A/N: I wrote this about a year ago a week prior to the opening of Deathly Hallows 2 in homage both to the end of an era that spanned a good deal of my childhood and also as a little nod of thanks to Mike Schur and Greg Daniels for making Ben and Leslie the nerds that they are. Repost from LJ; oneshot; borderline stream-of-consciousness (I know, don't shoot, it's not that bad).
It is quite possibly the dorkiest thing he's been caught doing, and that includes that time he was fourteen and his father walked in on him having a moment with his Leia action figure, because he is decidedly not fourteen anymore. He's a grown man. At least that's what his driver's license and the ache in his wrists and his steadily growing farsightedness all say. Right now he doesn't feel like he's on the wrong side of thirty-five for this.
But everyone likes Harry Potter, right?
Okay so, no, everyone does not like Harry Potter. Chris, surprisingly, is one of those people. The look he gives Ben when he catches him reading The Prisoner of Azkaban hidden under an unassuming file folder is eerily reminiscent of his freshman English Lit teacher who caught him doing the same thing with the Two Towers and the cover of a defaced King Lear. But, in his defense, it is really all Leslie's fault.
That sounds like a copout and, let's be honest here, most everything he does these days seems to have something to do with her. But some crackpot handcuffed himself to a pipe in her office last week and instead of talking about that, instead of addressing the insanity she takes for normalcy, she went on for forty minutes about how Harry Potter was so much better than Twilight.
And the thing about Leslie is that she makes a pretty compelling argument.
Even if it's entirely lunatic.
Two days later he still can't shake the memory of her exuberant face, and impulsively he walks into Covers and buys a paperback copy of The Goblet of Fire. And it doesn't matter that it's the fourth one in the series or that he has no idea what's happening, he cannot put it down.
He finishes at one-thirty in the morning. No bookstore in town is open and there is not a website on earth that could deliver the rest of the books to him as quickly as he'd need them.
He calls Andy.
This turns out to be a mistake.
Andy does not read Harry Potter. Correction, Andy does not read. Books. He texts Tom, who responds with a resounding NERD in all capital letters. He calls April, who gives him a disgusted groan and tells him to just call Leslie already, and then promptly hangs up on him. So he wipes the sweat off his palms and does just that.
Leslie is ridiculously excited.
She's there within twenty minutes with two copies of every book, a five pound bag of m&m's, and takeout from Taco Bell, which is apparently the only place open at two in the morning on a Wednesday in Pawnee. And he is suddenly twice as enthusiastic about the whole idea because in his mind he just pictured her dropping the books off at his motel room, or bringing them to work in the morning.
They stay up all night reading the first two books together. It takes a little longer than if he would have read them alone because Leslie is constantly leaning over to look at what page he's on and stopping him to ask what happened every time he laughs, but he doesn't mind an ounce. He makes up a voice for Quirrell and she does her impression of Voldemort from the movies and gapes at him when he tells her he's never seen any of them.
Chris catches him the next day with the third book behind a folder and dark circles under his eyes. He doesn't care. Sirius just vandalized the Fat Lady and Snape just took over Defense Against the Dark Arts class and if Harry never gets to go to Hogsmeade he'll think it's just barbaric.
He falls asleep in his clothes as soon as he gets back to the motel that evening.
It takes him almost five days to finish off the rest, between work and bailing Ron out of jail and arguing with Leslie and talking to cops and actually trying to sleep, but he does it. He leaves Leslie's books in two neat stacks on her desk, but her bag of candy is still at his motel room and for some reason he's been snagging a few every time he walks past.
She shows up at his door that evening with three boxes of JJ's and the first four movies on DVD. She laughs when he tells her the motel doesn't supply a DVD player and they end up having to watch on his laptop. They rearrange the furniture so they can sit the computer on the coffee table and have their backs against the foot of the bed.
The first thirty minutes are fine. Better than fine and not as unbearably tense as he'd thought. He has plastic sporks and waffles and accidentally elbowing her in an attempt to coordinate eating to distract him from the fact that he's sitting practically shoulder to shoulder with her. But once the food is gone and they've stopped having to apologize for knocking into one another and it's just the sound of the movie and the smell of her perfume and the fatuous urge to lean over and kiss her, he's in a bit of a pickle.
She grabs his hand and squeezes it when Harry mounts his broom to chase Malfoy and Neville's Remembrall, and that is pretty much the last straw. He's going to end up doing something very, very stupid if he doesn't get some distance right this second.
Salvation comes when he remembers the half-full bag of candies stashed in his mini-fridge. He retrieves it and sits it between them. Strangely, it feels more like a date this way, like they're actually at a movie and she bought the tickets and he bought the candy and it makes him ten times more nervous, but he can't feel her skin on his anymore and he supposes that makes it okay.
By the time the credits roll, however, he's forgotten all about his earlier anxieties because he is just that enthused. And he kind of really wants to talk to her about it, but as soon as he turns to face her, all of his former agitation blindsides him and all he can manage is a somewhat noncommittal grunt. Sometimes he's so awkward it hurts.
But she just leaves the other three disks and tells him to return them when he's done.
He takes his lunch out into the courtyard to meet her a few days later.
"I finished the movies," he tells her, sitting his egg salad beside whatever sugary concoction used to be in her styrofoam container. He loves the way her whole face lights up and when he's looking at her he can't remember a reason not to.
"You should have called me! I would have brought the rest with me today. I'll just have to drop them off later. Or you can come by after work and pick them up. What did you think of them? I always hate that they have to cut so much-"
But she's interrupted by the sound of a crash. Jerry came falling out of the door and the papers he was carrying scattered everywhere. They both jump up to help him.
After it's ascertained that Jerry is all right, just a klutz, and they're helping him gather the forms, she leans over and whispers in his ear, "Jerry is such a Neville."
Later, he wanders into her office to drop off a stack of files she doesn't need.
"So, who am I?"
She looks up, confused.
"Who am I in the Potter-verse?"
She grins and bites her bottom lip. "You're Lupin."
"No," he says. "Lupin is a Gryffindor. I'd be in Ravenclaw."
She laughs at this. "Well, you think highly of your abilities, don't you?"
"I might. Tom would definitely be in Slytherin."
"No, Tom's a Hufflepuff at heart. Now Ron-Ron could be in Slytherin."
He gets the mental image of Ron in a pointed hat and bottle green robes. "Okay. What about April? She's got to be a Slytherin."
"Andy's all Hufflepuff," she says, and they both chuckle.
"So what about you?" he asks after a moment.
She beams. "Oh I'm definitely a Hufflepuff. A hundred percent."
But it strikes him as all wrong, because Leslie is brave and compassionate and fiercely, unflinchingly loyal. She throws herself at every challenge and fights every battle like it's paramount. He can't think of any way to explain to her how he thinks of her without blowing his professional cover completely out of the water.
"You," he says instead, "are Lily."
He watches her process the thought and receives a dazzling smile.
Maybe he's a Lupin now, but he's pretty sure he started life off as a James. Maybe somewhere down the road they could make their own story. And maybe he thinks that is absolutely magical.
whyagain july 2011