer to the surface…
Could more easily get out and hurt someone… and he knew that if he ever hurt anybody it would kill him…
Sirius was distracted, not paying attention to the incantation Professor Flitwick was teaching them – running through a hundred horrific situations in his head and how he would have to fix them…
In fifth year, after they’d gotten over the whole ‘Sirius-nearly-killing-Snape’ thing, James had stolen a bottle of Firewhiskey from Slughorn’s stores and the four of them had proceeded to get foolishly and riotously drunk. Peter had been the first to pass out, and then James – both with silly grins on their faces, as far as he recalled – leaving him and Moony to finish the bottle.
He didn’t remember much from that night, but he did remember their conversation about the wolf. About how he was a lot like Remus, really, and how they both hated the dark and terrible thing that they became every month.
He’d made a promise that night. Remus had made him swear on his very soul that if he ever hurt anyone, Sirius would kill him.
So every time Remus got angry, or sick, or started acting strange, he worried. He had to stop any potentially dangerous situation before it could start. Had to, because he didn’t really fancy the idea of murdering his best friend, and that’s what it might come down to, however sweet or cuddly Remus and his inner wolf were.
As it was, it took him nearly the whole of double Charms to notice that Remus wasn’t the only one missing that morning.
“Where’s Eleanor?” he asked Lily, as they made their way to Transfiguration. He was lucky she’d glanced at his expression, really; if she hadn’t been so taken aback by his look of intense concern, she would have hexed him right then and there.
“I don’t know,” she said, expression suggesting that he shouldn’t have asked.
“Wasn’t she at breakfast?”
“You were there, Black, didn’t you see?”
“I was too busy worrying about Remus…”
“Why, what’s wrong with him?” she asked, pulling him to one side.
“He’s sick, or something – wanted to sleep it off and said he’d meet us in Charms, but…” he gestured at the passing crowd.
“But he’s not here…” finished Lily, biting her lip. “Oh, I hope he’s alright…”
Her expression was softer now, and Sirius decided to grasp what opportunities he could while they were available.
“Listen, Evans – what I said to James, I’m really sorry. I was well out of line… you’re just right for him, and nothing you do together is any of my business. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“Damned right you shouldn’t,” she said, eyeing him warily. Deciding that this time he might actually mean it, she went on: “It’s not like you to apologise. Or to start a fight with James.”
He looked at her, and made a swift decision. If James could trust her, so could he.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Naturally,” she replied, in way said ‘better than you can’.
“I… you know I ran away from home in the summer?”
Lily shook her head, frowning.
“Well, I did. I’d had enough. I’m something of a disgrace to my family,” he continued, and the sadness in his eyes made him, for a moment, unrecognisable; she laid an unexpected hand on his arm, and he jumped at the contact. “I – they don’t like who I hang around with – all that crap about blood purity – and, hell, my best friend’s a you-know-what.” He took a breath, aware he was babbling. “Anyway, I got a letter from my mother last week, told me that my little brother is more than making up for me as a total loss. He was initiated as a Death Eater.”
“He’s only a fourth year!”
Sirius nodded, sadly.
“I tried to talk him out of it… that’s where I was Friday night… and after that I couldn’t sleep – I couldn’t even think – that’s why I started with James, I –”
He stopped, stunned; Lily had enveloped him in a tight hug.
“Shut up, Black. Sometimes even you need a hug,” she said, giving him an extra squeeze.
Astonished, and more than a little grateful, he returned the hug, but this being Sirius…
“You know, if Prongs sees this…”
“Then my vengeance will be complete,” grinned Lily. “Oh, you didn’t think you were forgiven, did you? I accept your apology, but I’m still more than prepared to wreak revenge.”
“I’ll watch my back then,” he said, but couldn’t keep his usual infectious grin from creeping back onto his face.
“You do that,” she smiled, and they hurried to Transfiguration, surprising everyone by sitting down next to one another at the last bench; he could feel Prongs’s eyes on the back of his head, but there wasn’t much he could do about that.
Settling in, he was startled to notice Lily pushing her notes closer to him, the words: ‘So, why ‘Prongs’?’ written at the top in her neat handwriting.
Trying not to grin, he wrote back:
‘I’ll give you three guesses…’
There was an interlude while they both took notes on animal transformations, then:
‘Remus still isn’t here… nor Eleanor.’
Sirius frowned and glanced around the class; she was right… and they weren’t the only ones. Mindful of his audience, he added:
It was Lily’s turn to look around in confusion.
‘Maybe there’s something going ‘round?’ she suggested, then wrinkled up her nose. ‘I hope it’s not Dragon Pox…’
He’d just been about to give her a Look when a pale, sullen and strangely silent Remus had walked in, completely ignoring Professor McGonagall until she’d taken his arm.
This is it, thought Sirius, suddenly, this is the day I’ll have to honour that promise…
He fingered his wand uneasily as Remus held up a note and continued to his seat, dropping into it without even glancing in their direction. Everyone was staring at him (including Minnie, and her stare was legendary), and he wasn’t even flinching…
No, but he is shaking, thought Sirius, and took a closer look at his friend. His shoulders were tight, his jaw clenched; he wasn’t sick at all, it was anger that was making him shake like that.
Professor McGonagall had been about to give him the dressing down of his life, but appeared to have been distracted by the note; seeing so clear an expression of horror on his favourite teacher’s face was disturbing to say the least, but it was nothing compared to the shock of seeing her abandon a class full of rampant turke-nips.
As they rounded up the flapping vegetables, Sirius glanced at his friend; he was still sunk sullenly in his seat, staring at Eleanor’s empty chair, jaw clenched tight.
Something was very, very wrong… and Eleanor was missing… and so was Snivellus.
They didn’t have to wait long.
Severus was just finishing his second plate of sandwiches when the first strains of utter chaos reached their ears. There were unintelligible shouts in the distance, followed by a series of loud bangs; Eleanor sat up, wincing a little, trying to see the end of the corridor. Some kind of minor explosion rocked the Hospital Wing, and someone shouted in pain.
It sounded a lot like Peter.
Remus was on his feet in an instant, wand in hand, but Mulciber got there first.
“Expelliarmus!” he shouted, and aimed his wand directly at Eleanor. “Don’t even think about it! You did this, you little bitch! Thought you could make a fool of me, did you? Thought your little friends would protect you?” he sneered at Severus. Looking at him, Mulciber had been on the receiving end of several fairly inventive jinxes; his left arm was a funny blue colour and patches of his hair and robes were still smoking. “Well it didn’t work, did it? And now I’m gonna make you pay!”
“Just try it,” growled Remus, and Eleanor knew without seeing his face that he and the wolf were very much together on this one. His shoulders were tight – his whole body tensed, ready to pounce.
“Oh, going to try to protect your little girlfriend, Golden Boy?” the larger boy taunted. “You should have seen her last night – I saw all of her – she was so obliging – ready and willing –”
Remus launched himself at Mulciber, punching and clawing everything he could reach. Surprised, probably, that the smaller boy would ever try such a thing, Mulciber staggered backwards under his assailant’s unexpected strength.
Remus hit the wall of the Hospital Wing with a sickening crunch, and fell to the floor, head lolling against his chest. Before she could react, Mulciber had her petrified again, and she fell, face down on the floor; dimly, she could see a trickle of blood run from the corner of Remus’s mouth and down his chin.
She could hear Severus and Mulciber circling one another now, Severus dragging his leg every other step…
A warm sensation crept through her body, and she realised that she could move again; Severus must have released her non-verbally – now if she could figure out the right moment to act…
Severus’s spell hit the wall with astonishing force, deflected by Mulciber’s unforgivable. His spell, however, hit home.
Eleanor leapt to her feet as her friend’s screams filled the air, and grabbed for her wand – but not before a jet of light hit Mulciber square in the back. Wildly, she looked around for their saviour; Madame Pomfrey was stood in the doorway, panting.
“That is quite enough,” she shouted, her usually calm countenance utterly destroyed. She hurried to Severus to check on him.
Eleanor turned to Remus, trying not to tremble as she checked his pulse.
Beat-beat, beat-beat, beat-beat…
She sagged in relief at its reassuring percussion and took his face in her hand; he groaned, and blinked groggily.
“… Ellie?” he asked, sounding Confunded; Eleanor nearly giggled in relief. Abruptly, his eyes flicked up to something behind her.
Mulciber was on his feet again, by this point looking quite demented.
“Expelliarmus!” he shouted, spitting blood from his own mouth. Menacingly, he approached Madame Pomfrey, who, wandless now, put herself directly between him and Severus.
“Conjunctivus,” yelled Eleanor, and a jet of yellow light hit Mulciber’s face. He screamed in rage and pain and stumbled back towards her.
He didn’t reach her.
Crabbe, who had a few scratches of his own, was stood in between them. Silently, he looked between Eleanor and Mulciber, who glared at him blearily through his red and streaming eyes.
“Get out of the way, you idiot!” he shouted, but Crabbe didn’t move. “Fine!” he spat, and aimed his wand at his housemate.
Slowly and carefully, with a look of great concentration, Crabbe raised both fists in the air and brought them crashing down on Mulciber’s head. He crumpled like a broken doll.
For a few seconds there was complete silence in the Hospital Wing, as everyone stared at him. Then, slowly, he turned to Madame Pomfrey and offered her a hand, which she took, bewildered.
“Th-thank you, Mr Crabbe,” she managed, and shook herself. “Could you help me get your classmates into the beds, please?”
He nodded, and reached down to Severus, who was now paler than ever; gently and with a delicacy that seemed unlikely in a boy of his size, he lifted the boy as if he weighed no more than a feather, and deposited him back on his bed.
As he was treating a befuddled and astonished Remus with equal care, Professor Slughorn reached the door of the Hospital Wing, out of breath and very red in the face.
“Everything’s under control, Horace,” said Madame Pomfrey, weakly. “Do you think you could collect Mr Pettigrew, please? I believe he was a little way down the corridor.”
“Yes, of course,” he said, looking around in awe. “He was sat up when I passed him, but he looks a little worse for wear…”
Pointedly ignoring Mulciber, Crabbe took Eleanor’s hand and gently led her to her bed.
“You alright, Miss?” he asked, in his gruff voice.
“Yes – thank you – I,” she sputtered, and he patted her hand.
“Shouldn’t hurt girls,” he said.
“Well, thanks, Crabbe…”
“Wilbur?” she tried to keep the surprise out of her face and voice, really she did.
“Well then – it’s Eleanor to my friends.”
He gave her a smile like the dawn breaking through the clouds, and went to help Professor Slughorn with Peter.
Eleanor hopped off her bed and went unsteadily over to Remus, who still looked as if he were trying to clear his head.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” she said softly, stroking his hair.
“Yes I should,” he said, and grimaced.
“Let me look at him, Miss Wren,” said Madame Pomfrey, nudging past her. “Hmmm. Not too much damage, you were lucky…” she muttered a few healing spells over him, and his face visibly relaxed. “You’ll have a bit of a headache for a while, Mr Lupin, but it should clear fairly quickly… Now, Miss Wren, back to your bed – yes, I know you’re worried about him, but right now I’m worried about you. Sit.”
As soon as Eleanor was reinstalled in her bed, Remus sat himself on the edge of it; Madame Pomfrey tutted at them, but made no move to dislodge him and went to see to Peter, who had been hit by some kind of creation charm and had small prickly flowers sprouting from his face and hands. He gave her a covert thumbs-up when Madame Pomfrey’s back was turned.
There was a commotion at the end of the corridor; Lily, James, Sirius, Frank, Alice and Claire were being marched into the Hospital Wing by an incensed Professor McGonagall.
Lily’s arms were singed in places, but she was supporting James, whose knees appeared to be on the wrong way; Frank was being supported by both Alice and Sirius, who were both sporting deep scratches and cuts. Frank’s eyes were a little cloudy, and his face was purple and blotchy. Hagrid was carrying Claire, who was a funny yellow colour; as soon as she saw Peter, however, she grinned and clamboured out of Hagrid’s startled arms, hobbling over to him and giving him a big kiss. She collapsed into the bed next to him as Madame Pomfrey tutted and fretted and fussed.
Alice caught sight of Eleanor and cried out:
“We got ‘em Ellie! They’ll think twice next time!” a fierce light in her eyes.
“That is enough, Miss Roberts!” snapped Professor McGonagall. “You and your friends have earned enough detentions today to last until the end of term – don’t make me give you more in the next!”
One by one, as they were treated, the assembled students gravitated towards Eleanor and Severus’s beds, arranging themselves around the two, as if reassuring themselves that they were alright. Peter even gave a speechless Severus a gentle and companionable clap about the shoulders.
Crabbe, it turned out, made a skilled and biddable healer, to the general bewilderment of his tutors, who usually struggled to instil in him the simplest of charms. Madame Pomfrey kept a close eye on his work, but she gave him the odd encouraging nod and was even now looking him over with a faintly proprietary air.
“You alright, love?” asked Sirius, settling himself on the other side of Eleanor.
“I will be,” she said, fondly. “What on earth did you lot do?”
James gave her a grim smile.
“Well, we reckoned lunch was our only chance – we were going to wait until we could surround them, but… things got out of hand.”
“Got out of hand,” chuckled Peter. “You mean, Alice took them in hand.”
Alice raised a scratched but defiant face to their stares.
“Well?” she said. “They had it coming.”
“I don’t think they quite expected you to take a flying leap at them as they sat down for lunch,” mused Lily. Alice blushed, and Frank kissed her hair, affectionately.
“You did what?” asked Remus, incredulous.
“Screaming and howling like some dread banshee,” said Sirius, who sounded immensely proud of her. “It was bloody spectacular!” he announced, to general agreement.
“I’m sorry I missed it,” said Eleanor, and Severus and Remus nodded emphatically.
“We all piled in after that,” said Frank. “Hurling charms and curses like there was no tomorrow – Crabbe pulled Alice off Mulciber –” he glanced at the larger boy, who was hovering uncertainly at the edge of their group. “ – gently though, just held her arms by her sides…”
“I tried to get her loose,” said Claire. “But he was too strong.” She gave Crabbe a shy smile. “At some point when I was pounding on his arms, he asked what was going on, and I told him…”
“You sort of screamed, actually,” added Alice.
“… and he let her go, and ran after Mulciber.”
“Shouldn’t hurt girls,” repeated Crabbe, looking uncomfortable.
“I think it’s ok if they’re currently trying to scratch your eyes out,” said Lily reasonably.
“We took some serious damage from the other Slytherins,” said James. “Which is as it should be,” he continued, fairly. “We’d do the same if a Gryffindor was attacked. It took a while to get Rosier down, and we stopped attacking once we had –”
There was a faint gurgle from the other side of the Hospital Wing; Severus glanced in Mulciber’s direction. He’d been uncertain, so far, about speaking, but curiosity moved him now; Rosier was an excellent duellist, and his defeat intrigued him.
“What in Poseidon’s name did you do to him?” he asked, quietly.
“I got in a Jelly-Legs,” said Claire.
“Bat-Bogey,” said Lily.
“Tarantallegra,” added Frank.
“I hit him with a stinging jinx,” said Alice.
“Rictumsempra,” said James.
“Slug-vomiting charm,” shrugged Peter. “Seemed appropriate.”
“I just hit him,” said Sirius. “My wand got knocked out of my hands… I did try a non-verbal knee-reversal hex, but I think I hit James… sorry,” he added, as several of them snorted.
“No worries, mate – heat of battle.”
“Rosier managed to hit Claire with some kind of weird purple slashy thing, but I don’t think it worked properly,” said Lily, frowning. “Anyway, that was more or less when the teachers arrived and put a stop to things…”
“I ran after Mulciber,” said Peter. “But he was hurling jinxes at me over his shoulder and I couldn’t duck them all – the last one hit me right in the face. I thought the world had exploded. When I woke up I thought I’d been volunteered for a special experiment with Sprout… What happened when he got in here – I heard shouting but everything was pretty vague until Slughorn passed me.”
Eleanor told them; they went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ in all the right places, and when she told them about what had happened to Remus and Severus there was a general cry of outrage; when she got to the bit where Crabbe had come to the rescue, a general cheer. Lily and Alice kissed the blushing boy on each cheek.
“S’nothing,” he said. “What they did to Mi- to Eleanor was wrong… and they shouldn’ve hurt Sev’. He was right to help her, and he’s one of us. That should mean something.”
Nine pairs of eyes moved from Crabbe to Severus, who coloured.
“That’s twice you’ve thrown yourself into the fray,” said James, thoughtfully. “I know you’re going to say you didn’t do it for me, but thanks, mate.”
There was a general burble of agreement; Claire ruffled his hair in a companionable sort of way, much to his surprise.
“Oh don’t look that astonished,” said Sirius, gravely. “You’re part of the family now.”
Severus stared at them all in turn.
“Merlin help me,” he said.
Their companionable chatter ceased abruptly when Professor Dumbledore returned; he was leading a stretcher with Evan Rosier pinned to it. He was bubbling, faintly.
“I am very disappointed in you,” he announced quietly, to the room at large, and suddenly everything seemed distinctly less funny. “While I am in no way condoning their actions, you had no right to attack your fellow students. I will speak with your heads of houses concerning contacting your parents.” He looked over his half moon spectacles at them. “This was very foolish of you.”
A sense of burning shame washed over the group.
“Mr Lupin and Mr Crabbe, however, have acted sensibly and in defence of their fellow students. I am awarding you twenty house points each. Miss Wren and Mr Snape, in light of your actions and given what you have been through, I am awarding you thirty.”
“Please, Professor,” said Eleanor, suddenly very weary. “They were trying to protect me – to stop it happening again.”
“I am aware of this, Miss Wren. However, we cannot allow students to take the law into their own hands, nor punish those they feel have wronged them. I’m sure you’ll agree that such a system could be abused.”
“But Sir –”
“No, Miss Wren,” and this time his tone indicated that these words were final. “The use of magic or brute force against your fellow students is unacceptable,” he glanced at Professor McGonagall, who was deep in conversation with Professor Slughorn. “However much we may feel they deserve it. Given the circumstances, however, I am willing to give you all a second chance. Assuming that no further such incidents occur, your month of detentions will suffice – your Hogsmeade privileges have been suspended until the end of term.” He looked around at them, and added with a softened expression. “However… let me put your minds at rest: Mr Mulciber and Mr Rosier are no longer welcome in this school, and since they are both of age they will shortly have to face the Wizengamot.” He sighed. “That it should come to this.”
They were quiet for a moment, as he surveyed them.
“And now I think, those of you that have been released should depart for the afternoon’s lessons,” he glanced at Professor McGonagall once more. “And I would strongly suggest that you keep your heads down.”
There was a general shuffling about of chairs as they left, every one of them instructing Severus and Eleanor to rest, and telling them that they’d be back to see them after classes. Both Sirius and Remus kissed Eleanor’s cheek as they left, Remus giving her hand an extra squeeze as he went.
Dumbledore waited until they had gone.
“Miss Wren, during the chaos that occurred over lunchtime, I had the belongings of Mr Mulciber and Mr Rosier searched – your bracelet and necklace were recovered.”
Eleanor smiled, properly, for the first time that day.
“Since Filius, Minerva and Horace have all seen them, I can return them to you now… A curious trinket,” he observed, passing the bracelet over. “You know, in my mother’s day, such gifts were given instead of rings as tokens of engagement.”
Eleanor started, blushing.
“Indeed, although they were simple bands then, rather than twisted…”
“It’s a Möbius strip…” she said, though she didn’t really know why. “It symbolises infinity.”
“Does it now?” said Dumbledore, and this time when he peered over his half-moon spectacles, the twinkle was well and truly back in his electric blue eyes. “I should keep whoever gave you that bracelet close to you, they seem to care for you greatly.”
Eleanor, far too embarrassed to speak, wondered again whether Dumbledore could read minds. He stood.
“Both your parents have been informed of your assaults, and invited to reassure themselves of your return to health… I shall inform you of their decision to visit when I receive their messages.” His face once again grew grave. “I am truly sorry that such things came to happen to you here,” he said. “But I think you may take comfort in the ardent if misguided responses of your friends.”
At about half past four, Severus had received a note from his mother, expressing her relief at his recovery and apologies for staying away. She was quite busy, apparently.
He hid it rather well, but Eleanor could tell it bothered him.
It was a relief, therefore, when the evening brought the return of their friends, who deposited an unlikely volume of sweets on their bedside cabinets. Algernon Zabini and Wilbur Crabbe came to visit Severus and bring him some books; Crabbe sidled over to Eleanor while Algernon and Severus were deep in conversation and presented her with a bouquet of origami flowers. He went redder than ever when she thanked him and kissed his cheek. They were truly a sight to behold – all different colours and patterns on their paper, and several different types of flower. Most of their year, solidified by both the play and their disgust at Mulciber and Rosier, brought get well cards for them both, and stayed to chat for a while before being chased out by Madame Pomfrey, who made the occasional show of checking the students over.
All the boys but one, it turned out, had hit on the idea of bringing Eleanor flowers (courtesy, she suspected, of the Orchideous charm), and she got flustered every time she saw how crowded her bedside table had become. Remus had opted to bring her a slab of chocolate from his secret stash instead, along with her book of sonnets, both of which she accepted gratefully as Lily and Frank chattered on about homework and Wilbur taught Claire how to make origami daisies.
Eventually, Eleanor fell asleep to the burble of their voices, her head resting lightly on Remus’s shoulder; when she awoke it was night-time, and the only light was from Severus’s bed.
He was reading by the light of his wand.
“Hey,” she said, groggily. “What time is it?”
“A little after ten – you sort of passed out on us, are you alright?”
“Didn’t realise how tired I was…” she stifled a yawn. “Still am, I suppose.”
They both glanced up as the sound of hurrying footsteps approached the doors; as they opened, the torches flared into life in their brackets.
“Ah, Miss Wren, your mother is here,” announced Professor McGonagall, and Eleanor had only a few startled moments to run a hand through her rebellious hair and straighten her pyjamas before her mother swept into the room.
She was an impressive sight, clad in robes of deep purple, overlaid with cobweb lace; hands gloved in exquisite black silk. Her golden curls were hidden beneath a fabulous hat, from which a veil of the same cobweb lace extended, obscuring her features. They stared at one another for a moment, then something tight in Eleanor’s chest loosened, and when she smiled it seemed to Severus that the weight of the whole world had been lifted from her aching shoulders.
“Maman!” she cried, as the older woman rushed to her.
“Oh, my treasure!” she cried, holding her daughter tightly. “What ‘ave zey done to you?”
Severus tried to concentrate on his book, deeply embarrassed to be intruding on them… though part of him was desperately curious about this mysterious woman who concealed her face and even now was comforting her daughter in hushed tones. They were speaking in French, as far as he could tell, and he therefore had absolutely no idea what either was saying, except that every so often Eleanor’s mother would gasp, or Eleanor would suppress a sob… Given the influence required to continue to conceal one’s face in the Castle, he surmised that Mulciber and Rosier had indeed selected the wrong girl to molest. If Madame Wren’s tone was anything to go by, they’d be lucky if they escaped a summary execution, let alone Azkaban.
Once or twice he caught his name, or one of his implausible new-found friends, and he did his best to look uninterested – that is, until Madame Wren addressed him directly.
“Master Snape, I am een your debt. You ‘ave saved my beautiful treasure from defilement and assault. Eef ever you should require it, I will be at your service.”
“Really – there’s no need – I – she’s my friend,” he stammered.
“En effet,” she said briskly. “And you ‘ave proved a very dear friend – and paid ‘eavily for eet, my daughter tells me.” Although he couldn’t see her face, something in voice suggested that she was smiling. “I would she ‘ad more friends like you, mon jeune maître. As I said: I am een your debt.”
Severus decided that, on the whole, this would be a diplomatic time to give up.
“Thank you, Madame – but I was not alone in your daughter’s defence…”
“So Dumbledore tells me,” she laughed, and her laugh was just the same as Eleanor’s. “And I weell no doubt ‘ave zee pleasure of thanking zem at a later date – but you alone prevented matters from, shall we say, escalating, and for zat, I thank you.”
“Madame,” he nodded politely, blushing.
“Hélas, my sweet, I must leave you – I ‘ave some theengs to discuss wiz your ‘ead of ‘ouse, oui?” she looked at Professor McGonagall, who nodded.
“If you are content to leave your daughter,” she said, and Severus detected a note of sympathy there he didn’t often observe.
“I am never content,” she sighed. “But we are used to eet now, n’est pas?” She bent and kissed Eleanor’s forehead. “Unteel next time, mon petit roitelet. Au revoir.”
“À bientôt, maman,” Eleanor replied, a little sadly, and they watched her mother sweep back out again.
“I’m going to assume that her name is not Madame Wren,” said Severus, carefully.
“No…” said Eleanor.
“Oh, right, spasmodic French… er, ‘en effet’ means ‘indeed’; ‘mon jeune maître’ is ‘my young master’… ‘n’est pas?’ is roughly ‘is it not?’…”
“And ‘petit roitelet’?”
To his surprise, Eleanor blushed a little.
“‘Little wren’… it’s what she calls me.”
“Well I suppose it makes sense, as a nickname…”
“At least she didn’t call me ‘ma petite chou’ this time.”
“It means ‘little cabbage’.”
It was well past midnight when Eleanor next awoke; she was aware of a presence next to her bed, but she couldn’t see anyone there…
Abruptly, Remus’s head appeared, as if from nowhere, and it was all she could do not to shriek.
“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” she hissed.
“Sorry – I didn’t mean to scare you,” he whispered, pulling off what had to be an invisibility cloak and stuffing it into his bag.
“What are you doing here?”
“Checking on you… budge up…”
Eleanor smiled and moved to let him sit down; except he didn’t sit down. Pulling the blankets away, he settled down beside her, their noses almost touching.
“You’ll lose all those points if you’re not careful,” she whispered.
“I don’t care, I needed to see you.”
“No… and I wanted to make sure you weren’t having bad dreams or anything,” he admitted, and she could feel his hot breath against her face. “I missed you.”
“You were only here a few hours ago,” she whispered, incredulously.
“So?” he wrapped an arm around her waist. “I still missed you… it’s weird you not being around the Common Room of an evening.”
“Hopefully this won’t be for too long…”
They were quiet for a moment, content to simply feel one another’s presence.
“Remus?” Eleanor asked, carefully.
“I’m really glad you’re ok…”
“It’s my tough werewolf blood,” he said, and nuzzled his nose against hers.
“Well then, for once I’m glad you have it…” she paused. “And I’m really glad you’re here – even if you do get detention for the rest of your school life.”
“And what’s wrong with comforting a friend?”
Eleanor had to stifle her giggles.
“Nothing, except that it’s probably inappropriate to climb into their sick bed in the middle of the night…”
He kissed her smack on the nose.
“What do they know? I happen to think a human hot-water-bottle is the best cure for anything.”
This time, they were both fighting their laughter. Somewhere in the darkness, Severus rolled over.
“Do you two mind?” he asked, sleepily.
“Sorry!” Eleanor whispered.
Their eyes met, and they were giggling again.
“Really?” asked Severus. “This is the thanks I get?”
“Sorry Severus, we’ll behave,” said Remus, struggling to keep a straight face.
Eleanor snuggled up to him in the darkness, and the tension he’d been holding onto all day finally relaxed. She was safe, and warm, and in his arms; gently, he kissed her neck – she smiled, eyes still shut, and he knew that she was asleep.
“I love you, Ellie,” he murmured, before he too drifted into a comfortable slumber.
“Of all the –” hissed Poppy Pomfrey, but Madame Buchardt caught her wand hand.
“Let zem sleep, Poppy,” she said.
“It’s against the rules,” said Poppy, uncertainly.
“And every young person must believe zey ‘ave successfully broken zem at least once,” said her old friend. “Besides, I trust my daughter’s judgment. Zees young man ees ‘onourable, I assume?”
“She probably couldn’t find his better if she tried.”
“Oh, very well… I imagine you’re straight back to Paris?”
“Eet would ‘ave been good to catch up,” she said, real disappointment in her voice.
“Oui. Take care of ‘er, ma chère amie…”
“I always do,” said Poppy, quietly, as she watched her childhood best friend walk away. “I always do…”