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.
Tea For Two
Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.
– Henry Fielding
Ten o’clock couldn’t come round fast enough for Remus. He was more concerned about his ragged looks than he had been for years, resented the pale tone of his skin, and couldn’t keep from wondering if he was doing the right thing – the wizarding world was a dangerous place at the moment, one he did not long to bring Emilie in contact with.
By the time his clock chimed once, its hands pointed towards the nine and the six, Remus couldn’t take the waiting any longer and put on his coat, stepping outside. It was no longer raining, which he was immensely grateful for: he reckoned he was more likely to make a good impression when he didn’t look drenched and bedraggled.
He ambled slowly through the streets of London, trying to calm his nerves, summoning all the confidence and courage he had inside of him – he knew there had to be some; he had been in Gryffindor, after all. By the time he rounded the corner that would bring him to Charing Cross Road, he took a long, deep breath and told himself that there was absolutely no need to be nervous – after all, he did not mean to rekindle what had between the two of them so long ago; it would be irresponsible and dangerous, and he had no intention of putting Emilie’s life at risk under any circumstances.
The second he looked through the darkened shop window, however, his determination to keep whatever was between him and Emilie platonic and purely friendly flew out of the window. He needed her, he realized, as badly as he needed his friendship with Sirius, James and Peter.
The familiar tinkling of the bell above the door echoed through the shop when he pushed the door open. Emilie, who had been rummaging in a cabinet behind the counter, looked up almost immediately, smiling widely as though she’d known it had been him. Her shirt was slightly crumpled, and there was an ink stain on the knee of her jeans, but she looked absolutely perfect to him. “Hey,” she said, her voice lower than he remembered it to be. It surprised him how confident she seemed – as though they had never been separate at all.
“Hello,” he managed, suppressing the anxiety that whirlwinded its way through his stomach. He noted that she was still wearing her nametag. “I came too early.”
Emilie shook her head lightly, her smile open and disarming. “Only a little bit.”
“So you’re done?” He looked at the mountain of books that was piled up against the counter, and raised one eyebrow.
“Oh, as good as,” Emilie said flippantly. “Lora can finish that tomorrow.”
She pointed over her shoulder, towards the portly man he’d seen earlier that evening. “I just need to tell my boss I’m off, and then I’m all yours.”
Remus immediately told himself she hadn’t meant those last words the way he’d understood them, but found himself to be too reluctant to be easily convinced – he liked the idea of Emilie being his, even though he very well knew she could never be. When Emilie rejoined him, he was involved in such an intense internal conflict that he didn’t notice her until she touched his arm and said his name.
She closed the door behind him, and then stuck her hands in the pockets of her jacket. They stood in silence for a moment – in all honesty, Remus was too taken by the way her face shone in the orange lamplight to say anything – until at last, Emilie laughed quietly. “You would think this would be less awkward,” she said.
His throat too dry to speak up, Remus nodded. He put a hand in his neck and rubbed it wearily. “So you would. Where would you like to go?”
Emilie bit her bottom lip. “There’s a place just round the corner. It’s quite nice, and their tea is superb.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Remus, who, in all actuality, did not care where they went in the slightest. Any place where they could talk would be more than good enough for him.
The pub Emilie had in mind looked a little odd from the outside: the shop’s front sign was slightly askew, and the last letter of its name – ‘The Broken Mug’ – had fallen from its original place, held in place by a single nail as it swung upside down in the wind. A comfortable warmth welcomed them when they stepped inside, and Remus felt as though his face, which had frozen as a result of the icy wind outside, started to thaw.
The woman behind the bar was a a round-faced, rosy-cheeked woman with bright blue eyes, who looked up wearily as they entered the tavern. She immediately moved in front of the bar to greet them, wiping her hands on the towel that hung from her apron. “It’s been a while, dear,” she said, smiling as she grabbed Emilie firmly by the shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug.
Remus stood by silently, feeling a tad uncomfortable as the woman’s eyes moved over to him and studied him from head to toe. When her lips formed a smile that suggested she was content with what she saw, he still did not feel completely at ease.
“I know it’s late, Rebecca, but do you think you could make us some tea?” Emilie asked, casting a doubtful glance at the large wooden clock that hung from the wall.
The barkeeper followed Emilie’s gaze, and then shook her head, giving Emilie a kind smile. “Don’t be silly, child – you know I’d do just about anything for you. Besides,” she continued, ushering them to a dark corner of the tavern, “it’s never too late for tea, I always say.”
Remus smiled shyly as they sat down on either side of a small table, his knees bumping into Emilie’s. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and he tried to move his knees to the side, but this only resulted into his knees brushing against hers once more. Eventually, he just drew his legs back and spread them a little so that Emilie could slide her legs in between his.
Even though Rebecca had said she would make them some tea, she lingered by their table, feet planted firmly on the pub’s wooden floor. “Well,” she said, placing her hands upon her apron-outlined hips as she gazed down at Remus, “he sure is a shy one, isn’t he?”
Emilie blushed and nudged Remus’s leg lightly with her own. He scraped his throat, his cheeks on fire, and stood up, bumping into Emilie’s legs again. “Forgive me, ma’am,” he said, sticking out his hand. “My name is Remus Lupin.”
“So he has a tongue after all,” Rebecca said, giving Emilie a wink she did not bother to hide, “and good manners, too. I’m Rebecca Lumley, but I’m sure Emilie has told you all about me.”
Dumbfounded, Remus looked down upon Emilie, who smiled and shook her head. “I’m afraid I didn’t.” She gestured for Remus to sit down again and then said, “Rebecca is one of my mother’s oldest friends. She’s practically family.”
“Practically?” The woman huffed and ruffled Emilie’s hair, making it even messier than usual. “We are family, love. Don’t claim otherwise.” She stood back for a moment, as though studying the both of them, and then clasped her hands together. “Well, I suppose I’ll just leave the two of you alone then, shall I?”
As she waddled off, Remus refrained from sighing, but Emilie didn’t – she sighed loudly and gave him a relieved smile. “I love her like a mother, but she can be a little much sometimes.”
Nodding, Emilie smiled and said, “Oh, she is.” She ran a hand through her hair in an attempt to flatten that which Rebecca had tousled, but was not very successful. They sat in an awkward silence for a little while before Emilie spoke up again. “So… do you live in London?”
He gave her a half-smile and nodded. “I have for a while now. I haven’t been in Little Angleton since…” he hesitated, not sure he was ready to divulge the specifics. Emilie looked at him questioningly, though, and he took a deep breath and decided to plunge on. “Not since my parents passed away.”
The colour drained from Emilie’s cheeks. “Oh Remus,” she whispered, and she leaned across the table, touching his hand with hers. Her compassion renewed, for one reason or another, the sadness he had felt after his parents’ deaths. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
He gave her a watery smile.
“How did they…” she asked uncertainly.
“They…” Remus took a deep breath, knowing he could impossibly tell her they had been murdered by dark wizards. “They died in an accident. Instantly.”
She squeezed his hand lightly. “How awful.” Shivering, she withdrew her hand and gave him an empathetic look. “Well… at least they didn’t suffer very much. Not that that makes it easier for you, of course, but…” her voice tailed away as she struggled to find the right words to say.
Remus looked down at his hands, finding it too hard to look Emilie in the eye. His parents had suffered – they had, in fact, withstood the unbearable pains inflicted on them by the Cruciatus Curse.
An awkward silence stretched between the two of them, which was only penetrated when Rebecca rejoined them. She held a teapot filled to the brim with steaming tea in her right hand, a box with cookies in her left.
“Here you go, dears,” she said, oblivious to the tension between them. “Would you fancy some milk? Sugar, perhaps?”
Emilie shook her head. “No thanks.” She glanced at Remus, who also shook his head. “We’re fine.”
“All right then,” the woman said. Her hair was plastered to her damp forehead, and she swiped at it, brushing it behind her ear. The large hoop that dangled from her ear tinkled softly. “Down the hatch, then, as they say!” She gave them a warm smile before she wandered off, her hips swaying from side to side.
Biting on her lip, Emilie studied him carefully. He gave her an uncertain smile and turned his teacup – which had been set upside down on its saucer – upright. She did the same with hers and smiled at him as he filled it.
“So – er – the bookshop you work in…” Remus started hesitantly, glancing up at her, “…do you work there often?”
Emilie nodded. “Every other night, and most Saturdays.” She smiled. “I have to pay the rent, don’t I?”
“You live on your own, then?” he concluded. He took a sip of the tea, but it was so hot that he nearly burned his tongue.
She seemed to hesitate briefly before she said, “Yes, I do. I moved out when I started studying. I couldn’t stand to live with my mum much longer – she was much too controlling.”
“What is it you study?” he asked. He felt oddly inadequate: here was the girl of his dreams telling him she lived on her own – no doubt in a flat ten times fancier than his – and that she was studying, actually making something out of her life. He had nothing to offer her but constant danger, worries and hardship.
Emilie gave him a small smile as though referring to a shared secret. Her smile made him feel warm inside – it could, of course, also have been the burning hot tea that was sliding down his throat. “Literature.”
Not a shared secret then, he thought, but a shared passion, which was – if not better – just as good. “That’s wonderful,” he said, smiling weakly.
“My mother would beg to differ,” she shrugged, wrapping her hands around her cup. “She thinks that reading fiction can hardly be classified as a study – she highly doubts I’ll be able to make a living with it.” Emilie smiled, but it seemed strained somehow. “I’d like to open a bookshop one day. A proper bookshop,” she added meaningfully, “not like Dilley and Littleton’s.”
Remus smiled and nodded. “Yes,” he said, scratching his eyebrow, “I noticed it was a bit of a, ah, peculiar shop.”
Emilie let out a tinkling laugh, and for the first time that evening, he could see the younger Emilie shining through – the bubbling, carefree Emilie of that summer so many years ago. “I think dodgy is the word you’re looking for,” she smiled.
He grinned quietly. Emilie shifted in her chair, crossing her legs and accidentally – or was it intentionally? there was no way to tell – slid her leg against his. He could feel the warmth of her body radiating through the corduroy of his trousers, and swallowed down the desire it awakened inside of him. He longed to reach out and touch her so bad.
They were quiet for a little while, but the silence was nowhere near as awkward as it had been in the beginning. Emilie cast him a doubtful glance before looking down at her fingers, which where playing with the edge of the tablecloth. When she took a deep breath to speak up, he knew she was going to mention something big.
“Do you – do you remember that day … that day we fought?”
He remembered it very well, but he had no answer prepared for the question she was about to ask, so he decided to play dumb. “There were quite some days on which we fought, weren’t there?”
Emilie narrowed her eyes almost as though she knew he was dodging her question on purpose. “No, I mean… you know, the day that you started going on about…” she pressed her lips together and hesitated briefly, “…about magic.”
“Right,” he said, nodding slowly. “I remember.” He wasn’t quite sure what else to say, and therefore said nothing at all, waiting for her to continue.
“That obviously was... well,” Emilie said, laying her hands out on the table, “complete nonsense, wasn’t it?” Her eyes met his, and there was something in the way she had said it that made him wonder if she had started to doubt it herself.
“Right,” he lied. If he was going to be seeing Emilie at all, he was going to keep her as far away from the wizarding world as he could – no matter how many times he had to lie to her or how guilty he would feel afterwards. He knew that she expected him to be honest, but he couldn’t possibly be. It was too dangerous, and though he was capable of proving the existence of magic to her now, nothing good could ever come from it. A grim force had taken a hold of the wizarding world, and it did not seem like the war would be over any time soon.
“I… I still have the rose you gave me.”
Emilie smiled lightly. “Yes. Can’t say that I wasn’t surprised when it outlasted my mum’s magnolias.”
“It did, did it?”
“It did,” she confirmed. “I’m certainly no expert when it comes to these kind of things, but a normal rose would’ve wilted within weeks.”
“You’re implying that it wasn’t a normal rose,” Remus said, pretending to catch on only now. “That it was, in fact…” he deliberately let his voice fade.
“… magic,” she finished, but she sounded as if she couldn’t believe what she was saying.
“Well now,” Remus said, scratching the back of his head, “you once told me there is no such thing as magic.”
She nodded. “I did. And I still don’t think there is. I just don’t know how else that rose can still be alive.”
“I don’t claim to know much about botany,” he said, and that was no lie, “but perhaps it descents from a strong line of plants?”
Emilie was quiet for a moment. “It changes colours like you said it would.”
A blush crept upon his cheeks, and he ducked his head in the hope that she wouldn’t notice. “That might have something to do with the time of day… or the season.”
Her face fell. “You said it’d turn red if you…” she paused, hesitant, “…if you were thinking of me.”
“I’ve thought of you quite often,” Remus confessed, “but I doubt that the rose was able to sense that.”
Emilie smiled tenderly, and Remus hoped that she would drop the subject now – he was starting to think it would’ve been better to not have given her that enchanted rose at all.
But Emilie did not drop the subject. “Why did you lie to me, then?”
“Because I was stupid,” Remus said. “I never should’ve told you those things. I’m not sure what came over me.” He regarded her for a moment, guilt-ridden, and then told her uncertainly, “I’m truly sorry, Emilie.”
Shrugging, she gave him a half-smile and said, “It’s all in the past now, isn’t it?” Her eyes were shielded from his view by the shadow that the plant beside the fireplace cast upon her face, but they said much more than the words she had uttered. He longed to see them better, to look at them until he lost himself – until he found her.
He nodded slowly, feeling miserable for having lied to her, and even more terrible for having to do so still. “Don’t ask me any questions,” he said, smiling faintly, “and I won’t tell you any lies.”
Her hand reached out for his and held it lightly. “Don’t tell me any lies, and I won’t ask you any questions.”
Giving her a weary laugh, Remus leant back against his chair and watched how her hand touched his. “You haven’t changed much.”
“Neither have you,” she replied, and she leant forward, her face coming out of the shadow. “The same eyes...” she looked down at their hands and touched his fingers softly, “same hands… same voice.”
He smiled faintly. “I still dream about you.”
Her hand suddenly stilled, and she looked slightly taken aback. He wondered if he had said too much. She looked like she was about to reply when Rebecca butted in. “All right, love – it’s well past midnight. I’m afraid I’m going to have to close.”
“Oh! All right,” Emilie said, letting go off Remus’s hand as though it had burned her. Remus dug his wallet out of the pocket of his trousers, but Rebecca waved with her hands and refused to let him pay, her behaviour bearing an uncanny resemblance to that of Gideon Prewett. Did he really look so tattered and worn-out that people automatically assumed he couldn’t afford to pay for himself? He noticed the resolute look in her eyes and after objecting a third time, he gave up.
Emilie hugged the other woman briefly. “Thanks Rebecca.”
“It was no problem at all,” said Rebecca, who ruffled Emilie’s hair again. “Take good care of yourself, you hear me?”
Remus gave the woman a firm handshake. “Don’t be a stranger,” she told him, and he nodded in reply.
When they stood outside, Emilie turned on her heels. “Wow,” she started, beaming up at him, “I could’ve stayed there for hours, I think – I had no idea it was already this late!”
“Neither had I,” Remus confessed. “Would you… would you care for another cup of tea… at my place?” She visibly hesitated, and he didn’t think that was a good sign. “I mean – the flat... it’s not much, really – in fact, it’s quite rundown and near the point of falling apart, but – ”
“I’d like that,” she said determinedly, cutting across his ramblings. She had said it in a resolute way, but her face had shown more hesitance than her voice had. “Just one cup of tea, though. Nothing more.”
Remus released his breath, relieved. He hadn’t realized how much he had wanted to stay with her until that moment. “All right,” he said, almost as though he couldn’t quite believe it himself. “Splendid.”
Thanks for putting up with my irregular updates, everyone, and for reading/reviewing. Someone asked how I came up with the names Gideon and Balthazar. Well, Gideon Prewett is actually a canon character who really was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. He is mentioned briefly in OotP. His brother Fabian is canon, too. And Balthazar... well, that was just a name that seemed to fit the character I had in mind. Hope that clears everything up.