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Eleanor Digby by Violet Gryfindor

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 18,772
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing)

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Pettigrew, OC
Pairings: Sirius/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 07/02/2007
Last Chapter: 01/31/2008
Last Updated: 04/25/2012

Summary:
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Eleanor Digby (not Rigby) is your less-than-average witch. Her grades are terrible, her looks worse, and she hates being compared to the song that's so like her name. But then the Sirius Black asks her out, and Eleanor loses herself in a game of love that isn't quite what she dreamt it to be....


Chapter 1: Norwegian Wood
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One


“Don’t you understand the meaning of ‘alone’?” Eleanor’s words came out in a growl.

He leapt up the tower stairs two at a time, trying to keep up. “You shouldn’t be alone. For all I know, you’ll throw yourself off the tower.”

She let out a strangled laugh. “Wanting to play the hero again, Black?”

“I’m not the heroic type,” he said, his breath heavy.

“Obviously not the athletic type either.” Her voice echoed down the stairway.

He reached out for the hem of her robes, but his fingertips only brushed against the fabric before she had pulled ahead once again.

“I resent that!” he called out.

“Then why can’t you keep up?”

He hesitated in his thoughts and nearly missed the next step. “You want me to catch you?”

“No. You might get squished, remember?”

She burst through the door at the top of the stair and stopped as the sunlight blinded her.

“Ouch!” she cried when he rammed into her back. She fell forward and he caught her at the last moment. “If I jump off the tower, it’ll only be to get away from you.” She brushed imaginary dust off her wrinkled robes as she swept out of his grasp. “Why the hades are you following me, anyway?” She didn’t wait for a reply. “If it’s to express a passion for me, you might as well let me jump.”

He grabbed her arm, his face pale, perhaps with fury. “You won’t jump. You never came here for that.”

“No, I came up here to get away from people.” He didn’t remove his hand, so she added, “That means I don’t want you here because you’re a people.” She paused. “A person.”

Releasing her arm, he strode over to the edge of the battlement. “We’re talking in circles again. It’d be great if you could just admit that maybe there are people in the world who might not want you to do anything drastic.” He looked back at her with a frown.

She crossed her arms. “Thanks for caring. Now go.”

He leaned against the battlement and turned his face to the sun. “It’s a quiet place here.”

“It is when other people aren’t disturbing me.”

“I’m not going to take the hint, you know.”

“Can’t say I didn’t try hard enough,” she said, moving back towards the tower entrance.

He said her name once, and she stopped. She glared at him for a time, then her lower lip began to tremble as emotion caught up with her. As soon as she realised just what that emotion was, she crossed her arms, forming a barrier between her and the infamous Sirius Black.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said the words quietly, her voice unsteady.

He shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He leaned against the ancient stones and began to hum. She cringed when he went off-key. It was that silly song again, the ones that the boys, especially the muggle-borns, sang out whenever she passed. Eleanor Rigby. It wasn’t even her name.

“Did you purposely name me after that song, mum?”

Her mother laughed. “Of course not. Anyway, your name is Digby, not Rigby.”

It was as simple as that.

She glanced down at the rocks and grass below. Her head swam at the distance.

He caught her when she swayed. “It’s a long drop.”

She leaned against him, not entirely meaning to. “That’s obvious.”

His arms adjusted around her shoulders. “Now tell me why you came up here.”

Her glasses had gone askew, but she didn’t bother to fix them.

“I hate that song.”

He coughed, evidently to cover his laughter. “All this over a song?”

“They sing it all the time.” She sniffed and swore that she heard the sound echo across the lake. “Each time I walk past, each time the professor calls on me, every bloody time.”

He was much warmer than she expected. Physically, of course. His heart was still like that block of ice she’d found in the school’s kitchen last month. That simile only made her giggle and if she started giggling, she wouldn’t stop anytime soon, so she held her breath to keep it down. He would think her hysterical, mostly in the disturbing kind of way.

“Like, it’s a good song and all, but the lyrics are strange.” She pulled away and stood in front of him, arms spread wide. “Do I look like a batty old lady who keeps faces by the door?”

“No, of course not.”

But he’d replied a moment too soon. Her eyes narrowed.

“But I do look batty?”

She knew her hair had been blown about by the race up the steps, and now the wind tore through it, wreaking havoc with the careful braids she’d wrapped around her head in the popular style. It didn’t have quite the same effect as it did on, for instance, Lily Evans or any of the other girls of that annoying clique.

“I can’t imagine you any other way.”

She made a show of rolling her eyes. “Well I haven’t heard that one before.”

A gust of wind blew against her robes, pushing them hard against the front of her body. She looked at his face as he looked at her and the bulge of her stomach. Her face turned red. She shouldn’t have eaten so much at breakfast. Lily wouldn’t have done something like that.

If he shrugged one more time, she’d have to use Petrificus Totalus on him.

“It’s more than just the song, isn’t it?”

Of course it was! She wouldn’t have run all the bloody way up into the tower otherwise.

She turned away, resting her hands on the battlement. It was cold, or maybe her hands were warm. Her lungs heaved, but she kept herself from gasping like a tired dog. That would not have been a pleasant sight.

“Oh, it’s nothing.” It never was.

The scene that morning in the Great Hall was fleeting in her memory. She was already suppressing it. Another instance in her life that she would wipe off the slate of her existence. She had been eating, which was nothing new, and had heard those girls strolling past. They never walked, but strolled like models in a London fashion show. It was very depressing.

What had happened next? They had sat down around her, their robes neat and pressed, their hair perfectly coiffed, their skin entirely free of blemishes other than a few freckles on Lily’s face. Lily may have sat a bit separate from them, not entirely paying attention to their conversation, but Eleanor grouped her with them, the enemy. Anyway, she was the prettiest of them all. That was bloody obvious enough to tell without James Potter drooling all over the place.

Eleanor was not so lucky in looks. Like every morning, she had rushed that to get out of the lavatory before they chose to invade, hogging the bath, mirror, and room. Her hair was not neat, her clothes were wrinkled (also slightly stained), and there was a string of unnaturally red spots littering her left cheek. Talk about being the ugly duckling.

And then the Marauders arrived. James Potter with his mussed hair and muscled arms. Sirius Black with his suave perfection to which nothing could be compared. Remus Lupin with his shy boyishness and intense gaze. Peter Pettigrew with his blond curls and wide-eyed stares, just barely managing to keep to his friends’ high standards. Some of the girls even spoke of flirting with him just to get a place at the table with his friends. One girl had whispered something unintelligible and giggled in a way that rose the hairs on the back of Eleanor’s neck. She had just wanted them all to go away. She’d have been sure to get indigestion if she stayed there a moment longer.

Of course they had asked why she was leaving so soon and why she never stayed to talk to anyone. Then she had mumbled something and kept walking, bumping into people on the way with her feet tripping over any uneven part of the floor. She swore that she had heard their laughter rippling through the air.

“I saw you leave this morning,” he said out of nowhere. “They don’t mean you any harm.”

“Oh, they can’t help being perfect!” She closed her lips over the last word, as though she did not want to speak it.

He frowned. “Did you really know what they were laughing at?”

“Something about me, I’ll bet,” she muttered.

“It wasn’t. It was about me.”

She laughed. “You? Sirius Black, the most–”

“Don’t say that. I’m not ‘the most’ of anything.”

“All the girls like you.”

“Do you?”

“Does that matter?”

“So you don’t.”

“I never said no.”

“You didn’t say yes either.”

“You’re an arrogant bastard.”

“Thank you.”

That had been more exhausting than the run up the tower stairs.

She leaned back against the battlement, trying to ignore the feeling of nothing but air behind her. With crossed arms, she glared at him over the rims of her spectacles.

“What do you want?”

It was a simple question, to be sure, but it demanded a more complex type of answer.

“I need your help.”

She tried to raise a single eyebrow like one of the professors could when he was sceptical of a student’s bad excuse. Of course, both of hers flew up, creating an expression of surprise rather than disbelief.

“Me? Is this some sort of trick, Black?”

He at least had the courage to look remotely guilty. “Not this time.”

Oh, not this time, eh? How nice of him to say so. She glowered as best as she could.

“Okay, okay, I am sorry about that,” he said, a flush rising up his cheeks.

“Yeah, sure.” Her undergarments were still pinkish in colour. She hated pink.

He positioned his mouth in a way that was probably supposed to make him look innocent. Sirius Black could never be innocent. It was just something that had never found its way into his genes. Rather like how, it was rumoured, no girl had made it into Sirius’ jeans, so to speak.

She giggled, a high-pitched sound that made him frown in a way that mirrored Professor McGonagall’s sternest look of displeasure.

“What’s so funny, Ellie?”

What had he called her?

“Oh, nothing. It’s just the wind,” she said, smoothing back her hair, though it was no use.

He seemed to like shrugging, unless that was just the best reply to her mad rambling.

“You’re the only one that can help, no matter how funny you think it is.” The expression of hurt upon his face appeared genuine. Was that even possible?

She took a closer, assessing glace at his face. Yes, it was genuine hurt. He needed her help, and had actually admitted it aloud. Although they were alone and there was no place for anyone to eavesdrop upon them, she could see that it had cost him some pride to admit a weakness. But what could it be that he wanted from her? Whatever could she give to him?

“The other girls bother me a lot, and I need a way to get them to leave me alone.” He said it so matter-of-factly that she just stared at him with a blank expression, unable to comprehend.

He waved a hand with impatience and tried again. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Had she indeed jumped off the tower and was now experiencing heaven, or hell? It had to be hell. In heaven, she would be in gorgeous dress robes with the wind dancing through her waving chestnut hair as she looked up at him with a flirtatious smile on her rouge-painted lips....

“I’m sorry that I’ve cornered you like this, but it’s become a rather nasty situation with all those other girls.”

Did he take her silence as fear? Uncertainty? Distrust?

“Why can’t you just say no to them?”

He flushed from, it seemed, head to toe. It made him appear more disarming, and less like the most sought-after male within the walls of Hogwarts. The flush made him human, and that was more disturbing than anything else Eleanor had been through that day. Like the other Gryffindors, he wasn’t supposed to be human – all the courage and honour set them apart from the other houses, and from herself.

“They think something of me that could cause trouble.”

She blinked at his answer. There were always rumours about Sirius Black and the Marauders flying across the school like the owl post. Maybe one of them was true, but which?

Now it was her turn to shrug. “Why should I care? You always get out of trouble.”

He muttered something unintelligible and turned his back on her to gaze out over the lake and mountains that glittered in the afternoon sun. His shoulders were tense, the line of his back ramrod straight – still from his mother’s teachings, though if he knew, he’d slouch more. She watched the way that his hair fell over his collar in a fashionable way. Even the wind could not muss his perfect image. The only imperfect thing about him, was what he was on the inside. A mess. She saw it at that moment for the first time, and understood. She understood Sirius Black.

“I’ll do it.” Had she really said it? Her brain had not moved at the same rate as her lips.

He whipped around, something of relief in his half-crazed eyes.

“Yes?”

She nodded, then squeaked when he took her up in an embrace. She fell from his arms and adjusted her glasses, behind which her eyes were like saucers.

“Guess I’ll have to get used to that now.”

He only laughed, but she liked the sound.



Author's Note: Based on my favourite song by the Beatles, and each chapter share titles with other great songs. I'm sorry to say that this won't be that long of a story - ideally five, but perhaps longer if I need to (which is likely).

Chapter 2: Here, There and Everywhere
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Two


Fortunately for both of them, the following day was Sunday, giving Sirius plenty of time to coach Eleanor in the ways of the birds and bees. He was successful in making it all sound like a big joke, which it was to him, if not her. She loved watching him, the way that his expression changed every few seconds: from an ear-to-ear grin to a serious frown, then to something completely different a moment later. He seemed to laugh at almost everything, especially the topics that were supposed to be sombre in nature.

She had to admit that she liked him a lot, but then so did all the other girls in the school, except Lily, of course. No one could guess who she was interested in. It certainly was not James Potter, who too obviously hankered over her. In fact, none of the Marauders earned her affections, though she often worked on class projects with Remus Lupin, who was the most studious of the Gryffindor boys. There was also Severus Snape, who Eleanor had caught staring after Lily at the strangest of times, but since that afternoon in fifth year, Lily had not even glanced at him, much less spoken to the dark Slytherin.

But Eleanor did not want to think about Lily. It was enough to make her stomach grumble in protest.

“Hungry already?” Sirius asked with a raised eyebrow. He could do it perfectly.

Eleanor shrugged, trying to look innocent. “It is almost lunch time.”

He looked as though he were about to burst out laughing, but he that seemed to be his favourite facial expression. “It’s only eleven, you goose. Didn’t you eat breakfast?”

She screwed up her face, trying to remember. “Yes. The scones were so lovely today, didn’t you think?”

“With the clotted cream?”

“Of course.”

He shook his head, still smiling. “Honestly, Ellie, you almost eat as much as I do.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” She wasn’t a bird, so why should she eat like one?

Rolling his eyes, he sat back on the window ledge. They were in an empty classroom, Ancient Runes from the appearance of the unintelligible symbols scrawled across the blackboard. The high windows let in sunlight, channelling it through ancient leaded panes, but even their size could not dwarf the height of Sirius Black, who sat so leisurely against the stone window frame that he could have been there since the castle’s creation. Some would have said that it was his blood that made him that way, others would have blamed it on arrogance, but Eleanor was not so sure. For all the expression he put into his face, he did not seem to allow his true emotions to show through the facade. It was his most important feature – being able to hide himself behind the archetype that others slotted him into.

“So, where were we before your stomach made it’s presence known?” He looked upwards, as though mentally flipping through the pages of his great knowledge. “Ever snogged someone before?”

She turned bright red. “No.” Her voice was so quiet, it was difficult to hear her in the otherwise silent room.

“Alright, we’ll just have to practice to get it right then.” He was enjoying this way too much, in Eleanor’s opinion. Not that she would mind if he kissed her. To have a first kiss from a guy like Sirius Black had to mean something, right?

He patted the space on the ledge beside him. “Come up here. It’ll be easier this way.”

She swallowed, then climbed up beside him, managing to thrust her elbow into his side while she did so. Perched so close to him as he swore and rubbed his rib cage, she noticed for the first time the smell of his cologne. Now how many young men his age wore stuff like that? Not too many, she guessed. It was a nice touch that put Sirius above the rest of them, which made her feel all the more out of her league. Why had he asked her of all people?

“Now I’ll put my hand here.” He slipped his arm around her waist, placing his hand on the small of her back, then he took her hand and planted it on his shoulder, close to his neck. “That’ll do, I guess. So I’ll pull you closer.” This took a bit of effort on his part. She did like to think that she was only big-boned, not overweight, though her mother tended to disagree. “And you can use your hand to bring our, um, lips together. Yes, that sounds good.”

Eleanor hesitated. “You sound like you haven’t done this before.”

He laughed. “Of course I have! It’s just that I, um, aren’t used to doing it so artificially. You know, it usually happens on its own. Rather like this....”

Before she could respond, or even think of a response, he was already kissing her. Well, it was more like snogging, since his free hand was doing a bit more than just resting against her and his mouth was doing more than just kissing her. His tongue entered her mouth, caressing hers until she found the strength to return the favour. It was so strange, so unfamiliar, and she wasn’t really sure if she liked it or not. Perhaps it just took getting used to?

Both her hands were now on his shoulders, and his were around her waist. At least they were for most of the time they embraced. Eleanor ran out of breath much faster than she expected, but was afraid to pull away too soon in case he thought she didn’t like it. Finally, he pulled away from her lips and touched his mouth to the corner of hers, then made a trail down her throat towards the neckline of her robes. What he’d do after that, she couldn’t even imagine, but the feeling of his lips against the sensitive skin of her throat made her sigh unexpectedly and her arms tightened their hold around his shoulders, trying to prevent him from ever stopping.

No, no, no! her mind roared, but she pushed the fears away. So this is what it was all like! She closed her eyes as each time he touched her, whether with his hands or lips, made her feel more and more beautiful, more and more like Lily and her friends, more and more like the girl she’d always (though secretly) dreamed of being. Sirius Black had wanted her as a girlfriend, not any of them, so surely she had to have something that they didn’t, right?

He stopped kissing her, but still held her close, his body shaking with laughter. He leaned down to plant a smooch on one of her still-blushing cheeks.

“Okay, that went even further than I expected! I wasn’t sure if you had it in you, Ellie. You were perfect!” He leapt down and reached up his arms to help her off the ledge. “Imagine the looks on their faces if we did that in the Common Room, or even the Great Hall!”

Eleanor’s eyes widened with fear. “Merlin, no! What would they think?”

His smile did not fade, though his eyes frowned. “We want them to think something, Ellie, something about both of us.” He did not explain his verbal riddle, instead leading her to the door, his hand gripped around hers. “That should be enough for today, don’t you think?”

She nodded, feeling very confused. “I have some work to catch up on.”

“Godric’s girdle, you sound so much like Remus. He’s always about, making excuses that he has to get this-and-this done.” He sighed. It was a very unhappy sound.

“At least he’s good at his homework, though. I’m hopeless.” She made her sigh sound equally mournful. “I’ll be lucky to get into any NEWTS classes, with the way things are going now with my grades.”

They rounded a corner, passing some younger Hufflepuff girls who gasped when they saw Sirius and Eleanor’s connected hands. There were many whisperings in the corridor and the sound of running footsteps. Eleanor wondered just how quickly the news of their... um... romance would fly through Hogwarts. She could just imagine the sort of glances she’d be getting in the Great Hall at dinner, and breakfast, and lunch, and tea..... oh Merlin.

“You shouldn’t worry so much. It’ll all turn out fine.” His voice was distracted. It was like he hadn’t even heard what she’d said. They were going up the Great Staircase, stopping every few platforms to wait for the moving stairs to put themselves into place.

She watched the staircases, observing how they went into place just as Sirius had placed their hands in all the right places. It had started as the most manufactured kiss in history, yet from Sirius’ behaviour afterwards and now, it was like it had become more real than he’d meant it to be, that he hadn’t wanted to enjoy snogging her so much, or that he hadn’t expected her to enjoy it so much. Surely he knew that she was one of his admirers, albeit from a shy, modest distance. It certainly was not so modest anymore, she thought, barely holding back a laugh as she remembered how she had kissed him back.

He smiled sideways at her as they passed a group of Ravenclaws on their way to a study area. His eyes sparkling with mischief, he pushed Eleanor against a wall miraculously not covered with portraits and kissed her full on the lips. She felt his hands subtly guide hers to hold on tight as he moved to guide her legs around him. Her gasp was lost against his mouth as her weight was balanced between the wall and his body. She managed to peek over at the Ravenclaws, who with wide eyes and scandalised expressions, hurried off, whispering behind their hands.

With his lips against the nape of her neck, he murmured, “How did they take it?”

She moved her head aside to mutter in his ear, “They were scandalised. Why did you do that?” Although she herself was scandalised at his behaviour, his touch still made the hair rise on her arms and made her heart sigh with pleasure.

Sirius put her down with surprising gentleness and brought her hand to his lips. She wondered if her face would become permanently red if this sort of thing started happening all the time. He was smiling down at her with pride, as though she’d done something just right. He still held her hand, stroking it with his thumb.

“You’re perfect, Ellie. Absolutely perfect,” he said. “I couldn’t have made a better choice than you.” He turned to continue up the stairs, dragging her along like a favourite toy. “I’ll let you be for the rest of the day. Can’t have you getting behind in your homework, can we?”

She decided that she did not completely trust him. There was something churning in his brain, some plan that could only be another prank, another trick to deceive the world, her included. Whatever he had up his sleeve, he wasn’t about to make it obvious, but Eleanor swore that she would watch for that tiniest clue that would reveal his plans. Even when he kissed her, even when he touched her, even when he made her feel more vulnerable than anyone could ever make her, she would keep a look out, making sure that he wasn’t doing it to embarrass her more than her very existence already did.

They entered the Common Room together, Sirius giving her a quick kiss goodnight before running up to his dormitory, where Eleanor supposed his friends were waiting to hear the news of Sirius’ conquest. Boys must talk about that sort of thing all the time, that and Quidditch. She watched him run up the stairs, two at a time, and turned to smile shyly at the Gryffindors assembled around the fireplace. Lily Evans and her friends were among them, squinting, gaping, and otherwise staring with surprise at Eleanor Digby, who had just been kissed on the lips by the most popular boy in (some claimed) the whole of Hogwarts.

Leaving the Common Room silent for what had to be the first time in decades, Eleanor skipped up to her dormitory, passing the neat, nicely-made beds to her own mess in the corner. She liked the fact that it was a mess, with her clothes, both clean and soiled, spread out across – and under, in some cases – her bed, and her textbooks and parchments crushed together in the very battered trunk that had once been her Great-Aunt Ethel’s, the one who had lived as a missionary in Africa for twenty-four years before coming home complaining of the bad weather down there.

She knelt in front of the trunk, weeding through the discarded sweet wrappers and old socks until she heard footsteps coming up the dormitory stairs. If she was lucky, it’d be a seventh year going up to the floor above her, but if not....

“Eleanor, can I talk to you a minute?”

Of all the people who could have entered the room at that very moment on that particular day after experiencing that particular kiss in front of the other Gryffindors, the one person who would have had to come to speak to her was Lily Evans: the most perfect of perfect girls.

Eleanor sat back and turned to look up at Lily. “Yeah, sure.”

“It’s about Sirius Black.”

“Who else? I saw you there.”

Lily bit her lip, frowning. “I sure he meant us all to see it.”

Although she agreed with the other girl, Eleanor shrugged. “That’s just how he is.”

“I’m sure.” Lily sat down on her bed, her fingers nervously tapping out a beat on her thighs. “Did you ever think that he’s doing all this for a reason? That he’s using you?”

It was like the other girl had been reading her mind, or just that Lily was a much quicker in realising things for what they really were. Lily was being nice to her, it seemed, but could she also be trying to poison Eleanor’s mind against Sirius? The way that he’d been so happy, so boyishly gleeful, each time they’d kissed made her wonder if he was doing this for something more noble than a simple prank. He said that he was desperate, that none of the other girls would understand, but she would. He had sought her out, had begged her to listen to him, had stayed to ask her even though she threw the bitterest of insults at him. And he had kissed her. She couldn’t forget that, no matter how much she still couldn’t decide if she’d really actually enjoyed it.

After a few minutes, she realised that she hadn’t yet responded to Lily’s question. Blushing again, she looked up into Lily’s impossibly-coloured eyes. No one should be allowed to have eyes like that.

“He has a good reason and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” she said, surprising herself with how mature and impressive it sounded. “I won’t let him hurt me.”

Lily nodded, not looking at all pleased. “Alright, if that’s how you want it to be.” She stood up and moved towards the door. “Just be careful, Eleanor.”

Becoming less sure of herself by the minute, Eleanor faked a smile. It must have been painstakingly obvious that she wasn’t really happy about anything at all. “Thanks, Lily. I will.”

When the other girl had left, Eleanor stood up, only to collapse on her bed, her mind almost full of Sirius. What did she feel about him? What did she know of him, other than what she had heard from other people? He had pushed himself into her life, and within a day, had nearly pushed himself into her heart. She remembered the little moan she had made as he had first pressed his lips to her throat, and the feeling of his hands touching her waist, her face, her body. But those things were only physical. He knew how to laugh, but there was always the little bit of darkness in his eyes that made the laughter seem so distant, so unreal. She liked how he made her felt, but did she actually like him?

Now that was the question. Screw Shakespeare. He knew nothing about real life.

Chapter 3: The Fool on the Hill
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Three


It was the morning of a Hogsmeade weekend when Eleanor hurled herself through the portrait door and smack into the spare form of one Remus J. Lupin. He fell backwards and she barely kept herself from falling on top of him. Most fortunately for him, the rug in that part of the Common Room was still reasonably soft, preventing him from adding to the bruises that dotted his arms beneath the thick jumper he wore.

“Oh Merlin! Are you alright, Remus? Godric’s girdle, I’m sorry!” She reached down to help him rise. His face was deathly pale and were those half-healed scratch marks on his face? It must have been another of the recurring illnesses that plagued him at least once a month. Eleanor could not imagine being ill all the time like that.

“I’m fine, no worries. I was looking for you anyway, Eleanor.” His voice was extremely soft, still maintaining the higher tones of the young teen although he was well past sixteen.

“I see,” she replied, flailing her empty hands and biting her lip.

Remus lowered himself into a chair. “Sirius isn’t doing too well today. It seems he’s caught what I have.”

With an intake of breath, Eleanor collapsed onto a pile of cushions behind the couch.

“Really? That’s terrible!”

“Indeed.”

“Shouldn’t he be taken to the Hospital Wing?”

Remus’ cheeks coloured. “Not really. I still have enough medicine left over to share with him.” He paused, then added, “I’d rather people didn’t think that it was contagious. It would cause trouble, too much trouble.”

“Of course. Can I see him?”

No! He’s too ill for visitors.”

“What about James and Peter?”

“They’ve gone off to Hogsmeade. You should join them. Sirius would want that.”

A day with James Potter, who’d be off mooning after Lily Evans, and Peter Pettigrew, who’d be raiding the candy shop with every last penny he owned. Oh yes, that was definitely the sort of Hogsmeade weekend she’d been planning.

“I’ll find something to do.”

“Good.” He pushed himself out of the chair and began to turn away.

“When will I be able to see him?” She was starting to sound like the heroine of a bad romantic novel. Perhaps she ought to stop reading those things.

“He’ll be better enough to attend classes on Monday.”

Nothing about being available to meet with her. Eleanor sighed, leaning back in the cushions as she watched Remus climb up the stairs to his dormitory, holding onto the handrail with more care than should have been needed. Just how ill was he? How ill could Sirius be? Chin in hand, she began to think.

“So you’ve heard about Sirius?”

Two very blue eyes were looking down at her from the back of the couch.

“Yeah, I have.” She didn’t move to look up at him. After all, he was only Peter Pettigrew.

“Are you going to come with us then?”

“Maybe.”

“Don’t tell me you’d only come because of Sirius. He’s not worth it, really.” Even his voice wasn’t that pleasant to listen to. It was like he was always whining about something. “All he does is hang about the Three Broomsticks for a sighting of Madam Rosmerta so she’ll give him a free drink.”

“Doesn’t he also like the Shrieking Shack?”

Peter nodded a bit too enthusiastically. “His next favourite spot. Him and Remus are always going out to that place.”

Eleanor asked, “Why just with Remus? What about you others?”

The same redness that had passed across Remus’ face now appeared on Peter’s. “I don’t like it there much. It’s really haunted, you know.”

“And James?”

“He’s trying to catch Evans’ eye. Can’t do that over at the Shrieking Shack.”

There was a silence between them. Most of the other students had already gone off to Hogsmeade, running off through the snow like primary school children on the first winter’s day. She saw James among them, walking along beside Lily Evans, whose cheeks were flushed with more than the chill. Eleanor snorted. Obviously Evans couldn’t follow her own advice, not even with the boy she claimed to be the most priggish and impudent bastard in the school.

Her eyes drifted towards the staircase.

“Remus won’t let you see him.”

She turned to glare at Peter, who was still staring down at her with a wide eyed, but knowing, expression on his small face.

“We might as well get going.” It wasn’t nice when people read other people’s minds.

~ * * * ~

After having spent a holiday in the company of a boy one’s age, some girls would run off to their female friends and have a long, long, long chat about how the boy looked, or how he acted, or all the wonderful things he did for her. Eleanor, however, did not have any friends she could talk to in such a way, and furthermore, she was certainly not going to gossip to anyone about her day with Peter Pettigrew. It had been bad enough to receive smirks from the Slytherins and gruffaws from the Ravenclaws, but even the Hufflepuffs had giggled when they saw Eleanor Rigby and Peter Pettigrew. They must have believed that Sirius had already dumped her for better stock, leaving her to the less-loving hands of his friend. Well, that is if you really believed that someone as proud and royal as Sirius Black could ever be friends with someone like Pettigrew. Many thought it quite a laughable idea, Eleanor among them.

She just didn’t find it funny when she was connected to the unrealistic friendship between the most handsome boy at Hogwarts and his lessor, parasitic follower.

Of course, she worried that their whispers were true, that Sirius had found someone better, which would have been any other girl in the school other than Perdita Parkinson, who resembled a gorilla on her good days. He had needed to teach Eleanor how to kiss, how to act, how to talk, how to do anything that had to do with being a girlfriend. The other girls wouldn’t have needed that – they all seemed experienced in these things, like it was some sort of intuition. Just another thing that Eleanor had missed out on without really knowing or understanding how.

What if Sirius had spent the entire day with another girl after having gotten his best friend to blow off “the other girl” he had gone out with for a total of five days, eight hours, and three minutes. That would have been a record time for both of them – the shortest for him, the longest for her. There was too big of a distance between them, filled only by Eleanor’s fantasies.

She ran back into the Gryffindor Common Room, running over some first years who should have known better than to stand and chat behind the portrait door. Skipping the stairs two at a time – a trial for her lungs – she flew into the seventh year boys’ dormitory and fell over a trunk. Whose it was, she didn’t care, but whoever it was had a shipload of junk in it.

“Ah, I thought you’d come.” Sirius was sitting up in bed, his hair perfectly dishevelled.

Eleanor dragged herself off the ground. “Feeling better?”

“Mostly. Bored more than anything.”

He did look bored, but not very sick other than the bright flush on his cheeks. It might have been a sign of fever.

“I was worried about you.” Worried that he was cheating, more specifically.

His smile looked genuine. “That’s good. Maybe next time I’ll get you to take care of me. At least then I’d know I wouldn’t be do damned bored. Remus’ worse than a mother hen.”

She laughed in spite of herself. He grinned in response.

“He cares for you, that’s all,” she said between laughs.

A small frown appeared on his face and disappeared in the same moment. “Too much.” He began to cough, a deep hacking sound that resonated through his body. Eleanor jumped forward to help him, but he waved her away.

“It’s that bloody potion he gave me.”

“You shouldn’t let him bully you.”

“It keeps me humble.”

“I don’t think you have to worry about that.”

“Why? Because there’s no hope of it ever happening?”

“Something like that.”

He waved a hand in the air. “Well at least I chose someone honest!”

“Would you prefer it if I lied to you?” She ventured to sit on the corner of the bed furthest from him, hoping that none of the others would arrive and think the worst.

“It depends on what type of relationship you want.”

Now that was a loaded statement.

“What sort of relationship do we have?”

“Can we tell this soon? It’s been what – five days?”

“And a bit.” She refused to admit that she’d been counting every minute since their meeting on the Astronomy Tower.

He pursed his lips. “So in that much time, what have we done?”

“Um....” Kissed a lot? Could she actually say that to him with a straight face?

“Not much, then.”

She looked away from his eyes. “Today was supposed to be important.”

He clenched his hands on the bedspread. “I’m sorry, Ellie.”

“There’s always next time, I guess.”

“Of course.” He was trying too hard to sound optimistic.

“So I’ll go back down and finish McGonagall’s essay, then.”

He grimaced. “Yeah, I better start on that.”

She reached into the trunk at the foot of his bed and yanked out a parchment. She tossed it and a quill at him. “You better get started. It’s two whole rolls she’s wanting.”

Sirius swore – not under his breath as was his wont – and flattened the parchment on his lap. He didn’t even bother to wink at her this time. Maybe he was too sick to have remembered. After all, she was only Eleanor, no one special, not even to him, her boyfriend.

When she reentered the Common Room, the only ones there were James and Lily, who were in deep conversation about their rounds as Head Boy and Girl. Though, by the way that he put his arm on the couch behind her, Eleanor wondered just how many rounds the two of them would do before they ran off for the best snogging places in the school. Lily’s eyes flickered over to where Eleanor stood at the foot of the stairs. It was only after that moment the Head Girl of Hogwarts pushed James’ arm away. She too remembered her own advice.

Eleanor stalked out of Gryffindor Tower and off to the library. If she was lucky, maybe she’d come across a Ravenclaw bored enough to help her find the books she needed for McGonagall’s essay of doom.

She spent a very boring afternoon in the library, which was perhaps her least favourite room of the entire school. All those books, all the dust, all the smartness that filled the atmosphere... it was enough to send her sneezing into the second floor lavatory. You know which one, the one that no one likes to use because of Moaning Myrtle. That should tell you, dear reader, just how serious the situation was when it came to Eleanor retreating to the Hogwarts library.

Once she had obtained the correct volume from the correct Ravenclaw who happened to know the correct location – by memory too, fancy that! – she took a desk close to a window and gazed out at the snowy grounds, doing anything but read her book. Half an hour later, there were still no pages turned and no words written on her parchment. Head resting on an upturned palm, Eleanor dreamt of many things, many things that just happened to include the face of Sirius Black.

Then she heard the voices. That was never a good thing.

“So the never left the dormitory?” It was an unfamiliar girl that spoke from behind the next row of shelves.

“That whole time?” asked another.

“Not once. Their excuse was crappy, to say the least.” The third spoke with authority.

“You mean–”

“Yes,” the third voice interrupted. “Of course, what else?”

“But why?”

There was a grunt of exasperation. “Stop being such an idiot. It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah, but maybe–”

“It’s the truth. Sally said that Ronnie saw them together.”

“That’s disgusting. Why them, of all the boys?”

Some hushed whispers filled the air for a moment, then one of the girls spoke clearly.

“It’s why he started going out with her, you know. To cover it all up.”

A laugh. “And she’s too naive to notice.”

The third voice waited for the laughter to silence before saying, “Well, wouldn’t you pretend too, just to have the chance to be with him?”

“Not if he’s–”

“Shut up! People’ll hear you!”

There was a pause.

“Yeah, I would too. It’d be worth it.”

Another laugh, this time more subdued, almost mournful. They left not long after.

Eleanor sighed, lost in thought and daydream. What the girls had said was interesting, but who it alluded to, she could guess, but she wasn’t entirely sure. It’d be too much of a coincidence for those girls to be talking about her at just the right time and place so that she’d hear them. No, that was too easy. It was just rumour anyways, and everyone knew that rumours were hardly ever true, and definitely not trustworthy.

Chapter 4: Hello, Goodbye
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A/N: Just to let you know, the first half of this chapter was forced out in a period of intense writer's (and thinking) block, so it may not be as "good" as my usual. The end of the chapter, however, actually contains a semblance of plot, so no one can say it's just filler. :P Thanks to all my readers and reviewers!



gorgeous image by Shirahime!

Chapter Four


It never occurred to Eleanor that, as the girlfriend of the most popular boy in school, she was eligible for increased social benefits, including friends, followers, and a makeover. She would not have minded the first, but would any of the girls at school really like her for who she was and look past the fact that they were all bitterly jealous of her new position? That was not the type of friendship she wanted. As for the second, she wouldn’t like having people like Peter following her about all the time. Surely they would get in the way? The latter was something she never even contemplated because she could not imagine herself looking any other way. She had always been the fat, short, and stupid one – a nicer hairstyle and cosmetics would not improve anything about her. In Eleanor’s eyes, ugly people would always be ugly.

She had gone up to the Astronomy Tower once again. This time, however, she was not followed. It was a good place to think, to be alone, to pretend that being alone really wasn’t all that bad. The wind was sweeter than before, carrying vague hints of spring in its fingers. She let it blow into her face, pushing back the stringy strands of hair from her forehead. The best part about wearing spectacles was never having to close one’s eyes in a wind, and Eleanor loved this one thing that others could not experience or understand. She refused to stand near the battlements, instead choosing to lean against the tower door. It was a good way of preventing any interruption of her thoughts, at least.

Did she even have any thoughts right now? She thought herself rather thoughtless, especially around Sirius. They always did what Sirius wanted, even if it meant taking a walk to the Shrieking Shack when Eleanor would much rather have been drinking tea at Madam Puddifoot’s. He tended to show her off when someone happened upon them in the halls when she would rather hide away as soon as someone came by.

To all appearances, it was the perfect relationship, unlike the tremulous pseudo-relationship between James Potter and Lily. One minute, they’d be arguing, the next laughing with each other. Eleanor would watch them and wonder how something that looked so flawed could be love.

Did she actually like Sirius Black?

The answer “of course! who doesn’t like him?” wasn’t enough anymore. Sirius was always very polite, making sure that she was happy enough, but she lied when he asked how she felt. Before this, she’d never lied much at all. Feeling falsities drop from her lips wasn’t something she wanted to repeat. It was another thing she wasn’t happy about.

There were footsteps on the stairs. Eleanor stepped away in time to escape being hit by the door smashing open. Two figures emerged, their faces connected at the mouth and their bodies connected pretty much everywhere else. While they were otherwise occupied, Eleanor fled down the tower stairs, making sure to close the door behind her. She was sure that they wouldn’t want to be seen, not in their current state.

Walking through the corridors, Eleanor felt somewhat better. It must have been her fault that she was feeling terrible. All the other girls never minded when their boyfriends were overbearing. That seemed to be the average situation among the couples of the school. Lily and James weren’t counted in that category, but that wasn’t a big surprise. One could never place Lily Evans in any normal type of role – she was too perfect for that. If it was in Eleanor’s nature to scowl, she would have at that moment. The shallow frown on her face was a poor substitute.

“Ellie? Where are you going?”

It was Sirius.

She stopped and blinked, her heart racing.

“Is something wrong?” He looked worried, though she could not meet his eyes to see if it were true. What poison had the girls’ words shot into her heart? They were jealous, they’d admitted it, but surely they wouldn’t come up with things like that just because they were jealous? They knew something about Sirius that Eleanor could not possibly guess at, but what?

Sirius was approaching her, his mouth opening to speak.

Should she ask him? Would he respond or, if he did, would he tell the truth?

Did it even matter?

“Eleanor, are you ill?”

She wished it was that simple.

“No.”

“You look bothered about something.”

That, she was.

“It’s nothing.” Wasn’t it always?

“Are you sure?”

At least he acted like he cared.

“No.”

As soon as she spoke the word, Eleanor’s eyes widened. She was not supposed to say that, but she couldn’t help it could she? Stupid, honest, little Eleanor.

“Ellie, please....” His hand touched her arm. A casual brush that could have meant the world. And it did.

She sniffed. Another cold, she presumed. Wonderful – it was just what she needed, a dribble of booger hanging off the tip of her nose as she tried to speak with Sirius. The option of wiping it on her sleeve was no more open to her – she didn’t want to look like an infant, after all.

“We should talk. I’ve been neglecting you lately.” He was smiling reassuringly, as though she was a temperamental infant, or was there now a negative light painting over all his features, even that wondrous smile?

“I agree,” she mouthed between sniffles.

One of his elegant eyebrows rose towards his hairline. “About the first or the second?”

Something pulled at the corners of her mouth. “Well... um....”

With a grin, he patted her shoulder. “Actually, don’t answer that. Best not to.”

Now what? They were just standing there in the corridor, his hand on her shoulder and hers itching to wipe her sleeve across her flooding nose. It was a dreadful feeling, but she did not want to leave him. Not when there was the possibility of something happening that would return those sensations that flitted through her memory like drifting leaves on a summer’s day. All the feelings of miserableness and doubt were ebbing. Only a small part of her wondered how long it would take for them to return.

“Where do you want to go?” she asked.

He shrugged like he always did. “Wherever. Somewhere with food preferably.”

This brought out a laugh from Eleanor. “Where else?”

She was smiling now, and not only because of the prospect of food. It was times like this, the little, insignificant moments, in which she actually felt that Sirius and her could be friends. She never would have said that they were actually friends – she did not aspire to such heights – but she saw the potential of it, and that meant something, a lot of something. One would almost think that Eleanor knew why Sirius had asked her out, knew of the desperation that fuelled his actions, knew of the importance of the normality’s appearance.

They came out of the kitchens together, his arm slung around her shoulders. She felt a smile on her face, though the fullness of her stomach gave her discomfort. Once again, she had nearly eaten as much as he, and everyone knew that Sirius Black was the biggest eater in Gryffindor. Lucky for him, it never showed.

He was laughing at something, and she was sure that it was her. Who else was there? The corridors by the dungeons were never busy, other than the rare hungry student and sneaky Slytherins lurking in dark corners. Eleanor could have sworn she caught sight of slimy Severus Snape, his pale nose betraying his place by the door to the potions lab, but she said nothing to Sirius about it. No point in it, really.

She and Sirius slowly made their way back up staircase after staircase after staircase. It was cruel and unusual punishments to have placed the kitchens so far away from Gryffindor tower while the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs – definitely less deserving – had their Common Rooms so close. They must have felt the eat of the giant ovens through the walls. Sirius bemoaned the unfortunate architecture of the schools – Salzaar and Helga must have been secret gourmands all those years back – while Eleanor walked beside him in silence. It was nice enough to be with him, to have his arm around her and his happy voice in her ears, however much she wished her shoulders weren’t quite so wide and her body that squeezable under his hands. He had to lean over to land a kiss on her cheek or whisper nothingness in her ear. Did her drab hair smell like grease or tropical flowers? Did he feel the spots on her face when his lips touched her cheek? Would he prefer to be holding a tall, thin, gorgeous, flawless, blonde with a ravishing figure that he would want to touch and hold and kiss and make love to at every possible moment of the day?

Eleanor blinked, pulling away from him a bit. Her breath was coming too heavily, she was becoming overheated. The climb was too much to do all at once.

“Ellie? Gods, what is it now?”

He even sounded a bit impatient. Her head was swimming with the way he had said the words as though her continued problems were a bother to him, that she was a bother to him.

She could not speak. There was no breath to. Leaning in towards her stomach, Eleanor closed her eyes, wishing that either the ground would swallow her up or that he’d kiss her again – maybe then she’d take his air, his life, all of him. The blackness was coming.

“Ellie!”

He was holding her now, pulling her upright and away from the stairs. Could he pick her up? Would that be possible with her monstrous and terrible weight? What was making her more faint – her shortness or breath or the description of what she should have been to be worthy of Sirius? Yes, worthy. From the moment he had asked her to go out with him, she had known. She’d always known of why he’d done it and why he was forced to. She had always known and that was why her description of the perfect girlfriend was so untrue, so untrue. Hidden in her mind was the truth, and only at that moment of faintness, of swooning in Sirius’ arms did she understand everything.

And that was when she fainted for real.

~ * * * ~


“Fainted?”

“Dead away?”

“Where?”

“On the main stair. Can you believe it?”

“Was Sirius there?”

“She fell on him.”

“Is he in the Hospital Wing too then?”

“Don’t be cruel! He didn’t get hurt.”

“But you said–”

“Shut up! Someone’s coming.”

It was the girls again, clucking like hens fighting over which was to get the last kernel. They lounged in the Gryffindor Common Room, realigning themselves as soon as an eligible male happened to pass. As soon as the portrait door would open, they’d sit all straight and toss their heads, allowing the electric glow of their hair – from a few well-shot wand sparks – to shine in the light from the fire. Once, they’d done it for Peter Pettrigrew, not knowing who it was until too late. Now they waited a split second first, just in case.

Lily walked past them, rolling her eyes. Pathetic. She slammed the portrait door shut with greater force than necessary and hurried towards the Hospital Wing, her robes billowing behind her in a flattering sort of way. She’d shoved her Head Girl duties onto Potter for the evening so that she could go specially to see Eleanor, poor girl. The whole school was abuzz with the news, and being no better about it than those stupid girls. She wanted to blame Sirius for Eleanor’s troubles, since Eleanor had never had trouble before he’d gone and asked her out for who-knows-what reason.

It was the closest that Lily Evans ever came to outright glowering.

Sirius was sitting at Eleanor’s beside when Lily entered the Hospital Wing. He wasn’t holding Eleanor’s hand or anything. He just sat there, arms crossed and frowning. Either he didn’t want to be there at all, or there was something else on his mind.

He looked up at Lily’s entrance. “Hey, Evans. Here to inspect?”

“No. Though it’s probably your fault.”

He shrugged. “As usual.”

Lily put her hands on her hips. “Tell me what happened.”

“Haven’t you already heard? I’m sure the gossip ring has already passed it down to you.”

“Don’t be difficult, Black.”

“I’m not the easy sort.”

“What?”

This last came in a groggy voice from Eleanor, whose eyes flickered open, then closed again. She groaned.

“Bloody hell.”

Sirius rose. “You’re awake.”

“Obviously,” Lily said, moving closer.

He glared at her, then turned back to Eleanor. “Do you want some water?”

Eleanor nodded, her eyes opening once again.

Lily was almost touched at the delicate way that Sirius handled Eleanor as he held the glass to her dry lips. Their eyes met, Sirius smiling and Eleanor blushing. Lily wondered just how close the two of them were. Two figures, by all appearances closely connected until one looked closer and saw that, however much they were together, they were entirely alone. What was it about Sirius that made him such a lonely boy? His grey eyes, no matter how mischievous or playful, always held sorrow in their depths, sorrow and secrets. That was the life of Sirius Black.

“What happened?” Eleanor asked with a weak cough.

Sirius and Lily glanced at one another.

“Don’t you remember, Ellie?” Sirius sat back in his chair, resting his chin on his hand.

“We walked up the stairs, you and I, then I got short of breath. Right?”

He shrugged. “That’s it.”

Eleanor stared up at the ceiling. “What were we talking about?”

Lily wondered where all of this was going.

Sirius frowned, his eyes searching. “I don’t think we were at the time.”

“Oh.” Eleanor pursed her lips, her brow scrunching into deep furrows. “That’s strange.”

“Why?”

She bit on the side of her thumbnail. “I just remember thinking something.”

“What sort of something?” Lily asked, shifting her weight onto her other foot.

“That’s the thing,” Eleanor said around her nail. “I remember thinking something but I don’t remember what kind of something I was thinking of. Just that–” She looked down at the sheets.

“Just what?” Lily stepped forward, eyes glinting.

“Well... I don’t know.”

“It might help you to remember.”

Eleanor’s eyes sought out Sirius. “Just that it was something about Sirius.”

The party in question narrowed his eyes. “That’s natural, isn’t it? You thinking of me.”

Lily sniffed. “It depends what she was thinking of you, Black.”

“She’d naturally only think good things.”

“Are you sure of that?”

Sirius looked back at Eleanor, who, as the memory of the stray thought trickled back into her consciousness, began to blush, first pink, then a guilty shade of red.

“It wasn’t a very nice thought,” she admitted.

“Oh.” Sirius pushed back the hair from his forehead.

“Oh, indeed,” was Lily’s response. “It shouldn’t matter all that much. I think rotten things of Potter all the time.”

“That’s because you think him a git.”

“He is sometimes.”

“I think we’re getting beyond the point, Evans.”

Eleanor was shrinking back into the pillows. If she tried any harder, she’d disappear.

“So it’s a matter of no importance.” Lily lifted her chin and raised an eyebrow in a most perfect manner.

“Of course not.” Sirius leaned back in the chair, balancing it on the rear legs.

“You might as well go back to Gryffindor Tower then. Remus will be missing you.”

Sirius’ eyes widened. Eleanor’s were already wide, so they could not get any wider.

“What the hell...?”

“It’s not true, is it, Sirius?” Eleanor’s voice was no more than a squeak.

He turned to her. “Why would it be?”

Her hands plucked at a lose thread on the sheet. “You said they were talking about you....”

“Well not because of that. I’m surprised you’d think that, Ellie.”

“I am too.” But he wasn’t listening to her anymore.

Sirius stood up, his face red and his eyes blazing. He snarled at Lily as he passed her.

“Look what you did to her. Now she’s one of them.”

Lily only lifted her head higher, so that she could appear to look down at him although he rose many inches above her. “Better than to be your naive fool, Black.”

Sirius stopped at the door, but did not turn. It looked as though he was about to say something, but what it was or who it was to, neither Lily nor Eleanor would ever know. After a sigh, both bitter and angry, Sirius continued on his way, fists clenched. If Snape was still about, he’d have a lot to worry about.

Eleanor watched him go, still confused. She leaned back and closed her eyes, piecing everything together in her mind – all the words they’d spoken, all the things she’d heard. Lily said nothing, just stared out the window with a frown. It didn’t matter what Lily was doing anyways, not when Eleanor was working things through in her mind, making it all make sense in some peculiar way of hers. The way that she felt about him. The way she felt now that he had left. The way she felt when he had talked kindly to her and acted like he cared in such a way as to make him actually sincere in more than appearances. It was all about appearances, wasn’t it? This whole thing, everything that had happened, all went back to what it meant to look like something to someone else. It all came back to Shakespeare, stupid old Shakespeare who seemed to know everything and nothing. The whole bloody world was a stage, and Eleanor was the failed understudy that everyone had booed off the stage. She hadn’t won over the hero with her beauty and wiles. She hadn’t been able to fend off the rivals popping up from both sides of the stage. She hadn’t been able to do a single bloody thing right in all of this and now she felt wretched about it all.

So she began to cry. Lily glanced over at the sound of the heart-wrenching sobs that caused the whole bed to shake. Eleanor’s spectacles were in danger of crashing to the floor, hanging from careless fingers numb from intense and bitter suffering of the most terrible kind. She sounded as though she was about to die of heartbreak. Maybe she was. Or maybe it was just another of those things that sounded or looked like it was one thing when it was really another.

What confused Eleanor the most was that, although she made it apparent to others that she was taken by Sirius Black and frequently told herself that she, in fact, was not, she really was in love with him. It was beyond the handsomeness and perfect that he conveyed – there was something in him that was as simple an awkward as she, and Eleanor yearned to reach out to that part of him, then everything would be just right. Not perfect – no, she never expected that – just right.

“I need to get him back.” There was so much determination in the voice that rang out through the sobs that Lily looked back again.

“What did you say, Eleanor?”

“I must have been wrong.” Something strange lurked within Eleanor’s dull eyes.

“About what?” Lily had the feeling that she was talking to herself. Why was it always like this with Eleanor?

“Sirius would never do that. He’s too... too...”

“Eleanor–”

“I love him too much for that.”

“You what?”

“Gods, why didn’t I understand before?”

Lily gave up trying to ask questions of the clearly ill and hallucinating girl.

“I’ll go there and win him back, and then it’ll be fine.”

With a sigh, Lily tried one last time. “It won’t work, you know.”

“Rumours are never true, anyway.”

Lily shook her head and walked away. She knew when she was coming up against a stone wall. Eleanor was too much in love to care. Too much in love with perfection – the one thing she’d never have.

Chapter 5: Got To Get You Into My Life
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loverly image by Shirahime!

Five


Madam Pomfrey forced her to remain in the Hospital Wing until after supper the following day, which was unfortunate. The smells from the Great Hall were still permeating through the corridors as Eleanor passed to go looking for Sirius. The students were exiting the Great Hall at the moment she came down the stairs, leaning on the banister rather harder than she would have liked to admit. Her head was still a bit woozy, so she stopped to clean her spectacles, watching the stream of students flood up or down the great staircase to their common rooms. Some of them looked at her, quickly looking away if they caught her eye, while others wouldn’t even look at her. Rumour had passed again, somehow condemning her.

When someone began to hum “Eleanor Rigby” another person elbowed him sharply in the side, causing a cry of pain to interrupt the melody.

Right not, Eleanor wouldn’t have minded a face by the door to hide herself behind.

Then she saw him. He was striding out of the Hall, hands stuffed deep in the pockets of his robes, walking between Remus and Peter, James lagging behind, trying to catch a glimpse of Lily. Sirius had a dark look on his face, even still, and scowled at his friends’ attempts to placate him. Even Remus’ soft voice could not change the expression on Sirius’ face, nor could the slight touch on the arm with delicate, though scarred, fingers.

Their voices came into hearing as they drew near.

“Just give it a few days, Sirius, then it’ll all blow over.”

“He’s right, Padfoot. With the way that Prongs is going at it, they’re be something new for them to talk about anyways.”

“I heard that, Wormtail.” James popped his head between them.

“Well, it’s true!” Peter threw up his hands in defence.

“Shut up, you two! This is serious,” Remus hissed, nails biting into Sirius’ arm.

“Sirius, indeed,” James said with a grin, gaining himself another glare from Remus.

“Come on, Moony. Lighten up.” James adjusted his glasses, eyes still scanning the thinning crowd. “Padfoot’s not going to get any better with you being all defensive about him.”

With a sigh, Sirius shrugged out of Remus’ grasp. “I’m fine. Nothing to worry about.”

“You sound convincing,” Peter muttered, causing Eleanor to giggle.

The four of them turned towards her like a great wall dividing her from the rest of the world. She flushed red and focussed her eyes on a beetle scuttling across the ground by Sirius’ foot.

“Ellie.”

“Sirius.” It sounded more like a squeak than his name.

He passed by, continuing on up the stairs, saying only her name in a damning tone, like it was her fault that all of this – whatever it was – had been her fault, like she had done something to permanently damage him for life.

The other three hesitated. James tugged at the collar of his robes. Peter stared at Sirius with a slightly open mouth. Only Remus appeared calm, looking at Eleanor with an expression of intense pity, his eyes a dim blueish grey. He reached out and touched Eleanor’s hand, a gentle touch that surprised her. Where in Godric’s name had he gotten all those scars?

“I’m sorry, Eleanor. He’s being irrational.”

She nodded slowly, the motion only worsening her condition.

“I muddled it up again, didn’t I?”

“No.” It was Peter who answered, having regained control of his jaw.

All their eyes turned towards him. “Explain.” Remus’ voice went tense.

Peter shrugged, mimicking the fluid motion Sirius was the expert of. “Things didn’t go as he wanted them to, and now he’s taking it out on you, which isn’t at all fair.”

“Life isn’t fair, Wormtail,” James contributed, leaning against the banister below Eleanor.

“That’s taking it a bit far.”

Remus rolled his eyes for Eleanor’s benefit. “Continue with your explanation, Wormtail.”

“Well, what I meant to say was that Sirius ought to face up to things, not go about hiding and being so bloody elusive about everything.” Peter flushed up to the line of his straw-like hair, leaving Eleanor to wonder how much he knew, how much any of them knew, or how much they knew about what she knew.

“So, in other words,” she offered, half-biting her lip. “I should be running up after him right now?” Her eyes measured the distance between where they stood and Sirius’ receding footsteps.

“It’s a plan,” said James.

“You’re not in any condition to do that,” said Remus.

“One of us could get him to come back down,” said Peter.

James sighed dramatically. “Like he would.”

“It’s better than making her run after him!”

“Stop it!” Remus let go of Eleanor’s hand and started up the stairs. “I’ll get him.”

Once he was out of earshot, James added, “Oh yes you will, Moony.”

Peter’s eyes widened while his mouth frowned. “Shouldn’t you be doing your rounds, Prongs? Evans’ll be waiting for you.”

James jumped up, knocking his glasses askew. “Merlin! Why didn’t you say so sooner, Wormtail! She’ll kill me for certain now.” He raced down towards the dungeons, supposedly to the potions laboratory.

Peter allowed himself a smile, then turned to Eleanor. “I’ll help you back up, if you want. Madam Pomfrey’ll have our heads if you get sick again.” He put out his arm for her to take, but she declined with a shake of her head, instead holding firmly to the banister.

“I’m fine, thanks.” She let some coldness creep into her voice. He was everything Sirius was not, everything that she told herself she did not want.

He shrugged again, but remained beside her, pacing himself to her slow ascent back up the staircase. She wished now that she’d just gone up to her dormitory instead of coming down to all these things she could hardly understand. What did Sirius blame her for? Doubting him, perhaps? For revealing weakness? For being honest about all the things going on around her that she both did, and did not, quite understand? The very thought of all this thinking made the pain return to her head, the swirling feeling rather like the sound Moaning Myrtle made when being swept back into the depths of the Hogwarts plumbing.

They came across Remus and Sirius on the fourth floor landing, Remus’ hand on Sirius’ arm as though it belonged there. The sight both shook Eleanor to the roots, yet also incited a feeling of such intense pity for the pale, sallow boy with the scars on his hands. Was Remus Lupin any different, any better off than she was? Yes, he was part of the most popular group in the entire school, but he was different from them, too. He had not Sirius’ natural sophistication, nor James’ exuberant sense of humour, not even Peter’s ability to become whatever the situation needed him to be. Remus was just himself, perhaps more of a mystery than even Sirius Black. In Remus’ frailty, she saw her own.

“Sirius, you are going to take Eleanor back to Gryffindor Tower.” It was an order. There was nothing in Remus’ voice that allowed for disobedience.

Grey eyes intense, Sirius shrugged, more carelessly than ever, and crossed his arms. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

“It should.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Moony.”

Remus sighed, resigned, and signalled for Peter to follow him. “Doesn’t deserve a bloody thing,” he muttered, just loud enough for each of them to hear. He started up the stairs.

Peter flashed a wan smile in Eleanor’s direction, then was also gone.

Sirius watched them climb the stairs, acting as though Eleanor wasn’t there at all. She waited, head pounding, for judgement to come. It was worse than writing one of McGonagall’s infamous exams. At least there she knew how badly she’d fail. Here, she wasn’t so sure, but that just could have been her hope coming up again.

He was not looking as well as usual. Up close, she could see the smudges beneath his eyes and the slack lines of his mouth. Even the eyes themselves, still seething in glum rage, bespoke of at least one sleepless night. Sirius was a haunted wizard, which only made it worse for Eleanor. There was something of the saviour syndrome within her blood, and as much as she herself needing saving, she wanted to save Sirius too.

If he started running up a tower now, she wouldn’t be able to follow. They’d come a long time from that point in their lives, that point that came all of two weeks in the past, interrupting lives, exploding rumours, and changing the insignificant world of Eleanor Digby. But it was like they’d traded placing – her chasing him instead of the other way around – and it made her wonder even more what she had done to hurt him.

“We should talk,” she offered, pushing her glasses back up her nose. “Maybe it’s just a misunderstanding.”

He blinked. “What is?”

She waved her hand outwards. “All this.”

Nothing.

“Why won’t you talk to me? What did I do?” Her voice broke, revealing more than she thought she felt. She needed him to respond, to explain it all for her minimal mind, make the world seem clear once again and set things to right.

“Why did you refuse to say what you thought of me, back in the Hospital Wing?” His only answer another question.

She looked down at her mismatched stockings. “I didn’t want to say it in front of Lily.”

“So it was her that you didn’t trust?”

Her gaze shot upwards. “Who else? Godric’s girdle, Sirius, what’s your problem?”

She couldn’t remember the last time that she’d felt anger, or whatever she was feeling at that moment. It was like an emotion she’d never felt, or at least never expressed. He seemed surprised by it too.

“Nothing. Just nothing.” He started to walk away.

His foot touched the first step when she pushed herself forward.

“Stop. Please, Sirius. Don’t leave.”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

Because I love you? No, that wouldn’t sound right.

“We need to work this out.”

“To what purpose?” All of his focus was on the stairs.

She wobbled on her feet, wondering if she should reach for him. “You want to leave it like this, right here, now?”

He laughed. He actually laughed. Eleanor wanted to shove him down the stairs.

“Leave what?”

Perhaps throttling him first was a good idea.

She took a deep breath. Calm. Be calm.

“It wasn’t real, was it? None of it?”

Something in him started to shatter. His shoulders were not so straight as before.

“Ellie, don’t look at it like that....”

“How else am I supposed to? I do nothing and you suddenly hate me.” Could she fake tears? All the good heroines could, but she didn’t exactly fit with that archetype.

“I don’t hate you.”

She snorted, then regretted it. Too pig-ish, like that ugly Crabbe.

“So you treat all your girlfriends like this?”

“I wouldn’t know. You’ve been the only one.”

It was like they’d always said, but she didn’t want to believe it.

“But all those times....”

“My firsts too, in a way.”

She had to open her mouth once or twice before her voice came out. “It didn’t feel like it.”

A tiny smile appeared on his face. “I’m glad you liked it.”

“I never said that.”

His laugh this time was softer, more real. “You didn’t need to, Ellie.”

Things were half-way better, but she couldn’t trust her perception anymore. It had seemed better most of the time until he’d walked out of the Hospital Wing. He had too many sides, there was too much of him for her to ever fully grasp. It was like trying to take hold of the fog, just when you think you’ve gotten it, it’s eluded you once again. Sirius was the fog, she could see it in the colour of his eyes.

“Why can’t you just tell me?” she asked, her glasses slipping down her nose again.

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand. It wouldn’t be fair to you.”

“It isn’t now, either.”

“They say that ignorance is bliss.”

Did he realise that he was looking ignorance in the face? She wore glasses, was slightly more plump than her mother would have liked, and had a ridiculous, though endearing, name.

“It’s you that doesn’t get it, Sirius. I don’t want to be like that anymore.”

He paused. Everything about him just stopped in time. His eyes were open, probably as wide as they could go, which wasn’t very much in comparison to the bug-eyes of Eleanor, glaring out from behind her glasses. He looked rather like a statue, the statue of a noble young man, foot on the first stair to his high-flying destiny, wherever or whatever that may have been. It was, she noted, the best way for him to be, showing himself off without any of the other stuff that he came with. It made him simpler, more like her.

When he finally moved, it was to turn his face away and move up to the next stair.

“I need to go to bed. We’ll talk about it later.”

“Why not now?”

“I’m tired.” He sounded peevish, but she couldn’t let him go.

“From what?”

He waved a hand absently. “From living.”

She frowned, trying to understand.

He smiled, an expression filled with the utmost pity. “I didn’t think that you would like that answer, Ellie. Good night.”

What would a proper heroine do in this sort of situation? The handsome, troubled hero was creeping up the stairs, back to his solitude, leaving her with mouth hanging open, rooted to the spot. It wasn’t even a regular sort of situation for any good heroine to be stuck in. Most of the books she read had the woman sweeping the stairs, jewellery and tears glittering in the moonlight as she left her lover with the greatest distain for his failings.

Of course, in Eleanor’s case, everything had to be the wrong way around.

He was on the next landing when her voice called up to him.

“How am I supposed to get back up?”

Sirius leaned over the edge of the stairs. “Apparition?”

“I’m not old enough yet.”

He tilted his head to the side. “Oh.”

With a heavy sigh, perhaps the heaviest in history, he made his way back down and took her arm in his.

“You ruined my glamorous exit,” he said with a shake of his head.

She furrowed her brows, hoping to catch the joke in his eyes.

“Guess I can’t ask you to carry me.”

There was a moment of silence, of perfect stillness. Now they were statues together, staring at each other, looking and feeling equally foolish.

Sirius was the first to start laughing. It was like the sound he had made that day on the Astronomy Tower, the gleeful, amazing laugh that melted her from head to toe, possibly making it impossible for him to do anything but carry her back to Gryffindor Tower.

“No one can be mad at you for long, Ellie, m’love.” He wrapped his arm around her waist. “I can forget whatever it was you said, if you can forgive me for being the most rotten boyfriend in the history of the world.” He was pulling her close, pressing his hand into her flesh.

Had she done it? Just with some stupid, idiotic words, she could get him back? Whatever happened to those passionate soliloquies spoken with tears flinging themselves down the heroine’s cheeks as the hero disowned his love for her? What sort of thing was it between them when all that was needed was a joke to get him to like her again?

She noticed how she did not say “to love her again.” Perhaps she had given up after all.

“I was serious about talking about it all in the morning.” He yawned, tilting his head back in a way that made him look like a howling dog.

Eleanor nodded, snuggling closer to him. The spinning in her head had stopped, but now it was her heart’s turn to go wild for some strange reason. It was a perfect moment, to be standing there with him, more perfect than their awkward (at least on her side) kisses, all the showing off he did, all the things that should have made her feel like she had accomplished something in the social universe of Hogwarts. No, this perfection was a lot more simple, a feeling that wasn’t quite explicable and had never been mentioned in any of those books she’d read.

So what was it?

Not the hero-worship, or the need to have him like her, or the desire for a bit of his perfection, yet it was some sort of perfection, a great achievement that was still beyond her understanding, but not beyond her reach.

Lily had seen it in her eyes earlier, but Eleanor had not realised it then. It all came to her now, in a flash of rationality.

The words bubbled to her lips. “I love you, Sirius.”

He yawned again, his ears too plugged with the noise to hear her.

Chapter 6: Let It Be
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Six


The moonlight cast a ghastly glow upon the floor and the clothes strewn across it. Each star seemed to twinkle a romantic melody to accompany the rustling of the soft wind through the snow-covered evergreens. A gentle frost had kissed the windows, glassing them over with pinwheels of ice which glistened like crystal with every flicker of candlelight from within. Nature had decked itself out with every possible romantic detail imagined by the worst of romantic writers, fitting itself exactly to the scene playing out in Eleanor’s heart. She lay with her face towards the window, her face flushed with the most supreme joy that any adolescent girl could ever possibly experience.

She stretched out on her bed, hiding her face from the moonlight, not wanting to let her blushes show. Yes, there was so much hope in every fragment of her being and it was impossible to see it for anything else but the full and absolute emotion of true love. That is, it would have been impossible if anyone had been looking at her just then, but she was, unfortunately, very much alone on this most romantic night as she experienced such romantic feelings. Sirius had left her in the Common Room, giving her a wan smile before leaping up the stairs to his dormitory. The other girls did not even glance her way as she entered, but that was no different than before. If anything, going out with Sirius had made her less popular than ever before, but their jealousy meant nothing to her. If they, like Lily, had approached her with an outstretched hand, she would not have taken it, taken their supposed friendship. She had Sirius, and there was nothing more in the world that she could possibly want.

The night passed without her eyes shutting for a single moment. No fatigue touched her consciousness as sparkling dreams passed before her vision. All the amazing things that she and Sirius would do together tomorrow, all the days after, even for their entire lives. Yes, she and Sirius could be together forever and ever and ever, and they would be the best of friends. Maybe he’d even kiss her again. That would be nice. More than nice.

She stared at the window, waiting for the pinkish colour of dawn to breach the darkness. How long ago was it that she stared out from the tower, trying to ward off the unwanted – was it even possible that she had once never wanted Sirius? – attentions of one of Those Boys. He had pursued her and he had asked her for his help and he had begged her to go out with him. And now, could it be that it had gone far beyond a simple coupling of convenience. He had needed her, and now she needed him as well. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but in time, it would all work out for the two of them. Whatever problems he was going through, she could, and would, help him.

Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she felt in the dark for her clothes. No point in wearing her spectacles when it was dark – it’d make no difference. The other girls snored quietly on, shifting only when Eleanor stubbed her toe against someone’s trunk and stumbled from the room, hopping on one foot while holding her breath. She closed the door with a snap behind her and collapsed on the top of the stairs, rubbing her sore toe.

The carpet was soft on her stockinged feet – her shoes had disappeared beneath the bed, possibly devoured by the Monster Book of Monsters – as she crept down to the Common Room. The fire had nearly burnt itself out, but there was enough flicker in the coals for a good poking to spark it up again. Crackling filled the empty air and Eleanor sunk herself into the couch, ready to lie in wait for him to come down. He always came down early for breakfast so that he’d get all the best food. She smiled to herself, closing her eyes to picture the expression on his face as he raced towards the portrait hole, calling out to his friends that he’d have all the food eaten before they made it to the Great Hall.

Her eyes remained closed for a considerable amount of time. It wasn’t until she felt a hand shaking her awake that she bothered to open them again. Even then it was tempting to go back to sleep, just so that she could dream more.

“Eleanor. What are you doing here?” It was Pettigrew, his blue eyes displaying some measure of worry. He took too much damn pleasure in saying her name.

The muttered words that emerged from her mouth were garbled and must have smelled very bad. She closed her mouth, swallowed, then tried again. “Got up early. Couldn’t sleep.”

Peter nodded, failing to raise his eyebrow. “I see. Well, you missed breakfast.”

“What!” She sat up and fell down again, her head going fuzzy.

“It’s near on ten. Lucky for you it’s Saturday.” He sat on the edge of the couch, fidgeting like one who couldn’t get comfortable. Or one feeling guilty.

She covered her eyes with one hand. “I’m still sick. It wouldn’t make a difference.”

“Oh.” There was a pause. He shifted his weight again. “Sirius went back up to his room. He didn’t want to disturb you.”

Now she wanted to be sick. Why couldn’t Sirius have come and woken her with a kiss instead of leaving his toady to wake her? Sirius wasn’t making any sense at all, with all the strange things he was doing. It was like... no, just like as though... not that either.... How could she describe it? The words just weren’t coming right.

“Is he any different than yesterday?”

His laugh was sudden and harsh. “He’s different everyday.”

It was the only correct way to really think of Sirius, as someone always changing. She thought back to all the times she had spent with him, from the time in the tower, to the empty classroom, to Hogsmeade, to the Hospital Wing, to the stairs... he’d never been the same twice. Always something had changed within him. Had she ever truly known the real Sirius Black?

“Yeah. You’re right.” It didn’t bother her to admit it. She was wrong most of the time.

They remained in position, without looking at each other. He moved to scratch an itch, or fiddle with his hands, or adjust the way his tie sat against his collar. She stared at the fire, wishing she could feel its heat. All the pretty romantic things in her mind were fading into the cold that was spreading from wherever such things spread. If Sirius could just come down for a moment, she’d feel better. At least she’d know that he cared. Or was it that he cared because he didn’t want to bother her? Maybe Peter was just being a pain in the arse and Sirius hadn’t even sent him to wake her up. Sirius was probably sprawled across his bed, drawing symbols in the fog on his window glass, thinking that she was asleep and being too gentlemanly to bother her.

In that case, she should go up to him.

The portrait door was pushed open by James, whose hands were full of various breakfast foods. He took a seat in the chair nearest the fire, tossing Eleanor a muffin and Peter a crumpet.

“Hope you like blueberry,” he told Eleanor. “It’s all they had left.”

She shrugged and took a bite, trying not to grimace as a piece of bran caught in her throat. Disgusting stuff, but it was something edible. Peter pulled apart his crumpet piece by piece, nibbling on each before swallowing. James inhaled the various tarts he’d nicked from the table, finishing all of them before Eleanor had managed half her muffin.

“Well then”, he said, nestling himself into the chair. What’s on schedule today?”

Eleanor opened her mouth to reply. Peter hurriedly swallowed to interrupt, “Isn’t there a Quidditch game? Or at least a practice?”

James’ eyebrow arched more gracefully than even Sirius’s ever could. His wide spectacles only made the action more visible, magnifying the movement of every muscle.

“Don’t you pay attention to these things, Wormtail? We don’t play again until after the Christmas hols.”

A light flush rose up Peter’s cheeks. His eyes dropped to the rug. “Yeah, forgot.”

From the looks of it, these sorts of things happened a lot among the two of them. Eleanor noticed how they were not so comfortable together, not as much as they should have been for friends since first year. James was forced in his words and actions, exaggerating his haughtiness, even against his friend, in order to mask something else. And Peter was more nervous than he otherwise was. She remembered how he’d been willing to help her on the stairs the previous night, how he’d been more gentlemanly than Sirius.

Where was Remus?

She pushed herself out of the couch’s grasp and looked at the other chairs. Lily was at the portrait door, having just turned to answer someone’s question. The other girls were by the window, discussing their plans for the holidays. Other Gryffindors were spread around the room, playing games or studying or talking. It could have just been that Remus had gone to the library, where it seemed that Lily was going to look up some things for the Potions essay.

Yes, that sounded right. He was always going to the library, though she hadn’t seen him there. Not that she went to the library too much except for the odd time. And it was a large room, so chances were that you wouldn’t see everyone who was there. Sirius never went there.

Why was he staying up in his room? Moping? He did that a lot sometimes, just brooding about life in general. That faraway look would come into his eyes and she wouldn’t be able to get a word from him for a very long set of minutes. Or maybe he was still upset about yesterday and needed some time to himself.

“Eleanor? You dropped your muffin.” Peter’s voice drifted into her ears.

There were crumbs all over her lap. With hope, the blueberries hadn’t stained her robes.

One of the dormitory doors opened and footsteps came down the stairs. Neglecting her muffin, Eleanor sprang into the air, her heart lifting and eyes brightening. Yes, yes, it had to be Sirius! She remained rooted to the floor, staring and waiting for him to appear.

The hair colour was dark enough, the height tall enough, but not quite. She flopped back down onto the couch, nearly making Peter fall off the other end. He made a face while James tried not to laugh, holding his belly with one hand while the other covered his mouth. It looked rather like he was in danger of throwing up his entire breakfast. Eleanor stared at her muffin on the floor and sighed as though the whole world could not heal the cleft growing within her heart. All her hopes were becoming banished with every moment that passed within him in her sight. It was a terrible greed, and she knew that she ought to just be thankful that he had bothered to speak with her in the first place, but she still needed more.

Once again, she leapt from her seat, shaking crumbs all over the rug.

“I’m going up to see him.”

James and Peter exchanged glances, then gaped at her.

Eleanor crossed her arms, taking a deep breath. “I will not wait for him any more.” She let each syllable fall off her tongue in just the right way. Tossing her head in the air, she nearly lost her spectacles, but the length of her hair must have made the action look very fetching.

Peter’s mouth had shaped itself into an O. Only James had the courage to speak.

“Are you really sure you want to do that, Eleanor?”

She frowned. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

James looked over at Peter, whose jaw dropped further. “You’re not thinking–” Peter managed to stammer.

“It’d be for the best.”

“I don’t like it when people go hysterical.”

Sinking deeper into the chair, James gave a half-shrug. “Might not happen.”

“How do you think Lily would react if you–” Peter stopped to bite his lip over the last word.

“You’ve got a point there.” James looked glum.

They sat in silence for a moment, leaving Eleanor to stand between them, looking very bewildered. Her eyes darted to one, then the other, then back again.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her hands going cold.

James set up his expression to mirror Eleanor’s – his eyes were huge behind his spectacles.

“What, what? Is there something wrong?”

Peter put his head in his hands. “Prongs, don’t be such an arse.”

The glumness had gone from James’ expression; it rarely lasted long.

“I know I have one, so how can I be one?”

Eleanor pulled on the creases in her robes, then adjusted her glasses. Stupid boys. Could they not think in a straight line for more than two minutes? At least Sirius wasn’t like this. He, at least, had some sort of depth.

“I’m going up.” She reminded herself of the broken phonograph in her grandmama’s house.

James frowned, some semblance of seriousness creeping into the set of his lips.

“If you want. We won’t stop you.” He glared at Peter, who had begun to rise, his mouth opening to object.

They both held the gaze for what seemed an eternity, arguing without saying a word. Eleanor wouldn’t have minded knowing that sort of silent telepathy. Would be a handy thing to know how to do.

“Fine.” Peter crashed back into the couch. Eleanor was glad that she wasn’t sitting on the other end. Her head might have touched the ceiling.

While Peter and James were glaring at each other, Eleanor slowly backed away.

“I’ll be off then. See you later.”

She felt their eyes upon her as she crept up the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. It was curious that girls were allowed up this stair, but boys were not permitted up to the girls’. Surely some of the girls would risk it to– No, probably not. Eleanor knew that she wouldn’t, not even to be with Sirius. Dormitories were hardly private places – everyone you roomed with would know everything about you before the end of a week, much less after spending all your years of schooling with them. At least, that was what it was like in her own dormitory. She had no idea if it would be the same or different when it came to boys. It was always hard to say how they were different.

First door, only six more. Two. Three. Four. She stopped for a moment to catch her breath – why in Merlin’s names were these towers so high? Five. Six. Here it was, a closed door.

Her hand hesitated, not quite touching the knob. Why was she stopping? What was there that caused this drop in her confidence and everything else that had, so far, fuelled her need for Sirius? Was it those noises from the other side of the door? Morgana’s bauble, what on earth could make noises like that?

She blinked once. Then she took a deep breath, tasting the strange tang in the air.

Her fingers closed around the doorknob. No sense knocking, he was probably just reading a book or looking out the window or whatever sort of innocent thing he did when he closeted himself up here all alone. She leaned her arm against the door, feeling her muscles strain to push it open. Finally, it gave in under her pressure and moved inwards. The heat from the room hit Eleanor in the face and the sounds immediately grew louder. It was someone whispering and breathing hard, as though they’d just gone for a long run in the cold and had lost their voice.

Strange. She didn’t know Sirius to be the running type.

The room was rather more dark than she would have thought natural for this time of the morning, especially with the snow making everything more bright. Were the windows covered? That wouldn’t be a good idea if he was up here to read.

A dim lamp burning across the room. A flash of skin as it passed from behind the bed hangings. An arm reached out to turn down the lamp.

Eleanor stepped forward. “Hello? Sirius?”

The voice stilled. The bed moved as someone shifted upon it. Then silence.

She did not want to move aside the curtain. It was partially the politeness which had been instilled within her since childhood, perhaps infanthood, but there was something else too. Was it fear? The tiniest part of her had always been afraid of him and all his intensity. He was so much of a person that it could be hard to grasp just who Sirius Black was .

“Who is it?” Sirius’ voice came from behind the hangings. It was not a nice tone of voice.
Suddenly, Eleanor did not want to be there.

“Wormtail? Honestly, if you came up here for some stupid reason...?

Her eyes were on the floor. Just like the one in her dormitory. Well worn by many feet, stockinged, booted, and bare.

“No. It’s not him.”

Sirius groaned. “Eleanor.”

Not Ellie. Was her next breath to be a sigh of relief because the mask had finally fallen from his face?

“Yes, me.”

There was another whisper. Not Sirius’ voice, but she could not tell anything other than that.

The seconds ticked past. Eleanor waited in the centre of the room, willing her feet to turn back towards the door.

“I can’t talk to you just yet, Ellie.”

No, of course he couldn’t.

“I’ll come down when I’m ready.”

She wasn’t stupid.

“Then we can talk about everything.”

Including the person in his bed?

“Okay?”

The last two syllables grated on her ear. He couldn’t have cared less if it was alright with her, as long as the timing suited him. Maybe he’d have her waiting down there in the Common Room all day while he dillied and dallied with his bed-warmer. Of all the bloody blasted things he could have said, that one little word was the thing that topped it all off.

“No, it isn’t.”

Another bout of whispering, this time between the two of them. The second voice was a touch lower than she expected.

“Well I’m sorry, there’s no choice then.”

The skin on her cheeks flushed a bright scarlet, setting off her spots quite perfectly. Her short fingers curled into fists. Even her hair seemed to stand on end. There was something in her eyes behind the spectacles that, if Sirius had seen it, he might have considered changing his answer.

One of her feet went forward, followed by the other. Thump, thump her feet sounded on the floor. She was beside the opening of the bed hangings, her fingers slipping between the folds as they gripped the fabric and yanked it over. The brass rings at the top jingled, letting go in places as the hangings fell to the floor, but not falling so that they’d cover the two sitting on the bed. She saw them, and wished for Merlin’s sake that the bed hanging had used a lot more sense and fallen in a more tasteful manner.

She blinked, wishing that she could actually close her eyes completely.

Sirius’ eyes had never looked so wide before, so innocent yet guilty. He was more pale than she expected. Didn’t all the girls say that he had the most wonderful summer tan? Just another rumour, like everything had been. Yes, everything. Including all the things that people said about him, about them. Bloody hell. And she had tried to think better of him, tried to understand that he was just troubled, not... not... not like this.

She was standing there, staring at them with an open mouth. Of course she had known; the knowledge had been inside her somewhere, hiding behind all the shadows of the love she thought she’d had for him. No, the love was still there. She still wanted to hear him say her name, touch her hand, smile at her. Yet, she wasn’t jealous either, maybe because this was what he wanted, was why he’d come to her needing her help.

He’d used her because she was stupid.

He knew that she was trustworthy?

She had seen it in the silent glance shared between Remus and Sirius, even between Peter and James, who knew the truth but dared not speak of it. They’d tried to protect her, tried to keep her away, but she was too damned naive to notice it through their jokes and sudden worried expressions.

Oh damn, damn, damn.

Why couldn’t he say something?

She had seen it in the slight touch of Remus’ hand on Sirius’ arm. More than friendly.

“I won’t tell anyone.” Idiotic words, but they were all she could bear to speak. Everyone else knew, anyways. She’d been the only one who hadn’t.

Sirius wouldn’t look at her. It was Remus that bothered to reply. “Thank you.”

The note of sincerity in his voice warmed her. He, at least, cared. He was the better of the two, the one more worthy.

She turned and left the room, closing the door with a snap behind her. Another door of life closing, never to be reopened. She did not wonder what they were doing now that she was gone. It would only make the guilt tear away at her heart.

Each step rose up to meet her feet as she trudged down to the Common Room. Peter was still there on the couch, staring into the fire as though waiting for a message through the Floo. No James, though. He’d probably gone off to follow Lily, not wanting to wait and watch the fun upstairs. Good man. Perhaps he had hope after all.

She took a seat beside Peter, not bothering to greet him. He didn’t bother to look up.

They sat there, doing nothing, looking empty.

Time passed. She began to wonder why he was acting all quiet. She had a reason. What in Merlin’s name did he have?

The notes of a song came to her mind, floating through and noisily taking over. Somehow the song seemed to work, now. It fit who she was and what she’d always be.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

She didn’t realise that she’d sung them aloud until Peter turned to her, brow furled. But he remained silent, as though waiting for that next line.

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

There was something in his blue eyes – not that bad of a colour, really – something that made her wonder....

Not a step down. More like a step across. Equals instead of worshipper and worshipped.

“I thought you didn’t like that song,” he said.

She could see her reflection in his eyes.

Another minute passed. The room was awfully quiet. She could hear him breathing.

“I think I like it now.” She could feel the smile growing on her face.

His face responded in kind.

Not a happy ending, but pretty damn close.





The two lines of lyric are from the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby".

Thanks to everyone for their great support during this story. I couldn't have done it without all of you.
=)

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