Chapter 2 : The Cure For Boredom
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The short excerpt of Beowulf: A Prose Translation, is written by David Wright, published by Penguin Books in 1957.
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. – Ellen Parr
The white shirt, or the blue shirt?
Remus Lupin stood in front of his mirror, holding up two of his best shirts. Both covered the scars on his chest quite well. The white one, however, wasn’t very fashionable, whereas the blue one was too tight for his liking. He pulled the white one over his head and studied his reflection for a second, not quite satisfied with what he saw. Tearing off his white shirt again, he picked up the blue one and indecisively scrutinized his mirror image. Was the blue shirt better?
He couldn’t tell.
He considered his options for a little while, and finally sank down on his bed. What would Sirius do? he wondered idly. Sirius would wear the blue shirt. Fashion over comfort. He hesitated a little bit longer, put on the blue shirt and decided it wasn’t worth getting all worked up about. Emilie probably wouldn’t notice the difference, anyway.
Now… his hair… He combed it quickly, noticing it was almost ten o’clock. He gave the blue shirt one more doubtful look, and decided it would have to do. Throwing two of his favourite Muggle books into his backpack, he shot one more hurried look at the clock. Two minutes to ten. Did he have everything?
He was about to go over his things-to-bring-list one last time, but was interrupted by a soft knock on the front door. Remus sprinted down the stairs, hoping that his mother hadn’t heard Emilie yet, skipped the last two steps and quickly opened the door.
“Hey,” he greeted Emilie, slightly flushed.
She smiled. “Hullo neighbour. You ready?”
“Think so. Did you bring a book?”
Emilie grimaced from underneath the large, white hat she was wearing. “Yup. It’s my last one… and I don’t think I’ll like it very much. It used to be my dad’s.”
“You can borrow one of mine, if you’d like,” Remus offered. “I brought two.” At the sound of his mother coming down the stairs, he stepped outside and quickly closed the door. “Well, let’s go, then.”
“Yes,” Emilie agreed, giving him a wide smile. “Let’s.”
The instant they stepped out of the shadow of his house, Remus regretted his choice of clothing. The sunlight was already blazing hot, and the blue shirt he was wearing clung tightly to his upper body. The Daily Prophet had predicted a sizzling summer's day, Remus remembered sullenly, but the Prophet’s weather forecast was wrong so often that he hadn’t given it any second thought.
“Hot day, isn’t it?” Emilie said, her eyes overshadowed by the rim of her sunhat.
Remus nodded. “I had no idea the weather was going to be this good.”
Emilie nudged him in the side, grinning lightly. “Regret not going to the pool?”
Laughing, he shook his head. “I really don’t care much for swimming. I’d rather be reading in the shadow.”
Which wasn’t a complete lie. He did like reading in the shadow, and swimming… swimming was just impossible for him. It meant too many exposed scars, which inevitably would lead to too many questions.
They walked on in silence for a little while, and Remus noticed her smiling at him once or twice. Seeing her smile made him smile, and his spirits had lifted considerably by the time they reached the forest. Grateful for the coolness offered, Remus stepped into the shadows of the trees, determined to jump from shadow to shadow until the sun’s strength would start to lessen.
He took a sudden turn to the right, down a narrow path that would lead them deeper into the forest. Emilie was walking two steps behind him, her tread steady, despite of the flip-flops she was wearing.
“So… where are we going… exactly?” she asked him.
He glanced over his shoulder just in time to catch her smiling. “Paradise,” he replied with a big smile. He held back a tree branch that had blocked the path and let her pass, her body brushing past his.
Emilie rolled her eyes, giving him a playful shove. “Seriously.”
“Seriously. It’s like paradise, only better.” He grinned at her. “Lots of shadow, you see.”
“It’s a forest,” Emilie stated matter-of-factly, but he could hear the smile in her voice. “There’s shadow everywhere.”
Remus shot her a quick look over his shoulder, and teasingly, he remarked, “I never said it was in the forest.”
“So it isn’t?” she challenged him, her lips drawn into a sly smile.
He let out a low laugh. “I never said it wasn’t, either.”
But she was relentless. “But you said it was near the river, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” Remus concurred, giving her a hand to help her over a fallen tree. “I did. And that’s all you’ll get out of me until we get there.”
Pouting, Emilie stuck out her bottom lip. “Party-pooper.”
Remus gave her a strange look, baffled by what she’d just said. “Party-pooper? What on earth is that?”
Emilie giggled, gaving him a wide smile. “Someone who poops on a party, that’s what.”
Confused, Remus simply raised his eyebrows and didn’t ask any further. Party-pooper. Remus shook his head, stunned. Only Muggles…
They walked on in silence, occasionally complaining about the heat and the bugs. The walk there was longer than he remembered it to be, and he was rather relieved to finally spot the top of the willow tree. It had been quite some time since he had last been there, and the more time it had taken him to get there, the more uncertain he had gotten.
He halted, surveying the spot.
Just like he remembered it.
Sunlight beaming down from a clear blue sky lit up the sea of grass before them, the patch of light occasionally interrupted by the shadows of trees. The river ran slowly, finding its way through scattered rocks and fallen tree logs, its water shimmering vividly. The leaves of the large willow tree standing beside the water rustled softly in the wind, the tree’s drooping branches entangling and disentangling; in constant motion. The greenness of the willow tree surprised Remus; the last time he’d seen it had been in winter, and its branches had been nearly leafless back then.
Remus heard Emilie sigh behind him. He cast an uncertain look at her.
“You weren’t kidding when you said paradise, now were you?” Emilie said, and she gave him a playful look, one eyebrow arched teasingly.
Remus smiled and simply shook his head. He crossed the grass quickly, stepping from shadow to shadow in a brave, but doomed-to-fail attempt to stay out of the sun. He finally sat down in the shadow of the willow tree and glanced at the streaming water of the river before him. “It’s perfect, isn’t it?”
Emilie flopped down beside him. “Gorgeous.”
Rummaging through his backpack, Remus found his books and two apples. He handed her one of both, then leaned back against the tree’s trunk. “I used to come here a lot when I was younger.”
“Before you went to boarding school,” she concluded, kicking off her flip-flops and taking a large bite out of her apple.
Before Hogwarts, he thought. It sometimes was hard to believe there had ever been a time before Hogwarts.
He nodded. “It seems so long ago.”
After carefully lowering her feet into the river’s stream, Emilie gazed up at him. “It actually is quite long ago, when you think about it.” She blew out a soft sigh, and leaned back against the willow tree. “God, this place is divine.”
Remus chuckled, amused by the utterly content expression on her face. They sat in silence for a little while. Remus opened his book, Beowulf: A Prose Translation, and tried to concentrate on the text. He was distracted by the nearness of Emilie, however, and carefully glanced up at her.
His eyes met hers, and she smiled at him. Smiling back nervously, Remus bent his head, trying to hide his burning cheeks.
He looked up at her. “Mmm?”
“How old are you, anyway?” She had her lips pursed together to keep from smiling, he noticed, and he wasn’t quite sure what she was up to.
“Sixteen,” he said slowly, on his guard. “Why?”
She shrugged, her legs dangling over the edge of the grass, her feet splashing in the river’s water. “Just curious. You seem older.”
Remus bit on his lip, thinking of his stubbly chin and cheeks, and the vast amount of scars covering his body. “I’m almost seventeen.”
Emilie put her book to rest in her lap. “Really? When’s your birthday?”
“The tenth,” he said, giving her a toothy grin, and short thereafter added, “of March.”
She laughed, poking him in the side. “March? That’s ages away! No, you’re barely sixteen, mister.”
Chuckling, Remus shook his head, turning his attention to his book again. She did the same, and a comfortable silence fell over them.
“Emilie?” he asked after a little while, glancing up at her.
She smiled. “Yeah?”
“How old are you?”
Giving him a teasing look, she said, “Guess,” and she pouted, pursing her lips together in a ridiculous manner.
He couldn’t help but smile. “Sixteen?” he guessed, his voice uncertain.
Emilie stuck out her tongue. “Wrong. Fifteen and three-quarters,” she said, grinning. “Well, not quite… more like fifteen and… well…” she rolled her eyes up for a second, appearing deep in thought, then looked back at him again, her brown eyes sparkling. “Let’s just say I’m almost sixteen.”
“Hm,” Remus said sarcastically, scratching his eyebrow, “let me guess… your birthday’s in March as well?”
She threw her head back in laughter. “You wish! It’s the twenty-third.”
“Of July?” Remus asked, surprised. “Coming Tuesday?”
“That’s the one,” Emilie nodded. “My sweet sixteen.” A bittersweet smile fled across her face, and Remus suddenly realized she wasn’t looking forward to it at all.
“It’s not that bad, you know,” he told her, “your birthday without your mother. It sounds far worse than it is.”
Emilie half-smiled. “I suppose.”
“We’ll do something extra fun,” Remus said, trying to cheer her up. He had never seen this side of Emilie before, and he quickly came to the realization that he’d do about anything to make her smile again.
Snorting, Emilie looked up at him. “And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”
“Well…” Remus started, blushing terribly, but she cut him off quickly.
“Just kidding,” she told him, winking, and Remus felt his heart speed up a little at the smile she was giving him.
He let out a nervous chuckle and lowered his eyes to his book again, concentrating on the adventures of the Swedish hero. And with the rising sun, the temperature rose as well; by lunch time, Remus was positively on fire. The willow tree’s shadow had shrunken to a small, sharp-edged circle of darkness, and he had to bend his knees to keep his feet cool.
Emilie seemed to be having the same problem: her cheeks were a dark shade of pink, and she had resolved to use her sunhat as a large fan. “Ugh,” she muttered, tying her hair back in a ponytail. “I’m burning up.”
“Try focusing on your book,” Remus said, trying to do the same. “It helps.”
“For you maybe,” she said, showing him the cover of Karen Blixen’s Out Of Africa. “Can’t say that reading about the heat of Africa’s savannas is really helping me.”
Remus laughed. “Right. We can switch books if you’d like.”
“And let you suffer? Nah… I’ll find a way to entertain myself.”
True to her word and easily amused, Emilie put her book aside, raised her feet and started to wiggle her toes.
He grinned, focusing on Beowulf once more. He was distracted several seconds later, however, when he noticed Emilie moving from the corner of his eye.
“What… what are you doing?” he stammered as he noticed her unbuttoning her blouse. His voice broke, and heat rose to his cheeks. “Emilie?”
Smiling, Emilie raised her eyebrows at him. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
She shrugged off her blouse, and Remus averted his eyes quickly, certain he’d die of a heart attack.
“I’m wearing a swimsuit, silly,” Emilie laughed, prodding him in the side. “No need to blush. If anyone should be blushing, it should be me!”
Slightly relieved, Remus took a deep breath and tried to calm his racing heart, still hesitant to look at her. At the sound of a loud splash, he looked up. She was underwater, wearing – indeed – a swimsuit. Emilie gave a loud cry when she broke to the surface. “Ah! The water’s frickin’ freezing!”
“You’re not one to be easily satisfied, are you?” Remus asked, amused.
Sticking out her tongue, Emilie splashed some water in Remus’s direction. “I’ll have you know that the temperature is actually quite pleasant,” she said, “once you get over the initial shock.”
Remus good-humouredly cocked one eyebrow, and then stared back at his book. Beowulf’s tales suddenly seemed a lot less exciting. His shirt was sticky and sweaty, and he’d kill for a normal, scarless body – he swore he’d do about anything to join Emilie for a swim.
He spent the next hour staring, his eyes drifting from his book to Emilie and back again.
“Remus?” Emilie called out after a while, wading through the river to get closer to him. “Are you sure you don’t want to go for a swim? I’m positive I could beat you in a race,” she challenged him with raised eyebrows, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
A smile tugged at the corner of Remus’s lips. “Nah,” he said, hiding his disappointment. “I don’t like swimming all that much.”
“Hmm.” Emilie shrugged, and she let herself fall back into the water. “Hey, Remus? Would you save me, you know… if I were to drown?”
“Of course I would,” he replied immediately.
Emilie’s eyes met his, teasing. “Even though you don’t like to swim?”
“What kind of person do you take me for?” Remus laughed, shaking his head. “Of course I’d save you.”
Giving him a playful look, she said, “Good to know.” And with that, she dove underneath the water’s surface once more, only to pop up several feet away from him.
She spent another fifteen minutes in the water, but eventually climbed out of the river. He tried not to look at her too much – the swimsuit left little to his imagination and his own thoughts embarrassed him beyond words – so he kept his eyes firmly fixed on page 97 of his book.
He was doing quite well minding his own business, when some water drops landed onto his shirt and page 96. The drops that had fallen in his book spread quickly, forming large water stains.
Giggling, Emilie flung some more drops of water in his direction. He looked up at her, giving her a challenging look. Wrapped in a large, colourful towel, she stared back at him, her hair dark and dripping wet.
“Read something to me,” she said, her eyes shining brightly.
Remus blinked. “Out loud?”
Laughing, Emilie nodded wildly, sending water everywhere. “Of course. How else?”
Hiding his blush, Remus turned his eyes back to page 97 and scraped his throat. “‘Soon the boat was launched and afloat below the headland,’” he started. “‘The soldiers, in full harness, came aboard by the prow and stowed a cargo of polished armour and magnificent war-equipment amidships, while the sea churned and surf beat against the beach.’”
“You have a lovely voice,” Emilie interrupted him quietly as she sat down beside him, wrapping her towel more tightly around her body. “It’s deep… but melodious.”
Remus let out an uncomfortable laugh, not quite sure what to answer to that. “Thanks… I guess,” he said uncertainly.
Emilie leaned back against the willow tree, her eyes closed as she listened to him. It took Remus the remaining twenty-five pages to realize she had fallen asleep. Her breaths came soft and even, her chest rising and falling in a slow rhythm. Fading sunlight bounced off the water drops in her dark hair, which was starting to curl lightly. Her eyelashes rested on her cheeks and her lips were parted slightly, curved into a small smile.
His hands itched to reach out and touch her cheeks, but he knew he shouldn't. She was absolutely breathtaking, refreshing, intelligent... and honest. Remus turned his eyes away. It felt wrong, somehow, to stare so openly at her. He eventually chose to close his eyes as well, and he drifted off, listening to the rustling of leaves, the streaming of the river and the calming sound of Emilie's breathing.
Thanks for the positive responses, guys! It’s good to know that you like the story so far. I was actually a bit nervous about it, especially since it didn’t turn out the way I would've liked it. Anyway, the next chapter will be from Emilie’s point of view again. Criticism and/or comments are, once again, more than welcome!
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