Get In and Technical
‘XVII – It is not the question ‘What if something goes wrong?’ but ‘What will go wrong?’’ – Excerpt from the Techie Bible
Their return to school was strange, this being their final year, and the knowledge that a mere ten months stood between them and all the terrors and delights of the ‘real world’ was seeping in at them from every direction. It also felt odd for them to be in separate houses again – particularly for Eleanor and Severus, who had grown used to one another’s daily company over the summer.
They’d created something of a stir in the first week back when for some reason the teachers’ desks in every classroom had broken into song, ranging from traditional English madrigals to bawdy Goblin hearth-songs. The staff had been under no illusion whatsoever about who was responsible, but were finding it more difficult than usual to prove it, since the ranks of the Marauders had swollen in somewhat unpredictable directions. The furniture was eventually returned to normal when Lily and Frank had had enough and held James and Sirius upside down until they agreed to break the charm.
Term progressed much as normal (or at least, normal for Hogwarts) as the colours of autumn cascaded around them, and their time was filled to bursting with a phenomenal amount of schoolwork, quidditch practice, chess clubs, study groups and patrols, leaving little time for socialising or getting into mischief.
And then there was the play.
If they’d thought the teachers were pushing them with three rehearsals a week in the previous term, they were astonished to discover that this term they were expected to attend four, with two six-hour stretches on Saturdays and Sundays. The only exception was made for game days, largely on the basis that if they didn’t let the students play or attend they would have a full scale mutiny on their hands. Eleanor suspected that it also had a fair amount to do with the staff quidditch pool.
By the time show week rolled around, the majority of the seventh years were already weary, and for most of them the sudden change of pace was quite a shock.
“It’s not as if I’d forgotten it was happening,” said Alice, over breakfast. “But I can’t believe this last couple of months have gone so fast – it’s sort of crept up on me.”
“Niffe to ‘ve a wk off ‘essons ‘ough,” said Sirius, through a mouthful of sausage.
“Eurgh,” said Eleanor, swatting his arm. “Chew, swallow, then talk.”
“I said,” began Sirius, wiping his mouth. “It’s nice to have a week off lessons.”
“Don’t go thinking this is going to be relaxing,” said Peter, waving an admonishing fork. “We might get an extra hour’s sleep every morning, but we’ll probably be working fourteen hour shifts – if not longer.”
“They’ll let us eat, though, right?” asked James, looking worried. “I wouldn’t like to be the person that tells Padfoot here he can’t have his tea.”
“Oy!” said Sirius, spraying the table with half chewed tomato.
“Chew your food!”
“Shove off, Moony!”
“He’s not the only one,” said Lily, glancing at Remus, and James nodded.
The closer it had got to the performance the rattier he had become, snarling at things he’d normally ignore and hiding in his work. When he got angry these days the only person that could calm him down was Eleanor, and even Sirius was beginning to notice, giving them odd looks from time to time and getting huffy with his friend if they were together.
It didn’t help that tonight was full moon – while most of the students would be painting, building or rearranging the set he would be conspicuously absent, and that was weighing on him. It was a lot easier to be inconspicuously unwell behind a textbook on the back row of a classroom. Even the other boys, whom Eleanor had long suspected of somehow keeping him company, would be involved in the ‘get in’, and there appeared to be a tacit agreement that this month he’d be going it alone.
He looked exhausted this morning, and Eleanor caught his hand as they walked out to the grounds to begin putting the stage together; he gave her fingers a grateful squeeze.
“It’s this bit I really don’t like,” he confided in her, wearily. “Well,” he clarified, “I don’t really like any of it, but it annoys me that I have to be bloody knackered before and after the change.”
“The teachers will let you do something non-strenuous, I’m sure…” said Eleanor, moving away from him a little as the Hufflepuffs appeared behind them.
“You’re worried that people will notice?” She took his silence as confirmation. “It’ll be fine. Trust me, given the way you look right now no one’s going to find it strange that you’ll need to head to the Hospital Wing. Just pretend it’s some kind of twenty-four hour virus thing – it will explain why you’re a little out of it tomorrow, too.”
He gave her a small smile.
“You think of everything, don’t you?”
She gave him a playful (if gentle) shove.
“I take after my mother.”
“What I have ever done without you I will never know,” he said, softly.
“Ready for this week, Remus?” called a Ravenclaw that Eleanor recalled from Transfiguration. “Ooh, you look awful.”
“No really, like Dragon Pox warmed up… are you sure you should be helping today – we don’t want to lose you for the play…”
“I’ll be alright,” he said, wryly. “I don’t think I’d be allowed to be ill on Saturday.”
“I hope so – don’t work too hard, ok?”
“See,” Eleanor said, under her breath. “Crispin just thinks you’re ill.”
He shook his head at her as they reached the edge of the Lake.
It had been decided that this year’s performance would take place outside, in sheer defiance of the weather Gods. A stage had been put together on the edge of the water, with the Lake as a backdrop; the Giant Squid was watching the activity from a short distance away with (as far as anyone could tell) great interest.
It was quite a sight.
They all stood around the edge of it, shivering and stamping their feet in the cold.
“I hope they put some kind of warming spell on the stage and audience,” said Lily, her teeth chattering.
“Should do,” said Frank. “I can’t imagine the Minister of Magic freezing when he could simply set up a quick warming charm. Even if it is for charity.”
“And then there’s the parents,” added Pearl Holmes, of Hufflepuff. “My Mum and Dad are Muggles – I don’t think the school would want them to catch pneumonia at such a public event.”
“Plus some of those costumes are a bit skimpy,” said Eleanor, nodding. “It wouldn’t look very good if the whole cast turned blue.”
“Skimpy?” asked Sirius, hopefully. “How skimpy?”
“Not that skimpy…”
“Mind out of the gutter, Black,” said Lily, tolerantly.
“It is supposed to be in Italy in summer,” said Eleanor, shrugging. “Besides, half of Shakespeare is about body parts.”
“You what?” asked Peter, convinced that he’d misheard her.
“Well it is – most of it is, well, penis related.” She coloured, suddenly aware that she had the attention of every student in a four-foot radius. “Hadn’t you noticed? Any word that sounds remotely stick-like – like dagger, sword, stick, club, stalk, horn, point…”
She was thankful to be cut off at that point, although everyone around her looked like they now were reviewing their lines with intense concentration.
“Well ladies and gentlemen,” piped up Filius from the stage. “One more week and it will all be over – and you’ll miss it, I can guarantee,” he added, to a general air of disbelief. “But before you can tread the boards we have to assemble them. Minerva, Pomona and I will split you into groups – you’ll be given various tasks and so on.”
They waited impatiently in the growing cold as they were bustled off to different areas. Sirius and James were immediately separated and given tasks that were considered unlikely to explode, like carrying chairs and tables. Lily and Claire ended up on painting duty with Frank and some of the Slytherins, while Peter and Remus were given the (mercifully unenergetic) task of finishing off the programmes. Eleanor, Alice and Severus were assigned the costumes, much to their entertainment.
After they’d set up their own localised warming charms, they worked steadily as the day wore on, fetching, carrying, labelling and making sure that everything was actually there for each character; by the time they broke for a late lunch they were ready to start fitting people.
For the sake of simplicity, they decided to start with themselves, booking times for everyone else during the week so as not to permanently be chasing their classmates around the school. Severus looked very dapper indeed in his dusty grey breeches and shirt, much to his embarrassment; he was drawing more than a few interested looks from the female half of his classmates as they went about their business. He gave Eleanor an uncomfortable smile as she fitted his coat.
“You look great,” she said, through a mouthful of pins.
He huffed, and then blushed as someone behind her wolf-whistled. She turned, half expecting to see Sirius or James, but they were nowhere to be seen; a group of boys from Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin were trying to figure out how to hang the bulky curtains for the front of the stage. Wilbur Crabbe noticed her look and gave her a cheery wave, which she returned, turning back to Severus with a raised eyebrow.
“If I were to ask those boys whether any of them had a snowy owl, would I get a ‘yes’?” she said, in an undertone.
“Boots,” she said, grinning.
“Are you going to have a beard?” asked Alice, as she finished the hem of Lily’s dress.
“I think so,” said Severus gruffly, pulling on his boots. “Professor Sprout keeps bringing it up, but hopefully they’ll forget…”
“It’s because the older gents were bearded,” Eleanor said, more clearly since she’d put down her pins. “That’s why Algernon, Frank, Sirius and Remus have to have charmed beards too… though Remus gets rid of his about halfway through.”
“Because you’d rather ‘lie in the woollen’,” snorted Alice.
“Alright, you, clothes off, costume on.”
Alice continued to giggle as she retreated behind the screen they’d set up; Severus stood up to be inspected.
“Not bad,” said Eleanor, her head to one side. “Have a look in the mirror.”
Alice came back around the corner of the screen while Severus surveyed himself.
“You look just right,” she smiled. “I, on the other hand… I see what you meant about ‘skimpy’. I know Margaret’s a bit of a tart, but I was expecting something that actually covered my chest.”
“They’re all like that,” said Eleanor, turning her friend around gently. “Arms up.”
She wrapped a plain calico corset around her friend’s waist.
“Not too tight… I want to be able to bend and breathe and things…”
“You said you wanted to borrow the camera?” asked Frank, wandering over with it in his hands.
“If we could,” said Severus. “It’s for the programme…”
“Righty-ho. You look dapper,” said Frank.
“I think I look like a tit.”
“Well, you’re wrong,” said Eleanor, lacing Alice’s corset as loosely as she reasonably could. “How’s that?”
“Yes, that’s ok… now where-?”
She turned, bending to pick up her shoes, which had fallen under a chair. Frank’s jaw dropped; Nathan Perks, who had been coming over to compliment Severus on his costume, stopped dead in his tracks. Alice straightened up.
“What?” she asked, as they stared at her.
“Bloody hell Roberts, where have you been hiding those beauties?” asked Sirius, setting a pile of chairs down and leaning against them.
Alice looked down at herself and was astonished to discover that the dress and corset did quite exceptional things for her breasts. She blushed furiously, but turned back to the boys with a bright smile.
“Under my shirt, where they belong. Don’t you have work to be doing?”
She reached out and took the camera from Frank’s unresisting hands.
“So it suits me?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
He gave an involuntary laugh.
“If I hadn’t already asked you to marry me, I’d do it now…” he responded, in an undertone, but Eleanor caught it nonetheless.
She turned back to Severus, smirking.
“Right you, beard up.”
He groaned as she turned back to the still-gawping boys and waved them on.
“Trying to get rid of me love?” asked Sirius, with easy irreverence. “I want to stick around and see you in your dress.” He gave her one of his impish grins and she couldn’t help but return it.
“Go away, Sirius.”
She stuck her tongue out at him and he shrugged, picking up his stack of furniture.
“Let me know if you change your mind,” he said, with a wink. “Oy, Perksy, pick up your jaw and onwards mate.”
“Wha- oh, yeah…” Nathan shook himself and set off towards the stage.
Shaking her head, she turned back to Severus and helped him pick the least ridiculous and most accurate beard as Alice managed to persuade Frank to leave and sat down to do her make up. She cast an approving eye over her squirming friend.
“That beard kind of suits you,” she said, still quite pink.
“It itches,” complained Severus, as Eleanor set up the camera.
“You’ll get used to it.”
“I doubt it…”
“I think it makes you look distinguished,” said Alice. Whereas I look… well…” she gestured to her chest.
“Ravishing?” suggested Eleanor.
“Eye-catching?” Severus proposed, diplomatically.
“Like a cheap tart…” Alice grimaced.
“Oh no,” said Eleanor fairly, standing behind her friend at the make up table. “Well,” she went on. “Certainly not a cheap one…”
Alice caught her eye and laughed.
“Well, there is that…”
“I think you look fine,” said Severus, absently rearranging his beard. “I’ve seen people wearing much more risqué garments at the Gala…”
“I suppose…” said Alice, fiddling with the lid of a tub of makeup.
“Get your make up on while I photograph Severus, and I’ll do your hair,” said Eleanor, turning back to her friend. “You know it probably wouldn’t itch as much if you didn’t keep messing with it.”
“Wait ‘til you have to wear one and then tell me it doesn’t itch,” he grumbled, but moved into position under an oak for the photograph.
“Try to look like you’re a cantankerous old nobleman,” she instructed. “No, that’s just you looking pissed off… try reciting one of your lines…”
“At a word, I am not,” he sighed.
“Graces will appear, and there’s an end,” recited Eleanor, and took the photograph at the moment he began to grin, eyes sparkling with mischief. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Can I take the beard off now?”
“Yes, you can take the beard off.”
“Right, my hair…” said Alice, thoughtfully. “I don’t know – I though it would look better down, but it makes me look a bit like a librarian like that and I don’t think Margaret would like that…”
“I don’t know,” came Severus’s muffled voice from behind the screen. “Depends on the librarian.”
“You don’t have a crush on Madame Pince, do you?” asked Alice, turning.
“Hair now, gossip later…” Eleanor weighed her wand, looking at Alice speculatively. “Do you trust me?”
Alice considered her for a moment, before nodding decisively.
“Right,” said Eleanor, and muttered a charm to curl Alice’s hair. It hung in loose ringlets, framing her face and neck. “How’s that?”
“Oh that’s much more Margaret,” exclaimed Alice, happily. “Severus, would you take a picture while Ellie’s changing?”
“Particularly if I get to give her a beard,” he said, back in his uniform.
Eleanor gave him a playful swat as she passed him.
She heard Peter and Remus come over as she changed behind the screen and winced: Remus really didn’t sound good.
She emerged to find him sitting on one of the benches someone had abandoned near enough to them to be absorbed; his skin was very pale and there were dark circles under his eyes. He was tapping his foot restlessly, however; apparently he’d just hit that point where his self control began to slip. She gave him a small smile, which he returned wearily.
Peter was being fitted by Severus, so Alice helped fit Eleanor’s corset, which had a similar effect on the assembled males. Severus nodded approvingly while Peter gave a low whistle. Remus couldn’t take his eyes off her; he blinked several times, mouth forming that roguish sideways smile that she loved.
Aware that he was staring at her, Remus deliberately tore his eyes away… he had to stop being around her at full moon, he decided. She was much too enticing for her own good… and his… He glanced back up as Alice lengthened Eleanor’s hair, letting it fall in golden waves down her back; she shook it back, laughing. One tendril of her hair rested against her shoulder and curled down towards her ample breasts; he bit his lip. He was developing a truly unhealthy obsession with that slight dip above her collar bone, too…
Not good, he thought. Think of something else…
But he couldn’t. She was just too tangible and nearby and Oh Gods…
He endeavoured to look away from her as Alice took her picture, staring out into the grounds instead.
It was a good job that everyone would be occupied tonight… if the boys were there to let him out it was likely that the first thing the werewolf did was try to get to Eleanor. And he really didn’t want that.
He glanced back, and to his relief she and Alice, who was also looking distractingly buxom, went to change. Instead he turned his attention to Peter, who was now fully dressed as a monk of the Franciscan order.
“Bless you, my son,” he said, waving his hands in a benediction, and Remus laughed, weakly.
“You’re not looking too well, Mr Lupin,” said Professor Sprout gently, wandering past with a large tub of paint. “Perhaps you should go to the Hospital Wing,” she added, glancing at the darkening sky. “Ah, Miss Wren – would you escort him please? I’m sure Miss Roberts and Mr Snape can manage.”
“Yes Professor,” she said, and gently took his arm as her hair returned to its usual short length. “You really don’t look good,” she said as they slowly walked back towards the Castle.
“You do,” he said. “That costume… well…”
“I’m rather looking forward to seeing you in yours, I have to say… Signior Mountanto.”
“Even with the beard?”
“Even with the beard… but you do get to shave it off,” she reminded him, as they reached the Greenhouses, ducking into the warm Castle.
“Ellie,” he said, as they moved through the deserted corridors.
“We don’t have to go straight to the Hospital Wing…” he said, looking wistful.
Eleanor looked at him and bit her lip; there were still a few hours until the moon rose, after all.
“What did you have in mind?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, noticing for the first time how close to her he was walking. He was losing some of his fatigue now, and she recognised the playful glint in his eyes.
He gave her a rakish grin and nodded behind her; it was the statue of the Storm Mage that had got them all hot and bothered a year previously.
“How fitting,” she laughed. “Alright, but no stopping breathing this time.”
“Deal,” he chuckled, leading her firmly to the more secluded side of the statue.
“I hope he doesn’t mind our intrusion into his peace,” said Eleanor, smiling.
Remus patted the leg of the statue absently, and leant against it on his elbow, effectively pinning her to the cool stone with his warm body. Not that she minded. She breathed him in: his scent was musky and a little spicy – like the smell you get after it rains – all strength and heat and inescapably male. Distracted, she tried to ignore the stirrings of lust in her abdomen. This was unwise.
“No doubt he got up to just the same sort of thing in his time here…” Remus murmured, his lips only inches from her own, the delicious curve of them sending her somewhere dark and needy.
“I don’t doubt it,” Eleanor managed, beginning to lose herself to the predatory sparkle in her lover’s eyes. “You are a dangerous person to be around,” she breathed, and he frowned, perplexed.
She fought the tremble that she felt pass through her body as his breath tickled the skin of her neck; every part of her wanted him nearer – hands, lips, teeth, fingers, anything. Forgetting that this was a full moon and they shouldn’t be this close, forgetting that they weren’t supposed to be doing this, forgetting that it wasn’t that late in the day and they could be unwittingly discovered at any moment, she pressed herself closer to him, appreciating the slight shudder as his body responded to hers.
She longed for him to touch her like he had a year ago, driven to her by something deep and primal – or the way he had at the lake, the cool of the water and the fire in his fingers melting her flesh under the onslaught of their mutual lust.
“You make me so very… hungry…” she murmured, closing the gap between them and claiming his lips.
Remus responded in kind, one hand in her hair, the other doing unspeakably delicious things to the flesh of her stomach and hip. He slipped his hand inside her shirt and caressed the skin of her back, drawing languorous circles with his long fingers. Eleanor’s hands, not wishing to remain idle, had also found their way inside his shirt and she stroked his back as he sighed into her mouth. The other hand, quite without instruction, moved down his back and rested on his bottom, which she squeezed.
Even through his kisses she could tell that he had chuckled, and one of his hands moved lower to return the favour. She squirmed against him, delighting in the strange fire that had ignited between them, and he moaned, the sound deep and full of want. Eleanor deepened the already passionate kiss, sliding her tongue over his and nibbling gently at his lower lip.
Remus pulled back a little and began to nip and kiss her neck; she bit her lip as his lips caressed the hollow above her collar bone before moving back to the dip in her shoulder that he’d bitten in the summer. She felt herself move against him as her head rolled to one side, giving him more room; he seemed to understand her silent request and he grazed her shoulder with the gentlest kisses before seizing her flesh with his teeth. Eleanor gasped in satisfaction and arched her body against his. He groaned and recaptured her lightly swollen lips, slipping one hand inside her shirt to grasp and caress her breast. It was Eleanor’s turn to moan.
In the back of her mind, she registered a series of small sounds – not unlike the approach of hurried footsteps.
Gasping, she pushed Remus away; he looked confused and hurt, too caught up in his present actions to hear the danger.
“Someone’s coming!” she hissed.
His head shot around as he, too, heard the approaching footsteps; they were getting nearer.
“In here,” he whispered, and pulled her into the empty History of Magic classroom. Deftly, he Disillusioned the glass in the door so that they could see out but no one could see in.
“Who is it?” whispered Eleanor, standing close enough to him to entirely distract him.
“Erm –” he peered out into the dark corridor. It was dark now, but the torches hadn’t let lit, lending to the gloom; to his astonishment he caught a glimpse of dark red hair.
Someone out in the corridor giggled and was hushed; the figures slipped behind a tapestry on the opposite side of the corridor.
“I – I think it’s Lily and James…”
Eleanor sniggered. She had been the first awake the morning after their trip to the lake, and she alone had seen Lily and James walk back to the Chalet, hand in hand. Eleanor had been under no illusion whatsoever over what they’d been doing all night; she’d given her friend a knowing look when she’d entered the kitchen, trying to nonchalantly pull grass and twigs from her hair. Both James and Lily had blushed hotly before heading off to change.
Someone, presumably James, moaned urgently; the tapestry swung gently, as though someone had brushed against it.
“I suppose we’ll just have to wait it out…” said Eleanor, and went to sit on one of the desks.
“I guess,” said Remus, glancing at the enchanted clock above the blackboard; he still had a couple of hours, and hopefully their friends wouldn’t want to be conspicuously absent for too long.
He looked at Eleanor, face still flushed from their exertions. She, too, was a little pink, her uniform was messy and her hair was sticking up oddly where he’d run his hands through it; it gave him a sudden thrill to know that it was him that had made her look so devilishly dishevelled. He ached for her.
In the corridor behind him, James moaned again, and he added a silencing charm to the door, reflecting that on the whole, he’d rather not know.
He couldn’t take his eyes off Eleanor though: she was trying to rearrange her shirt a little, and had taken off her tie. Watching her perched on the edge of one of the desks, absently swinging her shapely legs, he cursed whatever deity it was that had seen fit to lock him in a classroom with this gorgeous young woman on a full moon.
“What?” she asked, noticing both his gaze and his slight frown.
“Nothing,” he said, quickly, and against his better judgement sat on the next bench over. This, as it turned out, was a mistake. His eyes widened as he recognised a familiar scent; how was he supposed to sit still, sat next to the girl of his dreams and perfectly aware that they were both equally aroused? It was beyond comprehension.
He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, trying to shake the feel of her soft lips from his mind.
“Getting restless?” Eleanor asked, unaware of his current distress. Her knee grazed his, sending a jolt of shivers through his body.
He nodded, tersely.
She rubbed his back in what he was sure was meant to be a reassuring fashion.
“We could always continue… you know. What they interrupted…” she said, softly, and he knew that she, too, was struggling against her own desire.
Remus closed his eyes. He barely trusted himself to speak as visions of precisely what he wanted to do to her chased around his mind.
“Ellie,” he began, and took a steadying breath.
He had intended to explain what was going on in his mind, and why even sitting this close together was such a bad idea tonight, and that they should definitely sit at opposite ends of the classroom until Lily and James had left, he really had…
She was looking over at him with that coy little smile on her lips, one eyebrow raised in inquiry, face still tinted with passion.
The wolf in him reared.
He was in front of her in a second, pressed between her dangling legs; he growled at her gasp of surprise, crushing his lips against hers, one hand on either side of her face. If she had been shocked at his sudden onslaught, she didn’t let it faze her, instead taking the opportunity to run her hands down his torso; his embrace intensified as her fingers brushed across the skin of his stomach, briefly exposed as he shifted against her.
Again, he trailed kisses down her neck, this time heading purposefully lower. She flung her head back in pleasure as he nipped at her sensitive flesh…
“Remus?” Eleanor managed, breathing hard.
He forced himself to pull back slightly; hands still roving across her stomach and hips. She saw the tell-tale glimmer of amber in his eyes, but it was only a glimmer- he had said before that this was him with no self control, rather than his body under the control of the wolf.
She bit her lip as his fingers toyed with the buttons of her shirt, undoing them slowly, tortuously…
She was suddenly aware of a flicker of fear – not of him, never of him – but of herself, and of what they were about to do. It was plain enough that there would be no stopping him now, with the moon sapping his strength of will, urging him on; she was equally aware, with that sort of dizzy excitement that seizes you as you accept that something is now beyond your control, that she didn’t want him to stop – more even, that she wouldn’t try to stop him.
His fingers were clumsier now, fumbling with the lower buttons, and she guessed that he was equally amazed, equally fearful…
The look in his eyes suggested that he was falling, helplessly, and she wanted nothing more than to plunge with him, headlong, into the searing flames that accompanied his every caress.
Very deliberately, she moved her leg against his; he started, meeting her gaze, and she busied herself with the buttons on his shirt before leaning back slightly, wriggling against him restively.
Remus’s hand was resting on her thigh, just as the point where the fabric of her skirt finished and her flesh began. He was staring at her, flushed and panting, grey eyes dark with lust; she understood that he was reining in the remnants of his self control to ask her permission.
Scooting forwards slightly, so that her whole body was pressed tightly against his, she kiss him fiercely, wantonly.
He got the message.
It was very nearly midnight when Sirius dragged himself back into the Gryffindor Tower. Peter had been right: despite the extra hour in bed the teachers were expecting more of them now than ever. Although he’d enjoyed the work, along with the accompanying banter and arsing about, he was exhausted and more than a little sore from all the fetching and carrying. Weird as it was abandoning Remus to the moon tonight, he couldn’t help but be a bit grateful. He’d enjoy his sleep tonight; James and Peter were somewhere behind him, and he was looking forward to a long, hot shower.
When he emerged, dripping wet and much more relaxed, James and Peter were deep discussion in the corner of the room.
“Having a mothers’ meeting?” he asked as he crossed the room, curious. Two pairs of worried eyes turned to face him. “What?”
“It’s Eleanor…” said James slowly, as if he didn’t really want to tell him.
“Is she ok?” Sirius asked, suddenly alert.
“I don’t know – I don’t think so…”
“She was fine earlier,” said Sirius suspiciously – what weren’t they telling him?
“We were walking back from the stage, me and Claire,” said Peter, frowning. “And she was fine – laughing and joking with Lily and Alice – and then she went all quiet and just burst into tears.”
Sirius stared at him. With two notable exceptions it was practically unknown for something to upset Eleanor.
“Did you ask what was going on?”
“Of course I did,” said Peter, indignantly. “But the girls were intent on bundling her off back up here – I walked Claire back to her Common Room…”
“And she didn’t say anything?” Sirius asked, frustrated.
“She did,” said James, quietly.
“I heard her say something about…” Peter glanced at James, who shrugged helplessly. “Something about Moony… and betrayal… that’s all I heard…”
Something dark and frightening coiled itself around Sirius’s stomach.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Peter, miserably. “If he’d bit her or something she’d have been upset straight away…”
“Unless it was something the girls were talking about…” suggested James.
“They were just talking about the play, though…”
Sirius frowned deeply as his best friends tried unsuccessfully to guess the cause of Miss Wren’s distress.
“He made a move,” he snarled, and both heads snapped up. “He’s been sniffing around her for the last few weeks – I’ve never seen him like that ‘round a girl,” he continued, “and he keeps acting all possessive.”
James and Peter shared a look, both wondering precisely how Sirius had missed the last year’s worth of sexual tension between their friends.
“And he wouldn’t have the guts to ask her out – this being Moony – but tonight…”
All three boys turned to look at the outline of the moon, hidden for the moment behind a bank of wintry clouds.
“He made a move and she didn’t want to know – he went too far – that’s the only thing that would have upset her like that! He forced himself on her!”
“Can’t fault your logic, mate,” said James, unhappily.
“If he’s hurt her-” he broke off, unable to articulate the anger coursing through him.
“Nothing we can do tonight, is there?” said Peter, carefully, aware that Sirius might try to do something monumentally stupid if left to his own devices. “I mean, we need to talk to him about it, and, well, we can’t.”
“We should sleep on it – the girls are looking after Eleanor, and Remus is probably tearing himself to shreds as we speak…”
Sirius glared at them both, though he knew they were right. He’d talk to Eleanor in the morning… and if he’d hurt her…
Angrily, he pulled on his pyjamas and flung himself down onto his bed, yanking the curtains closed after him.
Eleanor’s face came to mind, tearful and pleading.
Remus Lupin was a dead man walking.
“But I don’t understand,” Alice was saying. “If you both wanted to –” she blushed, “– well, you know… then why –”
“Because it’s full moon,” said Eleanor thickly. She’d stopped crying now, and was increasingly annoyed at herself that she had in the first place. If you asked her, she couldn’t have told you what it had been that had set her off, but something had…
The girls had stared at her in astonishment for a few seconds before taking an arm each and frog-marching her back to Gryffindor Tower. They were all sat on Eleanor’s bed now, legs crossed amongst a mountain of squishy cushions that Lily and Alice had felt would help.
“He has absolutely no self control just before the full moon – you’ve seen him at dinner before,” she continued and Lily nodded. “And I know that, and I should have stopped him – I let him down – I betrayed him!”
Alice and Lily shared a look over their friend’s head.
“I don’t think that’s true,” said Lily, slowly.
Eleanor looked up at her in confusion.
“But nothing,” her friend continued. “You said that that was Remus but with no self control.”
“And you both wanted this…”
“Yes,” said Eleanor, colouring a little.
“And he didn’t hurt you, or pressure you into something you didn’t want…”
“Of course he didn’t!”
“Then you’re fine. You haven’t let him down at all – so maybe this all happened a bit sooner than you’d intended. So what? You’re both of age and willing. And you’ve decided that you’ll be together whatever Sirius has to say about it.”
Eleanor looked at her doubtfully.
“Do you think so?”
“Yes,” said Lily firmly.
“She’s right,” said Alice. “You both got a little carried away, it happens. He’ll understand – talk to him about it tomorrow.”
Eleanor nodded, and pulled herself together a bit more.
“Ellie…” asked Alice, delicately. “What was it like?”
“Er –” she said, colouring right up to her hairline. Gods knew this conversation was embarrassing enough without going into details. “It was… good…?”
Lily was trying not to laugh, Eleanor could tell, but she wasn’t about to drop her friend in it if she hadn’t told Alice that her and James had taken the ‘next step’, as it were.
“Did it – you know – hurt?” Alice was leaning forward slightly, desperate, Eleanor realised, for useful information.
“A – bit, at first,” she said. “But then it was just…”
“Well, clumsy and hilarious,” she admitted, with a small smile, and Lily really did laugh this time. “But it rapidly got a lot better… and the fact is was Remus meant it was… I don’t know. Special, I suppose.” She smiled, shyly. “I take it you and Frank haven’t –”
“Not as such,” said Alice, and it was her turn to blush. “I mean, we’ve gone some of the way… but we want to wait until we’re… comfortable with it.”
“Very wise,” said Eleanor, amused at the irony of her earlier tearfulness.
“How about you and James?” asked Alice, curious.
“Erm –” it was Eleanor’s turn to laugh, Lily looked like a deer who had mistakenly thought that the truck had long since passed her. “Yes, actually…” She glared at Eleanor. “After that trip to the Lake…”
“Certainly a memorable evening,” said Eleanor, smirking.
“And?” Alice prodded.
“Well it was – it was like Eleanor said, clumsy and really funny – we didn’t really know what we were doing at first – and I got the giggles really badly…” she blushed, hotly. “But then it felt really, really good.”
“Good enough to repeat?” Alice asked, an eyebrow raised in amusement.
Lily’s face was approximately the same shade as her hair now, and still deepening.
“A few times…”
“You know, Alice,” observed Eleanor, amused. “When you and Frank finally do, we’ll want to be informed – even if we’ve left Hogwarts and it’s your wedding night.”
Both girls laughed. “I’m not kidding,” she continued. “I expect an owl, immediately afterwards, with a full evaluation and run down of the salient points.”
Although the conversation with the girls had done much to allay her earlier misgivings, she was still restless, and lay awake for a long time after the light snores of her room-mates first emerged.
Huffing, she rolled over, giving up on the concept of sleep for the time being. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table: it was well past two in the morning… Everyone sensible would be very much asleep by now… and Remus would be out there on his own, pacing about and tearing at his own flesh…
Silently, she slipped out of her bed and pulled on her jeans and her jumper, grabbing a spare blanket from the wardrobe. It was disturbingly easy to slip out of the slumbering school and down the track to Hogsmeade, and easy enough to negotiate the village. The Shrieking Shack made a stark and unsettling outline on the November skyline, and with all the snarling and yelping emanating from within, she had no trouble whatsoever understanding the villagers’ assumption that the house was haunted.
She froze, momentarily, as a mournful howl sounded into the night – he’d heard her feet crunching on the fallen leaves on the path. She walked around the Shack a couple of times, listening to the scrabbling and snarling as the creature inside tried to get closer to her. She knew he couldn’t get at her, however. Dumbledore had made sure that he would never be a threat to anyone outside the hut – assuming they didn’t try to follow him down the tunnel; unsurprisingly, Remus had refused to tell her where it began. Behind the wood and stone wall, something growled.
At least I’ve distracted him from himself, she thought, and selected an area of wall that was sheltered from the chilly night wind. She hunkered down, resting her back against the scratchy walls of the Shack and pulled her blanket more tightly around herself. From the house behind her she heard him scratching and scraping at the walls; the noise was less threatening now. The werewolf seemed less intent on finding her and killing her than curious at her unusual presence.
She shifted, her foot causing a loud cascade of leaves down the path; there was a plaintive whining from the house behind her.
“I’m not going anywhere,” said Eleanor, to the frosty night. There was a renewal in the volume of scrabbling. “And you can’t get to me,” she continued. The werewolf huffed, presumably in annoyance. “Hush.”
She listened patiently as he began to pace back and forth, pads padding and claws clicking across the wooden floor. Tired as she hadn’t been in the Gryffindor Tower, she yawned heavily and cast a warming spell on the blanket, snuggling up against the wall.
“I’m glad it’s not raining,” she mumbled, staring up into the vast canopy of stars above her. The pacing paused, and she heard him sniff at the wood on the other side of the wall; he was right behind her.
“I wish I could be in there with you,” she said, softly, pressing a hand against the splintery wood.
The werewolf whined again, unhappily; she imagined him pressing a paw to the other side of the wall and chuckled to herself.
One day, maybe, she thought. If someone could figure out a way for him to keep his mind.
She felt the wood behind her warm slightly as he settled down behind her, unwilling to abandon this strange new creature that he couldn’t see or eat.
She modified the warming charm to fail in time for her to get back up to the Castle in the morning, and drifted off to sleep with the sound of the werewolf’s breathing in her ears.