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"Wake up."

 

Darcy groans and rubs her eyes, the bright sunlight streaming through her window and directly onto her face as the drapes are drawn back. Emily is already dressed, gathering her books into her bag and making her bed by hand. Darcy props herself onto an elbow, watching her for a moment and looking around; it seems they are the last two in their dormitory. Somehow, Emily has always been impervious to hangovers, and it has always made Darcy envious.

 

Closing her eyes again and pulling the blankets back over her head, Darcy feels Emily throwing clothes at her, and her shoes hit her in the chin. Darcy uncovers herself and sits up, her head still spinning and cold sweat soaking her face. "What time is it?" she asks, throat and mouth painfully dry.

 

"Eight," Emily replies. "Breakfast has already started. Put your robes on already, would you? And go brush your teeth. And comb your hair, it's a mess. You've slept in too late to take a bath."

 

"You sure you don't want to just skip the first few classes today? If not all of them?"

 

"Why?" Emily smirks. "Hungover?"

 

"A little bit." Darcy holds her face in her hands and pushes her hair out of her face. It's tangled and knotted from falling asleep with it soaking wet. 

 

"I've been up for an hour already," Emily grins, reaching down into her trunk. She pulls something out of it and holds it up to show Darcy -- it's silvery and shimmering in the sunlight. This makes Darcy sit up straighter in bed. "I went back and grabbed it as soon as I woke up. Now, wake up -- I'm hungry and I want something greasy."

 

The thought of any food makes Darcy's stomach churn, but she slinks out of bed all the same, making sure to brush her teeth for twice as long and asking Emily to help comb the knots out of her long hair. Emily has Darcy sit at the foot of the bed, between her legs, in order to get a better position. 

 

"I forgot to give you my gift last night," Emily says, yanking on Darcy's hair and making her yelp. "They're on your nightstand."

 

Darcy looks in her peripheral vision, seeing nothing but a stack of paperback novels. "The books?" she asks.

 

"You'll love them. But make sure when you read them, you read them alone."

 

"Why?" Darcy asks, and when Emily doesn't answer, it clicks. "Jesus, Emily, you got me romance novels? I should have known. You can't get your hands on that smut quick enough, can you?" Emily chuckles, and Darcy sighs. "Thanks, Emily."

 

At breakfast, owls are already fluttering over the heads of students and dropping mail into breakfast platters, scattering food all over tables. While walking towards the Gryffindor table, Darcy takes a quick look around and notices that everyone she had seen at her party last night either looks like her -- ill, tired, and slightly green in the face -- or like Emily -- bright, alert, and ready for classes to begin. Darcy and Emily sit at the table together, nearer to the end towards the staff table upon the dais.

 

Max, who had been sitting perched on an open windowsill, seems to have been waiting for Darcy to arrive. He gracefully flutters down to her and drops the day's copy of the Daily Prophet in her lap before allowing himself to land on her shoulder. He nuzzles Darcy's head affectionately and she strokes his feathers with one hand, unrolling the paper with her other hand. Max eyes Emily as she cuts up a piece of sausage and she looks over, staring him down.

 

"You're not getting my sausage," Emily growls at him. Max opens his beak and hoots loudly. "Fine, you stupid bird. Just this one." Max eats it right off the fork, making Emily groan in disgust.

 

"At least give him some water, would you?" Darcy asks Emily absentmindedly. 

 

"He's not my owl." But Emily allows Max to drink some water from an extra goblet as Darcy continues to read.

 

But she hasn't opened the paper at all. Darcy's eyes are fixed on the moving picture of Sirius Black on the front page, right above an article about him. She hasn't read it, but the picture of Sirius Black stares up at her, calmer than usual, a grim smile on his face, eyes black and deadened, hair lank and greasy.

 

"Darcy!" Emily shouts in her ear, making Darcy jump near out of her seat. Max, frightened after this sudden movement, hoots loudly again and flies off, back out of the window and towards the owlery. 

 

"What?" Darcy replies, eyebrows furrowed, looking at her friend. Her eyes are wide and her chest is heaving, and the picture of Sirius Black is the only thing she's able to see in her mind's eye.

 

Emily gives Darcy a quick, nervous once over and takes the paper from Darcy's hands, completely ignoring the picture and reading the article underneath. She reads it quickly, lips tight. "He's been sighted close by," she murmurs. "By a Muggle south of here." Emily gives Darcy her paper back. "Are you all right?"

 

"Yeah," Darcy says, pushing her plate of food away and standing up. "I'm fine. I forgot something back in the dormitory -- I'll meet you in class."


After throwing up in a few times in an empty bathroom and splashing ice cold water over her face, Darcy starts to feel a little bit better. She looks at herself in the dirty, cracked mirror. Bags under her eyes from a lack of sleep, face paler than normal, eyes a bright green. It isn't often that she takes long looks at her reflection -- that's more Emily's thing -- but each time she does, it seems like she's aged years since the last time.

 

Darcy's lost near all of her baby fat, and had a long time ago. Her cheeks are not full like Carla's, but hollow -- and they'll remain that way until a few more weeks into the school year after a few good meals. Her high cheekbones jut out, giving her face a sharp and triangular look to it with her pointed chin and her long, thin nose. She closes her eyes, gripping the sides of the sink tight, willing herself not to vomit again. When the bell rings, signaling first classes, Darcy scoops up her bag and heads out the door, pale-faced and still sweating slightly.

 

She won't make it to the dungeons in time for class and she's sure Snape will have something snarky to say about it, but she doesn't care. If she's lucky, he won't realize she's hungover. Darcy rounds the corner quickly and runs into someone, falling backwards onto the floor and spilling books all over the ground, and one of her inkwells smashing as it tumbles from her bag. Muttering to herself and swearing under her breath, she begins to pick up her books, filling her bag again and filling dizzy.

 

"What where the hell you're going next --" Darcy looks up and blushes furiously.

 

"Are you going to finish that sentence?" Lupin replies, the corners of his lips turning upwards. He picks up the last of Darcy's book and hands them to her, fixing her inkwell and rubbing his chest with his other hand. "I'm so sorry. You should slow down. I think you may have broken a few of my ribs."

 

"I'm sorry, Professor. Lucky for you, Madam Pomfrey is an expert at repairing broken bones," Darcy says with a small and impatient smile. "Last year, Harry lost all the bones in his arm and she regrew them all."

 

Lupin pauses, his brow furrowing. "How -- ?"

 

"It's a long story, sir, but a very interesting one, I promise."

 

"Looks like I'm luck again -- you'll have plenty of time to tell me tonight," Lupin chuckles, holding his hands behind his back and rocking on his heels. "Bring your dinner up to my office tonight for your detention. I haven't been feeling all that well lately and I could use some help grading papers. I'm currently drowning in paperwork."

 

"Oh, you remembered that, did you?" Darcy asks helplessly, running a hand through her hair. "Tonight?" She had planned on using that time after dinner to go immediately to sleep and catch up on rest. Lupin nods. "And Emily?"

 

"I'm no fool, Darcy," he laughs. "I know better than to put you and Emily together for detention. She's serving hers tomorrow night."

 

The bell for class rings again and Darcy groans, straightening up and looking at Lupin with wide and pleading eyes. "Professor Snape will kill me if I'm late -- could you walk me to class? Maybe explain the situation? It would mean so much to me, Professor."

 

Lupin clears his throat. "I'd love to help you, Darcy -- truly -- but I'm afraid that if I were to show up with you and excuse you for being late, Snape would kill us both."

 

Darcy clenches her jaw, thanking him brusquely and excusing herself. She shows up exactly six minutes late to Potions class, without Lupin as her escort, and she slips in through the door while Snape's back is turned to find her seat with Emily and Gemma towards the back of the class. Snape continues to write on the blackboard, even as Darcy's chair scrapes against the dungeon floor. Most heads turn towards her and whisper before returning to copying Snape's notes.

 

"He knows you weren't here on time," Emily whispers in her ear as Darcy pulls her Potions book out, as well as some blank parchment, a quill, and the inkwell Lupin had repaired. "Don't think he didn't notice me walking in all by my lonesome."

 

"I was busy getting served my detention," Darcy snaps quietly.

 

"Yeah, he came looking for us both at breakfast. I asked if we could serve our detention together, but Lupin shot that down pretty quick," Emily answers, staring at the blackboard and scribbling on her parchment. "But at least I tried."

 

Snape turns around and looks over the class, his black eyes falling first upon Darcy. She quickly opens her book to a random page and reaches for her completed essay, her handwriting sloppier and more illegible towards the end. Snape flicks his wand and her essay flies to the front of the class and lands right on top of all the others, stacked neatly on his desk. 

 

"Now that Miss Potter has graced us with her presence," Snape begins, sneering at her from behind the curtains of his long, black hair, "perhaps we can begin."

 

"I'm sorry, Professor," Darcy says, embarrassed as everyone watches her. "Professor Lupin ran into me in the corridor and --"

 

"You're not making things any better for yourself," Snape continues, turning his back on her again. "Just be quiet so we can continue."

 

Emily scowls at Darcy, muttering under her breath as he turns around again, "He would have given me a detention and taken points if I'd been late."

 

Fifteen minutes later, Darcy and her friends are setting up their cauldrons and taking ingredients from their bags to brew love potions. Gemma chatters excitedly about the prospect, but Darcy isn't as enthusiastic. "You do realize that he's going to make people try these, right?" Darcy snaps at Gemma. Emily looks up from her cauldron. "And you do realize that because I was late, Snape is going to volunteer me?"

 

"You know he'll give you an antidote," Gemma replies kindly, rolling her eyes and sharing a quick smile with Emily.

 

"You Slytherins have such faith in Snape, it sometimes baffles me," Emily chuckles, adding a few ingredients to her cauldron, double-checking her notes and the blackboard before stirring. "Being a Gryffindor myself -- I don't have much confidence in him, to be honest."

 

"Careful," Gemma warns her with a mocking grin. "Just for that comment, he might not give you the antidote at all."

 

Just short of an hour later, nearly everyone's love potions are complete. The room smells of perfume for the most part, pungent and potent enough to make Darcy's eyes water. Gemma's thick pink bubbling concoction jumps out of her cauldron, splashing onto Emily's hands. She pulls them away quickly and gives her potion a few quick stirs as Snape wanders through the aisles, sniffing and stirring and examining each and every potion, taking a small sample of each person's to grade later.

 

When at last Snape reaches Darcy's table, he looks into Gemma's cauldron first and turns up his nose, handing her an empty phial to fill with her potion. She packs up as Snape moves on to Emily's. She gives him a wide smile that he ignores and does not return, but his look of disgust at the contents of her potion is more evident. Emily shrugs, collects her sample, and throws her ingredients back into her bag, lacking even a separate Potions kit.

 

Finally, Snape reaches Darcy's cauldron. He looks into it for a long time, examining it critically -- so long that it makes her nervous. "Duncan," he says curtly, looking up from the potion into Emily's anxious face. She raises her eyebrows, waiting patiently for his command. From within his robes, Snape withdraws an extra phial, holding it out for Emily to take. "Why don't you have Darcy show the class of powerful a love potion can really be? Darcy's potion looks passable -- I do not think it will kill her, or hurt her too terribly."

 

Emily looks at Darcy apologetically and takes the phial from Snape's hand. She slowly lowers her hand into Darcy's cauldron and fills it before holding it out in front of Darcy, waiting for her to take it. "Sorry," she whispers. "I won't judge you, I swear it."

 

Gemma snickers from over Emily's shoulder. "I might."

 

Grudgingly, Darcy takes the potion from Emily and drinks it all quickly, hoping it will make the embarrassment lessen somewhat. As she does so, the class breaks out into laughs and high-pitched giggles. Darcy lowers the phial and licks her lips, the taste not half as bad as she had imagined. She looks up at Snape, his mouth twisted into a forced half-smile, and then back at Emily, who's more beautiful than ever.

 

Emily seems to radiate beauty -- her skin glows like a goddess, her hair falls perfectly to her chest in soft waves of honey blonde, she even seems to blink in slow motion for the sole purpose of fluttering her lashes. But Emily looks at Darcy with a horrified expression, as if she's only seeing Darcy for the first time. Darcy starts to move closer to Emily, who watches on with horror, tense and uncomfortable, backing into Gemma, but before Darcy can reach her, Snape clamps a hand down on her shoulder and stops her. 

 

"What are you doing -- ?" Darcy stammers, trying to break free of Snape's grasp while he fumbles in his cloak for the antidote. She looks at Emily and smiles, as if all her worries are gone from the world, as if Emily is the only good thing in the entire world. "Wait -- Emily, please -- hey!"

 

Snape's hand touches her face, holding her by the chin as Darcy protests, trying to jerk away from him. He dumps a small amount of the antidote into her mouth and she sputters, choking and coughing and gasping. Snape releases her as Darcy comes around, wiping her mouth and the spilled antidote off her face. Her cheeks turn bright red, the back of her neck tingling with humiliation. 

 

"A perfect potion. Ten points to Gryffindor for your success," Snape says to Darcy, causing her to smile wide. 

 

"All right!" Darcy whispers, beaming at Emily.

 

"And ten points from Gryffindor for your being late."

 

As Snape sweeps away, black robes billowing behind him, Darcy turns to her friends and sighs. "I should have known there'd be a catch."


"I'm telling you, you looked like you were in love with me," Emily says warily. "And I didn't like the hungry look in your eyes."

 

"It was a love potion," Darcy sighs, a slight blush creeping up her face. "What did you expect me to do? That was the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me, so would you quit talking about it to everyone? Oliver's already asked me about it."

 

"It could have been worse," Emily teases.

 

"No, it couldn't have been any worse. So shut up about it already."

 

"Snape could have given it to you," Emily jests, trying to hide her smile for Darcy's sake. "And I'd still be laughing if I saw you look at Snape the same way you looked at me."

 

Gemma snorts with laughter. "You would never have lived that down, Darcy."

 

"Shut up," Darcy repeats, rushing ahead of Emily and Gemma towards Gryffindor table, ruffling Harry's hair as she passes him to get a plate for dinner. She loads it up with as much food as she can, making sure she'll have enough to keep her from getting hungry before bed, and curses herself for not being able to have any dessert. She wonders briefly, if she asks, if Lupin will allow her to sneak back down for dessert. Likely not, but it's a hope to see her through tonight nonetheless. On her way out, she calls to Emily, "I'll see you tonight."

 

"Tell me how it goes!"

 

Darcy takes her plate and speed walks to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. The corridors are quite deserted and Darcy's stomach growls loudly with the smell of her dinner wafting into her nostrils. Lunch had been a terrible ordeal after Potions and, despite Hermione telling her she had nothing to be ashamed of, Darcy was still highly embarrassed and spent the remainder of lunch in her dormitory reading.

 

She enters Lupin's classroom and as she climbs the few steps to his office door, the door opens and he's standing there, holding the door open for her. "I thought I heard footsteps," he says cheerfully. "Good of you to join me, Darcy."

 

She hesitates at the threshold. "I thought I didn't have a choice, sir," she replies warily, following him inside when he gestures to her.

 

"I was only being polite," he answers, closing the door behind her. "Here --" With a wave of his wand, a chair comes flying from the corner of his office and rests in front of his desk. "Sit down -- please."

 

Darcy nods, walking quickly to the chair, and Lupin moves the piles of papers around so she has room to set her plate down. She watches him sit down and, after a few seconds of staring at each other awkwardly, Lupin laughs.

 

"Go on, eat. I'm sure you're hungry."

 

She picks up her fork and knife, hesitating. "What about you?"

 

Lupin blinks. "Me? What about me?"

 

"Aren't you hungry, Professor?" she asks again. "You don't have any food, and you're going to miss the feast."

 

"I appreciate your concern, Darcy, but I'll be fine. Now, please -- eat! The sooner you finish, the sooner we can get started, and the sooner you can leave."

 

It takes Darcy only twenty minutes to eat her dinner, slowly, and by that time she's feeling nauseous. She pushes her plate aside and sighs deeply and contently, leaning back in her seat. Lupin looks up from his work and smiles, something he seems to do often. 

 

"I promise I won't put you to work scrubbing the floors," he tells her. "Or whatever it is that Professor Snape would have you do."

 

"Oh," Darcy says, smiling in return. "Professor Snape has never given me a detention. But Emily tells me he's never made her scrub floors before."

 

Lupin seems to find this amusing. "These are easy enough," he says, pushing a stack of parchment towards her with a quill. "First years, so you should know all the answers."

 

Darcy nods again and looks down at the first piece of parchment. Picking up a quill and sighing dramatically, she dips the sharpened tip into the shared inkwell, beginning her work. "I'm sorry about the other night in the carriage, sir," she says, wanting to fill the silence. Professor McGonagall always insists on silence during detentions, and Darcy wonders if Lupin will be the same. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable with all my staring. I just thought you looked familiar, is all." She chances another glance at him and looks away quickly when they meet eyes. 

 

"I'm sure you don't know me, Darcy."

 

"I'm sure I've seen you somewhere before."

 

Lupin chuckles. "You're an excellent student, you know," he says, not even looking up from his work. "You talk a bit more than I think necessary, but I cannot deny you comprehend and grasp the material quite well. Your last short essay was very well written. You have a way with words."

 

"Thank you," Darcy says, touched, smiling weakly. She can feel her cheeks reddening. "And I'm sorry, Professor. I'll try not to talk too much during lessons anymore."

 

She can feel Lupin's eyes on her again. "You're very much like your mother, you know." Darcy's ears perk, her attention caught, and when she slowly looks up into his face again, Lupin studies her face, tilting his head slightly. "You have her eyes . . . and her hair. But you look like him up close . . . James. Your father."

 

"Everyone tells me that I look like my mother," she teases. "I didn't realize you knew my parents, Professor."

 

Lupin puts his quill down and holds his hands on the desk in front of him. Darcy stares at him, her eyebrows furrowed. "Yes, I knew your parents," he says stiffly, sighing heavily. "I knew exactly who you were the moment I first saw you on the train. And Harry . . . he looks so much like your father."

 

She can't help but to smile. Hundreds of times she must have heard that -- you have her eyes, you have her hair, you look so like your mother. But coming from Lupin's lips, the sentiment seems more genuine, a compliment instead of just a simple observance or something to say. Her mother was beautiful -- everyone always says so -- and even seeing her in old photographs, Darcy can't help but to agree with them.

 

"Your mother was kind above all -- but humble, and very fair," Lupin reminisces. "All of the things that James wasn't." They both share a quiet laugh together, and then Lupin pauses and leans in towards her, lowering his voice. "Do you remember anything about them?"

 

"I --" Darcy purses her lips, placing her quill on the desk and holding her hands in her lap. Lupin's kind face and soft smile give Darcy the impression of a trustworthy man, and after all, he'd been friends with Lily and James Potter, so why shouldn't she tell him? "Very little, truthfully. I was so young when they . . . when they died, and my aunt and uncle don't really allow us to speak of our parents, sir." For a moment, all she can think about is the night on the train -- the dementors causing her to relive the most painful memory she had tucked away. She looks Lupin directly in the eyes -- she can trust him, can't she? Inhaling deeply, she continues. "Professor Lupin, when the dementor came onto the train, I -- I remembered things . . ."

 

"I have a suspicion that Harry did, as well," Lupin answers seriously. "What kind of memory do you think would cause Harry to faint like that?"

 

Darcy shakes her head carefully. "I don't know. He didn't tell me." She's unsure if she even wants Harry to recount the terrible memory. "It was awful, Professor."

 

"You don't have to tell me, Darcy." He opens one of the drawers in the desk and pulls out a box of tissues, offering them to her. Darcy touches her cheeks, unaware of the tears that have started to fall. Her cheeks burn with shame. "I cannot imagine the hurt the dementors must cause you. I'm so sorry."

 

"No, I'm sorry, sir," she scoffs, wiping her tears away quickly. Lupin pushes the tissues towards her, but Darcy refuses them politely, drying her eyes. "I hate them. The dementors."

 

"I don't blame you. No one is very fond of them," Lupin sighs, giving her a reassuring smile, but it does little to ease her fears. "Strictly between you and me, Darcy, Dumbledore was furious to hear that the dementors had been allowed on the train. I promise you, that will not happen again, not after what he had to say to the Minister."

 

She's quiet for a moment. "I hate what they made me see. I wish they were gone."

 

"I know, but it's for our own safety."

 

Darcy attempts to compose herself, trying hard not to think of the dementors. But it's hard not to see her mother's pale face floating before her in her mind's eye, hard not to remember the exact green of the light that lit Harry's bedroom. "Maybe we could talk about it sometime," she whispers to Lupin, having a hard time meeting his eyes.

 

"If that's what you want, then of course. My door is always open to you, Darcy." He watches Darcy pick up her quill again and continue grading papers. He twirls his own quill in his fingers, seemingly doing less work than Darcy. She continues to scribble, if only to busy her mind and hands. "Your mother and father were good to me. I see them both in you."

 

The words put a shy smile on her face. "I hope you mean only in the best ways, sir," Darcy says, a feeble attempt at humor. 

 

Lupin laughs. "Please don't think I would ever insult one of my students," he tells her, a hand clutching his heart dramatically. "Truly, I mean it only in the best of ways." He chews the inside of his cheek, clearly bursting to say something. Darcy raises her eyebrows and he takes that as a good sign. "I heard what Professor Snape did to you -- with the love potion."

 

Darcy scowls, flushing with humiliation. "That's your fault! If you had walked me to class, he would have excused me and probably would have chosen some other sorry student to be his victim."

 

"I beg to differ. Had I walked you down there, you'd likely still be in love with Miss Duncan."

 

"Does Professor Snape hate you that much? What did you do to him?" Darcy asks, grinning at the sly look on his face. "Surely it wasn't just Neville's boggart that has him on edge?"

 

"Oh, have you heard?" Lupin asks her innocently, making her laugh. He considers her, tapping his chin with his long index finger. "Perhaps another time, Darcy."

 

Disappointed, she answers, "Yes, sir."

 

At nine o'clock that night, Lupin bids Darcy a good-night and allows her to return to her common room (without even a little bit of dessert). Darcy takes a minute to organize her stack of graded papers -- quite proud of all that she's done -- and by that time, Lupin's paperwork is complete, as well. He walks her to the door of his office and holds it open for her.

 

"Good-night, Darcy. Don't forget about your homework due tomorrow."

 

"Yes, sir," she chuckles. As she heads down the stairs into the empty classroom, she stops abruptly, turning around just before Lupin shuts the door to his office. "Professor?"

 

Professor Lupin sticks his head out from his office. "Yes?"

 

She clears her throat, suddenly nervous. "Maybe we could do this again? Have dinner sometime and -- I don't know . . . just talk about things."

 

"I hope not under the guise of another detention." He grins, baring his teeth. Darcy smiles back. "Of course, Darcy. How about sometime next week? I'll have dinner brought up for the both of us."

 

"Yes," she agrees, her voice raspy. "I would like that very much. Next week will be fine, thank you."

 

He, however, seems skeptical. If not for his smile, Darcy might think he was trying to get rid of her. "Are you sure you won't be too busy to entertain an old man like me? I don't know that I'm as exciting company as your other friends."

 

"I'm sure," she replies, giving her head a shake. 

 

He looks at her for a few more moments before nodding his head. "Off to bed with you now, Darcy. Good-night."

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