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John Lupin

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John Lupin

Last class of the day and John was exhausted. He was particularly annoyed that he hadn't been able to figure out exactly how to see anything through the fog that clouded up his crystal ball in Divination, and had got in trouble for trying to pretend like he had seen a hippogriff. He couldn't win. Best to just head to bed and sleep through supper.

 

"John Ira Lupin."

 

Or . . . not. The cold, furious voice wasn't his mum's, so John was confused. The only person who knew John's middle name aside from the Snoddgrasses and Gracie Tink was--

 

He almost didn't want to turn around, because he had a feeling that Kaelyn would have the look on her face that she had now. He was in trouble, and it was the sort of trouble that would likely culminate in her hexing him. Everything told him to turn around and run as quickly as he could down to the dungeons but something about the proximity of her wand to her hand made him reconsider, particularly since Kaelyn was probably pretty good at masking magic in the corridors, being a prefect and all, and she knew way more offencive combat spells than he did.

 

It took everything he had to keep the fear budding up inside him from turning his hair colours other than brown. It lightened against his will, but not by much--success enough.

 

"Kae," he said, not daring to move his feet. 

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Kaelyn Paddock

It had taken some time to catch John alone, and by the time she had, her annoyance had both bubbled over and dissipated at the same time.  Kaelyn wasn’t nearly as mad as him as she could be, but she had also been holding back a lot of her thoughts on the matter for some time.  Those thoughts were about to make themselves known.

 

She moved a little closer as the Slytherin froze in the corridor, not quite stepping into his personal space but moving herself close enough to him that she could grab him roughly by the arm if he tried to escape.  There was also that trip jinx she could make use of if he strayed out of reach too quickly, but she dared him with her expression to try it.

 

They might not get the chance to talk without anybody eavesdropping anytime soon again, so Kaelyn cut right to the chase.  “Were you pretending to be Irene with Toby?” she asked, lowering her voice into a low hiss just in case anybody wandered into their immediate vicinity.

 

Mad as she was at John Lupin, she wasn’t going to go blowing his cover either.

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John Lupin

Yeah, no, trying to run definitely wasn't an option. 

 

Kaelyn was straightforward, if nothing else. John liked that about her--no beating around the bush. But now he frowned, confused. He hadn't run into Kae that night, and--

 

Oh. Right. She was dating Toby. 

 

With all of the things that Toby had insinuated about Irene, and all of the prejudice that he'd seen around Hogwarts and from the death eater attacks and around the entire wizarding world, John had completely forgotten that Kaelyn had a boyfriend, let alone that it was Toby. He glanced around now to make sure no one was listening, but folded his arm over his chest. He wasn't much taller than Kae, but she could be threatening enough that he had to adjust his stance a bit, too. 

 

"Yes," he said, a bit grumpily, "but to be fair, I wasn't expecting Toby to walk in the kitchens at that moment." 

 

He he also hadn't been expecting Toby to talk about Irene's snogging habits, nor encourage her to go get some so that she'd relax more. 

 

"Why? What happened?"

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Kaelyn Paddock

To be fair, he said.  Like the kitchens was a sacred place that nobody else had access to.  Like it made it okay for him to impersonate Irene just because he’d been caught a little off guard.

 

At least he admitted to it.  She had to give him that.

 

“They’re mad at each other!” she threw up her hands with a ‘can you believe this?’ expression on her face, even though she'd never been under the impression that Toby or Irene were particularly fond of each other.  It actually surprised her that the two of them seemed as annoyed over the situation as they were.

 

“Or at least Toby’s mad at her and won’t talk to her, even though I’ve tried convincing him to hear her out.  Apparently she said,” and at this she gave John a pointed look, as she had obviously figured out that the she in question wasn’t Irene at all, “that he's a dislikable person?  What the flack, John?”  And this time she reached right into his personal space, and gave his shoulder a light shove with her hand.

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John Lupin

John would have tolerated Kaelyn nagging him, or making him feel guilty, or whatever. But she pushed him. 

 

There were too many words, too many accusations flooding in at once, and coupled with the pushing and the anger and the complete and total lack of trying to understand why John had done what he'd done, John was more than annoyed.

 

"Don't push me," he said, his tone starting to grow cold. It was unusual for him to get cold, but it was happening more and more lately as he'd woken up gradually to all the prejudice and unfairness that ruled the world around him, that caused situations like his grandparents' death and his own near-death and Irene's own version of what John perceived to be harassment by Toby. This wasn't the first time that Kae had pulled John aside to yell at him, or pry, only to try to shame him into telling her the truth. And the last time, that hadn't gone so well.

 

John considered lying to her now.

 

It was a short-lived thought, because she was a human lie detector and that would verifiably destroy their friendship forever, and he might have been fifteen but he wasn't completely stupid.

 

"First of all, can you, like, come to me next time you have a problem and ask me questions instead of pushing me around? I don't like it." He pulled his shoulders back so he was squarely facing her, just out of reach, and rubbed his arm subconsciously. "And secondly, Toby is an unlikable person. Did you know he once snuck in my dorm to find out whether I was a werewolf? Or that he was asking Irene about her snogging habits and suggesting that she'd be more relaxed if she were to just get snogged? I mean--" he folded his arms over his chest and grimaced, half-pained, half-pity, "--if he's dating you, why is he asking other girls whom they're kissing?"

Edited by John Lupin

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Kaelyn Paddock

It was the mixture of coolness and assertion in John’s voice that eventually stalled Kaelyn from trying to steamroll all over him, and a brief look of surprise crossed her face.  So, John Lupin had grown some balls since the last time Kaelyn had shoved him. She kinda liked it.

 

She would’ve liked it more if that was all he said, though.

 

There was probably some part of Kaelyn that expected John to deny ever saying such things to Toby or laugh at her for taking the statement so seriously.  Instead, he squared up his shoulders, looked her straight in the eye, and repeated it again like it was fact not opinion: Toby is an unlikable person.  Then, before she even had a chance to open her mouth and protest, he was going on with some stories she’d never heard of before and looking at her with that… that look she hated.

 

Here again was someone with something negative to say about Toby.  Not for the first time, Kaelyn felt like there was noone who truly understood.  Jake, Irene, John… these were all people she trusted, yet they all had their own separate opinions about her boyfriend, and not ones she particularly cared to hear.

 

Months ago Kaelyn had told Toby that she couldn’t care less what she should do or shouldn’t do, should feel or shouldn’t feel, when it came to their relationship, and while she still stood firmly by, it was getting awfully hard to ignore all the negativity seeping into her once-happy bubble.

 

Her expression hardened but her voice broke when she spoke again.  “What are you trying to say?”  It would be hard to miss the obvious notes of hurt and defence in her tone.  “I like him, John.  And... I know him better than you do.  He said… he said he was just trying to joke with Irene… or, well, you.  And you took it the wrong way.”

 

The werewolf thing Kaelyn couldn’t immediately explain, but figured had something to do with Toby’s fears, so she didn't immediately address it.

 

Then, because she couldn’t push him, couldn’t properly answer him, couldn’t do anything to hold her own in what she was beginning to feel was an attack, even if she’d been the one to initiate it, Kaelyn did the next best thing: she sniffled, letting the tears slowly well up in her big, blue eyes.

 

“Y-You just don’t understand.”

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John Lupin

She was surprised. Then confused. Then defencive. Then sad. It was either too much for her to handle, or her acting was too good for John to believe it.

 

Kaelyn Paddock didn't get sad. She didn't get weepy. She got mad, and she took control of things, all while pretending she had no idea about her influence on other people. John had always been the patient one, and Kaelyn had been the one who knew everything; while he was book-smart, she was people-smart. John was sort of amazed, frankly, that she was in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin with all of her ability to push and pull at people just so, and while that might have worked on him in second-year, he'd seen her in action with others too many times to count.

 

He opened his mouth to let out the annoyed tone. 

 

Then closed it.

 

What if she was being genuine? What if she earnestly was sharing these feelings with John and didn't know how else to say it?

 

Then again--he thought back when she'd been attacked by death eaters and had ignored him for almost a year because she was too afraid to tell him how scared she was--probably not.

 

So he aimed for neutrality, trying to gauge her.

 

"Buddy makes jokes all the time," he said, referring to his mentee, who was constantly full of plant puns. John had shared enough of them with Kaelyn that she'd gotten bored every time he brought up a new one that Buddy had come up with. "I know what jokes are. They're funny. They don't hurt people. This one . . . I mean, how d'you say that someone can only be relaxed with a good snog and have that be a joke? That was at Irene's expense. My dad told me that you don't get to talk about what girls should and should not do when it comes to snogging and beyond-snogging, and that is firmly in the not-okay category. And with you? Are you okay with jokes like that?"

 

He had expected the answer to be no, but then he thought about it again. Double-took. Squinted at her.

 

"Are you?"

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Kaelyn Paddock

It was genuine.  Despite the powerplay, and her struggle to regain control of the conversation, Kaelyn’s feelings were genuinely hurt.

 

Until now, nobody had bothered to ask her any of the hard questions.  Not even sweet Inara, who seemed so concerned that Kaelyn might be jumping in too deep too fast, had never straight up asked Kaelyn if she knew exactly what she was getting herself into.  And why should they?  Kaelyn knew Tobias better than anyone else.  She trusted him.

 

But the questions kept coming.

 

The corners of her eyes smarted painfully as John blurred in her vision, but she kept her jaw set and refused to let the tears fall.  Crying usually worked for her, or at least it did when she did so in front of her parents and grandparents.  It usually also worked with Toby, although she was far less likely to manipulate him than other people.

 

John looked back at her without wavering.  He wasn’t so easily convinced.

 

“Buddy’s jokes aren’t that funny,” she grumbled, then added more loudly, “You just misunderstood him.”  But it was awfully difficult for her to defend Toby when she had no actual context of the conversation he had with John.  All she knew was that he tried to make a joke, and John had taken it the wrong way.  Kaelyn never thought to ask him what the joke was about.  She didn’t know it had been about snogging.

 

She ignored John’s question, and instead angrily brushed her tears aside with the palm of her hand, accidentally smudging a bit of her mascara in the process.  “Toby didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” she said.  It was the one truth she knew that she kept coming back to, and even if he had, who had never been guilty of trying to hurt someone before?

 

“But like… it's not like you have any right, either, talking about what was and what wasn’t at Irene’s expense.  What you said came at Irene’s expense too, you know.  It cost her a friendship.”  Although Kaelyn wasn’t sure how she felt about that friendship anymore, after the way John questioned her about the conversation.

 

She wanted to say more, but didn't know what else to add, so she quietly swiped her eyes and her nose with the back of her hand again as she stared intently back at John.

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John Lupin

"Buddy's jokes are hilarious," John asserted. Maybe he just wanted to feel right about something, because his confidence was wavering with Kaelyn's accusations. He had cost Irene a friendship? He, personally? Was that an ethical use of his metamorphmagus powers, or was that just adding more fuel to the anti-meta political fire? All he'd wanted was a sodding plate of cookies, and he'd come out attacking someone. 

 

He could have kept his mouth shut, he supposed. 

 

But Toby had been saying hurtful things. To Irene. Flirting with Irene even though he was with Kaelyn. 

 

Did John do what he did out of loyalty to people he cared about, or did he do it out of defiance in having Toby invade his common room years ago? 

 

Follow-up question: did he care, per se, about Irene Redgrave? 

 

Toby didn't mean to hurt anyone, Kaelyn said. 

 

"Neither did I," said John. 

 

The confidence he he had before felt flat. Kaelyn had a habit of bringing up conversations to him that he didn't like, challenging John to questions he couldn't answer, and now he was no longer sure he had been doing the right thing at all. But then again, Kaelyn seemed down, too. What was going on in her usually-confident head? He'd never known Kaelyn to doubt herself, but that was exactly what was going on now. 

 

So he asked: 

 

"Wouldn't you have done the same thing, Gryffindor? Defended people you cared about? Or would you have laughed at his so-called jokes? Let them go?"

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Kaelyn Paddock

“Last time I talked to her, she said, ‘Aloe, vine aren’t you eating your vegetables?’  And then when I got annoyed, she was like, ‘Look, Kae, I know you want me to leaf you alone but I just want you to know I’m rootin’ for you to eat those vegetables, so dill with it.  But if you get mad you can plant one on me,” she deadpanned.  Kaelyn only remembered all that because she’d thought at the time to pay close attention in order to repeat back as much of the conversation as possible to Toby later.  If only she studied for her OWLs the same way.

 

Repeating Buddy’s jokes seemed to break a bit of the tension she felt, thankfully because she realized she really didn’t like fighting with John, not at all, and when John spoke, “Neither did I,” the rest of her resolve crumbled.

 

“I know,” she said softly, and she wasn’t just saying it for this incident.  She also meant the time he’d accidentally morphed into her too.

 

"Wouldn't you have done the same thing, Gryffindor? Defended people you cared about? Or would you have laughed at his so-called jokes? Let them go?"

 

Kaelyn blinked and looked back up at him.  “John, I am defending the people that I care about.”

Edited by Kaelyn Paddock

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John Lupin

John had to stop himself from laughing at Buddy's extensive pun. Brilliant, but the laughter was inappropriate in this setting.

 

Plus, he was really annoyed at Kaelyn. How could she be so thick? Why couldn't she see through Toby's luscious head of hair and bad-boy attitude to see that he wasn't really a diamond in the rough but just the rough itself?

 

At least she understood how he hadn't meant to. At least she knew that he wasn't trying to stir anything up. If anything, John was going out on a limb here and being a Gryffindor, doing things out of loyalty rather than his own self-interest. What did he have to gain by standing up to Toby? Nothing but a bullying target on his back and a ruined reputation.

 

And she said she was defending people she cared about. John did his best not to laugh harshly--not now, when the moods were calmer and the air was thinner. Not when he couldn't help but blurt out a question he couldn't hold in--

 

"Yeah? So why aren't you defending me?"

 

It occurred to him, in the blisteringly hollow moment that followed his question, that it was possible that Kaelyn Paddock no longer cared about him. It hadn't occurred to him before, and he wasn't sure why. In the past few months she had surely become more distant than she used to be, defaulting to Toby more than she defaulted to him, and he hadn't seen all of these tiny clues before but now they piled up in an invisible wall between them. 

 

He jumped in again to give her a better option. If they weren't as good friends as they used to be, John decided, he didn't want to know.

 

"Or yourself?"

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Kaelyn Paddock

There was nothing that Kaelyn liked less than feeling like she was being backed into a corner, and no matter what she said, the questions John was asking her were achieving exactly that.  

 

Kaelyn didn’t really know what had happened between Toby and John in the kitchens the other day.  Tobias had told her his side of it, of course, but having known the Ravenclaw as long as she had, Kaelyn also knew he wasn’t exactly the most thorough when recounting a story.  Still, she had no reason to believe that there was any reason for her to defend herself in this situation.  No matter what anybody else said, she still felt like she knew Toby better than anyone.  Toby was always going to be on her side, and she on his.  That was just the way they were.

 

But should she be defending John?

 

Her eyes searched her friend’s face now, trying to discern exactly what it was he was trying to imply.  Was he upset she hadn’t said anything about the werewolf thing?  Did he think just because she was dating Toby now, that that meant they were no longer friends?  Truthfully, Kaelyn spent so much of her energy defending Toby, both in her mind and to other people, that she’d forgotten if there was anyone else who might need her to stick up for them too.

 

She raised her shoulders into a helpless shrug.  “I- I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be defending, John.  Look, I know not everyone likes Toby - I get that.  You don’t, obviously, so I guess that’s why you said what you did.  I do and… and I guess he just doesn’t rub me the wrong way like he did you.  I… I guess I just don’t believe he really meant to hurt you, or Irene, you know?”

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John Lupin

She was at least thinking about it. Considering it. And it was in this moment--a moment where she didn't run away, where she dropped her shoulders in resignation in a why-are-we-fighting-I-actually-care-about-you sort of way, that John knew without a doubt that Kaelyn hadn't stopped caring about him after all.

 

"Oh, Kae, I'm sorry."

 

He ignored most of what she said and swept her into a hug. He would have offered his shoulder to her head but they were about the same height now--maybe she was even taller--and John was struck by how much she had grown, both physically and emotionally. Had he grown quite as much? What she said wasn't actually as important as the fact that she hadn't lost patience with him and stormed away, that she stayed and tried to work it out, that she wanted to make things right with him.

 

He didn't let go for a few moments. "Look, I'm not trying to get in between you and Toby, okay?" he said into her hair. "If you love him, that's okay. I'm just trying to be on the lookout for Team Kaelyn." He released her at last, offering a small, warm smile. "I just want you to be okay, because I love you. And no one gets to say suggestive things to other girls when they're dating my friend." 

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Kaelyn Paddock

A hug.  Sometimes that was all Kaelyn really needed in moments like this, when she felt those invisible barriers stretching far wider than she had the strength to cross, separating her and a friend.  Just the simple feel of John’s arm circling her shoulders and tugging her in was enough to make her realize it didn’t matter what happened between her and John right now.  He was still her friend, and he was always her friend, and he would forever be on her side - the way she needed to be on his too.

 

“I know.  I’m sorry too, for pushing you, and for yelling, and all that.”  She circled her arms around his waist and gave him a tight squeeze around the middle before separating a little.

 

It was true, Kaelyn did love Toby.  Perhaps the first time she’d ever said it to him she’d been filled with uncertainty afterwards, but all the moments after when she hadn’t said it, but the words had still been there, she knew: she loved him, and she wanted him, and it was really scary to be so dependent on someone, even someone she so wholly trusted.  But it was weird to say that to John, who wasn’t Toby, even if it was about Toby.  It was weird to admit to anyone other than Toby how she felt, and she didn’t know why that was.

 

“I love you too, John.”  And she knew she did, and it was not the same way that she loved Toby, but it was something she didn’t say to all her friends - not like this.  “And… I know.  I know you mean well but…”  She hesitated for a moment, one hand flying up to fiddle with the heart-shaped gem hanging from her neck, before continuing.  “What- what did he say, exactly?  Like… do you remember his exact words?  How he looked?  How… do you remember what you were talking about right before?”

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John Lupin

It turned out to not be that big of a deal to tell Kaelyn that he loved her. John might have been worried about it with other people, but finally now, it seemed like he finally wasn’t afraid of Kaelyn walking away from him in times of trouble. It was in this moment that John was reassured that he and Kaelyn would always be friends, and that was so much better than anything he had wanted in a romantic sense with her. 

 

And for how defensive Kaelyn normally was, John was so impressed to see how honest and vulnerable she was now. 

 

She was disappointed. Scared. Not afraid to admit it, at last. It was, in his opinion, the most Gryffindor he’d ever truly sent her. 

 

John sighed. 

 

“We weren’t talking about anything before. That was the problem. I just was there, waiting for cookies, and he comes in and starts teasing me—well, Irene—and talking about how she needed a good snog to unwind her.” John’s voice faltered a little bit toward the end as he swallowed down the fact that he hadn’t told Kae about his actual snogging encounter with Irene, which seemed so far away and unacknowledged now that it was almost like it had never happened. But he wished he could use it as proof: he’d kissed Irene, and she was even meaner to him now than ever. “You know me, I’m not Irene’s biggest fan. But it seemed . . . wrong to be pushing her to kiss someone or not to kiss someone. Especially because he seemed so invested in whom Irene was kissing and didn’t really talk about you.” 

 

He tried to say that last part as gently as possible, but he wasn’t sure if it worked. Kae was tough, but even she had her breaking points. And sometimes John couldn’t do a damn thing about it. 

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Kaelyn Paddock

Kaelyn wasn’t sure what she was going to hear.  While she trusted Toby far more than the average person, she also knew what he could be like: blunt, unpredictable, a huge tease.  She didn’t usually mind, because she liked that he was straight with her.  She liked that he could put up a fight and didn’t always let her walk all over him (although she also liked moments when he let her do just that too), and he certainly kept life interesting.

 

But she could also be the wildly jealous type, and while so far none of those emotions had really fought their way to the forefront with Toby, mainly because she believed so much in all the things he’d told her (that she was the only one he’d ever had real feelings for, and that he loved her), it was a little hard to keep a lid on all that when someone was basically telling her she should be worried.

 

Her arms crossed defensively across her body and she actually took a step back as she took in all this information, brow furrowed.  Once she had, there was a little pause before she spoke again.  “But… he wasn’t like… asking you - or Irene -  to snog him?  Just somebody?”  The words came out more as relief.  

 

Part of her could allllllmost see Toby telling someone to snog him just as a joke, and while, yeah, she would get mad at him for that, she would probably also be totally okay with it too if he just told her he never would’ve gone through with it and that she was the only one for him.

 

Kaelyn uncrossed her arms.  “Was there like… a point where he could’ve talked about me, and didn’t?”

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John Lupin

John felt almost half-stupid when he heard what Kaelyn said out loud. "I--I mean, yeah, I guess." 

 

It seemed dumb. She seemed hesitant, like she wanted to be totally relieved but wasn't sure yet whether she could jump over the fence of worry just yet. John pursed his lips and played with the edges of his shirt cuffs, assessing: had he been imagining the whole thing? Had he really ruined a whole friendship because his own convictions had been totally misplaced?

 

Had he touched Irene Redgrave willingly out of guilt when he could have totally not?!

 

He was in the middle of thinking about the cooties Irene probably infected him with when Kaelyn asked her second question. He blinked at her for a moment, considering.

 

"If a bloke is in love with you, talking about kissing," he said slowly, "wouldn't he look for an excuse to talk about you?"

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