It was one thing when he ate meals with her, walked to the tower with her, and sat nearby in classes. It was another thing entirely, when Remus showed up in the Library to study with Ellie. It wasn’t that he was never in the Library; in fact, if Ellie remembered correctly, he seemed to practically live in the Library like Lily. What was odd about it was that he had come specifically to study at the same time as her.
Not that he had said that was why he showed up. In fact, he hadn’t said anything at all. He had merely walked into the room, sat down across from her, and proceeded to disappear behind the covers of a book. . . and there he had stayed for the past hour.
Questions bounded around inside Ellie’s mind. What was he doing here? Was he following her? If so, how had he known she was here? If not, why had he sat at the table with her? Was he trying to mess with her or was he simply trying to be nice? It was enough to drive her insane.
She turned her attention back to her Transfiguration textbook as Madam Pinch went racing by, shrieking at some unsuspecting First Years who had brought chocolate into the Library. Ellie almost felt bad for them as Pinch charmed some heavy looking books to hit them on the head as they ran out. Almost being the key word.
As soon as the shrieking had died down, she risked a glance at Remus. He was still hidden behind his book, which meant there was no way for her to figure out what he was doing unless she asked. And that was something she was not going to do. Asking what he was doing would only make him think she was curious about why he was there and then there would be a conversation and possibly an argument which would result in Pinch chasing them from the Library with books. No, it was a far better idea to just keep her head down and mind her own business. If he wanted to tell her why he was there, he would. Until then, she would just read her book.
Another fifteen minutes passed and she looked up. Ten minutes after that she looked and five minutes after that she did it again. Each time she looked, he was firmly engrossed in his studying. It was infuriating. Here she was attempting to study and all she can think about is why on earth bloody Remus Lupin would want to study with her. Why should she be distracted when he wasn’t?
She was still staring at him five minutes later when he suddenly looked up. Ellie looked away quickly, pretending to fix her hair. “Were you looking at me?” he asked suspiciously.
“No,” she said quickly. “Why would I be looking at you?”
“I don’t know,” he said, frowning at her. He turned back to his book after a few moments as Ellie did the same.
A few minutes later, she looked up again. Just as quickly, Remus did too. “You’re staring at me,” he accused the moment she looked away.
“No I wasn’t,” she insisted. “I was looking at the books over your shoulder.”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “That’s a flat out lie,” he said, grinning slightly. “You hate reading as much as you hate Transfiguration.”
Ellie bit her tongue. Why had she felt the need to broadcast her hatred of the written word to everyone in Third year? “I was not looking at you,” she stated again.
“Were too,” Remus said. “Why were you looking at me?”
“Just admit it!”
Ellie ground her teeth together and glared at him. He was still grinning. “Alright, fine,” she said. “I was looking at you. Happy?”
“Why were you looking at me?”
“Because you’re oh so handsome,” Ellie said, rolling her eyes. She found a small amount of satisfaction when she saw him blush.
“Honesty is a virtue.”
Ellie sighed. It would be easier to just tell him what he wanted to know. Remus was infamous amongst the Gryffindors for his persistence. “I’m wondering why you’re here.”
He looked confused for a moment. “I have to study for the Transfiguration exam,” he said simply, “just like you.”
“I know that,” Ellie replied, “but I want to know why you’re here and not in the common room.”
“It’s quieter here.”
“Yes,” Ellie said, mentally hitting her forehead. “But why did you come here when you knew I would be here? Why did you sit with me when there are several empty tables?”
“Do you want me to move?” he asked in confusion.
“No,” Ellie said. “I just want to know why you’ve been following me around for the past few days. Honestly, it’s like having two Siriuses instead of one.”
Remus was quiet for a moment as he looked around. When he saw that no one else was in hearing range, he leaned towards her. “I wanted to make sure you were alright,” he said quietly. “I know what it’s like to be ostracized for something that wasn’t your fault. It’s not easy to deal with bad things to begin with, but it’s even tougher when people hate you for it.”
Ellie looked down at her clasped hands. It had been a difficult few days to say the least. Every time she turned a corner, everyone in the hallway would fall quiet and stare at her as she walked past. The moment she turned the corner and disappeared from sight, she heard the whispers begin again. She knew what they were all saying; that she was a Death Eater, she had framed her father, and had helped kill a muggle-born man in London during holiday break. Every step, every word that passed her lips, even her breathing was watched and analyzed. It was, without a doubt, the single most horrible and lonely experience she had been faced with.
She looked back at Remus after a moment. He was still staring at her thoughtfully. “Are you alright?” he asked gently.
“I’m not entirely sure,” she answered. “People are always watching me. Rumors are flying concerning everything from whether I’m a Death Eater to whether Isabella is my sister or not. I’m under pressure no matter what I do. If I have one bad moment people claim I hate muggle-borns, but if I act perfectly and ignore it all they claim I’m a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t care about anyone else.” She took a shaky breath and gave him a small smile. “It’s been difficult.”
He nodded emphatically and Ellie wondered how he could possibly understand. But she was about to ask about that. He was one of the few people who still talked to her and she wasn’t about to ruin that by asking a dumb question. “Why are you being so nice to me?” she asked instead. “You’ve always ignored me before.”
He looked at her closely for a minute. “I try not to judge people by what their families do. If I did, I wouldn’t be friends with Sirius. Instead, I try to figure out what a person is like based off their individual actions.”
“And what have you surmised from my actions?” she asked curiously.
“You know right from wrong and you’ll do anything to protect those who mean the most to you, even if it means sending someone else you love to prison,” he stated softly. “You love your friends like family and you love your family more than anything else in the world. You put the needs of other’s before your own and, I’m willing to bet, if given the choice you would sacrifice yourself to save those you care about the most.”
Ellie ducked her head and bit her lip. “You seem very positive in your observations,” she said, somewhat bashfully.
“Well, there are some negative things as well,” Remus admitted. “You can be too stubborn for your own good. You have a tendency to keep people at arm’s length so no one can say that they honestly know who you are. You have a horrible temper. But the most detrimental thing to your well-being is the fact that you seem willing to do anything to save your loved ones.”
“But you said that was a good thing.”
“It is, but it is also a bad thing,” he explained. “That kind of loyalty to others can lead you to blindly fall into a trap or cause you to be harmed.”
Ellie was quiet for a moment. “I suppose you’re right,” she sighed. “I can tend to be a bit overprotective of my family.”
“First step to recovery is acceptance,” he said innocently.
She snorted and shot him an amused look. “Where is Black by the way?” she asked. “I’m not used to him not shadowing me everywhere.”
“He’s with James at the moment,” Remus said quietly. “He’s trying to help him make Lily see reason.”
Ellie felt her heart drop. “So she’s still really angry with me then?” she ventured.
“Yes,” Remus replied with a nod. “Having her name and her family’s names on that list scared her badly. She’s been made fun of for being a muggle-born before, but her family has never been targeted.”
“And apparently it’s entirely my fault,” Ellie said dryly. She wished she had something hard to punch, but she got the feeling that Madam Pinch wouldn’t be too happy if she started punching the books or the wall.
“Deep down she knows that she’s taking her anger out on you because she can’t take it out on the actual culprits,” Remus said sagely. “It’s only a matter of time before she realizes that herself.”
“Yes, well, she made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to be friends anymore,” Ellie said stiffly. “I intend to honor that request whether she realizes that or not.”
“You would throw away your friendship?”
“Why not?” she asked with a shrug. “She seemed to have no problem doing it. Besides, I don’t know whether I can really trust her after this. Once lost my trust can be very difficult to regain.”
Remus frowned, but said nothing in response. Ellie could tell that he was disappointed in her reply though, so she leaned forward and added, “It is possible that I could forgive Lily with time,” she said gently. “It may take a while and we may never be as close as we once were, but I may be able to try it.”
Remus looked at her and nodded. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get him talking again. When Peter found them an hour later, Ellie was in the middle of telling Remus about the time she got Dragon pox the past summer.
“It was terrible,” she said. “I had spots all over my body and they were so itchy. But mum wouldn’t let me itch them because they’d release pus and I’d get worse.” She examined her arms carefully. “It’s a miracle I didn’t get scars.”
“From what?” Peter asked curiously as he sat down at the table.
“Dragon pox,” Ellie replied.
He winced. “I’ve heard it’s horrible,” he said. “My grandpa died from it when I was eight. I still remember how disgusting the pus was.”
“How pleasant,” Remus said with a slightly sarcastic note to his voice.
“I was just making polite conversation,” Peter said, rolling his eyes.
“Which I very much appreciate,” Ellie cut in. “It’s nice of you to actually look at my face and not my knockers too,” she added.
Peter had the good sense to blush. “Yeah, well, after he had a talk with me, I felt it would be in my best interest not to look at them anymore,” he said embarrassedly.
“Who spoke with you?” Remus asked.
Ellie felt confused. Why would Sirius tell him to stop looking at her knockers so much. If anything, she would have expected him to give him pointers on how to do it without getting caught.
“Did he say why?” she heard Remus ask.
“He said it was making her uncomfortable,” Peter said. After a moment he added, “And he told me that I’d be just as uncomfortable if I didn’t stop.”
“Who would have thought Sirius Black could be chivalrous?” Ellie mused.
“He has his moments,” Remus said fairly. “It may be a surprise to you, but Sirius does care about more than just sex and alcohol.”
“I figured as much, but I’d never had much proof,” Ellie said. “Maybe his parents taught him something that wasn’t completely insane or immoral after all.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t agree,” Remus said with a chuckle. “Now, who needs help with Transfiguration?” When both Ellie and Peter raised their hands, Remus shook his head and settled down. Ellie felt sure that it was going to be a long morning. . .
By the time they made it to lunch, most of the school had already eaten. Which suited Ellie just fine. Less people to stare at her as if she had three heads and was breathing firing. “There’s probably no food left,” Peter moaned as he gripped his stomach. “I’m so hungry.”
“If there’s nothing left we’ll go visit the kitchens,” Remus said calmly.
“You’ve been to the kitchens?” Ellie asked. She was learning all sorts of things about her friend Remus today.
“Yeah,” Peter answered. “The House Elves are pretty nice. Whenever we need something they fall over themselves to get it for us.”
Ellie didn’t like the way he said that nor did she like the smirk on his face either. But he was one of the few people still talking to her and, as pathetic as it sounded, she didn’t want to offend him, so she held her tongue and allowed Remus to lecture him instead.
Despite Peter’s initial fears of not eating, there was still plenty of food left when they sat down. Ellie immediately loaded her plate with food, not bothering to take more vegetables like she usually did. She wanted to taste the fatty richness of the meats and the sweetness of the puddings. So what if she gained a few more pounds than she wanted. She couldn’t let anyone think she had lost her appetite because of everything that had happened and the best way to do that was to eat.
As she ate, she looked around the Great Hall, only half-listening to Peter and Remus’ conversation. Winter light was streaming through the windows and the ceiling reflected the slightly cloud covered sky outside. After all the rain they had had lately, a day without it was a relief, even if she wasn’t planning on going out onto the grounds.
She turned her attention to the professor’s, most of whom were still seated at the head table. She was surprised to see that they were huddled together over their food, talking in low voices and looking around as if afraid someone might overhear. She was even more surprised when she noticed that Professor Dumbledore wasn’t seated with them. In all her years at the school, she had never once seen the head table without him there.
“Where’s Professor Dumbledore?” she asked curiously.
Remus and Peter halted their conversation and turned to look at the table. “I don’t know,” Remus said curiously. “He usually doesn’t leave until the other professors are gone.”
“Maybe he’s got scared and run off or something,” Peter suggested as he shoved a forkful of food into his mouth. Ellie wondered if he had ever been taught table manners as a child.
“I don’t it,” Remus interjected. “Professor Dumbledore doesn’t strike me as being particularly easy to frighten.” He thought hard for a moment as he stared at the empty seat. “He might have been called to the Ministry or something. I heard the Minister is desperate for his advice, especially now with the war.”
Their voices automatically became quieter at the mention of the war. While there was barely anyone in the room, it was prudent to make sure no one else could overhear them. “Did you hear about Frank Longbottom?” Peter asked as he leaned towards the other two. “Apparently he and his wife Alice fought You-Know-Who.”
“Are they alright?” Ellie asked. Despite the fact that Alice had been the one to arrest her father, Ellie couldn’t help but hope that she and her husband were alright. It was difficult for her to imagine little Alice dueling one of the most powerful dark wizards in history.
“Oh, they’re fine,” Peter said simply. “Rumor has it that Dumbledore showed up and that You-Know-Who ran off.”
“I’m not surprised,” Remus said. “I’ve heard that Dumbledore is the only one that he has ever feared. Why that would be though is beyond me.”
“Dumbledore has his moments,” Ellie protested.
“I know that,” Remus said. “What I meant was, I don’t get why he would be scared of Dumbledore and no one else. Yes, he’s an excellent dueler and he’s very powerful, but so is He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named. It just strikes me as odd is all.” Ellie nodded her consent. It was slightly odd, given the fact that some people were claiming that He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named was even stronger than Dumbledore.
“We’ll probably never know why,” Ellie admitted with a shrug. “And honestly, does it really matter?”
“It does if you want to understand why he thinks the way he does,” Remus specified. “Understanding the psyche of a person helps lead to an understanding of who they are, what they believe, and what they are capable of.”
“Well, we already know the answers to that,” Ellie countered. “He’s a monster, he hates muggle-borns, and he wants them dead.” She swirled her goblet of pumpkin juice, before adding, “I don’t want to understand him, I just want him dead.”
Peter added a half-hearted agreement to her words and Remus silently nodded. It was what every member of the wizarding community with half-a-brain was wishing at the moment. Whether or not they would live to see that happen, though, was another matter entirely. . .
By the time dinner had ended, Ellie felt that she had had her fill of Peter for the day. Not only had she caught him stealing glances at her chest, but he had made a few more derogatory comments about House Elves that she really hadn’t appreciated. The question of how to get rid of him was answered easily enough when he announced, upon reaching the common room, that he was going upstairs to read some comics. Ellie assumed that he wasn’t going up there to do that exactly, but she held her tongue and refused to breathe a sigh of relief until she heard the door close behind him.
“You were awfully patient with him today,” Remus noted as he sank onto a couch before the fire.
“He’s your friend,” she explained as she sat next to him. “Besides, he seems to be one of the few people in this castle who isn’t completely terrified of me, so I figured I’d be nice.”
“He’s not a bad guy,” Remus said. “I know he can be a bit much at times, but he has a good heart.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Ellie sighed. “I think I’d prefer if he weren’t talking to me though. At least then he wouldn’t have a chance to stare at my knockers.”
Remus chuckled under his breath. “I would have thought that he would have taken Sirius’ threat more seriously,” he said, shaking his head. “Usually Peters afraid of his own shadow when Sirius threatens him.”
“Why am I not surprised by that?” she asked. “How did he get into Gryffindor again?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” he replied. “I always assumed it was because he is rather loyal and he does have rare moments of bravery.”
“Like when?” she asked curiously.
He shot her a quick glance, before clearing his throat. “Well, being seen in public talking with you for starters,” he said. “He must really want to be friends with you if he’s willing to risk being ostracized and threatened by the rest of the student body.”
“He’s been harassed?” Ellie asked incredulously. When he nodded she made a noise of outrage. Sure, Peter was kind of a jerk and yes it would be nice if he would stop visually molesting her, but that didn’t mean he deserved to be threatened for speaking with her. “That’s not right! If they want to threaten someone, let them threaten me instead.”
“They’re too frightened of you,” Remus explained patiently. “Besides, it hasn’t been too bad so far. Most of them are too frightened of what you might do to them if you heard them say anything really bad.”
Ellie felt a frown cross her face. “That isn’t fair though,” she said. “Peter shouldn’t have to go through this. I made a choice to turn in my father. They can say whatever they want about me, but talking badly about Peter for being nice to me is uncalled for.”
“Can’t do anything about it,” he said wisely. “People will talk regardless of what we do to try and stop them. So, as I told Peter, we might as well ignore them all until the next bit of juicy gossip comes along and they forget all about this.”
Ellie was silent. She saw the wisdom in his words. It still didn’t make it right, but if they were willing to put up with it then she would respect their wishes. Without stopping to think of the consequences, Ellie kicked off her shoes and curled up next to Remus. She rested her head against his shoulder and looked lazily at the fire. “Thanks for being so nice to me,” she said.
After a moment’s hesitation, Remus placed an arm gently around her shoulders. “Does this mean we’re friends now?” he asked cautiously.
“Yes,” Ellie said firmly. “And you can’t do anything about it.”
“I’m fine with that,” he answered.
They remained like that for most of the night. Ellie was so comfortable, she even managed to doze off. When Remus moved suddenly, however, she snapped out of her sleep. “What?” she asked drowsily as she looked around the room. Eventually, she caught sight of an embarrassed looking Remus and a rather angry looking Ben. She groaned to herself. She had a pretty good idea about why they looked the way they did.
“What were you doing?” Ben asked suspiciously.
“Sleeping,” she replied testily. She really didn’t like being woken up.
“With him?” he asked, gesturing to Remus.
“Yes, I fell asleep on his shoulder. Is that a crime now?”
“No,” Ben said cautiously, looking between them.
Ellie sighed. “We aren’t dating if that’s what you’re thinking Ben,” she said simply, noting Remus looking even more uncomfortable than before when she said it. “I was tired and Remus let me use him as a pillow is all. Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Right, well,” he said slightly flustered “err. . . sorry?”
“You’re forgiven,” she answered, as she looked at him. She quickly looked away as some very unwelcome feelings began to bubble up inside her chest.
“Do you two want some privacy?” Remus asked hesitantly.
“Yes,” Ben said.
“No,” Ellie said. Remus looked between them both, before grabbing his books and, claiming that he was tired, retreated upstairs. Before she could move, Ben sank onto the couch besides her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“If you want a pillow you should use me,” he said. “I’m more comfortable.”
“Are not,” she frowned as she tried to move away.
“Are too. I’m not nearly as bony as Lupin,” he countered with a grin as he refused to let her leave. After several minutes of fidgeting, Ellie finally gave in with a pout. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to let her leave until he was good and ready.
“So am I going to be held prisoner indefinitely or were you planning to let me leave sometime tonight?” she asked bitterly.
“I’m not really sure,” he answered thoughtfully. “I guess it depends on your behavior.”
“My behavior?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “What sort of behavior are we talking about?”
“Well,” he said innocently, “if you’re good maybe I’ll let you go.”
Ellie narrowed her eyes and clenched her hands. “What do you mean by good Gibbons?”
He turned a sweet smile towards her. “Well, I consider kisses to be good.”
“I consider them to be good too,” Ellie said seriously, “especially when they aren’t with you.”
“So cruel,” Ben said in a pained voice. “And here I thought we were actually beginning to get along again.”
“That was before you took me prisoner,” she pointed out. “I’m sure we’ll be able to get along nicely if you would just let me go,” she added hopefully. When he raised an eyebrow and didn’t remove his arms, she sighed, leaned over, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “There. You got your kiss. Can I leave now?”
“That wasn’t very good,” he said with a pout. “When I said kiss I meant on the lips and full of passion. You know, the way you used to kiss me last year.”
Ellie glared at him with as much anger as she could muster. “We were dating back then Gibbons,” she fairly snarled.
“We could be dating now too,” he said innocently. “If you agreed to date me again, I’d let you go without asking for another kiss.”
She turned her face back towards the fire. Leave it to Ben to try and trap her into dating him like this. She breathed out furiously. She half-suspected that Ben had gotten this idea from Sirius (it did seem like something he would try), but Sirius wouldn’t have done that. He had gotten very protective of her over the past few months and Ellie was sure that if he were in the Common Room at that moment, he would have hexed Ben for bothering her like this.
Unfortunately enough, Sirius was nowhere to be found. Ellie assumed he was still off somewhere with Lily and James, but she couldn’t be sure. It didn’t really matter though. She was stuck in the room with Ben until someone came in to save her, she gave into his demands, or she figured her way out of his arms on her own.
As hard as she tried, however, she simply couldn’t come up with a solid plan. The way he had positioned her protected most of his body and her arms were pinned to her sides by his arms. She could hardly move, so attempting to elbow him was out of the question. Yelling for help would do no good since most of the tower was asleep and those few who would come running would have laughed themselves silly at her predicament. Attempting to bite him wasn’t exactly feasible either. He would just bite her right back.
With an angry sigh she turned her glare back to him, enraged to see he was still grinning stupidly. How he could take such delight in her torment was beyond her. “So,” he said in a gleeful voice, “what’s it going to be? Are you going to date me, kiss me, or do I get the honor of holding you all night long?” She bit her tongue to avoid saying that she’d much prefer to punch him than anything else. He was holding her after all.
So what was it going to be? Dating him was out of the question. She still hadn’t figured out exactly how she felt about him or whether she would ever be able to be around him like that again. Staying in his arms all night, while comfortable, was also out of the question. She could deal with a lot of things, but public humiliation in the form of being found locked in his embrace in the morning was not among them. Which left her with only one remaining choice.
“Fine,” she said angrily. “You’ll get your kiss then.” Ben looked at her for a few moments, before, with a sigh, he opened his arms. “What are you doing?” she asked in confusion.
“You can leave,” he said.
“But I offered to kiss you,” she said. She blinked several times. No one had ever refused her kisses before. Yes, Ben had been the only one she had ever kissed, but still.
“Yes, but I wanted you to want to kiss me. Forcing you to kiss me isn’t fair to you and would only make me feel like a jerk.” He sighed again and gently moved her away from him so he could stand.
“So,” she said as she stood up, “I can leave?”
“Well, I’m not going to stop you,” he said. Ellie turned and began to walk away when he called to her again. “Are you alright?” This time, his voice was soft and held none of the amusement it had before.
She looked down at her feet as she shifted her weight. “I guess,” she said in a small voice.
“You know if you need anything I’ll always be ready to listen,” Ben said gently.
Ellie looked up again and gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks,” she said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
He smiled back at her and Ellie felt, for only a moment, the sudden urge to hurry back into his arms where it was safe and warm. Instead, she hurried up the stairs and hopped into bed, desperately wishing she weren’t so confused about everything. . .
A/N: I posted this one a days early, mainly because you guys are awesome, but also because I happen to be home sick from school and work. It sucks, but I'm feeling better and hoping to get Chapter 14 written soon. Check out my homepage for an Updated Schedule. Thanks for reading!
- Anders -
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