Chapter 8 : Into The Fire
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We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
- William Somerset Maugham
‘You do realize that you’re cutting those peppers all wrong, don’t you?’ A lopsided grin curled Remus’s lips, and the way he looked at Emilie made her stomach twist. Remus stepped away from the oven and moved to stand behind her, his body warm behind her own. His fingers softly caressed her hand as he took the knife from her.
‘I’m cutting them the wrong way?’ Emilie asked, slightly distracted by the way Remus smelt – of freshly cut grass and wood. ‘They’re peppers. How can you –’
‘Shh,’ he shushed her, his lips nearly touching her ear. ‘Just let me show you.’
Emilie swallowed with difficulty. If she didn’t know any better, she’d swear he was coming on to her. Her voice quivered when she asked, ‘Remus?’
‘Pay attention now,’ he continued, taking no notice of her uncertainty. ‘This,’ he said, taking a pepper and placing it in the centre of the chopping board, ‘is how a pepper should be cut.’ He cut it in tiny pieces with almost surgical precision, discarding the seeds.
Emilie huffed in indignation and turned around, her eyes staring directly into his. ‘That was exactly what I was doing! Perhaps not as fast as you, but that’s how I was cutting them!’
A mischievous grin played on Remus’s lips. ‘Were you? Really?’ He leaned forward, pinning her against the kitchen counter.
Her heart thundered in her chest as he regarded her silently. She could feel it speed up when he placed a soft kiss on her jaw, just beneath her ear, his lips barely touching her skin. ‘Sorry,’ he said, his voice low. ‘My bad.’
Her eyes sought out his. ‘Remus?’ she asked, uncertain. ‘What are you doing?’
With a half-smile, Remus bent his head and, with his lips just inches away from hers, he said, ‘I thought it was time to turn the tables, Emilie. That’d be only fair, don’t you think?’
‘But you never – you never said –’ Emilie stuttered, stumbling over her own words. He gently cupped her cheek, silencing her by brushing his thumb over her still-parted lips.
‘You knew how much I wanted you.’ He paused, his eyes sweeping across her face and lingering on her lips. ‘How much I still do.’
His mouth was temptingly close to hers. Emilie’s heart flipped in her chest as she realized he wanted her to kiss him – that that was what he was waiting for. She shifted just a little bit closer to him and shut her eyes. Her lips touched his softly.
He responded almost immediately. His right hand wound itself in her hair as his left found her hip and pulled her closer still. She gasped when he groaned and pressed her hard against the kitchen counter, his body flush against hers.
His left hand slid underneath her T-shirt, caressing her skin as it wandered upwards. Her cheeks were on fire. The sound of the chopping board and knife falling to the ground as he lifted her up and sat her down on the kitchen counter masked her sharp intake of breath.
His fingers, gentle and warm, were just about to unclasp her bra, his lips still exploring her neck, when the sudden sound of an alarm echoed through the kitchen.
‘Just ignore it,’ Remus whispered in her ear, his hands sliding down to her stomach. ‘Let it ring.’
She glanced over at the kitchen alarm clock, which kept on ringing. ‘But it’ll burn,’ she said, eyeing the oven in fright. ‘It’ll burn, Remus!’
And suddenly Remus’s hands were replaced by a pair of other hands familiar and warm on her shoulders. They shook her gently. ‘What will burn, Em? It’s just a bad dream – you can wake up now.’
She opened her eyes slowly, reluctant to leave her dream behind. Her alarm clock was still ringing. ‘David?’
He smiled down at her. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Yeah – yeah, I’m fine.’ She cleared her throat and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. ‘Just dreaming.’
He turned off her alarm clock and lay down next to her, his dark eyes looking straight into hers. ‘Do you want to talk about it? What was going to burn?’
Biting her bottom lip, she shook her head. ‘Uhm, I – er – I don’t remember, really.’
His fingers touched her cheeks and foreheadlightly. ‘It seems like you're burning up yourself,’ he said, frowning. ‘Are you sure you’re all right? I could stay over and study here tonight, if you’d like.’
‘No, no,’ she protested, ‘I’ll be fine, honestly.’
He smiled, but didn’t seem too convinced. “All right, in that case, I’m off. Call me if you need anything.’ He leaned forward and kissed her softly.
Nodding, she sat up against the bed’s headboard, gathering her blankets in front of her. ‘I promise I will. Good luck studying.’
He kissed her on the lips once more before he stood up and put on his jacket. Only when she heard the front door fall shut, she allowed herself to relax. Falling back to the mattress, she let go of the breath she’d held tight in her chest and closed her eyes, half-hoping to continue her dream, half-hoping to forget she’d ever thought of Remus in such a way at all.
When the sound of the doorbell rang through her apartment, Emilie could barely contain her excitement. She threw a quick glance in the mirror before opening the door, smiling widely. ‘Hey!’
‘Hey,’ Remus replied, giving her a lopsided grin in return. Tiny snow flocks had landed in his hair, Emilie noticed, and on his shoulders. His cheeks were red from the cold. ‘It seems like we might have a white Christmas after all.’
‘Brilliant,’ Emilie smiled, ‘I love snow.’ She stepped aside. ‘Come in, please – you must be freezing!’
‘I hope you like white wine,’ said Remus as he handed her the bottle he’d been holding. ‘According to Sirius, women usually do, but if you don’t, I’m sure there’s some shops that are still --’
‘Oh, white wine’s fine, don’t worry,’ she reassured him. She couldn’t help but smile at his boyish uncertainty. ‘I like white wine.’
He looked around her flat, his eyes lingering on the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. ‘I see you’ve already gotten in the Christmas spirit.’
‘Haven’t you?’ Emilie asked, walking into the kitchen.
He smiled. ‘It’s quite hard not to, isn’t it? With the city decorated the way it is.’ He absent-mindedly ran a hand through his hair. ‘We used to have the most amazing Christmas dinners at school.’
Noticing his wistful smile, Emilie nodded. ‘You must miss them, then.’
He smiled quietly. ‘I suppose I do. Things have changed quite a lot since then.’
‘Would you like some wine?’ Emilie asked, taking two glasses out of her cupboard.
Remus nodded. ‘Oh, yes, I’d like some, thanks.’
She slanted a look at him while she poured both of them a glass of wine. His dark blue sweater looked brand new. He was trying to brush the snow out of his hair, making it curlier than ever. He caught her staring at him and she quickly averted her eyes, blushing. Her dream of the night before came back to her, and her blush deepened.
‘Here you go,’ she said, handing him the wineglass.
He touched his glass lightly to hers. ‘Cheers.’
She grinned. ‘Cheers.’ Taking a small sip, she regarded Remus quietly.
‘Before we actually start – well – this,’ he said, gesturing at the pots and pans scattered across the kitchen, ‘I feel obliged to remind you once again that I am absolute rubbish at cooking. You’re aware of that, aren’t you?’
‘I believe you may have told me – once or twice… or wait – hold on – about ten times,’ Emilie said teasingly.
Remus scratched his eyebrow. ‘I don’t think I can stress it enough, really. I’m a disaster in the kitchen.’
Emilie grinned mischievously. ‘That’s quite all right – I’m fairly certain you make up for that in other departments…’ she teased, surprised by how bold she suddenly felt. Another blush rose to her cheeks as the memory of her dream assailed her. She quickly grabbed the present she’d wrapped up before he had arrived from the table. ‘How about a little something to boost your confidence?’
He cautiously took the present from her and weighed it carefully in his hands.
‘It’s not going to blow up,’ Emilie stated jokingly as she sat down on one of the kitchen chairs.
Remus smiled uncertainly, sitting down on the chair next to hers. ‘You really didn’t need to get me anything.’
‘Think of it as an early Christmas present,’ said Emilie. She tried to keep from smiling because she was certain her smile would give away her excitement. ‘Go ahead, open it.’
His eyes met hers for the briefest of moments. He cast another glance at the present before opening it. A bright green apron with the words “World’s Greatest Chef” written across the front fell into his lap.
Remus snorted, inspecting the apron thoroughly before grinning up at her. ‘Well, er – I don’t think it’s quite managed to boost my confidence, but it’s very... fetching anyway.’ He leaned forward and hugged her briefly. ‘Thank you.’
Emilie grinned. ‘It was my pleasure. And I do actually mean that.’ Holding the apron out to him, she added, ‘You might as well put it on right now.’
As he slipped the apron over his head and tied it behind his back, Emilie grinned and nodded in appreciation. ‘I always did say that you’d look dashing in an apron, didn’t I?’
Shaking his head in amusement, Remus sat back down on his chair. When he looked up at her, there was a mischievous glint in his eyes. ‘Well,’ he started, as serious as ever, ‘as I’ve just been promoted to the World’s Greatest Chef, I think it’d be only right if that position were to come with certain… powers. I should be able to delegate a fair number of tasks to others, don’t you agree?’
‘I don't think so, mister!’ Emilie grinned, punching his arm lightly. ‘You’re going to help me out, even if it’s the last thing you do.’
Remus grinned ruefully. ‘It very well might be.’
Emilie slid her hand into his and pulled him off his chair. ‘No reason for pessimism, now. How about you cut the peppers?’ Her cheeks heated up. ‘I’ll take care of the actual cooking. You won’t have to touch a single pot or pan – I swear.’
She grinned and nudged him towards the kitchen table, where the chopping board was. ‘Go on, now.’
A few moments later, after he’d cut the first two peppers – nowhere near as fast and precisely as he’d done in her dream – he said, ‘I don’t mind cooking that much, really.’
Emilie turned away from the hob. ‘I didn’t think you did.’
‘I actually like to bake pancakes. Or eggs.’
‘I’m sure you do.’
Remus laughed. ‘Honestly!’
The door bell rang before she could come up with a reply. She looked back over her shoulder and smiled teasingly. ‘Think you’d be able to handle the pasta for a minute?’
Remus grinned. ‘I’ll try my best.’
Emilie jogged down the stairs to the front door, still smiling as she opened it.
David stood behind it, his dark hair nearly white with snow. ‘Hey Em,’ he said, his lips cold against hers as he leaned forward and kissed her.
‘Hey,’ she said, hoping that her smile didn’t seem too forced. ‘How’s the studying going?’
‘Bleeding radiator broke down,’ David grumbled, and he shivered as if to lend additional credibility to his words. ‘It’s freezing in my apartment.’
She grimaced. ‘Oh, that’s…’ she searched for the right word, ‘terrible, really.’
David took off his jacket and started to climb the stairs. ‘You wouldn’t mind if I studied here for a bit, would you?’
‘Ehm, well, actually…’ Emilie started, but David had already opened the door to the living room.
‘Oh, hello,’ she heard Remus say. ‘You must be David.’
I’m thrilled to still see a number of familiar (and new!) faces. This part of the story was too long for one chapter, so stay tuned for the next chapter, which will continue in Emilie’s POV. Thanks for putting up with my infrequent updates, and happy holidays to all of you,
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