I started awake, surprised at having fallen asleep in the first place, and sat bolt upright. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and felt my cheeks stiff with dry tears, and checked out my surroundings.
No one was in the dorms. No one at all. No one was still asleep, all the beds were empty. The sun was beaming in through the windows, too high in the sky to be early. I checked the clock by my bed.
It was already ten.
I was late!
I jumped out of bed like I had been electrocuted and almost ran to the bathroom, grabbing my school uniform from the chair next to my bed on the way. I changed quickly and haphazardly, brushing my teeth with one hand whilst running a brush through my hair to get the knots out from where I went to sleep while it was wet. I changed quickly, grabbed my bag and sped out of the dorm, not even bothering to check in the mirror at how awful I must look.
I skidded through the Portrait Hole and ran flat out through the corridors, falling on my face at least twice but there was no one to see me and laugh. I flung the door open to Ancient Runes before I had a chance to compose myself and I remembered – I sat next to Remus in this class –
“Thank you for joining us, Miss Meadows,” Professor Blanch said dryly, raising an expert eyebrow at me. I blushed brightly and clutched a stitch in my side.
“I’m s-sorry Sir,” I gasped, “I overslept.” He appraised me and I guess the fact that I looked pretty innocent and that I’d never been late to a lesson before finally helped him decide I was telling the truth.
“Well, don’t let it happen again,” he conceded, “take a seat.”
Only then did I look at the class. Lily and Mia were sitting next to each other right at the front, gaping at me as if I were an alien. Remus was sitting by himself behind them, a spare seat next to him saved for me. He looked up at me with a questioning look and I deliberated – but only for a second.
“Miss Meadows, you are testing my patience!” Professor Blanch said in a loud annoyed tone, making me jump, “Take a seat at the back and do not interrupt my class anymore!”
My cheeks burnt again and I lowered my eyes, quickly shuffling my way to the back of the class. I glimpsed up at Remus for just a second and, with a small twang in the vicinity of my heart, I saw his face fall.
I sat down at the desk at the back and Professor Blanch finally started talking again. I was concentrating hard on what he was saying so I wouldn’t look around me and catch Lily or Mia’s eye, or worst of all, Remus’.
Blanch spoke for a quarter of an hour and handed out some runes for us to translate from an ancient burial site in Asia when a note dropped on my desk. I started and looked around. Remus shot me a look from his place up the front and turned back to his runes.
I unfolded the note and read it.
We need to talk. Meet me in the Library after lessons today?
I need to apologise and explain...and I need to tell you something.
My heart wrenched and I vaguely wondered what he meant when he said he needed to tell me something. I read it over again and looked up at Remus, who was avoiding my eye contact. I looked back at the note again, to try and see if I could come up with a reply, only to have it plucked out of my hands.
“First you’re late, then you ignore me, and now you’re passing notes in my lesson?” Professor Blanch looked down at me with his eyebrows raised and read the note through whilst I blushed and bit my lip. “I have to say Miss Meadows, this is very unlike you. And you, Mr. Lupin…” he said, glancing to the front with a disapproving frown. Remus lowered his head in shame. “You can talk about whatever you feel needs to be talked about in detention tonight with me, right after dinner at seven.”
I’d never had a detention before! My shoulders slumped and I wanted to be irritated at Remus for getting me into trouble but I couldn’t quite get there.
Professor Blanch screwed up the note in his fist and threw it in a perfect arc over the classroom into the bin. I almost wanted to clap, but then I remembered that he had just given me a detention and I didn’t like him.
I was silent the rest of the lesson and worked on my Runes, and as soon as the bell went I rushed out of the class, ignoring Lily, Remus and Mia who all made a beeline for me, and made my way to the Library.
A little predictable, I know, but I was out of ideas. I couldn’t go to the Astronomy Tower again, there’s probably lessons going on. And I knew that Lily, Remus and Mia could find me here but if they did I’d just have to deal with it.
Not very well, obviously, but deal with it I would.
I picked up a random book from the shelves and plonked myself into a seat, chucking my bag at my feet as I did so. I flicked into the middle of the book and pretended to be reading, except I wasn’t really concentrating on the book. I didn’t even know the title or what it was about.
“You are aware that your book on, um, the mating patterns of merpeople is upside down?” said a slightly confused, extremely attractive and yet oh so tired voice. The book jumped out of my hands and landed on the table. I looked up and Remus was looking at me with a slight smile on his face, although it was guarded. I blinked a few times and said nothing, and when I remained silent he started to talk.
“Do you mind if I sit –”
He was interrupted as something small and beautiful jumped on him, wrapping its arms around his neck.
“Remmy, darling!” Amber said affectionately, pushing a strand of hair away from his confused face. Rage bubbled up inside me again and I pushed my chair out angrily and grabbed my bag. I stood up and shoved past the both of them, making my way out of the Library as Remus called after me and Madam Pince screamed at him to be quiet.
Now I was fuming. How could he have not told me they were…they were…together? When did he start even liking her? Why could he have not told me this? We were supposed to be best friends; best friends tell each other things.
Although…Remus and I don’t talk about relationships much. I thought back as I walked at a fast pace to keep from them following me. I can’t remember ever talking to Remus about boys that I liked, mainly because I’ve never really liked anyone.
Well, before now.
Lily and Fliss both had their crushes but I’d never really liked anyone like that. They used to think it was really strange or that maybe I was hiding it from them, but they eventually realized that I’d just never liked anyone.
Remus never asked about boys. And I’d never asked about girls he fancied – because, I realized with a slight jolt, that I never expected him to like anyone. I couldn’t imagine Remus being like James about anyone. I couldn’t imagine Remus hugging a girl or – or holding their hand, or kissing them…
Well, the kissing part I could plainly see now, thanks to yesterday. Seeing Remus kiss someone who, I’ll admit, wasn’t me, completely freaked me out. It shocked me to the core, and…and it hurt. It hurt a lot.
We’d never talked about this; maybe because we felt we didn’t need to. I think I was just avoiding it, because I know from seeing Lily and James constantly fighting and all of Fliss’ or Sirius’ one night or one week flings that nothing good ever came out of a relationship. Or from my parents constant fighting, the abuse, and how my mother is now after she fell in love. Maybe that’s why I never liked anyone, either. Too much emotional baggage that I wasn’t fully ready to deal with. Well, that and the fact that I never thought anyone would like me back, so it would be stupid to develop a crush only to have your heart shot down in flames. Much like now. That was a stupid thing of me to do, really, develop a crush on my closest male friend when there was no hope of him liking me back.
Hell, I have no idea how to approach this sort of thing. I’m completely new to the whole love game. Never been kissed, never had a boyfriend, never been in love…
I think I need some sort of help.
I think I’m going to regret this, but maybe…maybe I should talk to Fliss and Sirius about love. And dating. And…and maybe kissing. Maybe. Because Merlin knows I can’t do this by myself. And they’ve both had the most experience.
Though I’m not sure that that’s entirely a good thing.
“So what’s up, Ophelia?” Fliss asked me as I sat her and Sirius down in the boys’ empty dorm. I paced in the middle for a moment, trying to find the best way to start this conversation.
“I need your help,” I finally said.
“Indeed you do,” Sirius said, “that skirt is an obscene length.”
“It’s at my knees.” I looked down, bewildered.
“It’s much too long!” Fliss said, scandalized, as she flipped her wand out of her pocket. She swished it and suddenly it was shortened to mid-thigh.
“Fliss!” I squealed indignantly.
“Your legs are lovely,” Sirius said in a soothing manner, “now we just need to give them a bit of a tan. You’re like a ghost, you know that?”
“This is not why I called you up here!” I put my hand out as Sirius whipped his wand out. He lowered it and glowered.
“Well, what do you need?” he asked, and I took a deep breath.
“I’ve sort of realized…that I know nothing about, you know…love. And dating. And…kissing. I don’t know anything about this sort of…area and I figured since, no offence, you’ve had the most experience, you could, you know…help me.” Fliss and Sirius looked at each other for a moment and then back to me with equally large grins.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for like, ever!” Fliss said, clapping her hands.
“You had to turn into a teenager sometime,” Sirius said with a smirk.
“Don’t worry, we’ll try and help you as much as we can,” Fliss said assuredly. She stood up and tucked me under her arm, and she and Sirius sat on either side of me on Sirius’ bed.
“The first thing you need to know, is that relationships are hard,” Sirius started off, and Fliss nodded feverently.
“Is that why you two don’t have a relationship for very long?” I asked, and they both shrugged.
“Short relationships are okay if you’re not looking for anything serious. At the moment Sirius and I are playing the field. There’s nothing wrong with seeing what’s out there,” Fliss told me. “Maybe we should take her to a club so she can dance with some guys and see what’s on offer?” she asked Sirius.
“What?” I asked instantly.
“Too soon,” Sirius said, “she’s only just opening up to the concept of seeing boys in that light. That’s why it’s taken her so long to see Remus this way.” I looked at them confusedly.
“You and Remus have been acting like you’re going out for about a year,” Fliss informed me, “we actually asked Remus whether you were together but you weren’t, obviously. You act like a couple, which is why you’ve never had any other offers. Most decent guys know when to stay away from a girl.” I took this piece of information with a slight shock. Is that true? Was that part of the reason the boys we met always went for Lily or for Fliss, because I looked like I was already in a relationship?
“You have to put yourself out there,” Sirius said, pointing a hand and looking out the window to the horizon. I looked as well, though I’m not quite sure why because I knew there was nothing to look at. “You need some confidence. Boys dig confidence, it’s extremely attractive!”
“It’s true,” Fliss said with a smile, “I mean, I’m not overly pretty,” Lies, utter lies! “And I don’t cake my face in makeup. But I like how I look and I’m confident about it, and that’s what boys like, not fake tan and inch thick orange faces. So confidence is the key to getting noticed. And a short skirt doesn’t exactly hinder the process either.” She giggled.
“What else was it? Kissing?” Sirius asked, and I nodded shyly. “Not to be personal, but have you ever been kissed?” I burnt red and shook my head roughly.
“Well first things first, we need to sort out that attitude,” Fliss said, “Kissing isn’t a bad thing, Ophelia love. It’s not like, taboo. Everyone does it. And with good reason, kissing is fun!” She and Sirius had a laugh whilst I rolled my eyes.
“And second of all, she actually needs to be kissed,” Sirius said, “I’ll gladly accept the challenge.” He winked at me.
“Sirius,” Fliss said archly, raising an eyebrow. My eyes went wide. Was Sirius really talking about kissing me?! “I’m pretty sure Ophelia wants Remus to be her first kiss.”
“Yes, but have I actually got a chance of that coming true?” I asked sceptically.
“Of course! Remus really likes you, you silly girl!” Sirius chided me, and I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit thrilled.
“So…what do I do? I can’t exactly walk up to him and tell him,” I said.
“Why not?” Fliss asked. I looked at her. “Ah. The shyness thing.”
“That’s not Ophelia’s style,” Sirius said with a grin, “she’d rather wait for him to come to her.” I nodded. “But,” he continued, “You need to push him to do it. You need to get him wanting you, you need to make him jealous. Have a flirt with some other guy, you know, like…that really good-looking Ravenclaw boy, what’s his name?”
“Mark Matthews,” Fliss sighed dreamily. I instantly remembered him. He had an icy complexion; white skin, black hair and piercing blue eyes. He was the epitome of dark and mysterious. I remembered talking to him a few times in Runes; he sat at the desk next to Remus and mine.
“Makes me wish I took Ancient Runes,” Fliss said, still in a dreamy state. Mark Matthews was indeed gorgeous. But a guy like that would never willingly flirt back with me.
“Flirt with him next time you see him,” Sirius ordered.
“Why would Mark Matthews want to flirt with me?” I asked helplessly.
“Because Mark Matthews is a sucker for short pretty brunettes,” Fliss informed me unhappily, “I’m not his type at all.”
“Haven’t you already snogged him?” Sirius asked.
“I wouldn’t mind another round,” Fliss sighed, “but he said he just wanted to be friends. Said I wasn’t his type, that I was quite loud and he wasn’t used to it. One of the reasons he broke up with Amber, coincidentally, she made friends with Jennifer and Stacie and got really bitchy and loud and annoying and fake.”
He and Amber, Remus’ new thing, went out for the whole of year five. They broke up only days before the beginning of summer. She was actually quite nice before then, but totally transformed over the summer into a complete bitch with the aid of Jennifer and Stacie.
“I’ll try,” I said, giving in. They both beamed.
“I don’t think she’s ready for the sex talk yet,” Sirius concluded.
“But seeing as we’re here, was there anything else you wanted to ask?” Fliss asked, giving my arm a squeeze. I looked at each of them in turn.
“Have you ever been in love?” They were silent for a while, and the look on their faces told me that this was a hard subject to talk about.
“No,” Fliss eventually said. “Being in love is…it’s much different from the relationships Sirius and I are used to. They’re more...lust than anything else. But love is so much more than that.”
“We’re much too young to be in love,” Sirius said, and his voice had taken a surprisingly quiet and calm tone. “Love is…love is a big thing, Ophelia. It’s hard to describe seeing as we’ve never been in love. But we’ve seen it. And it’s like…it’s like a force of nature. Something you can’t possibly predict. I think when you fall in love, you just know. And it is the greatest feeling in the world, but it can also be the worst.”
“So…love is…confusing?” I asked. Fliss smiled demurely, a smile I wasn’t used to.
“Love is confusing,” she confirmed, “but it’s also amazing and wonderful and when you realize you’ve fallen in love with that special person, you’ll be so happy that you did.”
“Because love, as Dumbledore says, conquers all,” Sirius ended, and, finally satisfied, I hugged them both and wandered down the stone steps, contemplating love, life and relationships.
It was time for my detention. I walked anxiously to my Ancient Runes classroom and knocked on the door. Professor Blanch called to tell me to come in and I pushed the door open timidly, peering in the room. Remus was already sitting there, staring at the door and now, I guess, me. I lowered my eyes and walked to the front of the classroom. Professor Blanch was sitting at his desk, watching me walk.
“Sit down next to Mr. Lupin please, Miss. Meadows,” he instructed, and I pulled the chair next to Remus out and sat down lightly, still avoiding his gaze.
“You will be writing lines,” he informed us as he got up. He placed a blank piece of parchment and a quill in front of both of us. “You shall write, ‘I will not pass notes in the classroom’ as many times as you can before curfew.”
What?! Curfew was at nine! We had to write lines for hours!
“I shall be in my office. I trust you two to get on with it, alright? I’m sure what happened today in class was a one-off, and I don’t want it to be repeated again. I’ll come back to dismiss you later.” With that he walked out of the classroom and closed the door. Remus whipped out his wand and whispered, “Muffliato.”
“What did you do?” I whispered, forgetting I was going to wait for him to talk. Technically he had, but I meant to me.
“Anyone outside won’t be able to hear us,” he said in his normal volume, “you don’t have to whisper.”
I looked at him for a moment and shrugged, before picking up my quill and starting to write my lines in silence.
“Ophelia, can we talk?” he pleaded.
“We’re supposed to be doing lines,” I pointed out. He reached into his cloak pocket and took out two quills.
“They’ll write for us,” he said, setting his on the paper. I watched in amazement as it started to write in his neat, small handwriting. “I got one for you too.” He held it out to me and I stared at it for a moment. Then, I took it and set it on my piece of paper. It finished off the sentence I had just been writing perfectly and continued onto the next line.
Since when did Remus Lupin cheat his way through lines?
“Now can we talk?” he asked. I avoided the eye contact he was desperately trying to keep.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” I said quietly, watching the quill continue to write lines.
“There obviously is,” he said, “otherwise you wouldn’t be avoiding my eye.”
I looked him straight in the eye for a moment and then went back to watching the quill.
“See?” I said, “All fine.”
“We need to talk about what happened yesterday,” he said defiantly.
“I was just…shocked. That’s all. I didn’t think that she was your type.” He sighed.
“I want to talk to you about it; I need you to know why it happened.”
“You don’t have to explain to me, I know how these things work.” Well, I had only just found out recently but regardless, I did know. Now. “I just didn’t think you’d want to go out with someone who you said yourself ‘bullied’ me.” Wow, that was hard to say, like ripping off a plaster. In a strange way I felt better now I’d said it.
“What?” he asked, confused. “I’m not going out with Amber.”
My heart jumped. I frowned.
“I’m not going out with Amber,” he repeated, “what on earth would give you that impression?”
“T-The way she hugged you in the Library! You kissed her!” I stammered. He looked at me like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“No way! She assumed we were going out after what…what happened. But I told her that we most certainly were not!” I could almost have giggled at his outraged tone, because it sounded so cute. But I prevailed with my train of thought instead.
“So…so you’re not going out with her?” I clarified.
“A resounding no, I think,” he smiled. I’d missed that smile.
“Good,” I said, and paused. He looked at me and I suddenly realized what I had just said. “Because you’re much too good for her,” I amended quickly, blushing a little and turning away.
“Thank you,” he said quietly. We sat in silence for a while and I watched our quills write. They were about a third down the parchment by now.
“I saw you in the Library with Regulus,” he said after a while in a subdued tone. My eyes went wide. “I heard what he said to you…I didn’t wait to listen to see what you would say, I thought you…liked him back.”
It made more sense now. Was he just kissing Amber in retaliation?
“Amber followed me into the classroom,” he continued, “and…I don’t know…it just happened. I’m sorry that you had to witness it.”
“I’m sorry you had to witness Regulus saying…what he said.” I cringed. For Regulus to actually be in love with me when Fliss and Sirius had both told me how big a thing it was, was ludicrous. “I really don’t like Regulus in that way.” I let my sentence hang in the air, knowing full well that I could tell him right now who I liked. I could just say it, I like someone else, and he would ask who. And then I would say it was him.
But I didn’t.
“Friends?” he asked, holding out his hand. I smiled and put my hand in his.
“Friends,” I said. He grinned and almost pulled me out of my seat by my hand to hug me.
We hugged for a while, and when we broke apart we spent the rest of the detention talking like normal whilst the quills wrote lines for us. Professor Blanch came back at half past eight, earlier than he said, and let us out for good behaviour. We walked back to the Common Room in a comfortable silence.