There was an hour and a half in between my last class of the day, which was Potions, and the start of dinner. Although my stomach gave an almighty rumble as I left the dungeons, feeling very pleased with myself for some unknown reason, I decided to head back to the common room to get started on some of my homework. Even though I had tackled a massive pile of it over the weekend, from today’s lessons alone, I had a good five or six hours of work ahead of me. It wasn’t a very good prospect, but the sooner I got it done, the sooner I could finish the crossword puzzle from this morning’s issue of the Daily Prophet.
I sat at one of the many round tables in the common room, my book opened in front of me and quill poised over a fresh sheet of parchment, but for some reason, I couldn’t concentrate. For a few seconds, I forgot what I was even writing about. Shaking my head to myself, I looked down at my book and saw that I had chosen to start with Athrimancy first.
I didn’t get very far into my essay, considering that my stomach let out an unattractive rumble halfway through my first paragraph. Not only that, but like always, my thoughts had started to wander. For some reason, I couldn’t get today’s Potions lesson off my mind. Perhaps it was because of the conversation I had engaged in with Black. Had I really subjected to my mental protests and flirted with the bloke? I shook my head to myself. No, there was no way I had done something so foolish. I was smarter than that, I wasn’t like all the other boy-crazy girls in this school…was I?
My stomach swooped and I slapped my hand to my forehead. Merlin, I was exactly like every other girl in this place, swooning at the sight of his gorgeous gray eyes and his damn silky black hair! I was supposed to be ignoring him with all my might, yet I had done the exact opposite down in the dungeons. I made a silent vow to myself that I would erect the thick, icy wall that was always in place and fortify it to make it stronger whenever I was around Black; I couldn’t let my guard down again. But I hadn’t even noticed that I had let it down until I was laughing with him. Well, not laughing per say, but I certainly did chortle a little bit. Christ, I really was like all the love struck birds in this damn school!
When my stomach rumbled yet again, I decided it was time to head down to dinner. A quick look at my wrist watch told me that dinner had already started. Setting my quill down on the table, I stood up, stretching my arms over my head as I fought off a yawn. The common room was nearly empty; apparently, everyone had decided to gravitate toward the Great Hall at the same time. Following their examples, I stumbled through the portrait hole and toward the Great Hall.
All too soon, my legs had managed to carry me down six flights of stairs. I found myself standing at the foot of the main staircase, the glorious and mouthwatering scents of the delicious platters of food wafting my way. My stomach gave an involuntary growl and I was propelled forward by my legs. The noise level gradually increased as I neared the Great Hall and, as soon as I entered, it was like someone had plugged in one of the Muggle devices that amplified noises. I walked down the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables, looking for an empty space where I could situate myself a good deal way from people.
I had just found a spot between a gaggle of fourth years and a platter of scrumptious looking lamb chops when the most peculiar thing happened.
At first, I wasn’t entirely sure if it had been my imagination or not. Someone was flailing their arms above their head frantically, a wide, pleasant smile on their face. I didn’t know if it was meant for me or not, so I looked over my shoulders. I didn’t see anything on either side, but just to save myself from the embarrassment, I did a little circle on spot, making sure that no one was behind me. There wasn’t anyone standing behind me.
I expected that much.
What I didn’t expected was for people to actually stop eating, their forks mid-air, to stare at me with wide, curious eyes. It was like I had a disease or something. Maybe they thought I was going to whip out some sort of crazy chainsaw-esque device and go mass murderer on their arses. Although it was highly unlikely, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of these people thought I was unstable enough to actually do something like that. Several people blinked owlishly at me, trying to decided if I was doing some sort of strange fertility dance or I was really was as mental as people made me out to be.
Well, that’s to say if people talked about me. You know, if people did gossip about me, I want them to talk about how crazy I was. It was better than being a whore or a prude, wasn’t it? Or a complete bitch because, really, who wanted to be a bitch? Aside from Lucinda Matthews, that is. That girl took pride in being the biggest bitch in the history of Hogwarts.
The person was still flailing around like a fish out of water, but I was still convinced that they must’ve been mistaken. Surely, they couldn’t have been trying to get my attention…
“Eleanor!” A familiar, friendly voice shouted.
Or maybe they were! You know what they say: there’s a first time for everything.
And I assuming that this was my moment to actually sit with people my own age instead of talking with the Gryffindor ghost, Nearly Headless Nick. Sure, the imprint of a departed soul was a very nice bloke to talk to, always interested in what I had to say, but honestly, it would be nice to not have to listen about how horrible death was. Yes, I got that it was incredibly depressing that he wasn’t able to be a part of the Headless Hunt, but I didn’t care all too much. I acted like I did, but I really didn’t. So, sorry Nick, if you ever manage to master the art of Legimens and get inside my head and hear my thoughts. I like you, buddy, but you just complain way too much.
I had been so caught up in my own thoughts about several strange conversations I’d had with Nick over the past few years that I nearly screamed when someone placed their hand on my elbow. I didn’t scream, per say, but I did squeak. Rather unattractively, too. It was like a loud giggle mixed with an obnoxious squeak and a hint of a squeal.
See, I told you it was unattractive.
“It’s okay,” I said, not taking my eyes off the scratched hand which was still holding my elbow. I stared at the hand pointedly until the person removed it. I would’ve felt incredibly awkward looking up into their face while they were still holding onto my arm. Don’t ask why, but I just would’ve.
My eyes widened at the sight of Remus Lupin, drinking in his floppy hair and dazzling eyes. He was smiling in his timid way, but it was so hot on him…erm, what I meant to say was that it worked for him. Yeah, that was it. I didn’t like Remus. He was just a friendly acquaintance that I talked to on rare occasions…
Okay, I’m the worst liar in the entire world. I’ve had a crush on Remus Lupin for as long as I can remember. All right, so maybe not that long, but I think it started somewhere around the middle of fifth year when I said to myself, ‘Self, Remus Lupin got hot.’ Of course, I probably would’ve never noticed that he had gotten ‘hot’ over the summer if it hadn’t been for that delightful little man named Filius Flitwick. Oh, how I mentally thanked Merlin for putting him in this world. We probably didn’t become friendly acquaintances/almost friends under the best conditions, considering that he was tutoring me, that’s how bad I was at Charms, but hey, at least we talked. And I mean like really talked. Not some pleasantries and then got cracking down to business, but actually exchanged pleasant conversation.
So, I might be exaggerating just how much we talked, but I swear it happened!
“Hi,” I breathed, suddenly feeling lightheaded. Oh Merlin, not this again. Shite, there was nothing for me to grab onto.
“Hi,” Remus said back, still grinning. “So, I was wondering if you wanted to join us for dinner?”
What? He wanted me to marry him? Oh yes! I accept!
“Yes.” I answered.
“That’s great,” replied Remus as he started to walk down the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff table. He was moving toward the middle of the table, where he sat with his buddies. I cringed inwardly as we neared the table. Had I really just agreed to sit with Remus and his best mates, one of which just happened to be Sirius Black? How in the name of Merlin’s pants did I get myself into such incredibly sticky situations?
Thankfully, I couldn’t feel any eyes on me as we came to a stop; people were much too busy eating their food. Remus gestured for me to sit down on the bench. I smiled tightly at him as I swung my leg over the bench, my knee cap hitting the lip of the table. I bit the inside of my cheek to prevent from crying out in pain, even if it hadn’t hurt very much, it was just instinct to do so when one got hurt, wasn’t it? No one laughed, much to my relief, and I lowered myself onto the bunch, only to see that I was sitting beside my cheery roommate, Alice Harper.
“Hiya Eleanor!” she said brightly, taking a small bit of her mashed potatoes.
“Hey Alice. How are you?” I asked as I struggled to fight off the feelings of intense awkwardness.
“Good, thanks for asking.” She wiped her mouth with her napkin. “What brings you over here? Don’t you usually sit by yourself?”
Though I loved Alice to death, she had a habit of stating the obvious as well as saying the things that was on everyone’s mind, but no one dared to speak. She was a sweet girl, really, she was, but sometimes, I wish someone would tell her that she should keep some of her words to herself.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, wanting nothing more than to hop off the bench and go running out of the Great Hall at top speed.
“Well,” Alice said, “I’m glad you’re sitting with us. You always look so lo-.”
“Do you want some potatoes, Eleanor?” Remus asked, cutting across Alice before she could finish her sentence.
I shot him a look of thanks, nodded, and wordlessly handed him my plate. It was sort of strange, having Remus slap a massive spoonful of mashed potatoes on my plate; it almost made me feel like a child again. Apparently, I was the only one who felt the least bit awkward, as everyone else was busy spooning - or in some cases, forking - food into their mouths with such seriousness, you would’ve thought that it was some sort of competition.
“Thanks,” I said as he passed the golden plate, which was now loaded with more potatoes that I could ever dream of eating, back to me. Our fingers brushed and, as juvenile as it sounded, I could feel the heat start to rise in my cheeks. Unfortunately, Remus seemed to notice.
“No problem,” He replied, smiling widely.
I lowered my head and began to eat my mashed potatoes, praying to Merlin that I was wrong about Remus seeing the blush in my cheeks. It was already bad enough that I was sitting with people I wasn’t exactly friends with, but now he had seen me blush at the simplest brushing of fingers? How ridiculous was I?
“’Ello,” said a pleasant, familiar voice. I looked up to see that James Potter had dropped onto the bench across from me. He nodded at me, smiling as he began to load his plate up with great amounts of food.
“What kept you?” Remus asked as he cut his steak into pieces. What a polite gentleman.
“Quidditch practice,” James answered after vigorously chewing up the chunk of meat in his mouth and swallowing roughly. He reached across the table and filled up his goblet with pumpkin juice, which he downed in one enormous gulp. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he added, “Padfoot should be along in a minute,” before plunging his spoon into a massive mound of gravy-covered mashed potatoes.
Remus merely nodded before returning to his food. I hadn’t realized that I had stopped eating until Peter brought it to my attention.
“Oh,” I muttered, the heat creeping up my neck as I stared at my plate of food. I blinked a few times, shaking myself out of my comatose state, and hurriedly shoved a too-big piece of steak into my mouth. My nerves were too frayed for me to properly chew my food, which led to my swallowing of a rather large, unmasticated piece of meat. It hurt as it made its way down my throat, scraping the sides of my esophagus.
Maybe if they got caught up in their conversation, I could slip underneath the lip of the table and crawl my way out of the Great Hall. It’s not like anyone would notice that I was crawling out from underneath the table when I reached the end anyway; no one ever noticed me. Ah, the perks of being invisible. They were grand and very valuable in times like these. If that plan failed, I could always feign sickness and rush out of the Great Hall and hurry back to the common room. Of course, I would be shut away in the girls’ dormitory for the rest of the evening and I didn’t exactly want that happening, but if it lowered my chances of encountering Black, then it was a possibility.
I kept my eyes trained on my plate of food, watching as the mound of mashed potatoes slowly dwindled as I forcefully shoved spoonful after spoonful into my mouth. There may not have been enough room in my stomach, but it was distracting me and that was all I needed. I missed my mouth several times, hitting my teeth as well as the tip of my mouth. Naturally, this had escaped my notice, as I kept sending the tiniest peeks over at the entrance to the Great Hall.
The second I saw his shiny black head of hair, I would slink underneath the table and crawl. Yes, I had decided that was the best way to go about making my escape. It was the only way I was going to be able to escape with the hopes of it going unnoticed by Remus and his friends. I sent a cautious look in their general direction and breathed a breath of relief. All three of them, and Alice included, were immersed deep into conversation with one another, most likely discussing a lesson they’d had that day. It would’ve been smart to keep one ear tuned into the conversation in case they asked me a random question, asking for my opinion of the subject matter, but of course, I hadn’t thought ahead.
So when they did ask for my input, I stared at each of their expectant faces in turn, my mouth slightly agape, despite the fact it was full of chewed up meat and potatoes. Swallowing roughly, I cleared my throat and shrugged my shoulders.
“I-I’m not really sure how I feel about that,” I said, trailing off as my sentence became more and more ridiculous.
Neither Alice nor Peter looked peeved by my answer, rather they looked as though they had expected such a thing from me. I wish I could say the same for Remus and Potter, as they were both staring at me with equally incredulous expressions on their faces.
“So you don’t think that women should be given the fair chance of playing for a professional Quidditch team as males are?” James questioned.
Oh, so that’s what the conversation was about.
“I, uh, don’t know much about Quidditch?” I replied, wincing slightly as I waited for their reactions.
“Just because you don’t know much about the sport doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion, Eleanor,” said Remus pointedly.
I wish the floor would just open up and a monstrous earth worm would gobble me up. But nothing of the miracle sort ever happened to me.
“You don’t like Quidditch, do you?” James accused, raising a brow, his voice drenched with contempt.
“No!” I said hurriedly, holding out my hands and accidentally knocking my fork onto the floor. For the love of Circe! I tried to ignore the undeniable sensation of the heat creeping up onto my cheek as I rummaged my brain for a response. “It’s not that I don’t like Quidditch, I just don’t…oh…well, I don’t really understand it.”
“What about it don’t you understand?” Remus inquired, looking curious.
“I get the whole point of throwing that one leather ball - what’s it called?”
“The Quaffle.” James supplied, barely biting back a grimace.
“Yes, that thing. I know you have to throw the Quaffle through the hoops at either end of the field and there are those really heavy balls that the Booters-."
"Beaters. And those 'really heavy balls' are Bludgers."
"Right. I knew that. Then that Snatcher thing-."
“Snitch,” corrected James impatiently.
“Right, the Snitch. All I know is that needs to be caught in order for the game to end and it’s worth a lot of points.” I released a breath, wondering what my fellow Gryffindors would think of me after this revelation.
Much to my surprise, both James and Remus laughed. Not mockingly, thankfully, but in general amusement. But for some unknown reason, that bothered me. They may not have been making fun of me, but still, I didn’t want them laughing at me unless I thought it was funny as well. And I didn’t.
“Why are you laughing?” I snapped, unable to hold back my annoyance. Which was shocking. I was usually good at that sort of thing.
James was the first to sober up, somehow managing to get his incredibly girlish snickers under control. “I think that’s the most I have heard you say at one point in time,” he answered, unable to hide his smirk. “Ever.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but the words never came out. Snapping my jaw shut, I stared at the pair of them for a few more seconds before turning my attention back to my food. I wasn’t even hungry, but I couldn’t look at them. They had confirmed my worst fear: people had noticed me, but they had given up trying to get me to speak.
“Well,” Remus said, breaking the oddly tense silence that fell over our portion of the table. “There’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?”
“Exactly,” James agreed, sending a genuine smile my way. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as Lily made him out to be.
Well, at least I thought he was smiling at me. He pushed himself away from the table, standing up to look over the various heads. “Oi! Padfoot!” He waved his arms in a wide arc and my stomach plummeted toward the ground.
Why, Merlin, why?
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