Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Warning: Oneshot. A spin-off (in a way) from A Tale of Two Puppies – you really ought to read ToTP first, but I don't think it's completely necessary. This scene takes place during the Marauders' second year, shortly before the end of the fall term, somewhere in the middle of Chapter 5 of ToTP. Remus's POV.
Dedication: To Dragon's Obsession, who requested it. I hope you like it, it's a long one (by my standards, anyway).
I Don't Know, It's A Mystery
"… Which is why you shouldn't face a boggart alone," Remus finished.
"Right, right," Lily nodded, scribbling madly in her Muggle notebook. "But how does it know what your worst fear is? What if your worst fear changes?"
"No one knows how it knows," Remus explained. "But the boggart does always know, and it will become whatever it is you most fear at the time."
"Most… fear… at… the… time…" Lily muttered to herself, pen scritching across the paper.
Remus's mouth twitched. It always amused him that Lily took down his words as faithfully as any professor's.
"All right," she said at last, looking up with a smile. "I think I'm set. Do you want my Potions notes from the class you missed last week?"
"That would be great, Lily, thank you," Remus smiled back.
Lily rummaged in her bag. "I'll go over them with you, if you'd like, so you can ask me any questions now, instead of having to wait – oh, bugger, I've left them in my room." She stood. "Do you want to wait here, or…"
"I'll go back with you," Remus replied, also rising and beginning to pack away his things. "I can copy them in the common room as easily as here."
Lily laughed, hoisting her bag to her shoulder. "It's quieter here, though," she pointed out. "Fewer distractions."
"You mean Sirius and James aren't here," Remus elaborated for her. "They can be distracting. That's why I come here to study so often, they don't much care for libraries, so they won't bother me, which means I can get my work done." He held the door.
"Why thank you, Mr. Lupin," Lily laughed again, delightedly, passing through into the corridor. "Such a gentleman."
"My mum won't budge unless I hold the door," Remus told her. "Dad says she's old-fashioned, but if you ever come to my house, he'll hold doors for you, and chairs, and take your coat, and everything," he chuckled. "Mum's got him trained."
"I'd like to meet your mother," Lily grinned. "I think I'd like her."
"You would," Remus affirmed confidently. "She'd like you, too. You're a lot alike."
For some reason, Lily flushed slightly.
They walked for a few moments in silence, then, "Are you going to be home over the holidays?" she asked in a rush. "We're having a party on Christmas Eve, and my Mum said I could invite some friends, since Petunia's going to have all her friends by, and I'd really love for you to come, and of course your mum and dad are welcome, too, if they'd like to come, and we'll have food and a tree, and Winnie and Alice are going to come, but I was hoping, since you get on all right with them, that you wouldn't mind, even if it is a lot of girls, and, well, I'd just really like for you to come." She stopped abruptly, redder than ever.
Remus fought the impulse to burst out laughing. When he was sure he had mastered himself, he turned to her and grinned. "I'd love to come," he said.
"Silver tinsel," Remus said to the Fat Lady, and politely helped Lily through the portrait hole when it opened.
"Thanks," Lily said, still beaming as she led the way across the common room. "Ask your parents as well, if you'd like. Winnie's mum and dad are coming, though I'm not sure about Alice. Mum says, 'the more the merrier' – oh, but it will be mostly Muggles, so…"
"Don't worry," Remus assured her, "I'm half-blood anyway. We're all perfectly fine around Muggles. But won't your sister – What?"
Lily had stopped and was staring strangely at Remus.
"What is it?" he asked.
"You're standing on the stairs," she replied.
"Well, yes," he agreed slowly. "You stopped, so I stopped so I wouldn't run into you, and now I'm standing… What?"
She was shaking her head. "No," she said. "You're standing on the stairs!"
What is she on about? "So are you."
"Yes, but I'm a girl."
"So what if you're a girl?"
"You're a boy!"
"Yes, Lily. I know I'm a boy. And I know you're a girl. Are you feeling all right? Should I take you to the hospital wing?" Remus was beginning to feel rather concerned.
"No!" Lily shook her head fiercely and grabbed Remus's shoulders, shaking him as well. "These are the girls' dormitories! You're standing on the girls' staircase! And you're a boy! Boys aren't supposed to come up here!"
"Oh." Remus grabbed the redhead's wrists to make her stop shaking him. "I didn't realize. You could have just said so. I'll meet you back down in the common room, then, shall I?"
"No!" Lily exclaimed for the third time, clearly losing her patience, which Remus thought was a bit unfair of her. "You don't understand! Boys can't come up here!"
Remus felt lost and was beginning to feel slightly irritated. "Which is why I –" he began.
"Boys can't come up here, Remus," Lily was obviously rather desperately trying to explain, voice rising in both volume and pitch. "They can't."
"I'm sure no one will be that upset, since I didn't know –"
"You're not understanding me!"
"Obviously I'm not, so if you'd please tell me plainly what is it you're –"
"The stairs don't let boys up!" Lily stopped, took a deep breath, then said, more slowly and in a normal voice, "Boys can't get up the stairs. If a boy tries to climb these stairs, they flatten out and form a slide. It's been like that since the beginning. Didn't you read Hogwarts, A History?"
"Yes," Remus said slowly, trying to remember. "But then… Oh, right!" That's right, he thought. "The Founders thought girls were more trustworthy than boys, so only the girls' staircases do that. I'd forgotten all about it."
"Exactly!" Lily nodded emphatically. "But you, Remus Lupin, are a boy and yet you are standing on the girls' stairs. You are not sliding back down to the common room like a fool as all your predecessors have done."
"Maybe they're broken?" Remus suggested dubiously.
Lily looked as doubtful as Remus felt. "Can things like that break?"
Remus shrugged, then a horrible thought hit him. What if it's because I'm a werewolf? Male animals have no trouble going up the stairs. Winnie's cat is male – nasty little bugger. Do the stairs know? What else could it be?
Lily frowned, giving Remus a thoughtful look.
Remus grinned nervously. "Maybe they know I'm just here to get your notes?" he offered jokingly, hoping to distract her with their original quest.
Lily laughed and continued up the stairs, but the thoughtful look remained.
"This is me," she said, pushing open the door at the top of the stairs.
Remus followed her into a room that was nearly identical to his own.
"Just a moment," she said, hunting through one of the trunks.
"Mmhm." Remus looked around the room with some interest, but remained standing uncomfortably by the door, unsure where to go.
"You can sit down, if you like," Lily's voice was slightly muffled as she dug through her things. "Make yourself at home. My bed's the – ah ha! Here it is!" she straightened with the elusive notebook held triumphantly in the air.
"Wonderful," Remus smiled in relief. "Shall we go back downstairs?"
"Sure," Lily nodded as she re-crossed the room back to where Remus was still hovering by the door.
She'd barely opened the door when a loud, klaxon-like wailing echoed in the stairwell and the stairs disappeared, sinking into a ramp.
"A little late, isn't it?" Lily inquired, looking over her shoulder at the brunet and smirking.
"Um…" Remus stared uncertainly at the smooth stone slide.
"Someone else must have set it off," Lily said. "Though I suppose this proves it still works."
Lily giggled. "Well, let's go!"
"But, how do we…?"
"We slide!" Lily said excitedly. "Like this!" She stepped out onto the slide sideways, as though surfing, placing one hand lightly against the wall for balance, and whooshed out of site around the bend.
"Oh, we slide," Remus muttered sarcastically. "Whyever didn't I think of that. Bloody girls." But he stepped out onto the slide, following Lily down the steep, circular slope, trying to not flail his free arm in his quest for balance.
"Jump!" Lily's voice yelled as he neared the bottom.
Remus obeyed automatically, just in time to avoid tripping over the last couple steps as the slide turned back into stairs. He landed on the wonderfully solid floor of the common room next to a widely grinning Lily and a scowling pair of black-haired boys.
"Wasn't that fun?" asked Lily.
"Yeah," Remus mumbled. "Loads."
"Rem likes his feet firmly on the ground," Sirius informed the green-eyed girl in a tone of voice that added, 'Which you would know, if you were his friend.'
"Oh, lighten up, Black," Lily said, then snickered as she realized what she had said.
Sirius ignored her. "How did you get up there, Rem?" he demanded. "Some girl," he gestured vaguely behind him, "said you'd gone up there with Evans, but as soon as we tried to follow the stairs changed."
"I, er, don't really know," Remus admitted. "I just walked up, and there wasn't a problem until just now, and I guess that was your fault, actually, not mine."
"What were you doing up there, anyway?" James inquired suspiciously.
"I invited him, Potter," Lily snapped.
"What for?" Sirius was still staring at Remus. It was making him uncomfortable to have those grey eyes fixed on him as though they could see into the very core of his being.
"I just needed to borrow her Potions notes," Remus explained, feeling far more uncomfortable now than he had upstairs in Lily's room.
"Potions notes?" Sirius scoffed. "Term's almost over. What do you need notes for?"
"I missed our last class," Remus reminded his friend patiently. "I had to visit my mother, remember?" He winced internally as he said it. He hated the lie.
"Borrow mine, then," Sirius suggested in a tone that sounded far more like a command. "I'll give them to you later. Let's go get something to eat." He grabbed Remus by the elbow and started tugging him towards the portrait hole.
"He's more than welcome to my notes, Black," Lily snapped, taking Remus's other arm and trying to pull him in the opposite direction, towards where Winnie and Alice were sitting, doing work.
"But he's coming to the kitchens with us," Sirius glared, tugging a little harder on Remus's elbow.
"No," Lily retorted, yanking Remus back in the other direction. "He's coming to study with me."
"Keep your girly hands to yourself!" Sirius growled.
"You keep your hands to yourself!" Lily hissed back.
This is what a rope must feel like between two dogs playing tug-of-war, Remus thought in annoyance. Only I'm the canine. I never thought I'd feel sorry for the rope. He scowled at James, who was just staring at the redheaded girl with a somewhat awestruck look on his face. Useless, he grumbled silently as his friends continued to jerk him back and forth. Utterly useless. And where's Peter?
"You're behaving like a child, Black," Lily gritted.
"You're the bloody child!" Sirius snarled.
All right. I've had enough of this. "Let go," Remus said in a low voice.
They didn't hear.
"Let me go," he repeated louder, irritation building.
They kept sniping.
"I said let go!" Remus bellowed.
Sirius and Lily both froze. Grey and green eyes turned to Remus.
James's hazel eyes turned from the redhead to stare at the brunet.
The entire common room had gone silent as everyone stared at the second years.
This is so embarrassing. I'm going to kill these two for this. And maybe James for good measure. What has gotten into them? Remus lowered his voice, fighting the urge to blush. "Lily," he turned to the girl. "Thank you for the notes. If we could go over them tomorrow, that would be excellent."
Lily nodded, still looking slightly dumbfounded by Remus's outburst, but also looking a trifle hurt. She released her hold on Remus's arm.
"Ha!" Sirius exclaimed, wrapping his hand more possessively around Remus's other arm. "I told you, you –"
"Sirius," Remus cut him off, turning to stare at the boy holding his arm.
Sirius's eyes widened slightly at the use of his name.
"I asked you to let go of me." Remus kept his voice soft, but his embarrassment at being such a center of attention was acute and he was not happy about it.
Sirius let go at once, color rising in his cheeks.
Remus rubbed his arm where Sirius had been gripping him.
The color in Sirius's face deepened as he watched Remus rub his sore arm and he looked severely guilty. "I'm so sorry, Rem, I didn't mean to –"
Remus held up on hand and Sirius fell silent, biting his lower lip uncomfortably. "Don't talk to me, Sirius. I don't want to hear your apologies. Go have fun in the kitchens. I'm going to bed." He turned on his heel and stalked up to his own dorm, leaving his friends to sort themselves out.
– – – – –
"I'm sorry about yesterday," Lily said hesitantly, shifting her position on her bed.
Remus looked up from the notes he was copying. "What?"
"The, er, fight with Black," Lily clarified. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. It's just, I always feel like he's taking advantage of you, because you're so nice, and, well, I know you can stand up for yourself, but you never do to him, and he's always hogging your time, and, well, I like spending time with you, so I guess I was a little jealous." She was blushing and refused to meet Remus's eyes, focusing instead on the coverlet, which she was picking at with her nails.
"Come on, Lily," Remus flicked the feathered end of his quill at the girl's nose. "Don't be so hard on yourself. It was flattering, really, that you both wanted to spend time with me. I was just upset because so many people were staring. I don't like a lot of attention, you know that."
"I know," she agreed. "And I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Remus grinned. "Sirius already apologized enough for the both of you."
Lily's eyebrows went up in question.
Remus shook his head. "He's like that, sometimes. He's not really taking advantage, you know, that's just how he is. I don't mind."
"Yes, but –"
"No, Lily," Remus cut her off. "I don't expect you to understand. This is just one of those things. He's my best friend. I would do anything to protect that friendship. Putting up with him being the way he is doesn't bother me, in the long run. It's worth it to me. I have enough to worry about without constantly telling him off for being himself."
"You do tell him off, though," Lily pointed out, trying to lighten the mood. "And he listens to you."
Remus gave her a wry grin. "Not often, you know how he and James are."
Lily returned the grin with a matching one of her own. "Everyone knows how he and Potter are," she agreed.
"At least I have somewhere they can't follow me, now," Remus noted, waving at the dorm room.
"That you do," Lily concurred. "And you're welcome here any time you need to get away from them, whether for homework, or for sanity."
Remus laughed. "Thanks, Lily. I'll probably take you up on that."
"Any time," she repeated.
Remus nodded, then returned to copying her notes.
"Too bad we don't know why it is you can get up here, though," Lily remarked thoughtfully after a few moments.
Remus's head snapped up. Shit. I really hope she doesn't start asking questions… "Yeah," he said, hoping his voice didn't sound too tense. "Too bad."
Lily's lips twisted slightly to the side as she thought, then she shrugged, obviously letting it go. "I suppose it's just a mystery," she said.
Remus gave an inner sigh of relief. "Yeah. I suppose so," he nodded. "A mystery."
A/N: Not a particularly fabulous title, but it's an oft-repeated line from Shakespeare in Love, which I happened to be watching before I started this, and it was stuck in my head, so I used it. I myself have two theories as to why Remus might be able to get up those stairs, but I haven't settled on either one, and I'm not sure it will ever have any real impact on the main story why he can get up them, so it shall remain a mystery. You are all welcome to form you own ideas, and feel free to share! I always like to know what you think. Speaking of… Review and let me know what you think of the fic!