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A/N: Hi there again... a bunch of thanks to Rosie, my beta-reader (you rock!) and to all of those who gave me some wonderful feedback through reviews. I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as the other. Have fun!


CHATPTER 5
Reckless... Or not.


“We really need to know what’s happened,” Harry said for at least the tenth time as he threw away the useless edition of the Daily Prophet.

Ron exhaled, shaking his head with frustration, and Ginny stared in the air pensively. She had been the one to sneak the paper in under her shirt unnoticed from her friend’s house─ but it had been quite a waste of time. They had just found a short article saying there had been a wizard-fight near a village called Little Hangleton; but they weren’t even sure it was related to what was bothering the Order.

Ginny retrieved the Daily Prophet from under the bed where it had slid, pointed her wand at it and set it alight so that all that remained were ashes.

“Scourgify.” Ron cleared the floor morosely.

Hermione kept quiet. Should she tell them about Snape? She could already anticipate their reactions: “you waited all this time to tell us?”; “how come you’re aware of this?”; “Snape’s hurt? Better him than someone else…”

But as she hesitated, Remus’s voice rang in her head again; that and the tone of a man who had just realized Snape was a person worth knowing. No. She wouldn’t reveal anything. In normal circumstances Remus would never have disclosed such a secret. He had just been nervous, that had been it.

Nervous.

It was a word that described her feelings well lately. The last few days had been… strange. Many Order members had come and gone, staying for a meal or only a few minutes, all wearing equally disgruntled expressions and muttering under their breath every time they thought Ron, Harry, Ginny or Hermione weren’t looking.

Remus was also away from time to time, but he never told them where he went.

Hermione sighed. Their relationship had become so formal that it hurt. Every time they saw each other it was the same settled routine: a quiet hello, a few insignificant words exchanged and most of the time a deep, embarrassed silence that kept them both looking in opposite directions.

Her feelings were there. She was only starting to discover just how complex these emotions were… they were different, all as vast as a thousand universes, all entwined together in a scheme she wouldn’t have been able to understand after years of analysis. It was odd, to want to be around Remus and, at the same time, to wish never to see him again.

***

He couldn’t help thinking about her. It was all a nightmare. It would have been hard enough to see her occasionally─ but having to live under the same roof was too much. Even if he was sometimes at St Mungo’s─ Snape hadn’t awoken since he had spoken to him─ he still had to face Hermione all the time: they shared meals, they passed each other, and they sat together in the living room. God, why was it so hard?

Unable to stay seated at his desk any longer, Remus decided to stretch his legs. Ron, Harry, Ginny and Hermione were probably in their rooms playing Exploding Snap, reading or practicing magic spells. His feet carried him to the first floor, where their rooms were─ and surprisingly he didn’t meet the silence he had anticipated.

“What’s going on?” Remus banged the door open. In the boy’s room, Ron and Harry were facing Ginny, who seemed quite mad; Ron’s desk had been reduced to smoke, and Harry’s nose was bleeding. Hermione was nowhere to be seen.

What’s going on?” Ginny repeated, fuming. “I’ll tell you what’s going on!”

Ron gave a swift glance at Remus and then cast a warning look at Ginny, but she ignored him. “Ron─” Ginny pointed a finger at her brother, “Wants to become an Auror, so he pretended I was the enemy.”

Remus stood perplex in the doorway.

“It’s all right, no one’s hurt─” Ron started.

“NO?” Ginny shouted, her hands on her hips. “GOOD THING I DUCKED, RON!” she screamed, “OR I WOULD HAVE ENDED UP LIKE THAT DESK!”

Ron seemed hurt. “Harry’s as responsible as I am, why don’t you blame him too for a change?”

An odd expression passed over Ginny’s face, and it looked as though she was about to respond before she closed her mouth again.

“Enough,” Remus said firmly. “Ginny, I’ll have a word with them.”

Ginny cast Ron a dark glance before walking out. Remus repaired Ron’s desk in a wave of the wand and raised an eyebrow. “Care to explain?”

“We just tried some curses we’d read, that’s all,” Harry muttered, not quite meeting Remus’s eyes. “It was just both of us, we were in control of the situation. But then Ginny came in, and we almost hit her─”

“We want to be Aurors,” Ron added. “We have to get some training!”

“You need instructions and someone to make sure everything goes right when you try curses,” Remus said severely. “That’s way I’m here to help when we train in the afternoon─”

“In truth we haven’t had training sessions for five days,” Harry retorted. “Our appointment at the Ministry is coming closer─”

Remus exhaled. “It’s not my fault if I’m away; it’s no reason to be foolhardy.”

“Come on, Remus, you sound like Hermione─”

“Do I?” Remus replied quietly.

“Look, we’re sorry,” Ron grumbled. “Can we at least continue, say, some stunning spells?”

“Stunning spells if you want,” Remus said. He turned on his heels. He didn’t like having to be the strict one; but it seemed Ron and Harry were getting reckless. He hated to admit it, but they were acting exactly as Sirius had, doing stupid things just because they were frustrated.

He was halfway up the stairs again when he heard a scream. Turning back with annoyance, he went back to the boy’s room.

“It’s Hermione─” Harry said quickly. “I was stunning Ron when she walked in─”

Remus rushed to her. She was lying, immobile, on the floor; blood was dripping from a large cut on her arm, where she had apparently hit a corner of Harry’s wardrobe. For a moment his heart stopped. Was she─

“Enervate,” Remus said. He clenched his wand tightly, feeling like cursing Harry and Ron. They had hurt her. Hurt.

Hermione got up quickly when the stunning spell wore off. “I’m all right,” she murmured. It felt so stupid being here on the floor in front of them all. “I’ll─ I’ll get this cleaned up,” she pointed her chin at her arm and walked out quickly, feeling Remus’s eyes on her back.

Remus didn’t move for a good ten seconds, rooted on the spot, staring at the place where she had been. “I’ll have to tell Molly,” he finally told Ron and Harry in a feeble voice.

***

“They what?” Molly exploded.

“I wanted you to know… but it wasn’t that bad,” Remus muttered, somehow thinking Molly was over-reacting. It was one thing to tell her what had happened─ but he didn’t want her to lock Ron and Harry in their room for the rest of the month.

“Not that bad?” Molly shrieked. “They could have killed themselves!”

“They were having fun…” He didn’t want to be too harsh on them. Either they tried to understand Harry and Ron, and things would get better. Or else they used repression… and god only knew what they’d end up doing. “Let them be… they’re young,” Remus said, chasing the image of Sirius from his mind.

They are young?” Molly scowled. “Who teaches them tricks? You do! You’re about one year older than they are.”

Remus stiffened. Unfortunately, no, he wasn’t as young as they were. He wished so, because then he wouldn’t have so many horrors in his past. He could see in his mind’s eyes the bodies of Death Eaters. He had killed them. He, Remus Lupin, had murdered those men and women, just because he had been an Order member who had come across them, just because he was an insignificant soldier in a war threatening to engulf an entire world. It was he who had muttered the spell; not an ugly, monstrous Death Eater, not an evil Dark Lord called Voldemort.

Just he.

They fought for freedom, and justice, and good. And yet they were no better than the other side, were they?

“I’m sorry─” Molly said quickly when she caught sight of his face. “I didn’t mean─”

“I’m fine,” he said quietly. “Honestly,” he forced himself to add as she hesitated.

It was a lie; he wasn’t all right at all.

***

“We thought you all needed something to do with your hands,” Molly announced to them later in the afternoon. Hermione had a glimpse of Ron and Harry while they exchanged a glance.

“You’ll all have your own rooms from now on,” Mr Weasley added brightly. “There are two rooms available; one of you can have the twins’ old bedroom on the first floor and the other the free room on the second floor next to Remus’s. You’ll share Remus’s bathroom, he said it doesn’t bother him.”

“That room’s kind of gloomy,” Ginny pointed out.

“Well it’ll be your jobs over the next couple of days to make it fit for human habitation then,” Molly replied.

“What room d’you want?” Harry asked right after that.

“Dunno,” Ron shrugged. “I don’t necessarily want to move. I bet they just did that to separate us.”

“I’d be happy to take any room,” Ginny declared.

“Same here,” Hermione said with a sinking feeling. To share Remus’s floor would turn out to be beyond her courage, she feared─ yet there was no way she’d say that out loud.

“All right,” Harry decided. “I’ll move upstairs if it doesn’t bother you.”

“Then I’d rather take Fred and George’s old room, Hermione,” Ginny said. “I’m tired of routine.”

Relief washed over Hermione. “That’s fine with me.” At least she wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning dreading to open her door in case he was there…

The feeling of guilt that had never truly left her these past days came back in a rush. She needed to find a way out of it. Remus was way out of her league… he was just the former friend of Harry’s father… Harry’s father, she told herself. He was there as a guardian, and working hard against Voldemort. He had no time for anything else… he probably didn’t even consider anything else anyway. How could she have been so stupid to think he would want to be with her?

Still─ why were they so embarrassed in each other’s presence? Was she the only one feeling uneasy? Perhaps Remus was just acting as he always had, and she had been so keen to see something else that she had made things up.

But he had cared for her when she had been stunned… he had stared at her in a way nobody ever had, as though longing to reach out for her… as though hating Ron and Harry, suddenly, just because they had stunned her…

“You all right, Hermione?” Harry asked with concern.

“Sure, why?” She replied quickly.

“I dunno… you were sort of… lost in thought.”

Hermione stared at Harry. Lost in thought. What would her friends think of her if ever they knew?

Well, Ginny would certainly understand…

No. Even she wouldn’t. She would think it was a betrayal of trust, her and Remus… And Ron and Harry… same thing…

God. She would have hit herself in frustration.

***

Moving turned out to be a very occupying task. The twins’ old bedroom had been used as a storage room even since the previous year when Fred and George had decided to stay at their joke shop. It was full of a number of things, from old furniture to piles of clothes nobody was wearing anymore; there were also boxes full of silver goblets, dishes, portraits that no one had ever bother to take out. Hermione, with a pang of sadness, realized that these were now Harry’s.

“You want to keep these, Harry?” Remus asked. He had arrived about an hour earlier to help them and was pointing his wand at the boxes of silver plates.

Harry hesitated. “Well… they were Sirius’s…”

“Sirius never considered anything here as his,” Remus replied in a sinister way. He didn’t like thinking about what Sirius would or would not have wanted; but sometimes he was compelled to do it. “We could store them in the attic.”

“Yeah,” Harry seemed quite glad it was Remus who had taken the decision. “Let’s do that.”

“How about these?” Ginny gestured at other large, brown boxes. “What’s in there?”

Ron opened one of them, and quickly banged down the lid. “Nothing,” he said, but everyone else noticed the expression of delight on his face.

“Come on, what’s there?” Harry said playfully. He bent over another box and soon shared Ron’s glee; it was as though Christmas had come early. “Fred and George’s early inventions. All stored here for us to have fun with.”

Ron was holding a large pair of scissors. “I wonder what this does─” He waved it in the air. “What─ arg─ get off me!” the pair of scissors was climbing along his arm. When it reached his ear it turned into Fred’s face─ or George’s─ and started singing in a thunderous, booming voice.


This is private property,
So stop right there, you nosy─


Ron stood petrified. Any of his attempts to pull away his brother’s face from his shoulder, where it was seemingly glued from the base of the neck, only made the voice grow more deafening.

Don’t be stubborn and turn around,
Leave these boxes safe and sound,

Forget the treasures you’re seeking,
Cease at once your rummaging,

You risk much if you go ahead,
Play tricks and have fun instead!



By the time the song ended, Ron was as white as the wall behind him; Harry, Ginny, Remus and Hermione were all howling with laughter. The face turned into a pair of scissors again and fell, lifeless, to the floor.

“That was just to discourage us,” Ron didn’t want to be dispirited. “I bet they put in on top as a warning, but there’s nothing dangerous here─” he dug into the box. Next came a bag of puking pastilles that Hermione recognized at once─ purple and orange─, a couple of fake wands, some tricked chocolate frog cards that also started singing─ Ron hastily declared he was thirsty and zoomed out of the room─; and tens of other items that Ron’s mother, Remus was sure, would not have liked to see.

Ginny moved in the room in the afternoon; so that in the end Hermione was left with a room larger than she needed. The room next to Remus’s took a longer time to clear; it was, as Ginny had pointed out, gloomy.

“Just need a bed!” Ron exclaimed by the time they had changed the wallpaper.

Harry looked around. “Yep.”

The two girls went back down the stairs, leaving Ron and Harry to handle the furniture. Hermione quickly found that her room felt empty; she took her quill and parchment and entered the Drawing Room at the end of the corridor. It was, as she had expected it to be, a lot brighter since the sun was now on this side of the house.

***

Remus had emerged from his room and ended up in front of the drawing room on the first floor. He was about to turn back when he heard the scratching of a quill on a parchment, quite easy to hear because the rest of the corridor was silent. Deciding to find out who it was, he knocked and entered. The door opened smoothly but for a creak at the hinges.

There was a worn-out couch and a table and chairs in a corner. The old Black Tapestry was still there, having resisted all their attempts to put it down.

Hermione raised her head when she saw him enter, and then quickly set her eyes again on her parchment, reddening slightly.

Remus smiled, though not without feeling like he had a sudden stomachache. What on earth was he supposed to tell her now? That Harry or Ron had called for her? That Molly wanted a word? Definitely not.

“So Harry’s moving in then?” he began, coming closer. The Black Tapestry glowed in background, sinister as ever, as though menacing him of death if he dared take a step forward. Another reminder that he had to stay away from it─ and away from her.

“Oh─ yes.” She set down her quill and saw that he was looking at her parchment. She had just finished her conclusion.

“What are you writing?” He gave an attempt at normal conversation.

She stared at him. He sounded genuinely interested. “I’m writing an essay. On─” She paused and then said very fast, “On how the rights of Goblins have changed in the last century.” She hesitated. “I just thought it might help to become part of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures… in case they want to know what I’m capable of writing.” She accompanied her last words with a shrug as though he was going to laugh at her.

Remus simply nodded. A thought crossed her mind; he sounded so interested─ why not? It was a crazy idea; but the words were out before she could stop herself. “Would it be okay if I asked you to─ I mean, to have a look at it?” She felt herself blush.

“Of course,” he replied in a tone than was colder than he would have wished. “I’ll try to give it back to you soon.”

As he grabbed the parchment and rolled it he tried to convince himself that he missed teaching. But he knew perfectly well, when he walked out, that it was just a pitiable attempt at finding excuses.


****************************

A/N: Reviews are welcomed as always: comments, questions, things you liked/disliked... anything! Thanks for sticking with the story and I hope the next chapters won't disappoint you. Great things are planned! (*winks knowingly*).

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