Rating: Mature Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. All things recognizable belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Books, The WB, etcetera. No copyright infringement intended.
No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen
the friendship of those who are thoroughly
persuaded of each other's worth.
- Robert Southey
No more than a week later, Remus found himself in the Leaky Cauldron sitting opposite of Gideon Prewett. The other man and he had been assigned possibly one of the most tedious Order duties of all: the shadowing of Balthazar Hennessy, alleged Death Eater. The past two weeks, however, had led Remus to seriously doubt this was the case – Balthazar was a jumpy, restless man who had proven to be quite difficult to follow.
“We’ll have two Butterbeers, please,” Gideon said to Tom, the balding bartender.
Tom grinned, baring the few teeth he had left. “You lads look like you could use something a wee bit stronger. I’ve got a fine bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky in the back.”
“I have to work the night shift,” explained Gideon, who – unlike Remus – had followed the training required to become an Auror, and, next to his Order duties, had a fulltime job to do. “The Firewhiskey will have to wait for another time, Tom.”
As soon as the innkeeper was out of earshot, Gideon said, “I don’t think Hennessy is behind the Gringotts raid.”
“Too much of a coward,” Remus nodded in agreement, drawing his eyebrows together into a frown. “I find it difficult to believe that Voldemort would ever confide in him.”
Both men were silent for a moment, waiting for Tom to bring them their drinks. Gideon fished several Sickles out of the pocket of his robe and laid them down on the table. Searching his own pockets, Remus found a few Knuts and a Sickle, but Gideon shook his head. “The drinks are on me.”
Remus stubbornly shook his head. “I can pay for myself,” he said, placing his money on the table. He didn’t like it when others took pity on him.
“Oh nonsense,” said Gideon, who was not to be fooled. The red-haired man brushed off Remus’s words with a wave of his hand. “You’re barely making ends meet as it is.”
Remus knew Gideon would refuse to let him pay, regardless of his protests. Eyeing him closely, Remus dropped his coins back into his pocket and said, “Next time the drinks are on me, Gideon.”
The other man nodded, but there was something about his posture that told Remus he would not be paying next time, either. The Prewetts (Gideon, his twin Fabian, and even their little sister, Molly) were too stubborn, and simply too keen on taking care of those who required financial aid more than they did.
Gideon rolled his bottle of Butterbeer between his hands. “I think we should tell Dumbledore about our suspicions. Fabian and Peter said they feel the same.”
Fabian Prewett and Peter Pettigrew were two other members of the Order of the Phoenix and had relieved them from their Order duties no more than twenty minutes prior, taking over the unbelievably boring job of shadowing Hennessy.
Remus nodded. “It seems to be of no use to follow him any longer. I’d rather we’d focus our attention on something that is more of a threat to the Order.”
“Something like, say, Dolohov?” Gideon asked slyly – it was no secret that both he and his brother suspected Antonin Dolohov to be a Death Eater. “He hasn’t left You-Know-Who’s side since the very beginning.”
“Someone like Dolohov,” Remus nodded. He took a small sip of his Butterbeer, eyeing the other people present in the Leaky Cauldron. There was Terry Dawlish, a tough-looking Auror, sitting at the bar with his glass clasped between his fingers. Maureen Lightowlers, a woman who had been a Ravenclaw prefect during Remus’s second year – he remembered because Sirius had briefly fancied her – was sitting on the other end of the bar, her light blonde hair and face almost completely hidden beneath a dark blue scarf. The rest of the Leaky Cauldron was deserted, the atmosphere dark and depressing. The occasional wizard or witch scurried through the inn, head bent down and eyes downcast. Every time the door opened, Tom looked up, hopeful, but most of the people were just passing through to get to Diagon Alley.
“Well, I ought to be off,” said Gideon, finishing his Butterbeer. “Don’t want to keep Robards waiting.”
Remus nodded in understanding. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
Gideon smiled and placed his fur-covered hat on top of his red hair. “See you tomorrow.”
After Gideon had left, Remus stayed a little longer to finish his Butterbeer. He gave Tom a small wave and fastened his coat, preparing for the dark, rainy October weather outside. The rain hit him the second he left the Leaky Cauldron, heavy gusts of wind lending the rain strength and speed.
Remus had managed to keep himself from seeing Emilie for a week, but he wasn’t sure how much longer his resolve would last – he was quite certain he would not be able to withstand the temptation now that he was walking down Charing Cross Road, only several feet away from the seedy bookshop where she worked. He could already spot it in the distance: the dark window display reflecting the light of the streetlamp in front of it. He tried to cast a covert glance through the window, but only succeeded in catching sight of his own reflection: his ashen face – a sure sign of the upcoming full moon – and his windblown, bedraggled hair.
Taking a deep breath, he waged an internal war. He wanted nothing more than to walk into the bookshop, but on the other hand, the idea scared him witless as well. Emilie would know he had come to see her – he had no excuse explaining why he had dropped by whatsoever. Then again, he reflected, did it really matter if she knew he’d come for her? It was the truth, after all. He sighed, ran a hand through his hair the way he’d seen James do a hundred times, and, mustering all the confidence he possessed, opened the door.
Somehow, Emilie had known it was Remus who had caused the bell above the door to tinkle – even before she looked up. The inexplicable fluttering in her stomach bubbled up instantaneously, and she had to hold her breath to keep from smiling too widely.
He lined up behind the customer she was helping, but kept looking at her, his eyes – though underlined with dark circles – alert and intent. A blush crept upon her cheeks and she smiled uncertainly, feeling slightly more confident when he smiled back.
“Here you go,” she said as she handed the customer his change and newly acquired book, the faltering of her voice the only sign giving away her nervousness. “Have a good evening.”
Emilie tried to mask her uncertainty when Remus stepped forward. His appearance was that of one who had wandered through heavy wind and rain, water drops hanging from his hair and clothes.
“Hey,” he said hesitantly. The lamplight of the streetlamp outside the shop filtered through the dark-stained window, casting a golden glow on his wet hair.
Her stomach seemed to fold in on itself. “Hello,” she said, and she smiled, and then he smiled, and all of a sudden, she could no longer bear the distance between the two of them. She rounded the counter in a matter of seconds, and quickly flung her arms around a surprised Remus.
“I’m soaking wet,” he protested with a laugh, but she didn’t care and told him that much.
He tentatively brought his hands up to return the embrace, and she relished in his nearness for a moment. “It’s been so long,” she said when she withdrew and extracted herself from his arms. “I honestly thought I’d never see you again.”
“It has been too long,” agreed Remus, and he smiled – the full-out, lopsided smile she had been dying to see. “Your hair is shorter,” he noted as he hesitantly touched her dark curls.
Emilie blushed at the close contact and took an uncertain step back, unsure of what to do – feeling excited and guilty at the same time. She smiled a little. “Yours is longer.”
Bringing a hand up to his hair as though to feel it for himself, Remus said, “I suppose I do need a haircut.”
“It suits you.” Emilie smiled and tilted her head slightly, observing the way his dishevelled hair fell across his forehead, the tips reaching below his eyebrows. “Although I reckon a pair of scissors and some strategic cutting here and there wouldn’t be lost on you.”
Remus smiled, and for a second she thought he’d hug her again, but he didn’t. She let her gaze sweep across his figure, over his dark, long coat, his corduroy trousers and mud-stained shoes. He was wearing the same brown woollen sweater he’d worn when she’d seen him last week; she noticed the same small hole just above his armpit. As though realizing she was taking in his shabby appearance, Remus straightened his sweater, the hint of a blush on his cheeks.
He scraped his throat. “How is your father?”
“Doing quite well,” Emilie said, smiling a little. “He ended up marrying Gaby, did you hear? Marissa’s my stepsister now.”
Remus chuckled quietly. “It must be strange, having her as a stepsister… but you could’ve done much worse.”
“I know,” Emilie nodded, stuffing her hands in the pockets of her jeans as she studied him closely. “We’ve actually become quite good friends over the years, although I believe she has never really forgiven me for what happened that summer.”
“She hasn’t?” Remus asked, his eyebrows rising in surprise.
Emilie shook her head and smiled. She was about to reply when a Mr Derek Dilley – a stout, tubby man – rushed down the stairs, his arms swinging wildly as he hurried across the store. “There’s plenty of work to be done, Emilie,” he wheezed, his eyebrows furrowed together in a dark frown as he gestured at the heaps of books strewn across the shop. “I’m not paying you five whole pounds an hour to socialize with the customers.” He threw a dirty look at Remus, giving him the once-over. “And definitely not to flirt with them.”
Emilie blushed a dark shade of red. “Sorry sir,” she said, brushing her hair behind her ear. “I’ll get right to it.”
Mr Dilley nodded warily before he wandered off, frowning, casting a suspicious glance over his shoulder just before he disappeared behind a rack of books.
“I should get back to work,” said Emilie unwillingly.
Remus nodded. “I suppose you do. I apologize if I got you in any kind of trouble,” he added, keeping his eyes on the bookshelves behind which Mr Dilley had disappeared.
“You didn’t,” Emilie smiled. “That’s just Mr Dilley – not to worry about that.” She hesitated briefly before asking him, “Will I see you again?”
He gave her an awkward smile, uncertainty in his eyes. “Would you like to?”
She let out a laugh – partly due to the exhilaration and tension that were coursing through her body – and only quieted down when she realized other customers were staring at her in wonder. Blushing, she smiled and punched his arm lightly. “Don’t be daft – of course I would!”
With a hint of incredulousness to his voice, he said, “All right.”
“All right?” she asked. “So I will? See you again, I mean?”
“We could catch up when you get off from work,” Remus suggested, his cheeks reddening slightly as though he realized he might have sounded too eager. She nearly melted on the spot, charmed by his boyish innocence.
“I won’t be off till ten,” she said reluctantly, inclining her head towards the piles of books that were scattered across the floor. “We’re reorganizing.”
Remus smiled and shrugged nonchalantly. “I can come back later – I don’t live very far from here.”
She could not hide her joy; her lips curved into a bright smile. “That would be fantastic,” she said truthfully. “We could go for some tea, if you’d like.”
He smiled and nodded. “Yes, I’d like that.” He drew his coat tighter around his body in anticipation of the dark and dreary weather outside. “I’ll see you in a few hours, then.”
“In a few hours,” Emilie said with a nod. She wanted to say so much more to him, but she was startled by Mr Dilley, who had suddenly popped up from behind a nearby rack of books, levelling her with a threatening look. “You’d better go now.”
Remus smiled at her one last time before he exited the shop. Her eyes followed the silhouette of his retreating figure through the dark glass of the shop window. For the rest of the evening, she restacked the book shelves with a content smile upon her face.
Thank you all so much for your reviews - although I might not reply to them individually anymore (it just takes too much time; time I reckon you'd rather see me spend on writing the next chapter) I do read each and every single one of them. They are absolutely brilliant, and continuously inspire me to write more. I appreciate the effort you put into writing them down. I'd like to welcome the new readers who have found their way to Ennui and Into The Fire (some of who left me a review for every single chapter - thanks!), and moreover, I'd like to thanks those who have followed this story from its beginning - you guys are amazing.
I'm hoping I'll be able to update more quickly now that my research paper has been handed in, but family problems might keep me from doing so. I hope you'll stick with me throughout the rest of the story, though!