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Quote Normal People

Part 6 - Journal date: 20th of September, 1993

I said Remus Lupin was a very good teacher, and that he seemed to be a nice man as well. Now I would even say he's been sent here to help me. Roger is there for that, too, but Professor Lupin... He can help me more. He understands.

It feels weird to know that. I really didn't expect it.

He doesn't think I'm abnormal or anything. And he knows what it is to be called "girly" – or worse.

- - -

(16th of September, 1993 – Leander's fifth year)

A deep silence reigns on Remus' office. Only the sound of a quill scratching parchment can be heard every time the teacher corrects something in one of his 6th year students' work or when Leander, who's sitting in front of him, finds a new spelling mistake in some horribly written essay.

Honestly, how can one write "rite" for "right"? Leander is pretty sure his spelling wasn't that bad when he was in second year. Plus, these kids' grammar is a mess, and they seem unable to punctuate a sentence correctly. Sometimes, the absurdity of the content amazed him, too. This girl has mixed up everything at a point he didn't imagine possible. There's practically nothing he can signal as correct by putting a checkmark on the table Remus drew for him – in a column, a list of the facts that should be mentioned and, side by side on the top, the name of each student.

Having reached the end of his Hufflepuff pile, Remus pauses to take a look at his watch.

"I hadn't realized it was so late!" he exclaims then. "You can go back to Ravenclaw Tower now."

"I'm nearly done with this one," Leander announces in reply. "Can't I stay for a few more minutes?"

Amused, Remus remarks that this must be the first time, in the age-old history of Hogwarts, that a student has asked to stay in detention.

"That's because your detentions are not unpleasant," Leander replies, amused too.

"Unlike Filch's..." Remus comments. "His are close to torture. I should know."

Leander gives him a puzzled look. Clearly, he can't imagine his teacher in detention.

"Well, yes, I had a few," Remus confirms in answer to the silent question. "And my friends had plenty. They were the staff's nightmare – always making pranks."

Straight after, he regrets to have taken a step on that minefield, but fortunately Leander diverts the conversation by asking, "Like Fred and George Weasley?" and Remus can carefully avoid saying anything more than "Exactly" before carrying on with another subject.

"I was more like you – quiet and reserved. Or maybe I'm wrong and you're like that only in front of teachers?"

"No, I'm always like that," Leander says, automatically looking down. "And Fred and George's pranks are quite scary. I don't think I could be friends with them, even if they're rather nice and funny. I don't really have friends, anyway."

"Not even Roger Davies?" Remus wonders, and the question slips out before he realises how personal it is, considering what he thinks he knows.

Leander doesn't seem to mind, though. He just says he doesn't know, adding, "He's so not like me," in a kind of regretful tone that Remus takes as doubt about the appropriateness of the relationship he believes they have.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing."

Of course, he thinks of himself and Sirius. So different but so made for each other...or so he thought. He doesn't really want to talk about it, but he just can't help it.

"My...best friend was not like me at all, and still..."

The hesitation before "best friend" doesn't escape Leander's notice. Another puzzled look makes Remus stop in mid-sentence.

"Okay, I can't lie," he acknowledges. "You’ve guessed what that boy really was for me, haven’t you?"

He's sure it's obvious but it's not that much to Leander. Or, more exactly, the Ravenclaw boy just can't believe what his teacher's words seem to mean. There must be another explanation...

Blushing furiously, he mumbles something that sounds vaguely like, "I'm not sure."

"More or less what Roger Davies is for you, if I'm not mistaken," Remus says, mentioning the possibility of a mistake only for form's sake.

Then he realises he's really becoming too indiscreet and quickly adds, "But of course it's none of my business."

Leander doesn't get the innuendo (or doesn't want to). To him, Roger can't even be called a friend, and so he tells Remus, giving useless details as always when he's uncomfortable.

"I like him because he reminds me of my brother, I think. And to him I'm barely more than a fan. He probably feels forced to keep me company, since I have no one else."

Seeing him disconcerted by the comparison, Remus eventually understands and stares at his student with a surprise mixed with embarrassment.

"I was mistaken, then... He's more like James," he says in a low voice, as talking to himself.

Leander doesn't ask who he's referring to, but Remus gives him the answer all the same.

"James was the 'Quidditch star' of our little gang, and one of the most understanding people I've ever met. If Roger's like him, you don't have to worry about what he thinks of you..."

"How...?" Leander began, but he stops because what he was about to ask would sound too much like a confession.

Yet, Remus doesn't need to hear the whole sentence. He knows, of course, exactly what Leander fears. What he heard Roger saying was quite clear.

"My friends – and other people, too – used to say things that made me think they considered me to be practically a girl," he explains seriously, "and at some point I realised it might not be only because I wasn't a great Quidditch fan or other details of that kind. Do you know what I mean?"

Leander hesitates. Saying yes would be so compromising!

"I think so..." he says eventually.

Half of him wants to run away, but the other half needs to stay, to hear more and enjoy the feeling of being understood, for once.

Remus looks at him with a kind of concern, wondering whether it would be better to let the boy go now or to try to help him. He knows too well how it feels to wish no one would ever know and, at the same time, that someone could tell you it's okay, it's not even that rare, there's no reason to be ashamed... He can't say that right now, though. So, instead, he just asks, "Your fight with the Slytherins started with an insult, I suppose?" almost paternally, hoping Leander will know he can trust his teacher.

Only when he thinks that does he realise he has taken a risk too. He never said "I'm gay" directly, but still, the conversation has been no less than a not-so-subtle coming out from the moment he paused before uttering the words "best friend."

"You're not forced to tell me," he says after a few seconds of awkward silence.

"I know...but yes, they...obviously considered me to be practically a girl, and they mocked me for it. Actually, they insulted Roger too, but only because he was with me. Otherwise, they would never have thought... He doesn't look like a girl, does he?"

"Neither do you," Remus replies reassuringly. "It doesn't mean anything, anyway. But I see what you mean. The trouble is that it's hard to overcome prejudice. Still, whatever they called you, even if it was rude..."

Here Leander's expression makes clear that it was everything but polite, and Remus nods sympathetically, imagining too well what kind of words the mean boys used, before carrying on with his advice.

"Whatever they say, remember it's an insult only if you think it is. It doesn't even matter if it's true or not. What's important is that you don’t see it as an insult, because there's nothing wrong with being like that."

- - -

It seems totally incredible, but he does know what I feel because he felt it too and he wants to help me. He even said I'm allowed to go and talk to him, anytime. I don't think I would dare go to knock at his office door, but it's really nice of him to say I can.

I like what he said about insults being so only if I think they are. It doesn't change that I hate those boys who despise me only because they're small-minded, but it's true that what's offensive is only the way they use the word, and not what the word represents. Following that logic, "idiot" should be considered more offensive (at least for a Ravenclaw). And if I weren't so scared they'd call me that again in front of other people, I could even take it with as much detachment as if they had only mocked me because I'm asocial. That, at least, I'm proud to be. (Well, sort of. But I'm certainly not ashamed, since it's just the way I am.)

Wish I could say I'm proud of being something else too. (Probably should try to write it clearly, to begin with...) The thing is...it's so weird! And I had never really thought of it before that day, even if, in a way, I've always known. It was obvious I wasn't interested in girls, and there have always been boys I wished I could be friends with, for a reason that wasn't clear...because I avoided letting it be clearer, I suppose.

I can even remember the first one's name – Dennis Green. It was...ten years ago. Ten years and a half, actually. I was four and he was five.

- - -

(April 1982 – Nursery school)

It's playtime and all the children are outside. Leander, as usual, wants to keep away from the others, with Alistair. But Alistair likes the group games his little brother hates, so sometimes Leander has no choice but to follow him – or, more exactly, let Ali drag him to the line or ring of little boys and girls.

This time, it's a ring. Leander, of course, stays beside his brother. But he'll be forced to hold someone else's hand on the other side, and he doesn't like that. Years later, he'll read about "bubbles of personal space" and understand that his own "bubble" is simply larger than Ali's and most people's. For now he only knows he feels uncomfortable when anyone but his brother, father, or mother is too close, and he wonders how Ali can like these games.

He's still hesitating. He could just go and sit down in a corner of the yard to watch the others play... Except that, if he's alone, the teacher will surely come and annoy him with questions again - "Why don't you play with your friends?" As if he had friends!

Alistair is busy managing to have his "girlfriend" next to him and doesn't pay any attention to Leander's imploring look. No hope to convince him of giving up.

A hand grabs Leander's before he can make up his mind to take a step in one direction or the other.

"Come on, everyone's ready but you," says a boy of Alistair's age.

Dennis. Dennis Green, talking to Leander, and even smiling at him! Then Dennis's hand wraps Leander's and pulls him gently towards the ring.

How could Leander protest? He could say no to Ali, but to that boy...he just can't.

- - -

I had no clue of what made me admire him up to the point to feel all excited when we passed in front of his house with the car, but now that I think of it, it seems awfully obvious.

It was the same with Jonathan Low in my first years of primary school. He was two years older than me, so one year older than Ali, who liked him too - in a different way, of course. Ali thought Jon was
cool. I can't remember what was so cool about him, though. All I remember is that he was...cute. And I had his sister in my class... She looked a lot like him, but I never thought that she was cute.

There were others later. Especially a French boy in my last year before Hogwarts. He was there because his father worked for a company that had sent him to Britain for one year. He had a weird name that no one would have been able to spell hadn't he written it on the blackboard – Arnaud Dumont. Awfully hard to pronounce correctly, in addition to the surprising spelling ("What's the point of putting a "d" or a "t" at the end of a word if it's silent?" we wondered). But somehow I ended up thinking it was the most beautiful name in the world. And I decided I wanted to learn French.

- - -

(September 1988 – Leander's last year of primary school)

Everyone in the class wants to talk to the French boy. Arnaud... What a strange name! Even the teacher has trouble pronouncing it. It would be easier to say "Arnold" but surely he wouldn't like it. After a few days, they all decided that "Arno" would do. It's the closest thing they can manage. He's not able to say their names correctly either, anyway.

Now the question is: how do you talk to someone who barely can make a full sentence in English? He takes private lessons but still, for now, his vocabulary is very limited, and most of the children give up quickly. They invite him to play with them when there's no need to talk, but when they chat he always feels left out. He's not alone, though. Since Alistair is now in secondary school, Leander usually spends the midday break reading, sitting on the refectory's doorstep.

"Why are you...tout seul ?"

No need to look up to know who it is... Still, Leander does look up, to be polite. And because he likes Arnaud, even if he doesn't know why. He thinks it's just because he's French, and it's always interesting to meet people who come from other countries.

"You wonder why I'm staying here alone?" he asks.

Arnaud nods. Apparently, he understands better than he can speak.

"I like it - being alone."

"Oh... I... Je te dérange, alors ? Sorry, I don't know ze words."

Taking a dictionary out of his pocket, the French boy looks up for 'déranger' and shows the page to Leander, pointing questioningly at 'to disturb'.

"Oh, no, I don't mind if you stay here too! Can I have a look at your dictionary?"

"Mon dictionnaire ?"

Leander nods, moving aside to let Arnaud sit down on the step with him.

"Yes, deeksionair... I want to learn some French!"

- - -

Of course, as soon as he was able to speak more or less fluently, he started spending more time with the others than with me, but he never ignored me as so many people do and, when he needed help with homework, he always asked me.

At the end of the year, he turned back to France and gave his address to everyone, so I wrote him, slipping in the letter all the French words I knew... Now half of each letter I write to him is in French because, that summer, I asked my parents for a tutor (a book with tapes), so I could learn more.

My mother thought it was great that I wanted to speak (well, write) another language. Actually, when I received my Hogwarts letter, she told my father it would be a real shame to send me to "that weird school" when I was so obviously interested in something much more useful. But magic fascinated me too... I only wished I could learn it at home. Now... I don't know. If I hadn't come here, I wouldn't have met Roger.

Well, yes, of course, Roger Davies's name is right after Arnaud Dumont's in the virtual list that started with Dennis Green's...

I will die of shame of he ever finds out.



Found this fic through your post in the PI community, and I love it! I just thought I would drop you a line letting you know there's someone reading and enjoying it.

I look forward to more posts/chapters!

I hope you don't mind my friending you to keep track of your updates :).
Hi, and welcome to this journal! ^^
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad to know you read and liked those first parts of story. ^_^ As you probably saw on PI, I've written a lot of other chapters (I was precisely writing chapter 27 a few minutes ago) but they aren't beta'ed yet. I've finally found a new beta, though, so I should be able to update at last (it's been months since I posted the last part that's here). Hope you don't mind if it takes weeks between two chapters. The beta'ing process is quite slow (not that my beta doesn't reply quickly, but I have trouble rewriting what she thinks I should rewrite).
I've friended you back. There's nothing in friends only here but it's always better to be "mutual friends", isn't it? ^^