The next day on prefect rounds I receive a letter from Professor Slughorn, explaining that my tutoring had been arranged and was set to begin the next night at 8 pm in the Potions classroom. He enclosed the password to get past the wards and wished me luck. I fold the note up tightly and smile as I move to put it into my pocket. Distracted by my actions (ok, ok, a daydream about Severus), I plow head on into someone coming out of the kitchen.
"Hey, watch it!" Sirius Black shouts as he tries to stabilize the two cream pies he is carrying in his outstretched arms.
"Sirius," his friend Remus Lupin warns in a harsh whisper.
"What?" he asks, annoyed as Remus extends his hand to help me up. "Oh," he breathes with a dejected tone upon seeing my shining prefect badge. "Shite," he mutters, knowing he has been caught out of his dorm after hours, and being in the kitchen, which is off limits to students, as well.
I narrow my eyes at him, not bothering to disguise my dislike for the boy. I can't deny that the boy is attractive…actually, he is downright hot with that long wavy black hair and his shining silver eyes. His rebel attitude is definitely intriguing, and I have to admit that many of his jokes and pranks are actually quite funny, but he teases and torments Severus mercilessly. For that, I can't stand him.
"Sorry about that," Remus interjects before either Sirius or I can say anything to one another. "It's Eleanor, right?" he asks as his amber eyes look almost pleadingly into mine.
"No," I snap. "It's El."
"Oh, right. Sorry about that," he says with a friendly smile. "I'm Remus," he states, extending his hand. "And this is Sirius."
"I know who you two are," I say as I pointedly ignore his outstretched hand. Truthfully, I don't really mind Remus. He seems like a very sweet guy and is always willing to help anyone who needs it, but he is still one of the 'Marauders' who terrorizes Severus. Granted, he never personally makes fun of him, but he never stops his friends from doing it either.
"Oh, uh, well then…" he stutters awkwardly.
"Look, luckily for you two, I'm in a great mood tonight, so I'm not going to write you up or take any points," I begin as I let the smile reform on my face.
"You're not? Ace! Thanks El!" Sirius exclaims with a glowing, and rather gorgeous, smile.
"BUT," I continue, "If I find those pies on top of anyone's head, you're both going to be docked 20 points. Also, if I find out either of you are harassing Se-Slytherins," I amended quickly, "you'll wish you were never born," I threaten quite seriously.
Sirius' eyes widen and he looks questioningly to his shorter friend, who is now running a hand through his short light brown locks nervously. "Uh, got it. Thanks El," he says softly as he grabs Sirius's sleeve and pulls him away.
"That was her in a great mood?" I hear Sirius scoff as they walk away. "I'd hate to see that bird when she's brassed off,' he grimaces.
I can't help but smile and laugh a bit at the thought that I, a tiny little bookworm, managed to scare the legendary rebel aristocrat, Sirius Black.
"Well she was happy before you nearly poured two pies onto her head," Remus replies. "I mean, Merlin, did you see that loopy smile she had? I think that girl's in love," he says with a smile I can hear in his voice.
Shit! I'd better get control of myself before I meet with Severus tomorrow!
"Are you nervous?" Cassie asks me as she sits down across from me at breakfast.
"No, I just particularly like the taste of my fingernails," I reply sarcastically as I continue to bite my nails.
"Stop it," she commands as she grabs my hand away from my face and charms my nails to repair themselves.
"I can't help it. What if I bugger it all up?" I ask her worriedly.
"You won't! Just be yourself…except, without being brill at Potions," she adds with a shrug. "Remember, if he doesn't fancy you for who you are, then he isn't worth it," she reassures.
"Yeah, I know," I say half-heartedly as I watch him stride into the Great Hall, an Arithmancy book already open in his hands, scanning it as he walks to his table. My eyes follow him until he sits, then linger for a few moments before I can gather my wits and pull them away. I direct my attention to the food that has appeared and take a Belgian waffle, but find I have no interest in eating it once it is on my plate. It feels like a hundred Chinese Fireballs are flying around in my stomach. I haven't been this nervous since my first day at Hogwarts!
Cass gives me a stern look and forces me to eat something. "El, you know I adore you, right? You're my best mate, and I know you'll probably hex me for saying this, but I feel that I have to. Are you really sure that Snape is the kind of guy you want to go after? Everyone knows he's into the Dark Arts. He came into Hogwarts knowing Dark spells even the seventh years don't! Remember when he cut James Potter's face last year with that weird spell no one had ever heard of? I just don't want you to get hurt…or sucked into that," she says with pleading eyes full of concern.
"Cass, I know Severus has done some rotten things and that he has more than a passing curiosity for Dark magic, but I also know that he's been hurt. I can tell when I look into his eyes that he's been through some kind of Hell, and it's only going to get worse if everyone continues to see him as just an unpopular kid who likes the Dark Arts. Think about his time here at school. Since first year he's been teased and picked on, by almost the whole school! That takes a toll. I know what it feels like to not fit in, as you know, being my only real friend, and that's one of the reasons I relate to him I think. I want to give him the chance to see that not everyone is going to look at him and pick out only his faults."
As I say those words, I can't help but think back upon my childhood. I try as much as possible never to think of the first ten years of my life, but no matter what, there are always times when the memories come flooding back, like they do now. You see, my biological father was abusive to my mother and to me. He was highly elitist and believed that purebloods were better than all other wizards, and muggles were no better than vermin. My mother, being from a long standing pureblood wizarding family, was forced to marry him by her parents. My mother, though, vehemently opposed his views on blood purity and muggles; she believes muggle culture and history is amazing, as is evidenced by my name (although my father didn't know that at the time). Whenever she would voice her opinion on the subject, or even just 'speak out of turn' as he used to say, he would beat her into submission. If I cried or tried to defend her he would direct his wrath to me as well. He also constantly verbally abused us, putting us both down as stupid, ugly, or a disappointment to the noble Coddington family.
As you may have noticed, I do not share my biological father's surname. I was saddled with it for the first ten years of my life, but after he died, my mother went back to using her maiden name and, thankfully, changed mine accordingly. She has retained it to this day, despite the fact that she remarried when I was fourteen. She is now quite happy with the quirky, lighthearted, yet still noble man whom I call my dad despite the lack of blood ties. Life at home now is tolerable, and for the most part, even pleasant, but being raised in a hellish environment like mine takes a permanent toll, leaving scars that, even if they can't be seen, will never fully heal. Somehow, I know that Severus has these too, and I believe his fascination with the Dark Arts is a way to empower himself against whatever tortures created his scars.
Cassie shakes me out of my daydream, or in this case, more of a day-nightmare, and forces me to finish half of my waffle before I am able to excuse myself and leave. Since I don't really have anywhere to go, I get to Transfiguration early, beating even Professor McGonagall there, and slump to the floor, leaning heavily against the stone wall next to the classroom door. I shut my eyes and take a deep breath to steady my nerves and shake the disturbing memories from my mind
"All right?" a somewhat familiar voice asks from above me. I open my eyes and look up to find Remus Lupin standing over me with a quizzical expression on his face.
"All right?" I reply, expecting he will then move on, but instead he sits down heavily beside me. I raise my brow at him, waiting for an explanation. "Shouldn't you be in the Great Hall having breakfast?" I ask when he fails to say anything.
"I could ask you the same thing," he retorts with a tired smirk.
"I was already there. I was up early today. It doesn't look like the same can be said for you, though," I remark, taking in his sallow skin and the large dark bags under his eyes. Lupin's normally bright, shining face appears as if he is one step from death this morning.
"Ooh, someone's shirty this morning," he quips back at me, but with a heavy weight hanging upon it rather than his usual joking cheer. "If you must know, I'm feeling a bit dicky today," he explains seriously. "I don't have much of an appetite."
"Sorry to hear that," I answer honestly. The man looks more than a bit sick and I feel bad for him. "If you want to go back to your dorm for a kip I can cover for you with McGonagall."
"Thanks, but I'll be okay. It was nice of you to offer though, especially after last night."
"No big deal. You guys were just going to the kitchens for some grub. It's not like you were charming all the turkeys to do the cha-cha or something," I say offhandedly. For a brief moment I see the mischievous light return to Lupin's eye and I groan.
"That's a bloody fantastic idea!" he exclaims. "You'd make a great prankster El. Maybe you could be the first female Marauder," he suggests with a jovial smile.
"Yeah, and then I can go to an ice cream social with Voldemort," I retort immediately with a roll of my eyes.
Lupin pulls back in surprise at my use of the megalomaniac's name, but recovers quickly. "Ouch! Comparing me and my mates to Voldie, that's harsh. What did we ever do to you?"
"Nothing to me," I answer with a distinct edge of bitterness in my voice, "but you guys have done plenty of atrocious things to other people in this school, and I wouldn't want any part of it." Lupin is obviously taken aback and a little hurt by my words, but I don't care. It is true, after all.
"Our pranks are harmless most of the time," he argues with a tone of defiance.
"Yeah, most of the time, but not always. I don't think publicly humiliating people is harmless at all," I point out, now well and truly seething as I recall the many times the Marauders have teased, taunted, and pranked Severus in front of the entire school.
"We don't do that!" he nearly shouts with a look of horror on his face that I would even suggest such a thing. "At least, not to anyone other than Snivellus," he adds thoughtfully, quietly.
"You see? Right there. Why do you have to insult him?" I ask pointedly as my anger noticeably rises.
"Ok, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called him that. I actually don't like it when people are called names; I guess it just slipped out after hanging around with Sirius and James so much. But you have to admit that he's a smarmy git and he always has been," Lupin argues. "He hexes James all the time too. Besides, what do you care if we humiliate one Slyther-" he begins to rant, cutting off abruptly as he looks deeply into my eyes. I quickly pull my glare away from him, but it is too late, and I know I am buggered. "You fancy him, don't you?" he cries in wide-eyed amazement.
"What? You're off your trolley," I counter with a scoff, noticing that I can't bring myself to outright deny it. For some reason, it seems to do so would be as if I am ashamed of my feelings, and that would be disrespectful to Severus.
"You didn't deny it," he points out with a growing smirk, confirming my suspicion that the unsuspecting Gryffindor is too smart for his own good. "Merlin's beard! You really are arse over elbow for him!" he mutters in amazement. "Why? You seem so…nice," he adds after a momentary pause, now with nothing but perplexity on his face and in his voice.
"I don't have to explain my feelings to you, Lupin," I spit defensively. "And perhaps Severus wouldn't be such a 'smarmy git' to you and your friends if you weren't such blinkered idiots all the time!"
Lupin's mouth is now hanging open in shock, but before he can retort Professor McGonagall arrives, giving us both wary stern looks before opening the door and ushering us inside.
As we walk in, I casually lean closer to him to whisper harshly into his ear. "If you breathe a word of this to anyone I'll skin you and turn you into a throw rug for my dorm." I'm pleased to see a look of sheer terror manifest itself on Lupin's face.
After that, the day seems to both fly and crawl by, and before I know it, I am arriving at the Potions classroom, saying the password to disable the wards. I sit down, glance at the Muggle watch my mother gave me for my 16th birthday and see that it's 7:55. Only five more minutes before Severus arrives and I get to spend an hour alone with him. Sweet Merlin! I need to calm down. I'm going to be all sweaty and gross when he arrives if I don't. Okay, deep, calming breaths. Just remember, if it's meant to be, it will be. Just be myself…he liked my sense of humor that one day with Yaxley, and we got along well that one time we were assigned to work together in Charms, so it should be fine. I just need to have some faith…everything will work out, I just know it!
My breath hitches as I hear the door to the Potions classroom open, and I take a moment to smooth out my hair and try to act casual. I think of Severus and a huge, genuine smile spreads across my face, even as my heart races. I hear the footsteps and straighten in my chair as he steps around the corner.
The world stops. I can't breathe. Finally, after a moment of awkward stunned silence I sputter a word out.