How on earth could you get yourself out of an engagement? Remus wondered to himself, as he made his way down to the dungeons on Sunday evening. He was alone; Lily had asked him to check on the potion they were working on one more time before handing it in the next day. He personally thought it was overkill, but was also guiltily aware that Evans had so far done the lion’s share of the work.
Sirius’s problem had been ticking away in the back of his mind all day. James had charged them all with coming up with a solution by Christmas, but Remus couldn’t see what might be done. He’d never thought about engagement, or marriage, or family honour before. Those were all grown up things. Thirteen-year-old boys certainly weren’t supposed to worry about them. But then, he supposed, turning the final bend in the staircase, nor were twelve-year-old boys supposed to worry about transforming into monsters once a month.
He sighed heavily, pushing the door to the Potions classroom open. To his disgust, Severus Snape was in there already, stirring his own potion. Their eyes met, and Remus froze for a moment, before squaring his shoulders, raising his chin and walking straight over to his own cauldron, choosing to ignore the other boy.
But he couldn’t help but notice that his potion was a slightly different colour from Snape’s, which couldn’t be a good sign. Theirs was a bold, royal blue, much darker than it ought to be. Snape had obviously noticed too.
“You need to add more lavender.” He said, nasally, not looking up from his stirring. “At least another teaspoon.”
“Yeah, right.” Remus frowned, “S’if I’m going to take advice off you.”
“I’m hardly going to ruin Lily’s potion, am I?!” Snape spat back.
Remus considered this. It was true that despite Severus’ generally unpleasant demeanour, the only other thing the marauders knew about him was that he would do almost anything for Lily Evans. It was weird, but Remus wasn’t one to judge anyone for being weird.
He spooned in some more lavender and stirred. At once, the potion took on a paler, sky blue hue, and a lovely dreamy aroma rose from it. Snape made a smug clicking noise with his tongue, and closed the lid on his own cauldron, getting ready to leave.
“Hiya Sev!” a voice came from the doorway, “Oh, Remus…”
It was Lily. She looked a bit embarrassed. Remus frowned,
“Thought we agreed I was checking it tonight?”
“Um, yes, we did… I was just… double checking.” Her usually pale cheeks were bright red.
“Didn’t think I’d show up?”
Snape snorted, derisively, on his way out. Remus fought the urge to throw a spoon at the back of his greasy head. Lily didn’t notice, she had already crossed the room, and was looking down into the cauldron.
“Well, you do get a lot of detentions,” she said, diplomatically. Severus swept out of the room. “Oh wow, it looks much better than it did this morning. Did you do something?”
“Added more lavender.”
“Really? Nice one, it looks exactly right now.”
“Well…” he rubbed the back of his head, glancing that the door. Snape was out of earshot. “Yeah, I just thought it needed some, I s’pose.”
“Nothing left to do, then. Are you on your way back to the common room?”
They walked together. Lily was in a good mood,
“We work quite well together, don’t we?” She smiled at him. “It’s a nice change from Sev, anyway, you’re much more easy going.”
Remus had never thought of himself as easy going before. It was a nice thing for her to say, but then compared to Snape anyone might seem relaxed.
“What’s the thing with you and him anyway?” He asked.
“He’s my best friend.” Lily answered promptly, as if she had to justify this all the time. “We’ve known each other ages.”
“He’s not as bad as you think he is,” she said, glancing at him sideways, “He can be really kind. And funny.”
“Why’s he hang about with Mulciber and the pureblood lot, then?”
“Well if we’re going to base our assumptions on people based on their friends,” Lily looked at him very pointedly.
“What’s wrong with my friends?!” Remus was shocked. Everyone loved James and Sirius. Lily rolled her eyes.
“They’re all heirs to pureblood houses, aren’t they?” She tossed her auburn curls, “Plus they’re massive show-offs. Potter thinks he’s god’s gift and Black is… well, he’s a Black, isn’t he? Even I know about them, and I’m muggle born. I s’pose Peter’s ok, but it’s sad the way he follows them around everywhere.”
“I follow them around too.”
“Yeah, you do.” She looked at him again, cheekily.
“You’re wrong about them.” Remus said, “I mean… ok, you’re right about them showing off, but they’re not just… there’s more to them.”
“Well then you’ll just have to accept that there’s more to Severus, won’t you?”
She was harder to argue with than Sirius. Remus shrugged, noncommittally. It occurred to him that Lily might be able to help with their present conundrum. After all, weddings and engagements were girl things, weren’t they? At least she might offer another perspective.
“Evans?” he said, thoughtfully, “You’re quite clever…”
“Oh, cheers very much.”
“Sorry. I mean – you’re cleverer than me.”
He grinned, rubbing the back of his head.
“What would you do if your family was making you get married to someone you didn’t want to?”
She frowned, as if that was not at all what she had expected.
“Liker an arranged marriage? I thought you lived in a foster home?”
“A children’s home,” he corrected. “They’re different. Anyway, it’s not me, it’s… someone else.”
“Um…” She looked stumped, which didn’t give Remus much hope. “Gosh, I mean, it’s not something my parents would ever do. But if they did… I’d be really angry, obviously. And hurt.”
“Hurt?” He asked, puzzled.
“Well, obviously. Your parents are supposed to love you and want what’s best for you… making a decision like that on your behalf is the complete opposite.”
“Right,” he nodded, though he didn’t really understand, “Well this person er… doesn’t really get on with their parents anyway.”
“Even so,” Lily shrugged, “That doesn’t mean they’re not hurt by it. You should be able to trust the people who raised you.”
“Oh, ok.” Remus didn’t know what to say to that. He had a horrible churning sensation in his stomach – the same feeling he used to get when called upon to read out loud. Lily hadn’t noticed. They were almost at the common room now.
“I still don’t know what I’d do,” she sighed, “It’s like the only option is to defy them – the parents. But that’s going to cause all sorts of problems… Who is this about? Go on, tell me!”
Remus shook his head,
Lily nodded, understanding. Remus smiled at her. She had an immensely soothing presence.
“Flibbertigibbet,” Lily said to the portrait, which swung open for them to crawl through.
James had not long returned from quidditch practice and was still in his red flying robes. He sat on one of the sofas flicking Zonko’s bursting beans into the fireplace, where they burst in a riot of colour like miniature fireworks. Sirius lay on the rug beneath him reading a book on hexes he’d brought from home.
“Alright, Lupin?” James grinned. Remus nodded to Lily and went over to his friends. The redhead went straight up the stairs to the girl’s dorm. “Dumped us for Evans, have you?” James asked, smirking.
“Potions.” Remus replied.
“Right. You friends with her now?”
“Sort of,” Remus shrugged, “She’s all right. Hates you two.”
“What?!” They both sat up, looking affronted.
“But everyone likes us!” Sirius said, “We’re loveable rogues!”
“She thinks you’re show offs.”
James gasped, dramatically.
“How dare she! We’ll have to win her over.”
“Why bother,” Sirius rolled over, returning to his book, “She’s friends with Snivellus, she clearly has no taste.”
“Did she really say that?” James was asking Remus. He nodded,
“She said you think you’re god’s gift.”
“What does that mea-“
“It’s a muggle expression,” Remus explained, “Means she thinks you’re full of yourself.”
“She thinks that?”
“Well,” Remus looked at him, “You sort of are, to be honest.”
James laughed. Remus sat beside him, grabbing a handful of the Zonko beans himself and flinging them into the fire, one by one. He and James shortly made a game of it, seeking who could create the biggest explosions by hitting the embers just right.
“Forgot to say,” James said, once the bag of beans was empty, “Got the owl from dad today – he’s spoken to McGonagall and got permission for us to have you over Christmas.”
“What? Really?!” Remus was fascinated. Why would a grownup who had never met him before want to intervene on his behalf? He made a mental note never to underestimate the power of James’s will ever again.
“Yeah, doesn’t think he can get you for the summer, though. Sorry.”
Remus shook his head, wordlessly. He ought to say thank you, but he hardly knew how.
“Just waiting for you now, mate,” James nudged Sirius with his foot, “Have you sorted it out with your mum? Say you’re going to the Pettigrew’s again.”
“Not bothering,” Sirius replied, still reading, “Just going to go to yours without saying anything.”
Sirius was rarely ever in contact with his parents, but since the Narcissa development he had been ignoring their owls altogether. Remus wasn’t sure that silence was the best way for Sirius to express his discontent, but as Lily had just reminded him, Remus knew very little about families.
“Mum won’t like it,” James chewed his lip.
“Don’t tell her, then.” Sirius turned his page.
James and Remus exchanged a look. They had to do something about the engagement soon; the thought of Sirius being in this mood for five more years was a very grim one indeed.