Much Ado About Hogwarts

Casting Call

Christmas came and went, with its own dramas and fall outs, and the new term started, as was tradition, with a spectacularly Marauderesque bang. Naturally, this meant that all four of the Marauders had a very long, very arduous detentions. Lily was patrolling with Frank, and Alice, having been inadvertently at the receiving end of the prank, had gone for a quiet lie-down in the Gryffindor Tower; Eleanor had already begun planning their inevitable retribution.

Eleanor had retreated to the Library on the basis that there was no time like the present to get the huge amount of work they’d been presented with on the first week back started. A disparity in the curriculum provided by her tutors and the Hogwarts staff had meant that she had written at least three of the essays required already, and it was simply a case of copying them out. She’d just put the finishing touches to the third one when distraction appeared in the form of Severus Snape, who settled at her table rather wearily.

“Evening,” she said, moving some of her books to give him room.

Severus grunted.

“Are you alright?”

He looked out at her from within the curtain of his dark hair.

“I’ve been better,” he said.

There were a few minutes silence as they each pulled out a new project. Eleanor dragged out her Charms chart; whatever Severus was working on involved a book with some horrific illustrations.

Each subject must be of an approximate mass to the other, or an imbalance in the spell will occur; this will lead to combustion.

Good to know, Eleanor thought, and noted it down under the heading ‘Problems’.

“But, thank you for asking.”

“You’re welcome.”

The correct way to charm a teapot to sing like a Partridge is as follows –

“Eleanor?” he asked, not taking his eyes from the page in front of him.

“What?”

“Do you know any decent healing spells?”

Eleanor looked at him; he was hiding it well, but his right side was drooped more than usual, and – yes – there was a hitch in every other breath.

“We should take you to Madame Pom-”

“No!” he said, and started packing his things away. “Forget I said anything – goodnight.”

Eleanor gathered up her homework with a wave of her wand and hurried after him; he was limping. She pulled him into an empty classroom.

“What’s going on, Severus?”

“Nothing.”

Eleanor narrowed her eyes at him.

“Nothing, really, I – OW!

“Nothing, huh?”

“You didn’t have to poke me so hard…”

“What happened?”

Severus just stared at her; absently, she noticed that he had a black eye, previously concealed behind his hair.

“Well, fine, don’t tell me – but at least let me help –”

“I can’t go to Madame Pomfrey,” he said, and there was a note of urgency in his voice now.

“We don’t have to… we just need to get a little creative.”

0o0o0o0

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” he hissed, as they hid outside Professor Slughorn’s classroom.

“It’s a terrible idea,” she whispered, “but you said you didn’t want to go to Madame Pomfrey, and you’ll never heal up properly if I can’t get it.”

Fine.”

“Do try not to sound so enthusiastic about me helping you.”

“Sorry.”

“That’s better. Now go, quickly, or this won’t work…”

She watched as he hurried off; he was right, this was a really bad idea, but what with his need for secrecy and the rather urgent particulars of the situation they didn’t have much of a choice.

Straightening up, she smoothed down her shirt and pulled out the Potions essay she’d copied down earlier.

Count to ten, deep breath, worried expression…

She knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

Professor Slughorn was seated at the head of the classroom, reading through essays and attempting to look stern; it wasn’t an expression that he was particularly good at. Eight eyebrows furrowed in confusion as the Marauders turned to look at her. If Severus had known that they were in here, he would never have agreed to this.

“Oh, I’m sorry Professor – it’s just I’m terribly worried about my essay – I’m not sure if I’ve understood this particular formula; I wouldn’t want to get it wrong on the exam –” she babbled, giving the impression of a very flustered schoolgirl. Slughorn put a fatherly arm around her shoulders and piloted her away from the boys.

“Now, now, Miss Wren, let’s just sit down and have a look, shall we? No need to get upset…” he half turned. “You gentlemen can just carry on, thank you.”

Eleanor groaned in silent sympathy; he was making them scrape out the cauldrons by hand. Urgh. At least it would cheer Alice up…

“Oh, thank you Professor, I’m sure I’ve just misunderstood…”

She could feel four pairs of eyes watching her as she fretted and Slughorn patronised her. Glancing up, she met Remus’s questioning gaze and shook her head, just a fraction.

Come on Severus, she thought.

CRASH!

Something hit the floor above them with sufficient force to make the ceiling shake.

“What in blazes?!” Slughorn cried.

Finally.

Above them, the sound of illicit and joyous shattering was continuing; all six of them were frozen in place, staring upwards. Then, drifting down to them like an evil smell came the sound of hysterical cackling.

“Peeves!” said Slughorn, hotly. “He’s gone too far this time. Miss Wren, keep an eye on these rapscallions for a minute,” he instructed, hurrying out of the classroom.

“That was brilliant,” said Sirius, as she watched him out of sight. “Wait, what are you do-”

“Shut up and keep scrubbing,” she said and slipped into Slughorn’s private store; the man couldn’t organise his ingredients for anything. This was going to take too long – she could already hear shouts from above; she hoped Severus had got himself away.

She scanned the shelves hurriedly – she could barely reach the top ones… there was the sound of a door closing in the classroom.

“Eleanor – he’s coming back,” hissed James, as Peter returned to his seat. “Whatever you’re doing, hurry up!”

Accio dittany!” she hissed, and three tiny crystal bottles flew into her hand. Quickly secreting them in her waistband of her skirt she slipped back out of the store, closed the door and hurried back to the desk, pulling her shirt straight.

The Marauders were staring at her in disbelief – and a touch of admiration – but their expressions were ones of carefully crafted annoyance as soon as Slughorn returned.

“No need to look at me like that boys,” he frowned, sitting back down. “You earned this punishment, after all. Now, Miss Wren, let me take another look…”

She let him think he was helping her for another five minutes before taking her leave, the curious gaze of all four of her friends on her retreating back.

0o0o0o0

Episkey.

“Ow!”

“Well don’t fidget then… here,” she said, passing him one of the bottles of dittany. She hadn’t really needed three, but there hadn’t been any time… chances were Slughorn wouldn’t even notice that they were missing. They’d probably come in handy; she put two of them back in her bag.

“This stuff’s really good, what is it?” Severus asked, watching in amazement as the deep gash in his leg painlessly healed itself, leaving a strange trail of smoke.

“Essence of dittany. I used to help my housekeeper prepare it for her nephew.”

“Get into a lot of fights, did he?”

“Is that what happened to you?”

Severus paused, weighing the tiny bottle in his hands.

“I’m not telling you,” he said. “Don’t – please don’t look at me like that… I’m grateful for the help… it’s just,” he sighed, and slumped a little. “I don’t want anyone to know.”

“Know what, that Mulciber’s a violent inbred twat?” asked Eleanor. “That one I worked out all by myself, actually.”

He stared at her.

“How did you know?”

“It was the way he looked at you… that day you spoke up in the meeting.”

“He… he doesn’t like people like me to succeed…” he said, bitterly.

“People like you?”

“Half-bloods.”

“You mean, someone with one Muggle parent?” she asked, frowning.

“Is that not what you call it in the Alps?”

“I’ve never called it anything before…”

He smiled grimly.

“It sounds like a nice place.”

Eleanor sat on the desk opposite him, pulling her feet up and resting her chin on her knees.

“This place is so… angry… no, angry’s the wrong word… so mixed-up, so lost, sometimes. People classifying others by their parentage, people fighting in corridors… people excluding others because they’re different…” she frowned. “I can’t pretend the villages around me were any different, but I miss the fact that in the Chalet, nothing could touch me. Or anyone I invited in. Friends were friends – it was all a lot simpler.”

He gave a hollow laugh.

“Hogwarts is a good deal simpler for me than home…”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Oh yes, there’s a hoard of Mulcibers here – and your dratted friends – but generally speaking whatever they do you know the punishment for something will be sufficient for them to stop eventually. Not throw that last spell… I don’t have that at home.”

Not for the first time, Eleanor wondered about the dark, shy boy in front of her.

“Your parents?”

“They… don’t get on,” he said, not meeting her eyes. “My father – well… he doesn’t like anything much… but he hates magic. Thinks the fact that my mother and I have it makes him weak.”

“So he…” how did you ask someone that? “Reminds himself how much stronger he is?”

“Regularly.”

“That’s –”

“Yes. Don’t tell anyone, will you?” he asked, suddenly looking up at her. “I don’t think I could bear it if those Gryffindor bastards knew.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

“Thanks…”

They surveyed each other awkwardly for a moment; Eleanor pointed her wand at him.

Reparo,” she said, and the torn fabric of his uniform knitted itself back together.

He held out the bottle of dittany.

“You keep that… you might need it again.”

0o0o0o0

“What time’s the meeting again?”

“For the last time, Alice, not until two,” said Sirius from the vicinity of the carpet.

“Well if you hadn’t given me concussion then maybe I’d remember it better,” she snapped, giving him a light shove.

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” said Peter, watching one of his bishops battle-axing Sirius’s castle. “It all got a bit… out of hand.”

It was a lazy Sunday morning, and none of them felt like attending anything involving hard work, which the afternoon’s session undoubtedly would. They were sprawled across the Common Room in the kind of stupor that comes after a hearty breakfast eaten late in the day; they had absorbed Claire and Frank at breakfast since none of them had any intention of venturing out for lunch, and both of them were considered honorary Gryffindors by the majority of the Tower now anyway.

Frank had fallen asleep with his head in Alice’s lap, his long legs dangling over the end of the sofa, snoring softly; Sirius and Peter were engaged in a vicious chess match on the rug in front of the fire. Claire had occupied the other end of the sofa and was painting her toenails lots of different colours. Lily was curled up comfortably in one of the squashy armchairs with James; both of them were reading, though the material was wildly different – ‘Beating the Bludgers’ by Kennilworthy Whisp and a Muggle novel, both Christmas presents from the other. Remus was stretched out with his back against Claire’s end of the sofa, watching Eleanor idly conjuring a series of floating flowers, bubbles and puffs of smoke from her own squashy armchair.

“And we paid for it, believe me,” said James, not even looking up from his book. “Slughorn had us scraping cauldrons out for ages.”

“Well then, you shouldn’t try to levitate your classmates then, should you,” said Lily trying, and failing, to look stern; she was far too comfortable, curled up with her boyfriend, to be really annoyed with him.

Remus grinned at Eleanor; he’d told her about the talk he’d had with Lily at the Autumn Gala – James had been thanking him every other day for weeks. She blushed slightly, and absently touched the spine of the book he’d given her for Christmas – a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets; she’d given up pretending that she wasn’t carrying it around with her all the time, instead telling Alice and Lily that she liked dipping in and out of poetry, and she wanted it on her in case she became catatonic in History of Magic.

Remus sighed and glared mildly at Sirius; just because he wasn’t ‘off limits’ anymore didn’t mean that Eleanor was. Her initial prediction of Sirius’s disinterest had appeared to be proven wrong at Christmas, when he had presented her with a beautiful chrome-plated necklace (according to Sirius, gold was tacky and since the whole group now knew about Remus’s ‘furry little problem’, the majority of them disapproved of silver). Remus had only just managed not to strangle him right there under the tree on Christmas morning as he’d helped her with the clasp. Eleanor had taken him to one side later in the day and set him straight, which had led to the usual inevitable battle with their own desires.

She was still wearing it, which irked him a little, but as she’d repeatedly pointed out, it was pretty and it didn’t mean anything more to her than a gift given in friendship. It was very pretty… he looked at it; the tiny flowers were elegantly spaced around the neck and collar bone, flowing down to one tendril that was just visible as it disappeared below the fabric of her blouse. He sighed; Sirius really didn’t know just how much of a bastard he was.

“Serves you right,” Alice was saying. “I had that headache for days.”

“That reminds me,” said Sirius, grimacing as Peter systematically destroyed his pawns. “What were you up to on Wednesday, Eleanor?”

“What’s this?” asked Lily, immediately curious; Remus found it endlessly amusing that she was a lot less worried about rule breaking when it was Eleanor doing it.

Eleanor conjured a tiny, jewel-bright humming bird and sent it skimming off through the smoke and flowers, which were now spreading liberally across the ceiling.

“Nothing you need to know about,” she said.

“I need to know about something that might get us in trouble,” said Sirius, turning to her. “If Slughorn notices whatever it is you took from his private stores is missing he’ll suspect us.”

“Padfoot, when has Slughorn ever noticed something missing from his stores?” asked Peter incredulously.

“There’s a first time for everything.”

“You took something from Slughorn’s private store?” gasped Alice, hand over her mouth. This movement dislodged Frank slightly and he squinted up at them sleepily.

“He’s not been hiding his crystallised pineapple in there again has he?”

No,” said Sirius, getting frustrated. “Eleanor showed up right in the middle of our detention on Wednesday, caused some kind of distraction involving Peeves – and I’d quite like to know how you arranged that, by the way, Peeves isn’t the best at taking his time over things, so you had to have had help -” he eyed Alice and Lily, but both of them looked just as oblivious. “ – snuck into his private stores, stuck something in her clothing and made off with it without him noticing a thing.”

“It wasn’t half bad, actually,” reflected James.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, now tell us what you are up to.”

“I’m not up to anything.”

“Then what you were up to,” said Peter, leaning on his elbows. “I think I speak for all four of us when I say we could do without another early morning thunderstorm.”

“Rest assured I’m not planning any retribution – that detention was sufficiently disgusting to appease my sense of justice.”

“But what did you steal?”

“Does it matter?” asked Eleanor, getting quite annoyed.

“Well, I’d like to know in case one of the teachers asks if I’ve seen it,” said Lily, fairly.

“Yes,” agreed Frank. “That way at least we know we can deflect any attention away.”

“Well I appreciate the thought, but…”

“If you’re not up to anything, and it’s neither dangerous nor illegal, then what’s the harm in telling us?” asked Remus, reasonably. Eleanor glared at him.

“Fine. It was Essence of Dittany. Happy now?”

Claire frowned.

“That’s a really powerful healing tincture,” she said slowly. “Why would you need it?”

There was a pause as the collected students processed this new information.

“Ellie, if someone’s been hurting you, you can tell us,” said Sirius, kneeling up and laying a hand on her leg. Remus fought the urge to hex him for using the familiar form of her name; that was what he called her.

“And then we can kill them,” added James; he glanced at Lily.

“No, I agree, if someone’s hurting anyone in this group then they die.”

“While I’m grateful for the support, I’m fine,” said Eleanor, firmly. “It wasn’t for me, and before you ask, no I’m not going to tell you who.”

There for a moment there was no sound other than the crackle of the fire and the burble of conversations continuing around them.

“But that means that there’s someone in the school who’s been sufficiently injured to need Essence of Dittany,” began Frank, slowly.

“-and who won’t go to Madame Pomfrey –” added James.

“-and who doesn’t want anyone to know how badly they’re hurt,” finished Remus sombrely.

Lily gave Eleanor a hard look.

“The person you’re protecting needs help, Eleanor, you have to tell us who they are.”

“No,” she replied, calmly. “I don’t. Anyway I can’t, I promised.”

“I could take points from you,” said Lily, calling her bluff.

“There wouldn’t be any point, I still wouldn’t tell you.”

“But if someone needs our help –” started Alice, but Eleanor interrupted her.

“They made it quite clear that they didn’t want help – they only asked me because I was unlikely to tell anyone, and they still wouldn’t tell me anything much. If I let on to someone about it they won’t even come to me for help, and then where will they be?” She continued soberly, “Honestly guys I don’t think there’s that much we can do.”

There was rather a glum silence, broken abruptly by a series of loud taps on the Common Room window; as they turned to look one of the third years opened it and immediately flattened herself against the wall as nine school owls soared into the room. Like members of some weird aerial ballet they circled the ceiling for a moment before dropping a letter into the laps of all nine stunned sixth years.

“Now what did we do?” asked James, staring after the owls as they flew back out of the window.

“Nothing,” said Claire, staring at her envelope. “They’re cast lists.”

They stared at each other; Remus had gone a little green.

“One at a time?” asked Frank, who was also looking quite pale.

“Alright,” said Alice, taking a deep breath and ripping open her envelope. Inside were two sheets of parchment; one had a full cast list, which she ignored and the other, just her name and a character name… “I got Margaret!” she cried, happily; Frank kissed her.

“See, we told you you’d be brilliant!”

“You next, Claire,” Sirius urged, looking quite excited.

“Oh, ok… I’m Ursula! That’s ace – not too many lines,” she smiled. Peter gave her a wide grin. “And me and Alice have a lot of stuff together.” The two girls smiled happily at one another.

“Now it’s Moony’s turn,” said James.

“Do I have to?” he asked in a voice of dread.

“Yes, or I will,” said Sirius.

“Urgh…” he opened his envelope and went a funny green colour. There had to be some kind of mistake, he thought, desperately.

“Who’s he got?” asked Eleanor, seeing that Remus probably wasn’t going to answer them. Claire read his part over his shoulder.

“Oh, wow,” she said. “He’s Benedick.”

What?” asked Sirius, who’d rather been hoping for that part.

“Way to go Moony!” James and Peter high-fived on his behalf.

“That’s excellent Remus,” said Lily.

“This is horrible,” said Remus. “There has to be some kind of mistake…”

“You can’t back out,” said Peter, with sympathy. “They won’t let you.”

Oh Gods…

“I’ll bet you’ll make a great Benedick,” said Eleanor, encouragingly. He grimaced.

“Doubtful,” he said, unhappily.

“Ooh, I wonder who you’ll have to kiss!” cried Sirius gleefully. “It’s about time you got some practice – OW!” he yelped as he disappeared under every cushion within reach.

“There’s a time and a place Padfoot,” said James, firmly. “Lily, who’ve you got?”

“Er,” she said, opening her envelope. “Oh,” she said, going a bit pink. “I’m Hero…”

“Brilliant!” said Eleanor, enthusiastically. “You’ll be perfect.” Lily beamed at her.

James opened his, frowning.

“You’ll kick arse… but I might have to hex whoever’s Claudio – I don’t want him… never mind.”

“James is Claudio,” said Sirius, peering over his friend’s bit of parchment. “Well that fits.”

James and Lily had both gone a bit pink now; they were smiling shyly at one another.

“Me next,” said Sirius. “I hope I get Don Pedro – it would suit me, being royalty.” His face fell, and Remus – not quite having forgiven him for earlier – snatched the parchment out of his hand; he snorted.

“Well you’re still a Prince…” he grinned evilly. “Sprout and Flitwick seem to have the measure of you ‘Don John, Don Pedro’s bastard brother’.”

“Shut up Benedick,” said Sirius grumpily.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” said Alice, soothingly. “Think of it this way: evil characters are always the most fun to play.”

“I suppose…”

“Eleanor next!” said Peter, ignoring Padfoot’s wounded pride.

“Oh, right…” there was the sound of ripping paper, then Eleanor went bright red.

“What?”

“I’m… er… Beatrice,” she said, looking at Remus, whose pallor quickly evolved to match her blush. “I mean, I’ve always wanted to play Beatrice –”

“Moony has to kiss Ellie!” teased Sirius gleefully, before James buried him in the cushions once more.

“You’ll both be excellent,” said Lily, firmly. “Peter, who are you?” she asked, steering the conversation away from her two stricken friends.

“Ooh, Friar Francis,” he said excitedly. “He’s cool!”

“Nice one,” said James, still partially suffocating his friend. Claire gave Peter a smile that made him blush. “Just Frank left, then.”

They waited as Frank opened the remaining envelope.

“I won’t have got any- oh. I’m Leonato…” he said, looking as if he wasn’t sure if he was happy or terrified.

“That’s a really good part,” grinned Eleanor.

Alice giggled.

“That means I’m dating an older man,” she said.

“One who happens to be your master,” said Frank, grinning.

“Get a room, you two,” said Sirius, who had managed to fight James off.

“You never do.”

Sirius pulled a face.

“Who else is in it?”

They each pulled out their cast lists and began to read.

“Ooh,” said Lily, “Algernon Zabini’s Don Pedro, he’ll be interesting to watch…”

“Urgh, Snivellus is Antonio – you have to pretend to be his brother Frank…”

“Don’t be a dick, Sirius,” said Eleanor sharply, as Lily glared at him.

“But he’s-”

“A friend of mine, got a problem with that?” she snapped.

The Marauders stared at her as one man, dumbfounded; usually only Lily rushed to his defence.

“Yes, actually,” Sirius began.

“Well, tough. I think he’ll do an excellent job” she said, with more force than was strictly necessary. “And if I hear you calling him ‘Snivellus’ again I’ll make you eat your own Quidditch robes, are we clear?”

The thing they’d quickly realised about Eleanor was that, like Remus, there were times to push her and times when she’d probably kill you if you did.

“But-”

“Leave it Padfoot,” said James, quietly.

“I can kind of see why they picked you for Beatrice,” said Peter, nervously.

“Sorry. I just hate when people bully each other.”

“But he-”

Remus put his hand over Sirius’s mouth.

“She’s holding a wand, Padfoot. I think if you keep talking the existence of any future generations of the great and noble house of Black will be in jeopardy,” he hissed.

“Moving on,” said Lily, with an air of authority.

“Ah, Ferdie’s Balthasar,” said Claire, changing the subject.

“Oh, he’ll be good,” said Peter, eyeing Eleanor’s wand hand worriedly. “He sings really well…”

Alice blushed.

“I see I’ll be being ravished by Nathan…”

“I’ll make him be gentle,” said Frank. “He’s a good chap, he’ll have fun as Borachio.”

“Who’s Conrade?” asked Eleanor, still glaring at Sirius, Remus’s hand still clamped firmly over his mouth.

Claire laughed.

“Thomas Abbot – he’ll be in for a shock, he hates being the centre of attention.”

“He’s not the only one,” grumbled Remus.

“Urgh, how did Mulciber and Rosier get parts?” Lily asked, with distaste.

Eleanor peered at the list in front of her and snorted.

“Dogberry and Verges… well at least they don’t have to interact with too many people,” she said. “That’s probably because the teachers want to find out whether or not they actually have a sense of humour, between them.”

“Damocles is the Sexton…” said Frank. “He’ll like that, taking the piss out of that pair of twats. Oh, poor Dotty,” he went on. “She’s ‘boy’ – she won’t like that at all.”

“OW!” cried Remus, and snatched his hand away from Sirius’s mouth. “He bit me!”

“I wanted my mouth back,” said Sirius, huffily.

“I’d wash that if I were you Remus,” said Lily. “You don’t know where it’s been.”

Remus pulled a face and pulled out his wand.

“I know precisely where it’s been,” he said darkly. “Scourgify.

“You know you love me.”

“Archie’s a Messenger,” said Claire, conversationally. “Ooh, and Boxley’s a member of the watch…”

“Awesome, so’s Crispin,” said Frank.

Alice pulled a face.

“And Crabbe… poor them.”

“Alice!” said Sirius, sounding impressed. “I’ve never heard you say anything so mean before.”

Alice blushed.

0o0o0o0

They’d all started to make a move to get ready for the meeting; Eleanor was rooting around in her wardrobe for a jumper. Pulling out an old green jumper she straightened up and very nearly had a heart attack.

“Sorry,” said Remus, closing the door. “I don’t think anyone saw me…”

“If they come up here and find you…”

“I know… Eleanor, what are we going to do?”

“About what?”

“About the play…”

“I don’t think there’s anything we can do. Peter said that we’re stuck with it, once they’ve assigned parts…”

“I know... but Sirius is right, I will have to kiss you…”

Eleanor allowed herself to raise an eyebrow and smile.

“I have to say, I was rather looking forward to that particular aspect.”

Remus grinned before he could stop himself, then forced his face back into a frown.

“But I have to kiss you like I haven’t done it before, like I don’t want to push you up against the nearest wall and –” he stopped himself, but far too late.

“Push me up against the nearest wall and what?” she asked, flattered and a little shocked by his fervour.

“Well,” he said, blushing again. “You know…”

Eleanor gave him a coy little smile that made his heart do somersaults.

“No, I don’t… perhaps you’ll have to enlighten me…” she said, and then checked herself. “Some other time, when I’m no longer off limits.”

Remus crossed the room and sat down on her bed, running a frustrated hand through his hair.

“Bloody Padfoot,” he grumbled.

“Why do you call him that?” she asked, settling beside him.

To her surprise she detected a flicker of something hidden in his expression, but it was gone in an instant.

“You’ll have to ask him, he thought it sounded cool.”

Eleanor grimaced; they sat in gloomy contemplation for a minute, each lost in the other’s thoughts. Remus heaved a great sigh.

“I hate being the centre of attention,” he said, softly.

“I know… but I’ll be right there with you, for most of the play, and James or Lily will be with you for most of the rest…”

She lifted her hand to his cheek and he closed his eyes, savouring the moment of contact.

“That, at least, is something I can be grateful for,” he said, pressing the palm of it against his lips. He took her hand and held it to him. Their enforced separation was wearing on them both like good cloth against friction. He held her hand to his face tightly, pressing another kiss into her wrist and resting against it. He looked at her hopelessly, his face a portrait of misery.

“I think we’re breaking every single one of ours rules right now,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, attempting frivolity. “It’s not Valentine’s day and we’re not in Madame Puddifoot’s.”

“That’s because hell hasn’t frozen over,” he mumbled, giving a dry chuckle. “Although I think I’ve thought of another one, sad to say,” he said, rubbing his thumb over the knuckles of her captive hand.

“Oh?” Eleanor asked, her heart sinking.

“Excluding instances of acute illness, neither of us should ever be seated on the other’s bed.”

Eleanor glanced behind her at her bed, which looked irritatingly comfortable and inviting; they were very close together… if she wanted to, she could pull him down with her and then…

But they were in the girls’ dormitory, and nearly late for a meeting, and while Remus wasn’t off limits anymore, she certainly still was if Sirius’s recent behaviour was anything to go by.

“Bloody Gryffindors,” she grumbled. “Why do we have to be so damn’ noble all the time?”

“It’s our way,” he said, finally relinquishing her hand and standing. “Come on, my lady tongue,” he said, paraphrasing Shakespeare.

“We’ll have less of that, my Lord Lackbeard.”

“Isn’t that Claudio?”

“Do you have a beard?”

“No, but…”

“There you are then.”

“But Ellie, that’s my line!”


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