Chapter 4 : 18 September, 1976
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18 September, 1976
Remus had grown to really enjoy Hogsmeade weekends. At first, they'd been a bit unsettling; seeing the Shrieking Shack was unavoidable on those trips, and doing so always reminded him of those once horrendous evenings of transformation. It was different now. While full moons were still a nuisance, the Wolfsbane Potion made them a hundred times more bearable. It also didn't hurt having his three best friends accompany him as Animagi. Now, the Shrieking Shack was nothing more than building he happened to be well acquainted with. It didn't upset him anymore.
The village had grown on him over the past couple of years, so much, in fact, that he now considered it one of his favorite places to be. He immensely enjoyed heading over to the Three Broomsticks to have a pint with whichever friend happened to be there. Browsing in Tomes and Scrolls and breathing in the musty scent of books was therapeutic and satisfying. What Remus loved most, however, was simply strolling along the cobblestone paths. It brought him so much joy to weave through the crowds of chatty shoppers and laughing friends, blending in and not earning so much as a second glance from anyone. It made him feel normal.
And on this day, he'd look even more normal because he was going with a girl.
Just before exiting the Entrance Hall, Remus checked his reflection in one of the windows and patted down a couple of stray hairs. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous. Remus knew Kerry Palmer well; she was a Ravenclaw in his year and while they'd never exactly been close, she was someone he'd always been friendly with. They'd even written to each other once or twice over the summer. A few days prior, she asked him to join her for lunch at the Hog's Head, and he surprised himself by choking out a clear and concise yes.
He'd never had a crush on Kerry or anything – he didn't think he did, at least. But that didn't change the fact that a girl had asked him to join her, and only her – not her and a group of friends – in Hogsmeade for lunch. Crush or no crush, it was a big deal.
Though since she'd asked him, Remus had started looking at her differently. He caught himself really liking the way her wavy, chestnut hair swished from side to side as she walked, the way her skirt swished from side to side when she walked. He found her hearty laugh rather cute. And those dimples... forget it.
Maybe it actually was a crush after all.
He walked out into the courtyard, pleased that the weather was perfect: sunny and warm with just enough of a breeze. During previous years, a crowd would have been there waiting for a professor to give the okay for them to head to the village, but they were sixth years now and on a designated day, they could come and go from the village whenever they liked provided they were back in time for dinner. Most of his classmates must have already departed for Hogsmeade, he decided, as only one person was outside.
Remus suspected the low courtyard walls weren't intended to be benches, but thanks to the way they jutted out in the middle, that's what they were used for rather frequently. Emmeline was perched upon one. She was seated with both legs curled beneath her in the way a small child would, and she rested one arm on the ledge. Her hair blew slightly as she looked out over the hill at the vast Black Lake below. She seemed lost in thought, and that's what any other passerby would assume, but Remus knew better.
Something was troubling her.
“Hey,” he said quietly.
Emmeline looked toward the sound of his voice, smiling slightly when she saw him.
“Hey.” She turned her gaze back to the view.
Remus stared at her profile, wondering why she was brushing him off. While Emmeline was a quiet person by nature, it wasn't typical of her to barely acknowledge someone's presence, and especially not that of a good friend. She'd always make small talk, even if it was brief and about something generic. Maybe, for once, she really just didn't want to talk.
He almost walked away, off to Hogsmeade to meet Kerry and have what he hoped would be a fun, easygoing time, and he most likely would have had it been anyone else sitting on that ledge. But this was Emmeline, his closest female friend and the one who'd always been there for him, even in those times when he'd convinced himself he didn't need anyone. Had their roles been reversed, she wouldn't have thought twice about staying.
Remus took a deep breath before walking to where she was. He didn't say anything, not wanting to cross any potential boundaries; she would have afforded him the same respect. Instead, he sat down beside her and joined her in looking out at the majestic view below the hill. For a split second, her wondered if she really wasn't troubled, but instead mesmerized by the complete and utter beauty that was the Hogwarts grounds.
He wasn't sure how long they sat there together, quietly looking out over the ledge. If she was bothered by his presence, he had no idea; she never once asked him to leave. He liked to think it was comforting for her to have him there, even in silence.
It was Emmeline who eventually spoke.
"So, today's the big day."
Remus crinkled his eyebrows and tilted his head to her.
"What do you mean?"
She turned toward him finally, a small, coy grin on her face.
"Your date with Kerry," she chanted cheekily.
At her words, Remus could feel a faint blush creep across his cheeks, though he wasn't sure why. He most certainly wasn't embarrassed to be going out with Kerry; girls and boys went out together all the time. He'd been dealing with friendly taunting from James, Peter, and Sirius all week, and he hadn't so much as batted an eyelash at their cheeky remarks. But there was something about the way Emmeline said it that made something within him flutter, and he couldn't tell if that was good or bad.
"It's not a date," he mumbled, throwing in a sigh and roll of the eyes for good measure. "It's just lunch."
"It was just lunch for Frank and Alice, too."
"That doesn't count," Remus retorted. "They've fancied each other forever. Kerry and I are friends, and nothing more."
"Whatever you say," Emmeline chuckled, then she left it alone.
"You heading to the village today, too?"
She nodded. "Yeah, with Marlene and Lily. They want to go shopping. Merlin, help me."
He laughed. "No kidding. You'll be stuck there for hours."
"Most likely. It's alright, though. Rory has practice all day, so at least this'll give me something to do."
Remus nodded. Rory McDonough, her rival on the pitch but dear friend everywhere else, had asked her out sometime in April, and the two of them had been together ever since. Remus thought they made an interesting pair. Aside from Quidditch matches, Emmeline was rather introverted and softspoken, whereas Rory was far more outgoing and rowdy - well, as outgoing as rowdy as a Hufflepuff could get, anyway. He reminded Remus of a slightly tamer version of James.
Emmeline shifted her gaze back to the Black Lake. Discussing Hogsmeade plans seemed to cheer her up for only a short while, as she was now once again lost in trance. Remus had half a mind to reach for her hand, but shot the idea down just as quickly as it crept up. Such an impulse was preposterous; she was seeing someone, and he was about to leave to meet another girl for lunch. The urge to envelope her in a comforting hug was even more powerful.
He settled on conversation.
"Emmy, is everything alright?" he asked cautiously. He didn't particularly like delving into the personal thoughts of those around him, but he cared too much about her to disregard her melancholy. And if she told him to bugger off, he'd drop it without question and leave her alone.
"Yeah," she said with a nod, though she didn't sound very convincing. "Just thinking."
She shrugged. "Life."
"Sounds a bit daunting."
She snorted. "It is. I just can't get it out of my head lately, though. You know... life after this place." When he said nothing, silently willing her to continue, she went on. "Don't you ever worry about it?"
"Not really.” It was half true. He did worry about the future, but his concerns were a bit different than those of his classmates for obvious reasons. "We still have two years left here, Emmy. That's plenty of time to figure things out."
"You talked to McGonagall before OWLs last year, right?"
"And what possibilities did you two discuss? If you don't mind me asking, I mean."
"Promise not to laugh?" she asked, her cheeks turning the faintest shade of crimson.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "Why would I laugh?"
She shook her head. "Nothing. Never mind. It's stupid. It's never going to happen."
"Emmeline," Remus said, "if it's something you really want to do, it's far from stupid."
She huffed. "Fine. I was thinking of going for being an Auror. See? I told you. Stupid."
Remus's eyes lit up as he grinned.
"Stupid? Emmy, that's fantastic!"
"No, it's not," she argued. "They'd never take me."
"Nonsense. You're brilliant. They'd be lucky to have you."
She allowed a small smile. "Thanks, but honestly, everyone knows the Auror Program is a bit of a boys' club."
"That's not true."
"Yeah? Name five female Aurors."
"Easy. There's..." Remus paused for a moment, and his face fell when he couldn't even muster up the name of one Auror who was a witch, never mind five. He went on after Emmeline shot him a victorious look. “I know there's some, alright? I'm just a git.”
“Well, you got one thing right.”
Emmeline giggled. “Sorry. Look, of course there are some women working in the Auror office, but both you and I know there's less than a handful. They're much more likely to take wizards. It isn't fair, but there's not a whole lot we can do about it.”
“It's still worth trying for,” Remus said, “if it's what you really want.”
“I know, and I will. I just wish I'd picked something easier, like Rory. He's known for a while what he'll do when he leaves here, and it's all but a sure thing.”
“And that is?”
Emmeline grinned. “Quidditch. What else?”
“The coach for the Catapults already said there's a spot for him when he's finished with school, even if just as a reserve to start.”
“Blimey, that's incredible,” Remus crowed in awe. “Have you ever thought about that?”
“Playing Quidditch for a living.”
“Goodness, no. It's fun and everything, but it's only a hobby. How about you?”
“Playing Quidditch? Emmy, have you ever seen me ride a broom?"
“No!” Emmeline laughed. “Your plans after Hogwarts. What are you thinking about?”
Remus smiled sadly. There were hundreds of things he would've like to do after Hogwarts, but they were nothing but pipe dreams. No one in their right mind would employ someone as dangerous as him. St. Mungo's, Gringotts, and even the Ministry would've rather shut down than take the risk of adding a werewolf to their payroll. It was depressing, but he'd accepted early on that he'd never be one to attain a solid, respectable career. He'd hop from job to job, laying low and not making any close bonds.
“Well?” Emmeline urged excitedly. “What is it?”
“Emmeline, c'mon,” he said. “Be realistic. No one would take me.”
“Remus, don't be ridiculous. You're brilliant. You could do whatever you'd like!"
“No, I can't,” he said with a shrug. “I'm a werewolf, and that won't change.”
Emmeline's face fell. “But-”
“It's alright,” he assured her. “I'm used to it. I may be a prefect and have good marks, but once people learn what I am, that's all they see. It's all they'll ever see. And that's okay. I'll live.”
Emmeline was quiet for a moment, looking down at her hands in her lap. Her face had the sadness of a young witch who'd just broken her toy broomstick. It took him a minute to realize he'd actually opened up a bit too much for his own liking, but every word he said was true; society viewed him as rubbish and nothing more.
“That's not what I see,” she whispered.
Remus's expression was that of curiosity and confusion, but on the inside, he melted a little bit. It was probably the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him.
“So tell me,” Emmeline continued, “what's your plan? What would you like to do?”
After a comment like that, Remus couldn't really argue. Plus, she was persistent and wouldn't let it go, but it the sweetest kind of persistence possible, so he didn't mind too much.
“Fine,” he relented. “I've always thought it be nice to teach.”
“Here at Hogwarts, you mean?”
Remus nodded. “Any subject, really. I just love learning and think it would be cool to help others do the same, you know?”
For some reason he couldn't understand, Remus was too shy too look at her as he made his confession. He'd never told anyone that before; if he thought it was a senseless wish, surely others would, too, and make sure to let him know it. As such, he stared out at the lake until the silence became too much to bear. He'd been waiting for Emmeline to say something, but when she didn't, he cautiously shifted his gaze toward her, preparing for an eye roll at the very least.
To his dismay, she was grinning. He would have preferred the eye roll.
“Oh c'mon, I didn't laugh at you,” Remus said a little defensively.
“I'm not laughing at you,” she said. “I think you'd be wonderful at that.”
“What? Really?” he replied quickly, a bit taken aback.
“Yeah,” she breathed with a hint of laughter.
He felt a smile creep up on his face because he knew she was being sincere. Emmeline wouldn't have said something like that to make him feel better, and it meant the world to him that someone truly believed in him. And not just someone: her.
As he looked at her brown eyes smiling along with her lips and a few locks of her ash blonde hair dancing in the late summer breeze, he wondered how Emmeline's beauty had gone unnoticed by him for so long. Perhaps it was because it was a subtle beauty, one that radiated from within and could only be truly seen and appreciated by someone who'd really gotten to know her. Remus had never considered her ugly by any means; he'd simply never paid attention. But now he did notice that she was quite pretty and, dare he admit it, attractive.
And coupled with the fact that she happened to be one of the smartest, most considerate girls he knew, Remus felt incredibly guilty about the way his heart skipped a beat.
She was one of his best friends, for goodness sake. Friends don't think like that about each other. Not to mention, she had a boyfriend – a boyfriend he happened to consider a good mate, no less. And he was about to go on a date with another girl.
No, not a date. It's just lunch, he reminded himself. Oh, who am I kidding? It's a date.
Luckily for Remus, he was rescued by Marlene and Lily emerging from the Entrance Hall.
“Emmy!” Marlene chanted happily. “Hi, Remus. All ready for your date?”
“It's not a date,” he replied with the most unconvincing grin.
“Yeah, okay,” Lily chimed in cheekily. “Ready, Em?”
“Ready,” she said. She then turned to Remus. “I'll see you at dinner?”
He nodded. “See you at dinner.”
She flashed him a final smile before skipping off with Marlene and Lily. Remus somberly watched as she disappeared about the bend to begin her descent down the hill toward Hogsmeade. He'd have given anything to talk to her for even just a couple more minutes. Somehow, she'd made him feel as if growing up didn't have to be nothing but trouble and grief, but that there was hope for him, even if only a little. It was nice to have some optimism for a change.
Then he grinned as the door to the Entrance Hall opened again and Kerry stepped out. He stood to greet her. She looked very pretty, and her smile was highlighting those dimples he really liked. Remus could feel himself shaking a little from the nerves.
“Good afternoon,” he said as smoothly as he could.
“Hi, Remus,” she said. “I was worried you'd be in the village already. I'm sorry I'm so late.”
“That's quite alright. Shall we?”
She nodded. “Yeah."
They walked slowly together in an almost uncomfortable silence. Remus could feel the tension building a wall between them, which frustrated him; they'd never had any difficulty talking before. As the rounded the bend, he mustered up some of his Gryffindor courage and spoke.
“Would it be alright if I held your hand?”
She blushed slightly before answering, “of course.”
As Remus took her hand in his, he relaxed a little. They began talking about everything – about classes, about friends, about family, and before he knew it, all thoughts about Emmeline were lost. He was out with Kerry Palmer, and goodness, she was adorable.
But every once in a while, and only for a second or two each time, the image of Emmeline looking out at the lake, ash blonde hair dancing in the breeze, snuck it's way into his mind.
And for those few seconds, Remus wished she was there.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! :) See you soon for part 5!
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