Chapter 5 : A Blacker Depth of Shade
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Which lay one smooth expanse of silver light;
She shone upon the hills and rocks, and cast
Upon their hollows and their hidden glens
A blacker depth of shade.
- Robert Southey
It was everywhere around her, tickling her arms, legs and feet, and even part of her neck. Its heavy smell hung suspended in the air, mingling with the sweet fragrance of summer flowers and the typical scent of a hot summer’s day.
She cast a quick glance aside. Remus was still reading, fully immersed in the book lying in his lap. Turning her head a little so that she could gaze at the cloudless sky, she noticed its brilliant, spotless shade of blue. The lack of clouds disappointed her, however, and she quickly grew bored of looking at the sky.
She dared another look at Remus, and studied his face for a moment. The soft contours of his face, his kind eyes, his angular jaw, the shadow of stubble… She was startled when he suddenly looked up and gave her a gentle smile.
She blushed fervently, giving him a tremulous smile back before averting her eyes. Does he know? she wondered nervously, lowering her gaze to her hands. She bit her lip. He had to know. Her crush was almost painfully obvious, and her heartbeat was so loud that, surely, he had to be able to hear it.
She briefly pulled at the grass, and finally – when she couldn’t take the silence any longer – she sat upright and glanced at him. “You’re quiet today,” she commented, holding a piece of grass between her fingers, an anxious feeling pressing against her chest.
“I’m sorry,” he said calmly, and he put down his book, his eyes meeting hers. “Does it bother you?”
“No,” she said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, but she quickly changed her mind. “Well, yes, it does, actually.”
Remus looked surprised. “Oh," he said, his voice soft. "Well… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bore you.”
Smiling weakly, she shook her head. “It’s not that. I don’t mind the silence that much.” She wrapped her arms around her knees. “You just seem different today, that's all.”
“More distant,” she explained, biting her lip. “It’s not because of yesterday, is it?”
He blinked, and a faint blush tinged his cheeks. “Yesterday?” His voice broke a little, and he scraped his throat uncomfortably. “What do you mean?”
“Well… I made you go to the party. I’m half-forcing you to spend your summer with me. Am I too clingy?” Emilie met his eyes hesitantly. “Because you can tell me if I am, really. I promise I won’t mind.”
A low chuckle slipped past his lips. “It’s not yesterday,” he assured her, “and it’s not because you’re clingy.”
She was filled with relief, but blinked suddenly. “Wait. So you’re saying that I am clingy?”
He gave a kind smile. “You don’t hear me complaining, do you, now?” He must have noticed the worried look on her face, for he added, “And, for the record, I don’t think you’re clingy.” He raised his eyebrows in jest. “Just in desperate need of a friend.”
Laughing, she prodded him in the side. “That’s an interesting way of putting it.”
He shrugged, his eyes twinkling. “It’s true, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is,” she said, distracted by the gentle expression on his face – it kept her from thinking straight for a moment. “So…” she wondered, “what is bothering you then?”
Scratching his eyebrow, Remus sat up a bit. “It’s not you. I’m just not feeling very… talkative today. I think I might be coming down with something.”
“You are looking a bit pale,” she commented, studying his ashen face. Teasingly, she continued, “You’d better not get sick, Remus. I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
A small smile played around his lips. “You’d be just fine.”
“Mmm,” Emilie said, unconvinced. She stared at him a bit longer than she should have, and lowered her eyes, embarrassed. “Dad’s off with Gaby again,” she told him after nervously having scraped her throat. “They went shopping. Shopping! What sane man would prefer shopping to spending time with his daughter?”
“And such a lovely one at that,” Remus added, a light shade of red appearing on his pale cheeks.
She giggled a little, and bumped her shoulder into his. “My point exactly.”
She guessed that it was somewhere around six in the evening when Remus closed his book and nudged her shoulder.
“We should probably head home,” he said.
Scrambling to her feet, she gazed up at the sky. Even though the intensity of the sunlight had diminished, the air was still stifling hot. “You don’t want to watch the sunset with me?” she teased him flippantly, covertly studying his reaction to her suggestion.
He seemed to pale even further, and she could see his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallowed. What does that mean? she wondered, feeling slightly anxious.
After clearing his throat, he turned his eyes to the sun. “Not tonight,” he said hoarsely.
Emilie tilted her head slightly, following his movements as he got to his feet and straightened his shirt. “Is it true what they say about the woods? Are they really haunted?” She gazed up at him curiously. “Mr. Whittaker said that horrible things have happened here.”
Giving her a sceptic look, Remus gathered his things and put them into his backpack. “Mr. Whittaker?” he said, his eyebrows raised. “The same man who told you that my dad shot an old lady? That Mr. Whittaker?”
“Mrs. Tuttle, too,” Emilie defended herself. “She said that many have wandered into these woods, and never returned.”
“Mrs. Tuttle’s just as bad as Mr. Whittaker,” Remus said grudgingly as he lifted his backpack from the ground. “Let’s go.”
Emilie followed him quietly. A little while later, however, when she was walking beside him, she decided to try again. “I bet the woods are lovely at night,” she said, glancing at him. “Dark and deep.”
Remus seemed shocked by her statement, and halted. “Emilie,” he said, placing his hand up her lower arm. Giddiness coursed through her the second he touched her, and she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth. He stared at her, his blue eyes intense. “Promise me you won’t go into the woods tonight,” he said firmly, his voice low. “Or any other night, for that matter. Not alone.”
Deciding to taunt him a little, she arched one eyebrow. “Why not? It’s not as though the forest is dangerous, right? Mr. Whittaker and Mrs. Tuttle couldn't be right, now could they?”
He didn’t seem perturbed by her taunting, however. His eyes were still firmly fixed on hers, and he shook his head briefly. “I’m serious, Emilie. Mr. Whittaker might be an old fool, and I might not want to talk about it, but… the woods really can be dangerous.”
There was something in the way he said it that silenced any retort she might’ve come up with. “All right,” she said quietly, taken aback. “I wasn’t really going to go.” For a second, she felt like a little child being admonished for doing something wrong. Remus seemed so much older than her, so much wiser. Pursing her lips together, she averted her eyes and started walking again.
“Emilie…” Remus started, following her. “I don’t mean to… I just…” he shot her an anxious look, the sunlight filtering through the treetops emphasizing the paleness of his cheeks. “I just want you to be careful,” he finally said, grasping her hand in his. She was surprised by his gesture; he had never spontaneously taken her hand in his before.
Giving him a small smile, Emilie looked up at him. “I know. It’s okay.” She squeezed his hand softly, and weaved her fingers through his.
He held his hand in hers the rest of the way back.
Emilie stood before the door to Remus’s bedroom, hesitant. Perhaps she should just leave; she could tell him she had dropped by later. She bit on her lip. What if Remus was only pretending to be ill, because he didn’t like the way things had gone yesterday? Then again, he had seemed sick yesterday.
Lifting her hand to the door, she knocked quietly, half-hoping he wouldn’t hear it. She stood back a little, already moving in the direction of the stairs, when she heard Remus’s reply.
Her fingers gripped the doorknob tightly as she turned it and entered his room, her eyes adjusting slowly to the lack of light.
“Emilie. What are you doing here?”
His voice was hoarse and sleepy, and guilt coursed through Emilie when she realized that Remus was, indeed, sick. “Your mum let me in,” she said, giving Remus an uncertain look. He was sitting upright in his bed. His face was ghastly pale, and there were dark shadows underneath his eyes. “How are you?”
“Holding up,” he said, his voice croaking. The scars on his face stood out even more than they had before, the dark red contrasting sharply with his wan complexion. “You?”
She smiled a little. “I’m fine,” she said, and she closed the door behind her. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks,” he said dryly. He closed his eyes, a bemused smile playing around his lips. “I don’t feel too well.”
Sitting down beside him, she answered, “No kidding.” She studied his face for a moment. “Christ, Remus. Did you get any sleep at all?”
His eyes fluttered open. “Hmm,” he said quietly, scraping his throat. “Not much.”
“Would you like some water?” she asked uncertainly.
He managed a nod. “That… that’d be nice.”
She pointed with her thumb at his door. “Bathroom?”
“Yes,” he said, giving her another nod. “There should be a glass there.”
Fetching the glass of water, Emilie tried not to think too much about the horrible state Remus appeared to be in. He seemed so weak, so tired… so fragile. It awakened motherly instincts within her, and all she really wanted to do was take his frail form into her arms. And all of a sudden, she thought as she filled the glass with water, the roles are reversed. I've become the adult, and he the child.
He looked up when she returned to his room, a smile upon his lips. He looked absolutely adorable, she noticed: his dark blonde hair fell across his forehead, and the top of his flannel pyjamas was crumpled. “Here you go,” she said, handing him the glass.
When he lifted his arm to take the glass from her, the sleeve of his pyjama top hitched up, revealing a red wound that circled his wrist. “Remus?” she asked him, concerned, her eyes studying the chafed skin. It looked as though his hand had been tied up with a large piece of rope, which had, eventually, worn through his skin.
Pulling down his sleeve, Remus gave her a quick look. “It’s nothing, really,” he said, but she wasn’t quite convinced.
“What did you do?” she questioned, sitting down on his bed again. “It looks painful.”
He shrugged, obviously not too eager to discuss the matter with her. “Must’ve happened in my sleep,” he said, but it was not difficult to see that he was lying. She bit on her lower lip, confused, but when she saw the pleading look in Remus’s eyes, she decided to drop it.
An uncomfortable silence hung over them, and Emilie looked down at her hands, placing them into her lap. “My dad’s making me spend time with him today,” she finally said, raising her eyes to meet his. “It’s outrageous. He’s never there for me, but he expects me to have time for him whenever he has time for me.”
Remus gently smiled up at her. “At least you’ll get to spend some time with him,” he reminded her.
She nodded reluctantly, but scoffed, “Still… I’m not a pet. He can’t ignore me one day, and need me the next.”
“I’m certain he’s not aware of it,” he said kindly. “He’s probably just busy.”
“With Gaby,” she added, her tone bitter.
“It’s not likely that he has noticed that he –” Remus started to say, but he was interrupted by a loud tick, which seemed to be coming from the window. Emilie got up from his bed and wandered over to the source of the sound, hesitantly opening the curtains.
There did not appear to be anything outside, and she was just about to close the curtains again when a big, black owl soared down from the sky, heading straight for the window. “Oh!” she exclaimed, shocked, and she stumbled backwards.
“Emilie?” Remus’s voice called out to her, concerned. “What is it?”
Recovering from her initial shock, Emilie moved back to the window. “It’s an owl…” she said slowly, puzzled. “I think it’s carrying something.”
“An owl?” With some difficulty, Remus managed to push himself up into a sitting position. “Can you open the window?”
She gave him a surprised look. “Open the window? Are you sure?”
He nodded, his lips quirking up in a tired smile.
Uncertainly, Emilie opened the window, the owl nowhere in sight. “I think it left,” she said, peering at the sky, but a second later, the owl swooped down into Remus’s bedroom. She could feel a whoosh of air when it flew past her, and she had to bite down on her lip to keep from crying out in surprise.
Remus, on the other hand, seemed rather unfazed by the entire incident.
“Hello Sedge,” he greeted the owl, chuckling as the bird crash-landed on his nightstand. “You need to work on your techniques, boy.”
Knitting her brow together in confusion, she walked towards the bed. “Remus?”
He looked up at her, sporting a wide smile. “It’s my friend’s owl,” he explained. “Sedgewick. We use him to send each other letters.” He picked up the envelope that Sedgewick had dropped on his nightstand, and opened it.
“Oh,” Emilie uttered, surprised. “An owl? Really?”
Nodding, Remus distractedly stroked the owl’s feathers as he read the letter.
“What does it say?” Emilie asked him, curiously. “I mean,” she quickly added, “if you don’t mind me asking, that is.”
He smiled up at her, shrugging nonchalantly, but something in his demeanour had changed. The letter meant more to him than he was letting on; he seemed joyful, all of a sudden, or relieved, somehow. “They’re just wondering how I’m doing. An overly-worried lot, they are.” Giving her a lopsided, slightly embarrassed grin, he placed the letter on his nightstand.
“That’s very considerate of them,” she said, hesitantly moving back to the bed, still a bit wary of the large bird. “How did they know you were ill?”
Remus looked up, taken by surprise. “Oh… I mailed them yesterday…” he said, his eyes not quite meeting hers. “Sedgewick’s a fast flyer.” He slowly stroked the large bird’s back. “I’ll feed you later,” he said to the animal, his voice soft, almost as though he were talking to a little baby. “Don’t worry, boy.”
Still somewhat surprised by the entire owl-incident, Emilie glanced at the clock and grimaced. “I have to go. Dad wants me to have lunch with him.”
He smiled weakly. “I’m sure he means well,” he said.
She pursed her lips together, and gave him a dubious look. “Yeah. Well… I don’t know. Either way…” she said slowly as she ambled over to the door. “Take care, all right?”
Nodding, Remus met her eyes. “I will. Thanks for coming by.” He lowered his eyes briefly before looking up at her again. “It means a lot to me.”
“Any time,” she said, smiling gently. “Do you want to meet up tomorrow?”
Touching his brow in discomfort, Remus shook his head. “I can’t,” he said, giving her an apologetic smile. “I’m meeting some of my friends tomorrow.”
Hiding her disappointment, she nodded. “All right. I’ll see you on Tuesday, then?” She crossed her fingers behind her back, praying he’d say yes; she wasn’t sure she’d be able to survive her birthday without Remus.
“Of course you will,” Remus assured her, a caring smile upon his lips. “I wouldn’t miss your birthday for the world.”
She bit on her lip, delighted that he’d remembered, her heart lurching because of the way he was looking at her. “All right,” she said again, trying to conceal her giddiness as she turned to the door. “Don’t kick the bucket before Wednesday, then,” she said teasingly, and she gave him one final wink before she left his room.
Thanks again, dear readers, for your reviews. I love to read them, and I appreciate them very much. The next chapter will be more eventful than this one - in the romance department, that is. ;) Oh, and it will be from Emilie's POV again... it's the only chapter I really wanted/needed to be written from her perspective. Thank you for reading!
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