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Chapter 3 : The Fool on the Hill
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It was the morning of a Hogsmeade weekend when Eleanor hurled herself through the portrait door and smack into the spare form of one Remus J. Lupin. He fell backwards and she barely kept herself from falling on top of him. Most fortunately for him, the rug in that part of the Common Room was still reasonably soft, preventing him from adding to the bruises that dotted his arms beneath the thick jumper he wore.
“Oh Merlin! Are you alright, Remus? Godric’s girdle, I’m sorry!” She reached down to help him rise. His face was deathly pale and were those half-healed scratch marks on his face? It must have been another of the recurring illnesses that plagued him at least once a month. Eleanor could not imagine being ill all the time like that.
“I’m fine, no worries. I was looking for you anyway, Eleanor.” His voice was extremely soft, still maintaining the higher tones of the young teen although he was well past sixteen.
“I see,” she replied, flailing her empty hands and biting her lip.
Remus lowered himself into a chair. “Sirius isn’t doing too well today. It seems he’s caught what I have.”
With an intake of breath, Eleanor collapsed onto a pile of cushions behind the couch.
“Really? That’s terrible!”
“Shouldn’t he be taken to the Hospital Wing?”
Remus’ cheeks coloured. “Not really. I still have enough medicine left over to share with him.” He paused, then added, “I’d rather people didn’t think that it was contagious. It would cause trouble, too much trouble.”
“Of course. Can I see him?”
No! He’s too ill for visitors.”
“What about James and Peter?”
“They’ve gone off to Hogsmeade. You should join them. Sirius would want that.”
A day with James Potter, who’d be off mooning after Lily Evans, and Peter Pettigrew, who’d be raiding the candy shop with every last penny he owned. Oh yes, that was definitely the sort of Hogsmeade weekend she’d been planning.
“I’ll find something to do.”
“Good.” He pushed himself out of the chair and began to turn away.
“When will I be able to see him?” She was starting to sound like the heroine of a bad romantic novel. Perhaps she ought to stop reading those things.
“He’ll be better enough to attend classes on Monday.”
Nothing about being available to meet with her. Eleanor sighed, leaning back in the cushions as she watched Remus climb up the stairs to his dormitory, holding onto the handrail with more care than should have been needed. Just how ill was he? How ill could Sirius be? Chin in hand, she began to think.
“So you’ve heard about Sirius?”
Two very blue eyes were looking down at her from the back of the couch.
“Yeah, I have.” She didn’t move to look up at him. After all, he was only Peter Pettigrew.
“Are you going to come with us then?”
“Don’t tell me you’d only come because of Sirius. He’s not worth it, really.” Even his voice wasn’t that pleasant to listen to. It was like he was always whining about something. “All he does is hang about the Three Broomsticks for a sighting of Madam Rosmerta so she’ll give him a free drink.”
“Doesn’t he also like the Shrieking Shack?”
Peter nodded a bit too enthusiastically. “His next favourite spot. Him and Remus are always going out to that place.”
Eleanor asked, “Why just with Remus? What about you others?”
The same redness that had passed across Remus’ face now appeared on Peter’s. “I don’t like it there much. It’s really haunted, you know.”
“He’s trying to catch Evans’ eye. Can’t do that over at the Shrieking Shack.”
There was a silence between them. Most of the other students had already gone off to Hogsmeade, running off through the snow like primary school children on the first winter’s day. She saw James among them, walking along beside Lily Evans, whose cheeks were flushed with more than the chill. Eleanor snorted. Obviously Evans couldn’t follow her own advice, not even with the boy she claimed to be the most priggish and impudent bastard in the school.
Her eyes drifted towards the staircase.
“Remus won’t let you see him.”
She turned to glare at Peter, who was still staring down at her with a wide eyed, but knowing, expression on his small face.
“We might as well get going.” It wasn’t nice when people read other people’s minds.
After having spent a holiday in the company of a boy one’s age, some girls would run off to their female friends and have a long, long, long chat about how the boy looked, or how he acted, or all the wonderful things he did for her. Eleanor, however, did not have any friends she could talk to in such a way, and furthermore, she was certainly not going to gossip to anyone about her day with Peter Pettigrew. It had been bad enough to receive smirks from the Slytherins and gruffaws from the Ravenclaws, but even the Hufflepuffs had giggled when they saw Eleanor Rigby and Peter Pettigrew. They must have believed that Sirius had already dumped her for better stock, leaving her to the less-loving hands of his friend. Well, that is if you really believed that someone as proud and royal as Sirius Black could ever be friends with someone like Pettigrew. Many thought it quite a laughable idea, Eleanor among them.
She just didn’t find it funny when she was connected to the unrealistic friendship between the most handsome boy at Hogwarts and his lessor, parasitic follower.
Of course, she worried that their whispers were true, that Sirius had found someone better, which would have been any other girl in the school other than Perdita Parkinson, who resembled a gorilla on her good days. He had needed to teach Eleanor how to kiss, how to act, how to talk, how to do anything that had to do with being a girlfriend. The other girls wouldn’t have needed that – they all seemed experienced in these things, like it was some sort of intuition. Just another thing that Eleanor had missed out on without really knowing or understanding how.
What if Sirius had spent the entire day with another girl after having gotten his best friend to blow off “the other girl” he had gone out with for a total of five days, eight hours, and three minutes. That would have been a record time for both of them – the shortest for him, the longest for her. There was too big of a distance between them, filled only by Eleanor’s fantasies.
She ran back into the Gryffindor Common Room, running over some first years who should have known better than to stand and chat behind the portrait door. Skipping the stairs two at a time – a trial for her lungs – she flew into the seventh year boys’ dormitory and fell over a trunk. Whose it was, she didn’t care, but whoever it was had a shipload of junk in it.
“Ah, I thought you’d come.” Sirius was sitting up in bed, his hair perfectly dishevelled.
Eleanor dragged herself off the ground. “Feeling better?”
“Mostly. Bored more than anything.”
He did look bored, but not very sick other than the bright flush on his cheeks. It might have been a sign of fever.
“I was worried about you.” Worried that he was cheating, more specifically.
His smile looked genuine. “That’s good. Maybe next time I’ll get you to take care of me. At least then I’d know I wouldn’t be do damned bored. Remus’ worse than a mother hen.”
She laughed in spite of herself. He grinned in response.
“He cares for you, that’s all,” she said between laughs.
A small frown appeared on his face and disappeared in the same moment. “Too much.” He began to cough, a deep hacking sound that resonated through his body. Eleanor jumped forward to help him, but he waved her away.
“It’s that bloody potion he gave me.”
“You shouldn’t let him bully you.”
“It keeps me humble.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that.”
“Why? Because there’s no hope of it ever happening?”
“Something like that.”
He waved a hand in the air. “Well at least I chose someone honest!”
“Would you prefer it if I lied to you?” She ventured to sit on the corner of the bed furthest from him, hoping that none of the others would arrive and think the worst.
“It depends on what type of relationship you want.”
Now that was a loaded statement.
“What sort of relationship do we have?”
“Can we tell this soon? It’s been what – five days?”
“And a bit.” She refused to admit that she’d been counting every minute since their meeting on the Astronomy Tower.
He pursed his lips. “So in that much time, what have we done?”
“Um....” Kissed a lot? Could she actually say that to him with a straight face?
“Not much, then.”
She looked away from his eyes. “Today was supposed to be important.”
He clenched his hands on the bedspread. “I’m sorry, Ellie.”
“There’s always next time, I guess.”
“Of course.” He was trying too hard to sound optimistic.
“So I’ll go back down and finish McGonagall’s essay, then.”
He grimaced. “Yeah, I better start on that.”
She reached into the trunk at the foot of his bed and yanked out a parchment. She tossed it and a quill at him. “You better get started. It’s two whole rolls she’s wanting.”
Sirius swore – not under his breath as was his wont – and flattened the parchment on his lap. He didn’t even bother to wink at her this time. Maybe he was too sick to have remembered. After all, she was only Eleanor, no one special, not even to him, her boyfriend.
When she reentered the Common Room, the only ones there were James and Lily, who were in deep conversation about their rounds as Head Boy and Girl. Though, by the way that he put his arm on the couch behind her, Eleanor wondered just how many rounds the two of them would do before they ran off for the best snogging places in the school. Lily’s eyes flickered over to where Eleanor stood at the foot of the stairs. It was only after that moment the Head Girl of Hogwarts pushed James’ arm away. She too remembered her own advice.
Eleanor stalked out of Gryffindor Tower and off to the library. If she was lucky, maybe she’d come across a Ravenclaw bored enough to help her find the books she needed for McGonagall’s essay of doom.
She spent a very boring afternoon in the library, which was perhaps her least favourite room of the entire school. All those books, all the dust, all the smartness that filled the atmosphere... it was enough to send her sneezing into the second floor lavatory. You know which one, the one that no one likes to use because of Moaning Myrtle. That should tell you, dear reader, just how serious the situation was when it came to Eleanor retreating to the Hogwarts library.
Once she had obtained the correct volume from the correct Ravenclaw who happened to know the correct location – by memory too, fancy that! – she took a desk close to a window and gazed out at the snowy grounds, doing anything but read her book. Half an hour later, there were still no pages turned and no words written on her parchment. Head resting on an upturned palm, Eleanor dreamt of many things, many things that just happened to include the face of Sirius Black.
Then she heard the voices. That was never a good thing.
“So the never left the dormitory?” It was an unfamiliar girl that spoke from behind the next row of shelves.
“That whole time?” asked another.
“Not once. Their excuse was crappy, to say the least.” The third spoke with authority.
“Yes,” the third voice interrupted. “Of course, what else?”
There was a grunt of exasperation. “Stop being such an idiot. It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Well, yeah, but maybe–”
“It’s the truth. Sally said that Ronnie saw them together.”
“That’s disgusting. Why them, of all the boys?”
Some hushed whispers filled the air for a moment, then one of the girls spoke clearly.
“It’s why he started going out with her, you know. To cover it all up.”
A laugh. “And she’s too naive to notice.”
The third voice waited for the laughter to silence before saying, “Well, wouldn’t you pretend too, just to have the chance to be with him?”
“Not if he’s–”
“Shut up! People’ll hear you!”
There was a pause.
“Yeah, I would too. It’d be worth it.”
Another laugh, this time more subdued, almost mournful. They left not long after.
Eleanor sighed, lost in thought and daydream. What the girls had said was interesting, but who it alluded to, she could guess, but she wasn’t entirely sure. It’d be too much of a coincidence for those girls to be talking about her at just the right time and place so that she’d hear them. No, that was too easy. It was just rumour anyways, and everyone knew that rumours were hardly ever true, and definitely not trustworthy.
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