Remus Lupin has issues. His tutor doesn't help the situation at all. First in the Calloway series, original character. One shot.
He often watched her - usually from a distance. She was two years older than he was, a proper young adult, self-assured and responsible. She was Head Girl now. As if anyone had ever doubted that outcome. No one worked harder or showed a quicker mind. Around exam months, she had a sort of delicious tunnel-vision. She would walk the halls, book in hand, trusting to the combination of her inner radar and other people's senses of self-preservation to keep her safe. She would manage entire conversations with her nose buried in parchment. He knew. He watched her.
Part of him was amazed that it had taken three years for him to notice her. After all, she had already been a third year when he arrived. He had been too young to be interested, he supposed. That and he had been consumed with nerves and paranoia that first year, protecting his secret with the desperation of one who suspected they were already damned.
He still hadn't noticed her for another year. He was too busy and he had found James and Sirius and Peter. For the first time in his life, he had friends and he was happy and almost relaxed. He still had his secret but he had friends to keep it now. They joked and studied and hung around the courtyard together. They did everything together. None of them were noticing girls yet, though. They had class and Quidditch and the moon-nights. Life was good.
Sirius was the first to notice girls as something other than, well, girls. Somehow that didn't come as a shock. Nor was it a surprise when James followed soon after, eyeing another third year Gryffindor named Lily Evans suddenly. They were the more charismatic of the quartet. More handsome, more clever. Peter was afraid of girls, straight out, stuttering and nervous. And him? He was too quiet, too bookish, too wrapped up in his own differences and limitations.
He remembers the first time he really saw her. He had been back only a few days; the full moon had prevented his arrival with the others. Out of sorts and dead tired, he only registered the petite form - black robes, heavy satchel, a virtual cloak of red-gold curls cascading - seconds before he collided. Luckily, neither was hurt but, as he scrambled to gather his and her books and parchment, he hardly dared look her in the face. When he did lift his eyes, though, the prominently placed Prefect's badge was ignored in favor of the way her dark blue eyes were sparkling with suppressed laughter.
He remembered every word, her accent and tone. Clipped and teasing and thoroughly honied-Scottish and sweet to his ears.
"Hey, there, mate. Are you okay?" Crouching next to him, she smiled and offered him one of his own books. He nodded, head ducking again, glad that he let his pale brown hair grow shaggy - it afforded cover. "Hm," she continued meditatively, "Always a bit mad the first week. First years coming over homesick. Fifth years fretting over OWLs. Seventh years ready to be out and about." She tossed a long, shining curl over her shoulder, tucking it behind her ear. Her smile was infectious; he almost smiled back. "I'm surprised us standers-around don't get bowled over more, really." She stood, the last book from his upended bag in her hand; all of hers had already miraculously been returned to her own satchel. Absently, she glanced at it as she offered it to him. Befor he could grasp it, though, she pulled it back, blue eyes widening, flipped it open, and began skimming the table of contents.
He felt his heart speed and he hoped she couldn't hear his shallow, nervous breathing. That was one of his Dark Arts books, well above his own current year, reserved for older students who were pursuing such things with a thought towards future occupation. He really wasn't supposed to have it. He'd gotten permission but...
"Gristledown?" she asked, pale eyebrow raising. Then she looked at him and he could read the curiousity in her face. He looked away. Somehow, he had noticed the faint freckles across her nose more than any disapproval in her eyes and that couldn't be right. "This is tricky stuff." He nodded. "You're not a seventh year, though, are you?" He shook his head no, ducking his head more. Why didn't the earth ever swallow you up when you wanted it to? "Hm, must be clever then." The book shut with a soft snap and suddenly it was under his nose, offered once more. "Here you go, mate. Take care of that one." Daring to glance up at her, he caught his breath at the answering grin she shot him. With a jolt, he noticed her other friends had wandered off and they stood alone in the hallway. "It's got some nasty bits in it," she added.
He merely stared at her smile; it took her from attractive to... Spooked, he shook his head to clear his mind. "Yeah," he murmured. "Okay. Um, cheers." Grabbing the book from her, he jammed it back into his bag.
She laughed, not unkindly. "Especially look out for page 343." Her mischievous wink floored him and he stared as she sauntered away, expertly swinging her satchel up onto her shoulder.
He watched her.
... Shaking his head, Remus bent over his parchment once more, gripping his quill in his hand. It was academic death to let your mind wander while studying for your OWLs. He knew that. Efficiently, he dragged a tattered book towards him, pages dog-eared, scribbled notes littering the margins.
He almost laughed when he realized what it was. Gristledown. No wonder he had wandered. Hearing her laugh in the next aisle over, whispering to her friends about some sort of surprise gift, and then having this book to work over, it was no wonder. He closed his eyes and the image of her rose again before him.
"Hey, mate, whatcha up to?"
His eyes slammed open again and he looked up at the petite redhead, feeling his face struggle to decide if he should blush or blanch. Wordless, he showed her the book. She smiled, the same smile from two years ago, sweet and light and mischievous. "And this time it's legal," she teased. "Come on then. Study time." Neatly, she snagged the chair next to him with a pale hand and settled in, head bent.
With a faint sigh, he joined her. Brown head, red head, pale hands pointing out words to each other. Juniper Calloway, his tutor for the past two years.
He watched her and, as her hand brushed his to bring his attention back to work, he knew. Biting his lip, he obediently followed her words and movements. She was worried about his tiredness, his lack of concentration. She wanted to dissect him and put him back together but it was in her own friendly, protective way. He was almost willing to let her try.
Knowing that something is not forever doesn't mean it isn't worth it. Sometimes, an innocent Right Now is more than enough.