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Chapter 4 : Man Up
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-Remus Lupin and Marlene McKinnon-
Lily pouted looking remarkably like a five year old as she stood in her own doorway.
"I wish you didn't have to go."
Dorcas smiled at Lily, "I promised Pete, I'd show up and since Marlene isn't going anywhere near it I have to."
"Still. You know you don't have to go home afterwards. My dad said it was cool if you wanted to stay the rest of the summer."
"I appreciate that," Dorcas told her, "I really do, but I shouldn't punish my dad for my mum being mad. But thanks for having me. I would have had a bloody boring summer if I had stayed home."
Lily hesitated, before running over and throwing her arms around Dorcas. Dorcas's smile grew, her brown eyes warm as she held the tiny little ginger girl. Her heart sank a bit at the thought of leaving Lily with her awful sister, but she had to go. She couldn't avoid her problems any longer. It was time for her to face them head on. Tightening her grip on Lily for a minute, Dorcas pulled away and threw her bag over her shoulder.
"I'll see you in a month Lils. Give Petunia hell for me."
Lily nodded as she walked with Dorcas to the door. "I will…How are you getting there anyhow?"
"I think, Mr. Potter is picking me up."
A weird unfamiliar feeling bubbled up in Lily's stomach as they left her house. Maybe it was the dream she had the night before, but the thought of meeting James Potter's father unnerved her a bit. She had never seen any member of their family and couldn't help, but wonder.
Then Dorcas walked to the door to find Mr. Potter waiting on the sidewalk, looking rather amusedly at Lily's neighbor who was mindlessly cutting his grass. First Lily was struck by his resemblance to his son. He had the same smirk, which seemed to be indented into his face naturally like he always had something to be proud about. And of course the same wild black hair, except his was severally graying. Dorcas walked over to the man and shook his hand politely. It wasn't forced, but Lily imagined that if it were Marlene she would have hugged him.
"Mr. Potter, I'd like you to meet Lily Evans."
His brown eyes lit up at the mention of her name just like his son's did, but for him it was out of recognition instead of enthusiastic interest. Harold Potter took a few steps forward and put his hand out to shake hers.
"So you are the girl my son insistently talks about."
Lily's face turned bright red as she shook his hand. "I'm sure he's exaggerated…a lot."
"No, he was perfectly right you are stunning. I'm glad my son hasn't fallen for someone of less than decent taste." He released her hand. "It was nice to meet you," and then turned to Dorcas. "Are you ready?"
She nodded, her curls bouncing. "Yes Mr. Potter, bye Lils!"
Lily waved, though she was kind of blind sided by confusion. She didn't know what she was expecting, but as she saw Mr. Potter apparate away with Dorcas, she knew that Mr. Potter wasn't at all what she thought he'd be. He was straight forward like James, but there was less theatrics about it. Mr. Potter seemed to say what he needed to say and leave it at that. What caught her off guard was how as-matter-of-factly he had not only referred to her as stunning, but that he honestly looked like he believed that his son truly fancied her.
For a long time Lily had thought that James was merely chasing her for sport. Putting aside all his repugnant flaws for a moment, she was forced to consider, despite the fact that the feeling was entirely one sided, that he might truly have feelings for her. After all she couldn't imagine telling her father about somebody unless she truly had feelings for them.
Standing in her driveway, she looked over and saw her neighbor cutting his grassy while whistling a tune aloud. She wondered how he hadn't seen Mr. Potter apparate, but then again maybe he used magic to sure no one would be able to see it. Either way it didn't really matter. Because either way it still didn't change the fact that maybe she didn't know James Potter's intentions as well as she thought she did. He was still a git, and a foul one at that. This new development didn't change that fact; it just made it more complicated.
Shaking her head, Lily put her frizzy red hair up in a ponytail and went back into her house before she got sun burnt again. She went up to her room and tried to mentally select what new book she'd read to pass the day. But as she walked up the stairs she had a hard time forgetting the look in James's father's eyes when he said what he said to her. It was so sure, so unwavering, that it was making Lily second guess things she flat out refused to second-guess. If Lily was one thing it was stubborn, and by the time she had made it up to the second floor landing all doubt was replaced by unshakeable faith in her own perception of things. Mr. Potter wanted to see the best in his son. He couldn't possibly know that his son was a bully and a cad. Lily knew James Potter, of that fact she was sure. And it was that fact that she was completely wrong.
Dorcas arrived a football field length away from the Potter's residence and stumbled slightly as she landed on her three-inch heels. Mr. Potter laughed.
"Sorry about the walk, no one can apparate any closer to the house."
Dorcas laughed at him quizzically. "Why is that?"
"Safety measures. No one that's not a Potter can get into the house unless they are let in."
"Huh," She then said, "I'm muggleborn, so I didn't know you could do that."
Mr. Potter looked at her in surprise. "I thought James would have told you."
"I haven't ever been invited over…I'm more Peter's friend, then friends with the rest of them…" She admitted sheepishly.
"Why is that?" Mr. Potter asked bluntly.
Dorcas shrugged as she pulled her bag farther over her shoulder. "I dunno. James is always acting like an idiot over Lily so he's a bit hard to tolerate sometimes... Remus is Marlene's ex, so I have to avoid him out of obligation. And Sirius is just an idiot."
Mr. Potter let out a loud laugh that sounded much like his son's. "Well at least you have your reasons."
"Don't get me wrong. I like James, and I think he would be good with Lily, but it's exhausting to be around."
"My son does seem to have endless energy."
"He really does." Dorcas smiled in agreement.
When Dorcas walked in, her brown eyebrows lifted as she appraised the situation. The situation being Peter on Sirius's back while James was on Remus's as they fought with fake swords. For a split second, Dorcas and Mr. Potter turned and shared the same bemused, slightly bewildered expression, before going their separate ways.
Dorcas waltzed over to the boys and took off her heels, preferring to be barefoot for today.
Sirius's shiny black hair was in his face, as his face was alive with laughter and his eyes were sparked with his natural competitive edge. Remus held onto James tightly as he attempted to chuck him at Peter. James's long arms were quick and merciless as he tried to disarm Peter who was lasting a surprising long time. Dorcas was pleasantly surprised that Peter was having the most fun of all.
"WOAH WOAH WOAH!" Dorcas interrupted them diplomatically as she moved to stand in between the boys. "What are the stakes of this fight?"
The marauders paused in their pursuit of each other and all collectively stared at Dorcas in wonderment. "What do you mean?"
"If you're going to fight." She reasoned, "You should fight for something."
Peter and Sirius frowned, but Remus and James understood perfectly. James raised his sword, "I FIGHT FOR HONOR!"
Remus grabbed the sword out of Peter's hand and proclaimed, "WE FIGHT FOR TRUTH!"
"Alright boys, now on guard!"
The boys charged at each other, yelling and screaming. On the bottom Remus and Sirius kicked each other as their partners swords clanged loudly in the living room. Dorcas stood back, shouting tips to both teams as the boys fought.
They were making so much noise they didn't see or hear James's mother come downstairs. Her arms were crossed in absolute anger at her sons; she took out her wand and knocked all four boys to the ground. The small, but powerful woman crackled with rage.
"James Harold Potter," She began in a sinisterly quiet tone that made Dorcas step back. "Where did you get these swords?"
James eyed his mother with a nervous smile. "…Granddad's cabinet."
"And did you ask either your father or I, if you and your friends could borrow them?"
"No." He cringed.
Sirius said, "Mum-"
But he was silenced with a look from Mrs. Potter. "I expected you two to know better." She said to Sirius and James. "That sword has been in your family for centuries and you want to play with them like they are dispensable?"
A silence followed as the Marauder's looked incredibly guilty and remorseful. Dorcas found it funny, Professor McGonagall had been trying for years to keep the boys in check and in one fail swoop Mrs. Potter had accomplished it. Sure it wouldn't last, but it was interesting how deeply not only James regarded his mother, but how much his friends did too.
Mrs. Potter put a hand to her hair to flatten any stray hairs. "Now, Sirius you and James will go put back those swords. Remus, would you go to the kitchen and please retrieve Peter's cake?"
Remus nodded dutifully and the three boys took off.
As soon as they left Mrs. Potter smiled and put a kind arm around a jumpy Peter. "Don't worry dear. No one is in any trouble. Those swords aren't even ours. We found them at a rummage sale."
Dorcas laughed. "Nice."
"You must be Dorcas." Mrs. Potter gave Peter a reassuring squeeze and then held her hand out to Dorcas. "I'm Eleanor Potter. My son's often need their wild imaginations and attention to trouble checked now and again."
"I couldn't agree more."
Once Mrs. Potter walked over into the kitchen Dorcas wrapped her arm around Peter's thick shoulders. "Relax Pete, she was just kidding around."
"I know," He let out a laugh of relief. "But when she's angry…she's scary."
"I can see that…but then again she's right. Can you imagine having the responsibility of raising them?" Dorcas pointed at James and Sirius who were laughing carelessly as they descended the stairs.
"I actually can imagine that quite well." Remus remarked as he brought over Peter's presents and cake.
Dorcas snorted, "Oh please Lupin. You like to play the white knight, but we all know you're as bad as the rest of them."
Remus put a hand to his chest in mock offense. "Me? How you insult me Meadowes."
Everyone crowded around the couch as Peter opened his presents. At one point, James and Sirius held him down as Remus and Dorcas pulled three birthday hats on his head. He tried to act put out by the whole process, but even Peter couldn't hide the delight in his eyes at all the presents and fun he was having.
After he opened everything, they pushed his presents aside and played a roaring game of exploding snap. They played five rounds, five vicious competitive life-threatening games. Peter lost every game. James singed his eyebrows, twice. Dorcas won a single solitary game, before losing every other. And Remus and Sirius, both managed to win two games.
Of course since they were the biggest winners Remus and Sirius went back and forth on who was the best as James cleaned up the mess they had made.
"Moony, can I be frank?" Sirius began as if he were a world leader.
Remus gestured for him to speak.
"I think I'm the ultimate Exploding snap champ."
"I see, and why do you believe this?"
Sirius pointed at the cards arrogantly. "I just won."
"Yes, but you won the exact same amount times as I." Remus countered.
"But that doesn't matter." Sirius stated simply waving away this fact.
Remus grinned. "Oh? And why not?"
"Because look at me. I'm beautiful, therefore I naturally supersede anything you do."
"Are you saying I'm not beautiful Padfoot?" Remus began, "Because I don't think you are the right person to judge."
"OY! PRONGS!" Sirius shouted to James. "Whose prettier Moony or Me? And don't hesitate to hurt his feelings, he could use a little dose of honesty. I think his win is getting to his head…"
"So you do admit I won!" Remus shouted pointing at Sirius in victory.
Sirius ignored him, still looking at James. "Prongsie, I'm going to need an answer or Remus and I will never speak again I'm afraid."
"Fat chance." James laughed, "You two fight everyday, and yet the next morning you are as thick as dirty thieves."
"Now why did you have to add the word dirty in there Prongs?" Sirius asked, "Are you perhaps jealous of my love for Moony?"
"I think he is." Remus declared with a wide smile.
James tilted his head to eye Remus. "Really Moony? Really?"
Remus shook with laughter, as he covered his face with his hand.
On the other side of James and Sirius, Peter frowned as he talked quietly to Dorcas.
"I mean I fancy her and all…but how am I supposed to get a girl like that?"
"Pete," She began in a sad tone, but he raised his hand to cut her off.
He said, "No honestly. I would like some useful advice. Don't just…appease me."
"Okay, here's a piece of advice Peter from me to you." Dorcas started as she draped her dark arm around him, "Girls love guys who are confident. Take Alexander Nott for example, he is the ugliest fucker I've ever seen, and I mean that sincerely." She said closing her eyes meaningfully, like she was trying to eradicate him from the earth.
"But, he has bitches galore and let me tell you why, it's because he's confident. Birds love confidence. So even if you don't have it, you have to flaunt it."
Sirius was shaking with laughter at this comment, as he looked at Dorcas.
Dorcas saw him and shot him a look. "Try and tell me I'm wrong Sirius. You know you wouldn't get half as much tail if they liked you just on your looks."
Peter shook silently with laughter at that. He rarely ever heard a female take Sirius down and he enjoyed it immensely.
"But I'm being honest Peter." Dorcas focused back on him. "You're a nice bloke, and decent looking, but that isn't enough to get a girl. Take your mate Lupin for example, he isn't bad looking, he's nice, but he's only dated my best friend." Dorcas stated as if Remus wasn't in the room, or alive really. "Now I don't know why they broke up, but I do know that if she didn't ask him out they wouldn't have gone out at all. And then he would have never dated anybody."
Remus stiffened visibly, James noticed and said. "Dorcas, leave it."
"I'm sorry," Dorcas said unapologetically moving away from Peter and rising to stand. "But I'm not going to lie. She can tell you she's friends with you till she's blue in the face, but we all know why she isn't here right now and I'm not going to sit here and act like it has anything to do with Peter."
Remus's face darkened, as his eyes constricted in concern. "She didn't come…because of me?"
James took a step forward and gave her a dirty look. "Dorcas-"
"I'm sorry, James. But I'm not going to lie to him." Dorcas told him as she grabbed her cloak. "She still loves you so she doesn't want to hurt you, but every time she sees you, every time she's forced to be around you it hurts her. And not because you're a horrible person, but because you lied to her for over a year and didn't trust her enough to tell her the truth when you literally go around parading the truth in front of her."
Sirius paled as he rose to face her. "What do you mean?"
"'Moony.' Do you think no one knows?" She scoffed looking at the four of them. "The Marauders…Do you really think no one put you four together? I've known you were a werewolf since third year, and I bet Marlene's known for longer. And you know what's messed up about that?" Her brown eyes locked on Remus's. "Even though you gave her lie after lie, she never gave you up. I point blank asked her once if you were a Werewolf, and she told me no. I'm her best friend, the one person she trusts most…and she lied to me… to protect you."
Dorcas shook her head, her disappointment clear in her eyes. "I know you mean well Remus, and I know you thought you were protecting her by keeping her away, but you actually broke her heart. She literally thought she wasn't good enough for you to trust, and still she doesn't say a word against you…it's excruciating to watch."
Stooping to hug Peter goodbye, she sighed. "I'm sorry I brought the party down Peter. I hope you have a wonderful sixteenth birthday…Black always a pleasure, Potter…I'll see myself out."
Then without another word Dorcas slipped back into her heels and left.
James clamped his hand on Remus's shoulder supportively. "Ignore Dorcas, she was just-"
"Being honest," Sirius interjected calmly as he sat down next to Remus. "Meadowes may be a lot of things, but she isn't a liar and she's protective of McKinnon. And I think she's right mate, you should apologize."
Peter let out a noise of surprise. "Look at you being all mature."
"Well," Sirius shrugged, "I talked to her yesterday, and Dorcas is right. She's hurt and she didn't want you to feel bad so she stayed away…so new plan." He leaned forward, rubbing his hands together. "Wormy, you, Prongs and I are going to make a schedule of what we are going to do tonight, which will probably involve an illegal bottle of firewiskey, and end in the four of us getting rip roaring drunk…. Moony, you go over to the McKinnon household and talk to Ms. Marlene. Once you get back, Wormy can chose what he wants to do and we can go back to having a good time."
Peter furrowed his eyebrows, "Is this backwards day? Since when do you take lead? And since when are you sensible? And since when is Moony the one that is wrong?"
"Apparently today Wormy." James shrugged just as lost as Peter.
"How could she have known that whole time?" Remus asked to no one in particular. "Why would she want to be with me after knowing that?"
Peter said, "Well we did didn't we?"
Remus's face became sullen, his eyes downcast as guilt spread across his chest. "I didn't think…"
"We know mate." Sirius reassured him. "But it's not us you need to talk to. Go, we will be here when you get back."
Remus eyed his friends apprehensively and then nodded. He went to the Potter's fireplace and then after a lot of consideration and worry he flooed to her house.
Letting out a sigh of relief Sirius grinned and put his arm around a much shorter Peter. "Now Peter."
"Yes Padfoot?" Peter let out a small laugh.
"Would you say you wanted to get marginally trashed so you could remember the night, but have a hangover, OR, and this is the option I'm really leaning towards Wormy…" Sirius began in what James liked to call his, 'stage whisper,' where he would hush his voice but not his volume. "We could get belligerently trashed, to the point where we black out and only wake up with flashes of memories from the night before."
Peter looked up at Sirius trying to gauge whether he was kidding or not, but he couldn't tell. "Ugh…"
"When in doubt Wormy," James snickered as he walked up. "Remember that either way you're going to hurl."
"Great spin on it Prongs." Sirius smirked approvingly as they all moved into the kitchen.
"Do I have to spend my birthday with my head in a toilet?" Peter whined as Sirius released him.
"You wouldn't be a man if you didn't." Sirius told him confidently as he leaned on the kitchen counter next to James.
Peter smiled as he looked as his two best friends. He often thought he was lucky to have found such great friends. He'd been cheekier when they first met him. No one believed it when they met him now. Something about losing his father after his first year had changed him, it made him jumpy and cautious in a way he hadn't been a year before hand. Now his old self popped up from time to time, but it frustrated Sirius the most. He didn't understand what Peter was so scared of all the time. But today, Sirius was glad to see the old Peter was back, and up for games.
As soon as Remus landed in Marlene's living room he realized how horribly rude it was to just show up unannounced in her living room, but obviously by that point it was too late. There was no one in the living room, but he heard shouting and laughter coming from the backyard.
Stepping towards the window, he looked outside and saw two of Marlene's sister's chasing each other in the backyard. They were twins a year ahead of Remus, both blond like Marlene, and in Ravenclaw. He remembered their names were Molly and Mary. Just as he was about to go ask them where Marlene was, he caught her walking down the stairs.
During the whole time he dated Marlene he never really took her seriously. It wasn't that she wasn't smart enough, or important enough. It had to do with the fact that he couldn't believe anyone would truly want to be with him. As he watched her walk down the stairs, in her baggy shirt, small shorts, with her bright hair falling in her worn exhausted face, he felt a wave of guilt stronger than one he'd ever felt before. How could he have let himself believe that she was actually okay? That he couldn't have possibly hurt her, because that meant she cared, something he had refused to believe.
"Mel! Make sure mum drinks that whole potion! Don't make me come up there-" Marlene yelled up the stairs as she carried a basket of wash, but stopped when she saw Remus standing there.
Her big blue eyes that were so tired a moment early suddenly flashed annoyance before she herself sighed.
"Let me guess, Dorcas said something." She offered as she put the basket down on the bottom of the stairs.
Remus moved into the foyer and stood against the doorframe. "Yes."
"Well I'm sorry, I just didn't want to make things awkward…" Looking at him she cringed. "And now I've made it worse."
"I would ask why you didn't just say something, but …" Remus scratched his forehead. "It's my fault. I pushed you away…In fact. I never really let you in, in the first place. I just…" He hesitated and then he forced himself to grow some courage and look her in the eye. "I thought if you knew…what I am." His voice grew quiet. "I thought you wouldn't want anything to do with me."
Marlene crossed her arms and sighed. "That's because you're an idiot."
"I know…I know that now."
Moving forward she put her arms around him and gently hugged him. His cologne was familiar to her, but it no longer affected her like it had. She didn't want to hate him anymore, and as soon as she embraced him it began to fade.
"We just weren't meant to be together." Marlene sighed. "Love is worth fighting for, but you both have to be up for the fight, and you weren't."
Remus grimaced as his arms linked loosely at her waist as her blond hair brushed his face. "I'm sorry Mar."
"I'm not." She released him with a sad smile. "I think it needed to happen. It sucks, and it hurts, but we'll both take something out of this."
"Still…" He looked down at her, "I shouldn't have been such a prick about it."
"I think," She began more confidently than she felt. "That we don't get what we want we get what we need. You wanted me, but you didn't need me. So now you have to learn that there is someone somewhere out there that you need. Someone you will trust with this secret, but clearly it's not me…I do appreciate you apologizing though, I feel a little better."
His amber eyes met her blue eyes and he forced a small smile. "Good… and I'm sure there's someone better out there for you."
"I don't know about, 'better,' but maybe better suited for me." She teased with an uneven smile.
"I'm going to be a better friend than I was a boyfriend," He promised as he pulled her into another hug.
This time Marlene laughed, the sound making the both smile. "Now go on get back to Peter's party before James and Sirius corrupt Peter beyond repair."
"I think they've already done that."
"Still, I think you could use some fun for a change." Then her face became still. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course." He asked taking a step back.
Marlene crossed her arms over her chest. "Was it your instincts or your insecurities that stopped you from telling me?"
"I always knew I could trust you..." He admitted sheepishly.
"Well then, I suggest next time you trust your instincts. So far they've gotten you some pretty great friends. And clearly the boys have shown you that not everybody is going to turn against you." Marlene smiled at him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Okay?"
His eyes watered slightly as he swept her up in one last hug. "You're the best Mar."
"I know." She laughed. "Now go. The last thing I need is to see any more Marauder's. I think I've had my fill for the summer."
Kissing her on the cheek goodbye, Remus went to her fireplace. "See you at school."
When Remus's arrived back at the Potter estate he was surprised to find it perfectly quiet. His suspicions rose until he found a note in James's handwriting.
Get your boney arse out here. We're in the woods.
A wide grin fitted across Remus's face as a weight was lifted of his chest. He dropped the note and walked through the house, to the path to the woods, knowing the way all too well.
Song in the summary is Man Up By: The Eels. Thank you for reading and reviewing! PLEASE REVIEW!
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