Chapter 11 : This Magic Moment
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This magic moment
While your lips are close to mine
Will last forever
Forever till the end of time.
- This Magic Moment, by Jay and the Americans
When she stepped into the living room, Emilie felt as though she was being X-rayed. Five pairs of eyes stared intently at her, as though she’d bare all her secrets under the mere pressure of their gazes.
Rather than meeting their eyes, she looked around, her gaze sweeping from the large, wooden dinner table to the closed, dark blue curtains. The walls, which looked as though they’d been white at some point in history, showed whiter, square- or rectangle-shaped spots, as though pictures that had hung there for decades had been recently taken down. What surprised her were the landscape paintings that hung from the walls – they were somewhat tasteless and didn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the room’s interior.
A chandelier stood on a small cupboard, the candles lit. A large fire crackled in the fireplace, flames licking eagerly at the logs in the hearth. Toys, which she assumed must be Harry’s, were stashed away under the cupboard, almost hidden from view. It was a cosy room, she decided – slightly old-fashioned, but with an atmosphere of it own.
The young man that sat closest to the wall piped up. ‘I thought you said you hadn’t found Remus a date?’ As he said this, he looked questioningly at the man next to him – a clean-shaven, dark-haired fellow with sharp grey eyes. Sirius Black, Emilie thought. Still as handsome as he had been in his mid-teens.
‘I did,’ Sirius said, obviously as surprised as his friend. His eyes had yet to leave Emilie’s face. ‘Because I hadn’t.’
‘Then how…?’ the man in the corner started, but Remus silenced him with a good-natured grin.
‘Thanks for the vote of confidence, Peter,’ he said. ‘Contrary to popular belief, however, I do know how to speak to girls and, on occasion, may even ask them out.’ He pulled up a chair and offered it to Emilie. He gave her a reassuring smile. ‘This is Emilie. Emilie, these are my friends. ’
The third man at the table stared even harder at her, his glasses balancing on the tip of his nose. His eyes suddenly widened in recognition. ‘Emilie, you say. Is she the girl that…?’
Emilie smiled uncertainly and nodded. ‘James Potter, correct?’
‘The one and only,’ Lily spoke, wrapping her arms around her husband’s neck. ‘You’ve met before?’
‘Indeed we have,’ Sirius said, recognition dawning on his face. ‘I’m surprised she remembers us at all. She was rather involved with Remus when we met her, if my memory serves me right.’
The young lady opposite of him – a pretty blonde with delicate features and a long, swanlike neck – giggled quietly, hiding her mouth behind her hand.
A blush flew up Emilie’s cheeks. Remus caught her attention by placing his hand at the small of her back. He smiled at her, mirth in his eyes, and only then did she manage to pull off a smile.
Emilie could still feel Peter’s eyes on her, and she smiled at him.
‘And Peter met Emilie in London,’ Remus said, turning to him. ‘When you were shopping for school supplies?’
The penny finally dropped. Peter smiled. ‘Right!’ he said, happy to remember her. ‘Good to see you again.’
‘And you,’ Emilie nodded. She sat down on the chair that Remus had pulled up for her.
‘Well, you may all know her,’ the pretty blonde opposite of Sirius said, ‘but I don’t think that I have met her before.’ She extended her arm across the table, the sleeve of her dress nearly dipping into a pot of steaming tomato soup, and shook Emilie’s hand. ‘Susie Dogberry,’ she introduced herself.
Emilie was surprised by the firm grip of Susie’s slender, perfectly manicured fingers. ‘Emilie Applewhite,’ she said, hoping that her blush had faded away.
When Susie withdrew her hand, her sleeve was rescued from the tomato soup by James, whose hand shot out to hold up pale golden fabric.
Susie snorted in embarrassment. ‘You might want to sit a little bit further away from me if you want to keep your dress clean,’ she told Emilie. ‘I’m quite possibly the biggest klutz walking this Earth.’
‘Perhaps not the biggest,’ Sirius said, flashing his girlfriend a charming grin, ‘but definitely the cutest.’
The girl sitting opposite of Peter stood up and shook Emilie’s hand as well. ‘Hi, I’m Jenny,’ she said. ‘Jenny Fairchild. Nice meeting you.’
Her round, welcoming face reminded Emilie of Rebecca, and she found she immediately liked the girl. ‘Likewise,’ she smiled.
‘Well then, let’s tuck in,’ said Sirius, drawing the pot with soup closer to him and plunging the soupspoon into the tomato soup. ‘No one likes their soup cold.’
Emilie smiled at Remus, who had taken the seat opposite of hers. The tips of his feet rested against the tips of hers, and she gave his a gentle nudge. He smiled broadly at her in a way that reminded her of the young Remus Lupin, the one she’d gotten to know in Little Angleton. The chatter of his friends soon filled the room, and it wasn’t long before Emilie felt truly at home.
‘Ah, treacle tarts!’ Sirius exclaimed in delight when Lily walked in with the desserts. ‘Lily, I think I just might love you!’
James punched his friend’s shoulder. ‘Careful, Black – that’s my wife you’re talking about,’ he warned, but his wide grin negated the threatening tone of his voice.
Emilie hid her smile behind her hand. Remus’s friends had to be the strangest group of people she’d ever met. One would never think they’d fit together or get along as well as they did. All of them seemed so different, and yet they seemed to accept and appreciate their differences, rather than pick on them.
Dinner, although it must have lasted hours, seemed to have flown by. Stories of the boys’ past at their secondary school were exchanged, and Lily told Emilie and Jenny all about how James had finally won her over.
Remus’s gaze crossed hers. His lips were drawn into a smile that lit up his entire face. She couldn’t help but think how different Remus was when he was around his friends. More certain, somehow, and bolder. Still a little quiet and reserved, but friendly and witty whenever he spoke up. It was as though he’d opened up, she thought, showing her a side of him she’d never seen before.
‘You’ll have to teach me how to make those treacle tarts, Lily,’ Susie said, smiling as Sirius devoured his dessert. ‘The way to a man’s heart and all that.’
Sirius smiled as widely as his treacle-filled mouth allowed, and grasped her hand. ‘You know you already know the way to my heart,’ he said after having swallowed, and he pressed his free hand to his heart as if to emphasize his words.
A charming smile graced his fine features. He pushed back his chair and held his hand out to Susie. ‘Let’s dance into the New Year, shall we?’
Giggling, Susie stood up and circled the table before spinning round under Sirius arm. ‘We shall.’
Peter reached across the table and smiled at his girlfriend. ‘Jenny?’
The brunette took his hand with a smile. Keeping their linked hands above the heads of those still sitting, Peter guided her around the table.
Lily stood up and turned to her husband. ‘If you put on a record,’ she said, brushing her thick red hair behind her ear, ‘I’ll go and check on Harry.’
James stood up from his chair as well and smiled at his wife, adoration in his eyes. He kissed her soundly on the lips before crossing the living room to put on some music. While Lily walked up the stairs to see how Harry was doing, Emilie dared a glance in Remus’s direction. They were the only two people left at the table.
He put aside his napkin and smiled shyly at her. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She offered him an uncertain smile in return, not sure what to expect.
He held her gaze a bit longer. ‘Dance with me?’
Her smile grew larger, her knees knocking into his when she uncrossed her legs to stand up. She smiled apologetically. He smiled in forgiveness. It was funny, she thought as Remus took her hand, how the two of them suddenly seemed perfectly capable of communicating by means of smiling alone.
Remus led her to the middle of the living room and allowed her hand to slip out off his. ‘You really do look beautiful tonight,’ he told her, his voice so low that she almost didn’t hear him. The wine and his friends’ company seemed to have loosened him up somewhat.
Blushing, she wrapped her arms around his neck and stepped closer to him. ‘Let’s see how much you remember from your lessons,’ she teased him.
She felt him laugh – his chest shook lightly. ‘Lesson, he said, emphasizing the ending of the word. ‘There never was a second one.’
‘Hmm,’ she murmured in agreement, swaying lightly against him. His arms closed around her waist, his hands resting lightly on her back. She resisted the urge to sigh – she hadn’t felt this peaceful for a long time.
All of a sudden, the easy silence was shattered, fast-paced disco music filling the room.
‘Hey!’ Sirius protested, still moving slowly with Susie in his arms.
James looked up and pressed his glasses up his nose. ‘Sorry,’ he said, but his grinning face made it hard to believe he had done it accidentally. He turned the record around. ‘Wrong side.’
A slower song started, violin music accompanying a man’s voice.
‘You’ve got wonderful friends,’ Emilie said, looking up at Remus.
His eyes, which had been closed, opened, and he smiled down at her. ‘They mean everything to me.’ There was a hint of sorrow in his voice, and Emilie realised that they just might be the only family he had left.
She let her hand slide down to her waist, where she captured his. Weaving his fingers through hers, she brought their joined hands between their bodies.
The first tones of Summertime rang through the room. Laying her head against his shoulder, Emilie closed her eyes and hummed along to the song.
It was good to be in his arms again, her head against his shoulder, his knees bumping into hers every now and again.
‘Your dancing has improved,’ she said in between Louis Armstrong’s trumpet solos.
He laughed whole-heartedly. ‘I should hope so.’
Her eyes fluttered open just in time to see Lily enter the living room. James swirled her around, the skirt of Lily’s cocktail dress flaring up.
Emilie stepped a little closer to him, dropping her arm to his waist. ‘I’m glad you asked me to come with you,’ she said quietly.
He gently squeezed her hand. ‘So am I,’ he said softly. She could feel his lips on her hair, kissing the crown of her head. Hope flared up in the pit of her stomach. Perhaps he did still have some feelings for her.
‘Why, would you look at the time?’ James said, a little before midnight. ‘The last seconds of 1980.’ He lifted the record player’s needle from the LP, and the music stopped.
Emilie and Remus turned to look at the tall grandfather clock in the corner of the living room. Emilie wondered briefly if she should step away from Remus now that they’d stopped dancing, but he kept his hands his hands on her waist.
He turned back to her, his eyes an unreadable dark blue.
‘Ten…’ Sirius started, ‘nine… eight…’
The others started to count down with him, and Emilie managed to go down from seven to three, but Remus’s eyes on her made her forget to count down any further.
He slowly bent his head towards her until he was close enough for her to notice the flecks of light blue in his eyes.
‘Happy New Year!’ someone shouted, but it sounded as though it’d come from far away.
And then Remus’s lips were pressed against hers, and she could no longer think. He kissed her slowly, his lips soft but insistent.
‘Happy New Year, Emilie,’ he whispered when he pulled back, his cheeks flustered.
She tried to recompose herself. ‘Happy New Year,’ she managed to say, and then there was James, pulling Remus into a hug and wishing him a good 1981.
Lily kissed Emilie’s cheeks, smiling knowingly. ‘Don’t go breaking his heart, now,’ she said and she squeezed Emilie’s hand before turning to wish Susie a happy New Year.
Emilie’s elation fell somewhat when she noticed how Remus kissed Susie and Jenny on the cheeks when wishing them the best for 1981. Had his kiss been just a friendly gesture? Had she been the only one who had felt the butterflies when their lips touched?
After having spoken to everyone, Remus returned to her side. His eyes twinkled, and he looked happier than she’d seen him for a long time. She hesitantly smiled back at him. He took her hand, but didn’t pull her in for another kiss. ‘Let’s go watch the fireworks.’
She followed him outside and, resting against his chest, watched the fireworks go up into the air. They were more spectacular than any form of fireworks she’d ever seen before. Their sparkles seemed to move and rearrange, forming the most beautiful pictures against the dark sky.
Emilie noticed James and Lily several feet away from them, wrapped up in a tight embrace. Behind them she could see Peter, who was giving Jenny gentle, short kisses. In the shadows of the house stood Sirius and Susie, their heads close together.
Sighing, Emilie leaned back, her head against Remus’s chest. He wound his arms around her waist, and although she tried to be happy with what they had – a great friendship – she couldn’t help but want more.
Standing outside his bedroom, her heart beat twice as fast as it normally did. She wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do. What if he turned her away? She didn’t think she would be ready to take such a definite response.
After taking a series of deep breaths, she knocked on his door. She didn’t bother to wait for an answer, afraid that she’d lose her nerve, and opened the door.
Beside the large four-poster bed stood Remus, frozen, his sleeveless pullover discarded on the floor, his tie loose around his neck, his white shirt almost completely unbuttoned. He seemed to be wearing a snug white T-shirt underneath it.
His eyes darted from her face to the nightgown she was wearing. They rested briefly at the hem of her gown, which ended just above her knees. ‘Emilie?’
She took an uncertain step towards him, and another one, and another, until she stood right in front of him.
Remus’s surprised look dissolved and one of concern took its place, his eyebrows knitted together in a worried frown. ‘Are you all right?’
She took a deep breath, gathering the courage to speak up. ‘They say,’ she started, but her voice was hoarse and she had to scrape her throat. ‘They say,’ she repeated, her eyes meeting his, ‘that how you spend New Year’s Eve is how you’ll spend the rest of the year.’
He looked down at her, puzzled. ‘Emilie?’
Her stomach clenched. Her voice trembled. ‘And I want to spend it with you.’ She couldn’t quite read his expression – possibly because she was nervous like hell and couldn’t look at him long enough to see what he was thinking – so she decided to go on. She took a deep breath. ‘I’d like to spend it with you because I fancy you like mad.’
There. She’d said it. No taking it back now.
She attempted to smile, but her lips quivered nervously and it cost her great effort to keep them still.
Remus still hadn’t said anything. She couldn’t decide whether that was a good or a bad sign. ‘Say something,’ she begged, her eyes flying from his eyes to his mouth and back again.
He smiled shyly at her – that couldn’t be a bad sign, she thought, and the hope she’d felt earlier sprang back to life.
‘I can’t…’ he started, and she felt her heart sink. He was going to reject her, and she would have to accept it. How could she ever just be friends with him?
He placed his hands on her elbows to keep her from turning away. ‘I can’t seem to stop thinking about you. You’re always on my mind.’
Emilie let out a tiny gasp of relief, tears burning her eyes.
He smiled uncertainly. ‘When you’re not around,’ he continued, his voice slightly hoarse, ‘you’re all I can think about. And when you are around, you’re still I can think about – what it’d be like to hold you…’ he hesitated briefly, lowering his eyes to her lips, ‘or kiss you...’
She drew her lips into a tremulous smile. ‘Is that… is that what you’re thinking right now?’ Her chest seemed to contract in anticipation, making it impossible for her to breathe.
His eyes briefly crossed hers before he looked down at her lips again. ‘Yes,’ he said, his voice deep. ‘Yes. As a matter of fact,’ he continued, his eyes darkening, ‘it’s all I can think about at the moment.’
She let out a sound that wasn’t quite a snort, but not quite a giggle, either, and smiled up at him. She felt as though nothing could ruin tonight: not now that she knew how Remus felt about her.
He brought one of his hands up to her face and touched her lightly. Drawing the tips of his fingers across the skin of her cheeks, he explored her face; the tender gesture robbed her of her breath. As he stepped closer, he brushed her hair out of her face.
She stood up on the tips of her toes. His thumb touched her bottom lip, and he gently parted her lips. She could feel her heart pounding against her ribcage. Her breath was coming in quick snatches, and when Remus bent his head towards hers, she closed her eyes in anticipation of the feeling of his lips on hers.
It didn’t come.
She was about to open her eyes, afraid that he’d changed his mind, when she felt his gentle lips against her neck, soft and warm. She gasped in surprise, her knees nearly folding underneath her. He slowly kissed his way up to her ear, and she wondered how he managed to be so patient when all she wanted to do was kiss him until her lips blistered.
And then his lips were on hers, and she simply stopped thinking for a moment. His kisses were different from the ones they’d shared in Little Angleton, but their effect was the same, if not more intense: a pounding heart, trembling knees and millions of butterflies in her stomach.
Her knees felt as though they would buckle soon, and Emilie leaned heavily on his shoulders for support. He pulled back briefly, a thoroughly happy smile on his lips. His cheeks were red, his hair tousled from her hands, and his lips slightly swollen, and she wanted nothing more than to kiss him again.
He seemed to have the same thing in my mind, for he kissed her again, gently tasting her lips. With one hand buried in her hair, he pressed her closer to him, his other hand on the small of her back.
She slipped her hands into his half-open shirt, tracing the angles and lines of his body through his T-shirt. He had grown into his body, she noticed, no longer the lanky, scrawny boy he once was. Drawing his bottom lip between her own, she tugged at it lightly before flicking her tongue across it. A low groan reverberated in his throat. She felt as though she couldn’t get close enough to him.
He pulled away from her, breathing heavily. Closing his eyes for a moment, he rested his forehead against hers, trying to catch his breath.
‘Looks like dancing isn’t the only thing you improved on,’ she said, taking some pride in the fact that she could form a coherent sentence with a mind that seemed to have melted from his feverish kisses.
‘Either that,’ Remus replied hoarsely, a single eyebrow arched, ‘or you have lowered your standards, Miss Applewhite. I got little practice for both.’
She giggled and gave him a playful shove. ‘Well then,’ she said, toying with the few buttons of his shirt that hadn’t been undone, ‘I suggest that we rehearse both activities – and quite often, too.’ She flashed him a grin. ‘Practice makes perfect.’
‘Hmm,’ he murmured, holding her close.
Stifling a yawn, Emilie wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes.
His fingers played with her hair, and when he spoke up, she could feel his chest move. ‘Are you tired?’
She nodded slowly. ‘But I don’t want to go.’ After a moment’s hesitation, she said, ‘Can I stay here tonight?’
He was silent for quite some time, the sound of his breathing the only thing she could hear. Finally, he said, ‘I don’t want you to leave.’
She smiled up at him and kissed him very briefly on his lips. ‘I won’t take advantage of you, I swear.’ While she tried her best not to grin, she held up one hand to show her sincerity.
Burying his face in her hair, Remus let out a low laugh. ‘Very well, then,’ he said, and he guided her in the direction of the bed. ‘I suppose I can trust you.’
She didn’t realise what he was up to until the back of her knees hit the bed, and he lowered her down on the mattress. Biting on her lip in anticipation of a kiss, she was caught totally unawares when he started tickling her sides, his fingers flying over her body.
She fought the laughter that was bubbling up inside her, clenching her mouth shut. She somehow managed to contain it.
‘You’re not ticklish anymore,’ he observed, his voice tinged with disappointment.
She bit her lip and shook her head, smiling as she tried to keep the laughter at bay. ‘Nope,’ she pressed out between shut lips. ‘I’m not.’
He smiled and his hands stilled. His lips met hers, and what started as a gentle, soft kiss quickly became more heated, as her hands pressed him down on her. His hands skated over her hips to her thighs and back up again. He cupped her face with one hand and caressed her side with the other, the cotton of her nightgown sliding over her skin. She moaned in appreciation when he parted her lips and deepened the kiss.
When their kiss ended, Emilie ran her hand through his hair. ‘I like your hair like this,’ she said quietly. ‘It’s nice to have something to hold on to when we kiss.’
He smiled. His fingers caressed her cheek briefly before they travelled down to her neck, where they toyed with the necklace she was wearing. His eyes met hers, and he said, quite softly, ‘You make me feel like I’m sixteen again.’
She nodded. She understood exactly what he meant. When he kissed her, she felt like a hopeless, head-over-heels in love schoolgirl all over again.
As Remus moved to lie beside her, she propped up her head with her elbow.
His fingers spidered across her side and ran gently up and down her spine, creasing her nightgown. ‘When did you know that you…?’
Smiling, she shifted a little bit closer to him, nestling the top of her head under his chin. ‘I’m not sure when it happened,’ she said, her fingers playing with the hem of his T-shirt. ‘At the Chinese restaurant, maybe. Or in The Broken Mug.’ She smiled and placed a kiss on the place where his neck met his shoulder. ‘Or somewhere in between.’ Her hand found his and her fingers played with his for a moment. ‘I didn’t realise it till much later.’
When she yawned, he kissed her forehead and said, ‘Would you mind terribly if I took off my trousers? They’ll wrinkle if I sleep in them.’
She smiled mischievously. ‘Mind? And that has to be the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard.’
‘No ulterior motives involved,’ he assured her with a lopsided grin. He slipped out of her embrace and unbuttoned the last few buttons of his shirt, revealing the snug T-shirt he wore underneath it. When his hand went down to the button of his slacks, he suddenly looked down at her and hesitated. She grinned, but then turned away, her cheeks suddenly aflame. She heard his slacks fall down to the ground and moments later, the lights were turned off, and she felt the mattress shift underneath her.
Her breath stopped when his hand hesitantly touched her side. It lingered there for a moment and then slid down to her hip. As he moved closer to her, she could feel the heat of his body behind her, his warm breath on the skin of her neck.
‘This is perfect, isn’t it?’ she whispered, turning her head so that she could see his face. She didn’t think it was possible to be any happier than she was right then and there.
He smiled at her. ‘Yeah,’ he said, sighing contently. ‘It really is.’
She fell asleep a little bit later, when the last bangs of the fireworks outside had faded away, the slow, steady sound of Remus’s breathing all she could hear.
It's been great writing this chapter, and the next one should be even more fun. Thanks for all the positive replies regarding the new story I’m thinking about writing – they’ve really encouraged me to at least jot down my ideas.
Thanks for the support, and I hope to have the next chapter up reasonably soon.