Chapter 15 : Chapter 14
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Saturday arrived, taking much longer than I had wanted. I had tried on the dress numerous times. I felt giddy as if I was attending a spring formal in my final year of school. When I wasn’t trying on the dress, I was breaking in my shoes. Peter was perplexed when he came home to find me walking around in my usual school gym uniform shorts, t shirt and heels but didn’t say anything. At least to me, as I was visited by James and Sirius that day as well. James ignored it at first choosing to mooch off the food in the fridge, then told me Lily would be annoyed that another person could walk better in heels than her. Apparently, Lily was a wobbly disaster and preferred to stay closer to the ground rather than even dare for a kitten heel. Sirius arrived with a different approach, wolf whistling. Before he could even say anymore I shoved him out the door. Slamming it in his face, yelling, “They’re just shoes!”
Despite their annoyances, the Marauders were a confidence boost. After fussing with my hair then giving up and attempting to do my makeup, then giving up, I did a once over in front of my mirror. I went to exit to the living room, and was immediately intercepted by Lily who pulled me back into my room. “I am not letting you leave this room so totally unaccessorized. Don’t you have any jewelry?” She went to my box atop the dresser and pulled out my grandmother’s necklace – a simple gold chain with a dangle of what looked like beaded drops of gold. I had completely forgotten about it. Mam had left given it to me before she passed and I had never felt as though an occasion existed for it. When Lily went to put it around my neck she stopped and grabbed my chin, “Holly, did you do this?” shaking my head.
“Do what?” I asked, confused as she put my necklace on, then I realized my shotty job on my face. “Oh yeah, I tried…?”
She tsk’ed me and set to work, when I could I insisted that she leave me as natural as possible. Lily rolled her eyes, and continued about her work. “I can’t believe you’re so inept.”
I took instant offense to this, and retorted with, “Lily! Are you wearing flats? I have plenty of proper dress shoes if you’d like to borrow a pair.”
She held a mirror in front of me, “So?”
I still looked like me, but my eyes seemed more open, brighter, and my eyelashes longer. Still pale and freckly, but brighter and with rosy cheeks. I nodded and smiled, she responded with, “See? I couldn’t let you show up bare to Alice’s big day.” She fussed with my hair then charmed it to stay smooth and straight, when she gave up as well. “Alright, come on, James got a car so we could all go together.”
I exited into the living room and Lily deposited me onto Remus’ arm. He looked so different in black pants and a crisp white shirt and deep burgundy tie. The long black robe made him look so formal. “Well, don’t you look dapper?”
“It’s James’” He said ashamedly, and tugged his robe about him then gesturing towards me, “And you- you look wonderful, Holly.”
James and Lily made a lovely couple, his bow tie matching her champagne colored dress. Sirius had a black tie and was just lounging on the couch in the fancy black robes while Peter was fidgeting with his sleeves which seemed a smidge to short. His light blue tie was tied a little too long, but it suited him, being unkempt. We exited the house to discover that James had somehow gotten the car all the way to the door. I didn’t even want to know how, just wanted to get there in one piece. James laughed when I said so and hopped into the driver’s seat. Sirius taking shot gun while Lily, Peter, Remus and I piled, surprisingly comfortably, into the back. I focused on looking at my friends rather than out the windows and in a very short amount of time, we were parked out front of a beautiful large country estate.
I had been to many weddings before, for all of my siblings, cousins, and a few uncles, but at all those affairs I had known almost all of the guests. An avid people-watcher, I spent the ceremony craning my head around looking at all the attendees rather than marvel at actual events. I had decided after the bridal procession that wizarding weddings were not much different and after that I focused on the witches and wizards surrounding me.
In the front row a woman was wearing a large hat that had a vulture balanced on the top. It leered at the other guests from its perch. The older guests had on dress robes (Remus had told me that was the term) that looked like they belonged in a different century. The smaller children fidgeted in their chairs and with their clothes. I watched as a small girl – maybe a niece or cousin of the groom – ripping off the lace at the bottom of her dress across the aisle from me. When she got a piece off, she’d roll it up and stick it to her chair, forming little lacy bows along its edge.
Lily elbowed me and I paid attention as Frank and Alice pledged their lives to each other. Lily whispered in my ear, “He’s going to bond them together now, watch.” A beautiful shower of sparks showered upon the couples hands and then Frank dipped Alice and kissed her. She was smiling ear to ear and when they straightened up she tip toed to kiss him again. The couple looked overjoyed and everyone stood and clapped.
The room was then transformed from rows of chairs to round dinner tables surrounded by chairs with a large dance floor in the centre. I marveled at the food that appeared on the plate but before I could ask how, Sirius shushed me with his elbow to my side. We ate, listened to stories from louder guests, and clapped each time Frank and Alice kissed. The sweetest moment was when the couple had their first dance, culminating in Frank lifting tiny Alice and holding her to his eye level. Their eye contact was passionate and their smiles pure joy. I caught Lily wiping a tear from her eye, and she blushed when she saw I noticed, mumbling, “It’s just that I’m going to miss my roommate, ok?”
The newlyweds came over to say hello and a thank you for coming, when Alice noticed me staring at the vulture and putting her hand on my shoulder, she said, “I’m going to have some trouble with a mother-in-law like that, wonderful lady but so, so pushy! And really, that hat is ridiculous, I swear that bird will never die, and if it does, she’ll stuff it and leave it there ‘til it rots!”
I laughed and told her she looked beautiful and the other customary wedding thanks before she whisked off elsewhere to chat with her other guests.
With dinner over, the band picked up and I was so thankful that wizards dance the same way as muggles as I took turns with everyone I knew out on the dance floor. There is nothing I like better than to dance. Not professionally or classically or anything, just me moving to whatever rhythm I find. Weddings are the most fun to dance at, everyone is punch drunk and goofy and just having fun, no pressure at all to look cool- not like the school mixers we used to have. A lively up tempo beat started and Remus pulled me to join him. Before I knew it, he was whipping me around the floor, perfectly in time with the beat. I was laughing and enjoying the feeling of being twirled when it hit me, “Remus! This is your hidden talent- you’re a dancer!”
He smiled in reply and I didn’t notice the mischief in it, until he pulled me into a lift and spin. I let out a giddy shriek of shock and he set me down. He let up and we settled into a rock step, “My mother was a dancer, taught lessons in the village and I spent most of my childhood filling in as a partner for singles.”
“Did you request this song just to show off?” I teased and Remus stepped back then twirled me in towards him, “Maybe.” He said in my ear.
I laughed and we kept dancing, me trying to match his steps.
My mother always frowned upon drinking, so much so that she made my father stop after they married. As a consequence, I was completely frightened of the possibility of how any alcohol could affect me, let alone a magical one. I kept ordering waters whilst everyone about me got respectably tipsy. I couldn’t tell how much Remus had had but when he pulled me out onto the dance floor again, I could smell something on him. It didn’t smell alcoholic, it was much too delicious, but I couldn’t be sure.
As the music changed back from the swing, we danced more like all the other couples, but then, when the song wasn’t even that slow, Remus pulled me closer. I never danced with a guy so close before, I was never exactly the one being sought after in school, but I welcomed it and leaned into him as we swayed about the floor. At first I was self conscious, sucking in my tummy as much as possible and not sure whether to hold his hands or wrap my arms around his neck, but then I looked up to see him smiling widely which comforted me. It was a genuine happy smile I hadn’t seen on him in a while.
I was immensely happy at the thought that it could be me making him smile like that that I didn’t notice the sudden up tempo in the music until Remus grasped my hands and expertly twisted me around to the swing music now playing. We were having so much fun I didn’t even care how outdated the music was and by the end of the song, we were both out of breath and relieved for the slow music that came on next.
He pulled me close again and held me tight to him and we simply swayed to the music. He was so much taller than me that my line of sight was at his collarbone, I tilted my head back to see his face. When we made eye contact, he closed his eyes a little and leaned down towards me, leading with his lips.
Was he drunk? Was I drunk? Of course I’m not drunk, I haven’t been drinking. But what if he was, like does he like me or is it just the buzz? Do I like him? I think I like him. Do I like him like him? I don’t know- maybe? Oh my gosh does he smell good. Is he trying to kiss me? It sure seems like it. Oh my gosh. I’ve never been kissed before, I’m much to awkward to attract any attention like this. And if he is drunk I don’t want our first kiss- my first kiss- to be with him drunk. He has to be drunk. Why else would he be interested in me? But I really think I like him, and it probably won’t be a big deal- will it? People do this all the time, Holly, chill out. Just take a breath, tippy toe a little because he’s really tall, and go for it. I mean, it has to be natural right?
I had full out tippy toed to reach him as he leaned down, but the second he got too close I tried to turn away- a kind of last minute freaking out-back out- and ended up colliding my face- more specifically my stupid huge nose- into his lips. Oh, I am an idiot.
Why the hell do I over think everything?
I hastily looked back up at him and in my panic I suddenly remembered we were at a wedding, in the middle of the dance floor and that plenty of people could see us, cue the lame excuses.
“Oh my gosh, Remus, I’m sorry, it’s just that-“
But before I could claim that we were in public, he shushed me saying, “No, really, don’t worry about it, I’ll get us some refills.”
As he walked over to the bar he looked distinctly round shouldered- dejected. I was to blame and goodness, did I feel awkward. I searched around the room for the others that I knew praying that they hadn’t witnessed what had transpired between Remus and I, I was much too embarrassed. It didn’t seem that they had. Peter was dancing with a woman who looked ten years- at least- older than him- and positively sloshed- and Sirius was dancing with the little kids, probably trying to play the ‘look how good I am with children card’ to some rather attractive witches at a table near his corner of the dance floor. James and Lily were dancing very close to each other, looking positively enamored. Had Remus and I been that close?
Remus was making his way back to me with two tumblers when it happened. A high pitched sound like an alarm started going off near the door. I turned towards it to see what looked to be a top, spinning and lighting up. I glanced back towards Remus to see that he had dropped the glasses and was running towards me. A large crash came and I looked to see the doors buckle in the wrong way and a stream of figures in dark robes come pouring in. Each of them was wearing an intricate mask over his face, and their wands were drawn and I could see the lights of spells exploding from them into the room.
Whatever embarrassment I had felt before was completely gone and replaced by unbridled fear. I had no way to defend myself and if these were the Death Eaters they had talked about, I was sure to be a target what with being a muggle and all. I backed up slowly, trying to attract as little attention as possible. The attendees who only seconds ago seemed drunk were now snapped back into soberness, had drawn their wands and were fighting the Death Eaters.
Spells were flying about the room as tables overturned and the beautiful centerpieces shattered. I could see Alice and Frank, in their beautiful wedding robes dueling fiercely. It wasn’t fair to them, this was supposed to be their special night but it had turned into a brawl.
CRACKS! were heard throughout the room as some of the guests departed rather than stay to fight. I couldn’t find anyone I knew, the spells were letting off bright lights that left me blinking spots. I really, really hoped that no one would notice me and I could continue backing up until I could hide under a table or in the kitchen- anywhere.
Someone grabbed me from behind and picked me up, I freaked out, kicking savagely at my captor as I had no other forms of defense.
“Holly, knock that off and calm down. Stupefy!” It was Remus’ voice, oh thank God. He carried me further towards the back of the room and continued to fire off those red spells at any Death Eaters who came near us. We neared the fireplace and he threw something into the flames. They turned a brilliant green, Remus whispered to me to hold on tight and then jumped into the flames calling out “Diagon Alley!”
We spun faster and faster as we travelled pneumatically through a narrow brick tube. It was the strangest sensation which left my stomach tied up in knots. We stopped, finally, tumbling out onto a narrow, abandoned street. I looked behind me to see where we had come from and saw a large fireplace, had we been travelling through chimneys? The fireplace lit up again and before I could try to figure out what the spinning figure inside it was, Remus pulled me up by my arm, “Holly! We have to keep moving.”
Forgetting my bought with motion sickness I stumbled into a run after him, he cut quickly to the left and I followed, crashing into him as I entered the narrow alleyway. He clapped his hand over my mouth and but a finger to his lips. He really didn’t need to tell me to be quiet, in my fear I felt as if my voice box had broken. He pulled me deeper into the shadows and then finally into an indentation in the wall hardly big enough for both of us.
It was dark, but I could still see Remus’ face. His eyes were squinting in the direction from where we came, his head cocked slightly. I could tell he was straining to see or hear and probably even smell anything that may come towards us. Following his example, I strained to see into the darkness and was surprised to see the outlines of objects visible. I searched for anything moving but couldn’t see a thing.
Remus’ brow was furrowed as he looked around, then I saw him slowly raise his wand. Before I could turn to see what was going on, he fired off another of those red spells just over my shoulder. I turned to see if he hit anything and before I could see Remus had missed, his intended victim grabbed my neck and pulled me away from Remus.
I tried to scream but he had clapped his hand over my mouth, muffling it. And I felt his wand pressing into my throat. His voice echoed in the empty side street, “You left the wedding early, Lupin, just when it was getting interesting. I do hate it when a guest leaves without saying goodbye. And who’s this little treat you were escaping with?”
As he spoke he was slowly stepping backwards, pulling me with him. Remus didn’t answer, instead he was pointing his wand at the man- at me, anger visibly flashing across his face. My captor spoke again, “Always so quiet, Lupin. Since I had to chase you here, I think I deserve a prize for catching you, don’t I?”
As he spoke, I could feel him lowering his head toward me, nuzzling the side of my head. Disgusting. I tried to elbow and kick him, but none of my attempts landed in an effective spot. He began to back away more quickly and Remus came charging after us. The Death Eater took a quick step forward and spun on the spot.
I felt like I was being crushed, squeezed entirely too tightly. I was being pulled into a tunnel by an unknown force and I felt for certain I was going to explode. But just as quickly as the feeling came, I came crashing down-hard- onto the cobblestones still being clutched by the Death Eater.
As soon as I realized Remus was still running towards me, I went back into attack mode. Kicking hard at the man who seemed even more stunned then me at whatever had just happened. My arm was throbbing. I still couldn’t get out of his grasp when I resorted to biting as hard as I could on his hand. He yelped in pain and let go, I wriggled free and crawled towards Remus, who cast a spell that caused the Death Eater’s arms and legs to snap together, leaving him laying there only able to move his eyes.
“Holly, take his wand, we’re going to try something.” He barely whispered. I snatched the wand from the man’s paralyzed hand and kicked his head for good measure. Remus grabbed my hand and started running back into the street. We stopped when we reached a more open area, he grabbed my hand and looking into my eyes he asked, “Do you trust me?”
All I could do was nod.
“Well, hold on tight.”
I looked down at our clasped hands then at him. His eyes were wide, staring straight into mine. I let go of his hand and flung my arms around him, hugging him tight. His voice sounded even deeper as it reverberated in his chest as he said, “Not exactly what I meant, but this is perfect.”
My head snapped up immediately as I tried to see his face. So he did like me? He wasn’t just drunk? He thought holding me was perfect! I felt elated, as if I could just float up and away into the clouds, but I dropped faster than a lead balloon when he saw me looking at him and corrected his statement to “perfectly fine.”
He hugged me tighter and with the same motion as the man, Remus stepped forward and turned on the spot. This time rather than pain then falling down, we appeared in the woods by his cabin. He led me up to the door I couldn’t see then into the house.
I walked towards my room and I nearly collapsed in terror when I saw that someone was sitting in the chair.
“Relax, Holly, It’s just me!” Sirius jumped up and gave me a hug, then turned towards Remus, “We managed to catch one of them before they could all flee. You know one of them even used the Floo to escape? They sure picked the wrong wedding to crash. The Longbottom’s are a tough, powerful family- you should have seen the way they all fought. Even Frank’s mom, she was a sight to see! I’d love her have a go against my mother. Everyone’s okay, just the usual bumps and bruises. Frank and Alice left for their honeymoon and the gang’s all at James’. But how’d you guys get out back here? We had no idea where – Damn, Holly, you look … what’d you do run the whole way?”
I realized I had been leaning against the wall and sinking slowly downward. I shook my head at him then I let myself hit the floor. I looked at the wand I still had clutched in my hand- the wand of a Death Eater. I threw it at the wall then stared at Remus, mentally begging him to answer for me.
“Well, I took her to Diagon Alley using the floo. But it was deserted, I had expected people to still be there, not realizing we had been at the wedding so long. A Death Eater followed us, got a hold of Holly and tried to take her somewhere, I think he tried to apparate with her because they disappeared for a split second, but then they just came back. She fought him off and then we took the wand and apparated back here.”
“Alright, Holly!” Sirius made to give me a hi-five but I couldn’t bring myself to move, even lift my arm. He bent over and flipped my hand palm up and slapped me five. “Fighting off Death Eaters! They’re gonna start recruiting you!”
I couldn’t even think of something to say to him. I didn’t know if I was capable of speech anymore. I felt useless. Defenseless. Weak.
Remus ended the silence, “Hey Sirius, why don’t you go and tell everyone we’re okay. I’m going to turn in, I’m tired.”
“Sure, Moony, we’ll all stop by in the morning.”
Ever have those nights when you can’t sleep at all? Not the ones where it’s only that you just can’t get to sleep. Think back to when you were little and had that reoccurring nightmare or the night after the first really terrifying movie you’ve ever seen. When every sound paralyzes you with fear and you just know that any moment someone or something will come bursting through the door hell-bent on destroying you, nullifying your existence in the most gruesome way possible.
When I was little I was afraid that a giant green bug was going to crash through the roof and eat me and each night I lay awake afraid to sleep because I just knew it would come for me. Tonight I was terrified that those masked people would come again. My room was somewhat of an annex to the house, and in my state I was convinced that this made me more vulnerable. It was ridiculous really, but I couldn’t get to sleep and every noise I heard in the surrounding woods scared me even more, every shadow that came through my window and stretched across the floor to the opposite wall appeared like a menacing attacker.
I wrapped my blanket around myself and walked out of my room. I had hardly ever been in Remus’ room, I had tried to remain a perfect houseguest that never invaded his privacy but when I peeked through the door and saw him fast asleep, his bed extra long to accommodate his height and a corner of room at the foot of it, I couldn’t help myself.
A much bolder girl would have climbed in next to him, but I was still too embarrassed about our failed kiss at the wedding. I curled up at the end of his bed and his steady breathing eventually calmed me, and I dozed off within minutes.
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