The Sugar Quill
Author: Gabriella Du Sult (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Animal Attraction  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Animal Attraction

 

Animal Attraction

A Missing/Non-Pensieve Moment from Acceptance:  Seventeen-year-old Remus Lupin has the raging hormones of any other bloke his age, and then some.  It's the 'and then some' that has him worried, but a trip to the greenhouses helps him see that self-denial can only get you so far in life.

 

Disclaimer:  This story is based on the stories and characters created by J.K. Rowling and I am in no monetary way profiting from it.

A blank sheet of parchment could be a beautiful thing -- rich with the possibilities of topics to write and ideas to express.  Unless, of course, you had a five-foot Potions essay to write.  Then a blank parchment could be the most daunting thing in the world. At least, that was what Remus thought.  He sat in the Marauder's Corner on a rare sunny Saturday afternoon in September.  The place was near empty as most students were taking advantage of the weather while it lasted.  Remus knew that this essay had to have priority for him.  He couldn't afford to put things off with the moon waxing toward full.  So now he was looking from his notes to his textbook to his parchment and drawing a complete blank on where to begin.

“You're not usually alone here.”  A feminine voice interrupted his lack of thought.

Remus looked up into the smiling brown eyes of Beatrice Bennet.  He couldn't keep his eyebrows from shooting up in surprise.  After making her interest fairly obvious on the first day of term, Beatrice had retreated to the protection of her friends.  Aside from the occasional furtive glance down the Gryffindor table at meals and a shy smile or two in the weekly Prefect's meetings, she had made no further attempt to advance their relationship.  Or rather, advance them into any sort of relationship at all.

“She's waiting for you to do something, mate,” Sirius had told him. “So are you going to or not?”

The truth was, Remus initially had every intention of doing something.  He had noted the undeniable scent of arousal on her when the train had jostled them together in the Prefect's car on the Hogwarts Express.  The look she had given him from beneath her dark lashes made it clear that it was directed towards him.  His reaction had been immediate.  His blood had surged, his nerve endings had tingled and he had suddenly been very glad he had already put his robes on.  It had only been a couple of days since the full moon, and he had barely been making it through with a Pepper-Up Potion, or he might have done something ill-advised right then.  As it was, he could barely feign interest in what James and Lily were going on about as Head Boy and Girl.  That evening, after the announcement of the Ghoul’s Ball and Beatrice's initial flirtation, he had been certain that he would make a move on her once he regained his strength.

 

As he recovered from the transformation, the twin voices of reason and caution that ruled his life sounded louder than ever.  If his nose was any indication, she desired him.  That alone had been a huge turn-on.  Since then, he noticed other things, too.  Like how silky her brown hair looked when she tucked it behind her ear and how nicely curved her calves looked when he caught a glimpse as she shifted her robes and tucked her legs beneath her to read on the couch in front of the fire. He didn't know how long he could keep his raging teenage hormones in check with a willing participant.  He could only imagine what Sirius's response would be to that.

“‘So what's the problem, mate? Just shag her and be done with it!’”

 

Sirius sometimes forgot that the first girl Remus shagged would be the last.

So, instead of voicing his concerns to his friends, Remus had spouted some nonsense about keeping his options open.  Sirius had congratulated him for his caddish outlook and Peter had agreed with the approach.  James had narrowed his eyes at Remus before commenting, “That works better if you actually show an interest in the other options.”

True enough.  James was too astute for his own good.  Except, of course, when it came to Lily.  Remus had thought about actively pursuing someone else, but in the end he found himself looking back in the Great Hall and smiling in return at the Prefects' meeting, and doing absolutely nothing else.  He thought if he just didn't talk to her she would give up and lose interest, though he hoped she wouldn't.  Apparently, she hadn't yet.

“So, where are your mates?” she asked, sitting across from him in the seat Sirius usually occupied.

“James is at Quidditch practice and Peter's watching,” he answered, looking down at his parchment and thinking, 'Please go away and stop tempting me.'

“And Sirius?” she pressed, apparently no Legilimens.

He shrugged noncommittally, keeping his head down.

“Oh, I see.”  She sounded amused.  “He's out doing something illegal and you don't want to tell me because I'm a Prefect.”

I'm a Prefect!” he protested, finally looking up at her.

She grinned at him. “Of course you are, but you don't want to rat out your friend.”

He silently agreed. “Would you?” he asked.

She laughed.  “Well, my friends don't exactly pursue the sort of mischief yours do,” she began thoughtfully, “but I suppose I'd look the other way as long as they weren't doing anything too dangerous.”

Remus felt a heavy weight in his chest.  “How dangerous is too dangerous?” he asked.

Beatrice's grin faded.  “I think this conversation is getting too dangerous -- but without making you break any confidences, I'd just have to say Sirius can probably take care of himself.”

Remus let out a half snort.  “That's true enough,” he agreed.  Then he looked down at his parchment again, wondering if he should say something more or just ignore her in hopes she would give up.

“So,” she started again, proving she wasn't the giving up type.  “You're not with Sirius to give yourself plausible deniability to whatever he's up to in the unlikely event he gets caught.  Why not join Peter watching James? Don't you like Quidditch?”

“Sometimes,” he answered.  “But I've got this essay to do.”  He waved his hand over the empty parchment.

She leaned over the table and looked intently at the blank sheet, then she raised her eyes to him, forcing him to meet her gaze.  There was a teasing glint in the otherwise soft brown depths.  “Making much progress?” she asked with mock innocence.

“No, and it's strange,” he answered honestly, fighting the urge to grin in response to her teasing.  It was a short step from harmless teasing to outright flirtation - and from there, this thing between them could escalate beyond his control far too quickly.

“How strange?”  She pressed him.

“Well, I've got my notes and done all my research. I thought for once Potions would be a piece of cake -- but I just can't seem to figure out how to start.”

She nodded sympathetically.  “What's the topic?”

“The properties and usage of lady's veil.”

Her head jerked a bit in surprise.  “There are potions that use lady's veil?”

He nodded.  “A few.  You'll learn about them in N.E.W.T.S.  They're not often used because lady's veil is so rare.  The HAG doesn't even have any in the dungeons.  That's why the essay is so critical, we can't observe its practical use.”

'The HAG' was how most students referred to Professor Hecuba A. Gloveychuck, the Potions mistress.

“But Professor Sprout's growing some in Greenhouse Three,” Beatrice said.

Remus couldn't contain his surprise.  “Really?” he asked.

She nodded.  “She showed it to the fifth years last week.  We talked about its effect on elves and faeries -- you know, how it makes them drunk?  But she never mentioned other potions.  Do you suppose she's hiding it from the HAG?”

Remus considered this suggestion for a moment.  “I guess,” he responded slowly.  “She may be saving it as a bargaining chip.  It could be a get out of detention free card for a generation of Hufflepuffs.”  The more he thought about it, the more it made sense.  Professor Sprout was the youngest of the heads of house and though it seemed like an un-Hufflepuff thing to do, he certainly didn't blame her for doing whatever it took to get an edge, especially over the HAG.

“You should go look at it,” Beatrice declared rather abruptly, apparently unconcerned with the underhanded politics he'd just suggested one of the Professors was employing.  He wondered if she was thinking, 'Good for Sprout!' right along with him.

He looked across the table at her.  “You think so?”

“Sure.  It could provide you just the inspiration you need.  Plus, it's the perfect excuse to get out of the castle on such a glorious day -- especially with a dreary Scottish winter just around the corner.  As a matter of fact,” here she stood suddenly, “I was on my way down there to do a mandrake transfer for my O.W.L. Herbology project.  Why don't you join me?”  She looked down at him expectantly.

Remus knew he was gaping at her, and could only hope he didn't look as stupid doing it as he felt.  He noticed, looking at her fully now, that she was wearing her cloak and had her Gryffindor scarf draped over her shoulders.  She didn't appear to be lying about being on her way out, and she couldn't possibly have known he might have a reason to join her.  Still, she had just brazenly invited him to the greenhouses, a known popular spot for snogging.  Once he himself had used it with Georgia Antworthy in fifth year, though that had only been on a dare from Sirius -- one that had proved very educational.  The way his heart was pounding at the very idea of kissing Beatrice, however, made it clear to him he absolutely should not be alone with her in the greenhouses.

“Sounds like a good plan,” he heard himself saying.  He rolled up his parchment and gathered his other things before standing up and offering her his arm.

She reached to take it, and then hesitated.  “Don't you want to get your cloak?”

Getting his cloak would be a good idea; it would give reason a chance to take control again.  He could think of a good excuse not to go, or, if none came to mind, he could just hide out in the boys' dormitories until nightfall.  How very un-Gryffindor that would be.  Besides, he knew deep down he didn't want to escape, and he wasn't going to let himself try.

“On a glorious day like today?” he asked with a smile.  “It's only a short walk outside, and then it will be warm in the greenhouses.”

How warm remained to be seen, he thought, but judging from the wave of heat that washed over him when she smiled and took his arm, it would get quite warm indeed.

 


***

“You were right about it being warm in here,” Beatrice said, hanging her cloak and scarf on a hook just inside Greenhouse Three.  “It makes me feel silly for bringing these.”

“I don't know,” Remus replied, rubbing his hands together to warm them.  “The wind really picked up between the castle and here.  It makes me wish I had a pair of gloves at least.”  He reached up to finger one of his ears, which prickled painfully and he expected was embarrassingly red.  “Or maybe a hat.”

“You could always nick a pair of these for the walk back,” she said, rummaging through a bin of earmuffs and emerging with two fairly decent looking pair.  She walked up to him, offering him one pair.  Her eyes flicked to where he was still pulling on his cold ear and he dropped his hand self-consciously.  For some reason she was blushing, though he couldn't figure why.

“Right,” she said, clearing her throat.  “The lady's veil is back here.  I'll show you and then come up here and transplant my mandrake.”

“You don't need help with that?” he asked.

She shrugged.  “Nah, she's little, yet. I'm sure I can handle it.”

“You have a female mandrake?” he asked surprised.  She was already heading towards the other end of the greenhouse and he hurried to follow.  “Is she fertile?”  Fertile female mandrakes were notoriously difficult to raise in captivity, and often had to be neutered at a young age in order to raise to maturity and hence usefulness in potions.

“Sure,” she replied over her shoulder with a shrug.  “That's why this is an O.W.L. year project.  If I can get her mature enough, Professor Sprout can breed her with one of her males and won't have to order new supplies every few years.”

“So,” Beatrice said, gesturing towards a large flower box at the end of the row they were walking down, “there it is.”

Remus looked at the flower. It was smaller than he expected, though the textbook gave average measurements; the pictures always made it look larger than life.  It was a thin, graceful plant, with stalks of milky green and flowers of pure translucent white.  Remus knew from his reading that its name was derived from the petals, which were long and flowing, like a veil.  At the center of each bloom was a cluster of tiny golden nubs, he reached out a finger to touch one delicately, managing to get his hand covered in the dark yellow pollen.

“Careful!” Beatrice hissed. “That's a rare flower, remember?” “It's all right,” he assured.  “I've done my reading.  They're rare because Muggles eradicated them during their Spanish inquisition or something.  Thought they were the devil's flower.  Probably some superstitious Muggle saw someone using it in a potion.  It's so small.”

“Small but potently intoxicating -- at least from a fairy's point of view,” Beatrice countered.  “What kinds of potions need it?”

“Restorative stuff mostly and some… other things.”  Remus caught himself before mentioning love potions -- best avoid that topic entirely.  “It's so rare that a lot of the potions are only theoretical.”

She smiled and handed him his parchment and quill.  “It sounds like you're already inspired.  I'll leave you to it and go to work on my mandrake.  Put your muffs on before I go, so I know it's ok to dig her up.”

He complied and watched her head back up to the front of the greenhouse.  He tried not to feel disappointed, but failed miserably.  Despite her seemingly legitimate reason for being here, he still had anticipated a little more flirtation if not an outright attempt at snogging.  He did not think he had misread her so completely.  Perhaps she felt that since she brought them there, it was up to him to make the next move.  He took a step after her with that in mind before his rational self caught up.  Hadn't he been telling himself all week to avoid this situation?  He couldn't afford to let his instincts take over.  Besides, she was right, he had an idea how to start his essay now that he'd seen the lady's veil, and he didn't want to waste it.  He pulled a large upside-down pot up to a nearby table, spread out his blank parchment and began writing furiously.

He had barely finished his introductory paragraph when he sensed a disturbance in the greenhouse.  He thought maybe the ground beneath him reverberated a bit, as if something very large and heavy had been dropped.  Trusting his instincts that something was amiss, he dropped his quill and made his way towards the front of the greenhouse.  He found Beatrice on the ground next to a large overturned pot.  Dirt was everywhere, and little soil footprints led away into the rows of plants.

“What happened?” he yelled, though he could barely hear his own voice through the muffs.

She shook her head and pointed to her own muffs to indicate she didn't hear him at all.  She must have surmised his question though, as she answered it by pointing to her arm and pantomiming a bite before gesturing to the soil footprints.  She then stood up and started struggling to right the pot.  Remus hurried forward to help her and together they stood the pot back up and shoveled most of the soil back into it.  Beatrice brushed her robes off ineffectively and made to start off in the direction of the footprints.  Remus put a hand on her shoulder.  She turned to look at him questioningly.

“You get the pot ready,” he yelled, combining his words with digging actions in the pot.  “I'll go get the mandrake.”  He thumped his chest like an overblown hero in a bad play.  He knew it was ridiculous looking, but there was nothing for it until they had the mandrake safely buried again.  She nodded in understanding and moved back towards the pot while he took off after the dirty footprints.

The trail was easy to follow, and he found the little mandrake girl crouched between two flowerboxes, staring at him defiantly.

“Come on, little one,” he cooed to it. At least, he hoped he was cooing. “It's time to put you in a nice new big pot.”

Just as he reached for her, she darted out of her hiding place.  She almost made it between his legs, but got tangled in his robes and he managed to snatch her up.  He carried the wriggling creature back to where Beatrice had the pot ready for replanting.  He extended his arms to set her in when a sharp pain on his finger caused him to drop her, luckily directly into the pot.

“Buggering trollop!” he cried, sticking his finger in his mouth.  He was thankful for the muffs when he realized what he had just said.

Beatrice was hurriedly shoveling dirt over the mandrake girl's head.  As Remus looked on, baleful and -- dare he think it? -- smug moss-green eyes looked back at him.  The next second dirt was over her head and Beatrice ripped off her earmuffs as she patted the dirt down with the back of a gardening shovel.

“I think that was the mandrake equivalent of the 'terrible twos',” Beatrice commented, turning to Remus and reaching out a hand.  “Bite you too, did she? Let's have a look.”

Remus gave her his hand, finger extended, feeling like a child.  He compensated for the feeling by asking after her wound.  “What about you? Are you all right?”

“Other than being embarrassed at being outdone by a plant, I'll live,” she replied, staring intently at his finger, which was still stinging slightly from the bite.

He tried to think of something witty to say about the cunning plant life at Hogwarts, but found that he could neither think nor speak while enjoying the sensation of her thumb running softly over his sore finger.

“I feel teeth marks, but no blood,” she murmured, her eyes not leaving his hand.  Her tongue darted out to lick her lips thoughtfully and for a crazy moment he thought she was going to lick his finger.  Maybe he just wished it as the thought sent his heart racing.  Instead, she retracted her tongue, pursed her lips and blew; her breath felt cool against his throbbing finger.  Finally, she looked up at him.

“I don't think you'll need to see Madam Pomfrey.  As bites go, it's not bad.”

“I've definitely had worse,” he agreed, not quite believing he said that.  Her nearness must be making him lose his head.

She did not release his hand and her expression turned serious.

“So, Remus,” she asked, “are you going to ask me to the Ghoul's Ball, or should I direct my efforts elsewhere?”

'Elsewhere?' he thought. Where else would she direct them?  What poncy little blighter would dare touch her?  The burst of unfounded jealousy was a revelation to Remus.  He was already too possessive of her and they had barely flirted.  This was getting out of hand.

“I don't think I should,” he said out loud.

“You're not worried I'll say no?”

He shook his head.

“Then what are you afraid of?”

“This,” he rasped out, clasping her hands between his.  He pulled her to him more aggressively than necessary since they were already standing so close, but he wanted to make a point.  He bent his head down and kissed her savagely.  If his aggressive move took her by surprise, she didn't show it.  Instead, she raised herself up on tiptoes to improve the angle and returned his kiss with fervor.  This was ten times better than that slag Georgia Antworthy.

When they broke for air, she pressed her cheek against his and whispered in his ear, “That doesn't scare me.”

“I know,” he croaked.  “That's the most terrifying part.”

She sighed and pulled back, though not far as he had her hands pressed to his chest.  He could feel his heart pounding beneath their hands, and knew she must feel it too.  She looked at him sadly, her brown eyes almost black -- dark enough that he could see himself reflected in them.  He didn't look wild and out of control, just normal -- just a normal randy teenage boy.  Would that that was the case – maybe in this case, it was.

“So, should I try and find another date?” she asked.

He gripped her hands even more tightly.  He could let her go now, he knew, and be out of danger.  He also knew that he would be miserable.  'Be a Gryffindor, why don't you!' insisted a voice in his head that sounded disturbingly like Padfoot.  Oh, how he wished he could take that advice.  'You can.'  Now the voice seemed more like Prongs.  'Just trust yourself, you won't let anything happen.'  Of course he could trust himself.  He had proven to himself in the past six years that outside of one day a month, he was the picture of self-discipline.  Being with Beatrice may put him to the test, but he was up to the challenge for a bit of happiness.

“Look, Beatrice, I'm not just going to ask you to the Ghoul's Ball,” he began deliberately.
Her face fell and she pressed her lips together until her mouth was nothing but a thin line.  She made to pull her hands out of his but he held firm and hastened forward.  “I mean, if we go to the ball together, it won't be because I just asked you to the ball.  It will be because you're my girl.”  He watched her face soften from hardened disappointment to dazed confusion.  “So, will you be my girl, Beatrice?”

The confusion faded and a smile brightened her face.  “Yes, Remus, I will be… I am your girl.”

He released her hands to wrap his arms about her waist and draw her close.  She put her hands on his shoulders and yielded to his embrace, tilting her head in anticipation.  He held back for one last time and raised his eyebrows at her.

“So who is this other bloke you were planning on asking?” he growled teasingly, though he felt a trace of real underlying jealousy.

Her cheeks turned a dusky rose and she closed her eyes tightly.  “Oh, that. That was a bluff.  I expect if you hadn't come around I would have spent the evening in the dorms or gone stag and cried into my pumpkin juice while you danced away with …”

Remus didn't give her a chance to speculate on who his erstwhile date might have been.  Instead, he kissed her, with a little less ferocity than their first kiss.  This time he was gentle and savoring.  Seeing as he caught her in mid-sentence, her mouth was already open and it was not difficult to get a real taste of her.  Maybe it was the fact that they were covered in soil, but he felt that she had a distinctly earthy flavour.  Not like dirt, exactly, more like water fresh from the stream: pure and natural, but also with a trace of wildness that went with being free.  It was delicious.  Her eyes flickered shut and she moaned into his mouth.  There was nothing for him to do but close his own eyes and deepen the kiss.  Through the roaring of his own blood in his ears, he thought he heard a rustling of leaves, but shrugged it off as one of the many strange exotic plants in the greenhouse and lost himself in the wild freedom of kissing his girl.

***

That evening, Remus was back at the Marauder's corner working on his essay and waiting for his mates to turn up.  Beatrice was revising in the library with some of her classmates, having sportingly agreed to let him tell his friends on his own.  He smiled, thinking of how she had looked when they parted -- all rosy cheeked and breathless, with her lips swollen from all the excellent snogging.  His quill froze and he lost focus on his parchment as his mind's eye returned him to Greenhouse Three.

He was startled from his reverie when a box of sugar quills landed in his lap.  Looking up, he saw Padfoot grinning down at him, flanked by Prongs and Wormtail.  He had the distinct feeling of being ambushed, and decided to approach the situation cautiously, saying as little as possible until he knew what they were about.  He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“They're a souvenir from today's adventure,” Sirius answered the unspoken question.  “It was a piece of cake, by the way -- not even a close call to speak of.  Almost not worth going, so little thrill to it.”

“I'm not exactly sure why you did go,” Remus commented, setting the box of sugar quills aside as Sirius and the others flopped into their usual chairs.  “A legitimate Hogsmeade weekend is just around the corner.”

“Keeping close track of that, are we?”

The arch in Padfoot's voice made Remus eye him sharply.  “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Nothing.”  Sirius's offhand tone belied an ulterior motive, Remus knew him well enough to see that.  “Anyway,” Sirius continued, “since it wasn't much of an adventure and you all missed out on it anyway, we were just talking about taking a little after hours prowl? What do you say?”

Remus shifted uncomfortably.

“If you're worried about getting caught,” James offered, "I'll be there too.  As Head Boy, I'll either get in loads more trouble than you as a Prefect -- or I'll be able to deflect the whole thing…”

“We're not going to get caught!”  Sirius sounded disgusted at the very idea.

“It's not that anyway,” Remus hedged.  “I just have the Potions essay to do…”

“Still!?” Sirius's incredulity was comically exaggerated.  “Isn't that what you've been working on all day?  What's the hold up?”

Remus knew that the time had come to tell them about Beatrice.  He cleared his throat nervously.  “The truth is, I was having some trouble with the thing.  I, erm… I found out that Professor Sprout was growing some and went down to the greenhouses for a little inspiration…”

“'Inspiration', is that what they're calling it these days?” Sirius asked.

Remus, who had been avoiding eye contact in order to get through his explanation, looked up sharply.  He finally really looked at all his friends.  Peter was beside him, shaking with mirth.  Across from him, James and Sirius both, ironically, had wolfish grins on their faces.

“What?” Remus asked helplessly.

“Because I've always called it snogging a girl senseless,” Sirius concluded matter-of-factly.

“Wha… you saw?”  It was less of a question than a horrified exclamation.

Sirius turned to James, grabbing his hand and pressing it to his chest.  “Beatrice,” he intoned in an unnaturally deep voice, “will you be my girl?”

James batted his eyes and replied in a ridiculous falsetto, “Oh, Remus, I am your girl.”

Peter was cackling out loud by this time.

“You heard?” Remus groaned.

“It was like a bad melodrama, mate -- what were you thinking?” Sirius confirmed his worst fears.

“I was thinking I was alone with the girl.  What were you doing there anyway?  Didn't you see the sign -- what if the mandrake had been out?”

“We saw you take the muffs off,” James assured.

“It was too good to resist,” Peter added.

“And how long am I going to have to endure this?”  Remus asked.

“Oh, a good long time, I imagine,” Sirius responded casually.  “After all, you're the first Marauder to fall.”

“Fall?”

“In the war on love, mate.  You're our first casualty.”

“I'm not,” Remus protested, “James is.”

James's grin disappeared faster than an escaped Snitch.

“I don't think it counts if the girl doesn't speak to you,” he muttered glumly.

Sirius considered James, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.  “Good point, Moony.  Prongs is definitely a fallen warrior.”  He grinned over at Peter.  “It looks like it's up to you and me, Wormtail, to defend single blokes everywhere.  You up to the challenge?”

“You know it!”  Peter agreed enthusiastically.

Remus patted James's knee sympathetically.  “Don't fret too much, James. She's agreed to go to the ball with you, right? That's something.”

James was only partially mollified.

“Oi! Listen to you, Moony,” Sirius laughed.  “You haven't even had a girlfriend for a day and already you're giving advice to the lovelorn?”

“That's right, Padfoot,” Remus retorted.  “Have you got a date yet?  I'd be happy to give you a few tips.”

Sirius mouthed wordlessly at him.  Remus just raised his eyebrows with smug amusement.  He didn't often take the mickey from his friends, but he was feeling especially buoyant this evening.  Ribbing Sirius had the added benefit of cheering James, who was grinning at Sirius.  Peter was laughing loudly, causing Sirius to turn on him with a scowl.

“Shut it, Wormtail, you'll be lucky to get a date.”

Peter's laughter cut short and James's grin dropped.  “Here now, no need to be that way, just because Moony took the mickey.  We take what we give, right?”

Sirius rolled his eyes before conceding sullenly, “Right, Prongs.  Sorry, Wormtail.”

“'Sall right, Padfoot,” Peter nodded.

“As for you,” Sirius turned on Remus.  “Don't think your little ploy's worked, Loverboy.  I'm just inches away from deciding on the lucky girl who's going to the ball with me, and when I do, we'll see who's going to be giving whom tips!”

Remus was saved from retorting by a commotion at the portrait hole.  A group of fifth years entered, including Beatrice.  She was pointing at a classmate's open textbook and then gesturing out one of the windows.

As the classmate started to respond, she nodded absently and turned towards the Marauders’ corner.  Remus smiled when their eyes met and she beamed back.

“Y'know, Moony, that girl's not half-bad at that,” Sirius noted.

“High praise indeed,” Remus muttered wryly.

“No, I mean it,” Sirius protested.  “When she smiles at you like that -- you can get past the mouse-brown hair and the average height and the ok figure -- you see it adds up to quite a nice package.”

“You really know how to give a compliment, Padfoot,” Remus grumbled, moving to stand.

James put a hand on his shoulder.  “Hang on, there, Remus.  He's just spinning you up.  We all think Beatrice is lovely -- so call her over.”

“Call her… really?”  Remus looked around at them.  Since they had established it in third year, the Marauders’ corner and been no- witches territory -- at least when all four of them were there together.  The grins his friends gave him were more encouraging than teasing.

“Is she your girl, or isn't she?” Sirius asked.

Remus smiled back at them and turned back to Beatrice, beckoning her over.  She looked around the room awkwardly and turned back to him, raising her eyebrows questioningly.  He nodded and beckoned again, this time his three friends joined him.  Looking around again, she made her way over cautiously, like a rabbit emerging from its warren, expecting a predator at any moment.  He couldn't say he blamed her.  When she finally arrived, she lit herself timidly on the arm of his chair.

“Hi,” she said, almost shyly.

“Hi,” he answered, smiling at her in a way he hoped was encouraging.  “You know everyone?”

She nodded.

“Everyone, you all know Beatrice, right?”  He looked at his friends.

“Of course.  Hi, Beatrice,” James responded first.

“Hi, Bea,” Peter added quietly.

“Hey, Bennet,” Sirius concluded the greetings.

“Hi,” Beatrice repeated, still somewhat hesitant.

They all looked around in uncomfortable silence for a moment before somebody cleared his throat -- James, probably.  Remus had been watching Beatrice's cheeks turn pink and the noise snapped him out of it enough to realize how awkward she was feeling.

“So, how'd revisions go?” he asked her.

Her manner suddenly changed, as if she forgot about the other Marauders' presence.  “Oh, fine.  But that Joan, she doesn't know Venus from the North Star.  You'd think she never looked at the night sky before.”

“Careful there, Bennet,” Sirius admonished her.  “You don't want to come off like you know too much about the night sky.  Then you'll never convince Moony here to go up to the Astronomy tower and tutor you.”

The color drained out of Beatrice's face and she turned to gape at Sirius, managing only a strangled noise in the back of her throat as protest.  Sirius was grinning cheekily at her, but Remus noticed intensity in his gray eyes.  The others were watching the exchange with similar looks, like they were assessing the situation.  'They're testing her,' he realized.  His hand shot out to take hers protectively.

“Don't listen to him,” he said reassuringly.  She turned back to him, still looking pale and wide eyed.  He tugged at her hand, succeeding in pulling her off her precarious perch and into his lap.  “I'll tutor you any place you like.”

The color returned to her face with a vengeance and deepened to red. “Remus!” she half-whined, half-hissed.  He could tell from the smile in her eyes that the entire blush was not due to embarrassment.  Encouraged, he tugged at her again, bringing her body closer to his.  She sighed in capitulation, putting her free hand on his shoulder and leaning against him.

“So, Beatrice, is there any topic giving you trouble where Remus can be of particular assistance?” James asked.

Beatrice turned to the group and Remus felt her stiffen on his lap as she realized she was being put to the test.  Still, she squared her shoulders and cleared her throat.  “Well, um… as a matter of fact I'm having a bit of trouble with um… Care of Magical Creatures… erm… Grindylows!”  She smiled triumphantly.  “Of course, I'm having trouble understanding Grindylows!  I think a discussion over a walk around the lake tomorrow afternoon would be quite helpful.”  She turned on Remus with bright eyes.  “What do you think?”

Before Remus could respond, Sirius cracked, “If you think you'll be too busy with your Potions essay, Moony, I'd be glad to show Bennet here how to handle a Grindylow.”

Beatrice's eyes, still looking at Remus, went wide and he saw a deep flush begin at her neck.  He gripped her hand, telling himself it was to soothe her, but knowing it was a bit possessive -- there wasn't a girl at Hogwarts whose head Sirius couldn't turn.  She gripped back and tightened her grip on his shoulder as well.  He watched in fascination as the blush receded, and then looked at her eyes.  She smiled at him and shook her head nearly imperceptibly.  He smiled back, and then leaned around her to look a Sirius.

“No, Padfoot,” he replied in as casual tones as he could manage, “I'm sure I'll be finished by then.”  He looked at Beatrice directly.  “A walk around the lake sounds like just the thing.”

“Right,” she said, with a breathless sigh.  Then she seemed to gather herself.  “Well, if you blokes would excuse me, I need to get my books back to my rooms and turn in.  It's been a long day and I'm right knackered.”  She made as if to stand, but Remus kept hold of her hand and snaked his other arm around her waist to keep her firmly in place.

“Remus, what…? Oh.”  Her protest broke off when Remus looked at her pointedly, his gaze drift from her eyes to her mouth and back.  “Right then….” She leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his.  It was a light delicate kiss, though her lips did part slightly and her tongue danced out just briefly to brush against him before she pulled away, pink cheeked and breathless.  This time when she moved to stand, he released her, wondering how such a little kiss had left him so weak when the much more intense kisses earlier in the day had so energized him.  “I'll see you tomorrow,” she whispered.  All he could do was nod and watch her sweep away.

“I think she's nice,” Peter commented.

“She can certainly think on her feet,” James added with a note of approval.

Excellent snog!” Sirius proclaimed.

Remus turned back to them and smiled, still thinking of bright brown eyes and wondering how what he expected to be a miserable day spent inside writing a Potions essay had turned into the most wonderful day of his life.

“And don't worry about the other thing, that will all work itself out in time,” James said seriously.

“What do you mean?” Sirius asked.  “He's got a terrific girl who wants to snog him all over the place.  What should he worry about?”

James gave him a very pointed look.

“Oh, that!” he scoffed.  “Don't worry about that, mate.”

“She doesn't seem the type who would care,” added Peter thoughtfully.

“Of course she wouldn't care.  There's nothing to care about.  You've got nothing to worry about, Moony,” Sirius stated matter-of-factly.

“I know -- I'm not.”  Remus found, as his gaze drifted in to where Beatrice had disappeared up the dormitory stairs, that he actually meant it.  He was actually happy, and for once, he wasn't going to worry.



(A/N As always, thank you to my beta Elanor Gamgee – you make me constantly better.  A couple of LOLs and a smiley face from you can put me on cloud nine for a week.

Lady's veil was invented by Christine Morgan for her Gargoyle's fanfic series and introduced in the story, “Mother's Day”.  Special thanks to her for allowing me to use it here.  If you like Gargoyles and haven't read Christine's work it can be found here: http://www.eskimo.com/~vecna/garg_fan_fiction.html -- She also has some Harry Potter fanfic listed on her Website here: http://www.eskimo.com/~vecna/other_fan_fiction.html and, if you like the fantasy genre, she is also a published author.  Check out her Magelore series (Buy it on Amazon via the Sugar Quill link, of course.) 

Thanks also to L.A. Davi, my pre-beta, who is a young grammar goddess if ever I met one. 

To all the reviewers of Acceptance who want the story of how James told Lily he was an Animagus – Sorry, it’s just not coming to me).

 

 

//
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