Lily has always liked Remus.
It's a strange, undefined, nebulous sort of affection that comes and goes in waves like tides, ordered by lunar frequency. Brushes over her mind when she speaks to him between classes like cool skin across her mouth; aware but not dangerous, and Lily appreciates that in contrast to Potter's brash determination.
Lily likes the way that Remus' hair is always falling into his eyes, and how he never bothers to flick it away. Likes how he traces the words he reads with his fingers, his mouth, as lips shape soundless sounds. Likes how orange and red lights falls against pale skin in the far tables in the library, and likes how he never says a word when she sits down opposite him.
Remus, Lily decides, is like a wash of water, soothing but dangerous and deep.
If she's not careful, she could get swept away.
She visits him in the hospital wing one morning to find him propped up in one of the beds. There is no book in his lap, just folded hands, wrapped in fine linen bandages--the best that magic can charm.
"Sirius was crying," Lily says. "He came into the common room crying."
She remembers the way that Sirius ran into and out of the room again, moving so fast she nearly didn't see, just heard a rush of cloth and the clatter of feet on stone. But Lily saw the red edges to Sirius' face, the blue eyes swimming and angry fists grinding against pale cheeks. Lily saw James and Peter collect Sirius at the fifth year boys' dorm, and saw the door close.
That was three hours ago.
Remus turns to her, eyes very ordinarily hazel and extraordinarily still. "Was he."
She watches him for a long time before she takes one of his hands into her own, and traces the line of the bindings. There is power beneath that skin, beneath the exterior that has Remus locked tight like a safe. She wants to touch it but knows better than to push.
"Does it hurt?" she asks.
"No," Remus says.
She misses all of her classes and watches the sun melt into the horizon. Remus never pulls his hand away and she never asks again.
"Prefects have to stick together," Lily says when people start asking too many questions.
But it's a bad answer to a big problem, and the Marauders aren't anymore.
The first weeks After there was silent, a terrified sort of stillness that Lily doesn't like to think about. And later, as life crawled back into the fifth year boys' room life neglected to reveal itself to whatever had destroyed the Marauders to begin with.
Remus eats meals with Lily or skips them in favor of the library and solitude. Sirius spends most of his time with James, by turns mute and louder than ever. As if he can't exactly decide what he should do.
But Lily sees the way that blue eyes aren't quite as blue anymore.
She feels somebody by her shoulder, and turns in time to see Remus peering down at her. "What on earth has you so deep in thought?" he asks.
Lily smiles and waves her copy of Pride and Prejudice. "Muggle rubbish."
Remus raises his eyebrows. "I'll have you know that's one of the finest works of literature ever, Evans."
It's a challenge, so they duel.
And Lily thinks, as she walks slowly back to her dorm room two hours later, that the way that Remus spoke of Austen and love and human fallacy should not make her warm like it does.
Remus fascinates her.
In an abstract sort of way that leads to interesting and short conversations during breaks at Prefect's meetings. In a way that makes it difficult to be cross with him, even if he wastes time with Potter and Black, when it could be better served elsewhere, like mucking a swamp.
She finds him sleeping in the common room the next day, swathed in the blankets from his bed and surrounded by books. The firelight casts shadows across his brow and she watches him for a long time.
He looks fitful in sleep, as if he's fighting something off with all his will. Lily wants to run her hand across his cheek, to smooth away whatever is bothering him, but Lily doesn't want to wake him. He always looks so tired.
So she leans against one of the sagging couches in the common room and lays her head on the cushion and doesn't say a word.
The next morning, Alice Everett wakes her up. Lily's hair is a mess and her skin is greasy. There is a blanket--Remus' blanket--tucked around her, with a note left in her lap.
It says, "Thank you."
"I didn't know you had a sister," Remus says over breakfast.
Lily leafs through her mother's latest novella slash letter, but works up a smile for Remus. It's a week until summer break and the humidity in the air is making her hair develop its own atmospheric range. She's cranky and sticky--and Petunia is dating somebody.
"I don't make it public knowledge," Lily says, waving her Mum's latest set of photos before sliding them across the table. "I don't want to give anybody the chance to point out a family resemblance," she adds.
Remus takes the photos and doesn't ask why they aren't moving.
It takes Lily half a beat to remember that Remus is like her--Muggle-borne.
And like her, Remus traces fingers along the edges of the photograph as he studies it.
"You have your mother's hair," Remus says finally, looking up.
Lily makes a face. "You don't have to rub it in."
Remus looks so startled for a moment that Lily is almost afraid that she has hurt his feelings, and then the corners of his mouth that haven't curved upward in so long do.
She can't even find the teenaged fervor to be insulted as Remus starts to laugh. Lily watches Remus choking back giggles as they garner looks from further down the table.
From the corner of her eye, she sees Sirius Black walk very quietly out of the Great Hall.
But the important thing here, Lily decides, is that Remus has a beautiful laugh.
England rolls out in gray-green hills outside the window of the Hogwarts Express, and the Prefect's all sit in the same compartment, chattering.
Lily is reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles at Remus' behest, and she is lingering at page two hundred and twelve, stroking the text over and over. There is something about that motion that has become comforting to her now, how it reminds her of the way that Remus pets his books--and it is Remus' copy, she smiles at the dog-eared pages and much-abused spine.
Remus is teaching Wizard's chess to Enid Brown, the Ravenclaw prefect, and there is much hilarity all around.
"Well I was never taught at home!" Enid cries and Remus grins.
"It's all right, Enid," he consoles her, just as Ralph Archer argues:
"It is not." Ralph's face is red in horror. "You're a proper witch, Enid! A Prefect! How have you gotten through all these years not knowing how to play chess?"
Enid gives Ralph a look that plainly tells him where he can stick his disgust, and Remus grins and glances at Lily. In the background, Enid yells, "Don't be an arse, Ralph Wendelynn Archer."
Remus' hazel eyes slip shut. He is taking deep breaths, trying not to laugh out loud.
"Oy! I'll let that slide because it's you, but--"
Lily bites her lip and keeps her eyes trained steadily on Remus' wavering expression. Beside her, the remaining Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects watch with unabashed glee, large, wild smiles on their faces--young and just as they should be.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Enid trills, blushing deeply.
Ralph opens his arms magnanimously. "Don't play coy, woman."
The Slytherin prefects slap their hands over their mouths. Remus and Lily burst out laughing, and Enid shrieks with rage before launching herself across the seat at Ralph.
Half an hour later, it begins to rain and Lily falls asleep.
She wakes up with her head on Remus' shoulder, and night fallen like a cloak about them.
Remus lives in Cambridge, which he speaks of fondly. He talks about large, shady trees and about Highgate cemetery. He talks about his father's library and about a small, comfortable room that he loves because it smells like his mother's perfume and his father's ink. When Remus talks of home, he talks of nothing at all.
They exchange letters over summer, not as frequently as Lily would like, but she understands. Remus' summer is probably busy with books and friends and girls, too.
It's not surprising. Remus has nice eyes, green and brown and a little bit gold. Remus also has shaggy brown hair, which is nice to touch, and a wry grin to go with pale, smooth skin. He is not perfect and he is not handsome (not like Sirius is), but he is beautiful, and Lily remembers the way that he looks, running across the lawn at Hogwarts, muscle moving like liquid beneath skin and cloth.
Remus, Lily thinks, has long, long eyelashes.
Of course there are girls, Lily reminds herself, and her fingers tighten on the quill in her hand. She finishes her Arithmancy homework and sets it aside.
Lily redrafts each letter she writes twice, because the first copy always asks if he's got a girlfriend, and Lily doesn't really want to know.
Remus is already on the train by the time Lily stumbles into the Prefect's compartment, dusty and red-faced.
"Hello," he says pleasantly.
"Hello," she says back. "It's boiling out there."
Remus has grown taller, and all the awkwardness of the year before has begun to melt away. And where his cheeks and nose were still round before, Remus has grown edges. Or maybe, Lily thinks, sitting down beside him in the compartment, the edges have always been there, and she's only never noticed.
She looks down at her lap and finds herself staring at his hands. She never noticed how long his fingers were before, and now, Lily finds she can't stop.
"Your hands are so thin," she says, and remembers, very briefly, what they looked like, with a layer of linen bandages over the top. She wonders if there are scars.
Remus cocks one eyebrow. "If this is one of those 'boys are so skinny' jokes, I've heard enough to last me a lifetime," he says easily.
Lily flushes, and she can't stop herself. "It's not!" She pauses, opens, and then closes her mouth. "Hogwarts again," she decides to say.
He smiles vaguely. "Hogwarts again," he agrees softly.
Lily smiles back and he says, "You really do have your mother's hair."
She scowls. "Didn't I tell you not to rub that in?"
Remus grins, and picks up his book, the same copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles he let her read on the train when they left.
He says, "I think it's beautiful," and turns to read.
Lily is silent until Enid and Ralph tumble into the compartment, shouting at each other at the top of their lungs.
Helen Tang from Slytherin threatens to throw a copy of Hogwarts, A History at them.
Remus still sleeps in the common room some nights, and Lily never asks.
But when she wakes up at night to go to the bathroom, she always goes downstairs to check. Sometimes, she lets herself stay, sometimes, she makes herself go. She has lots of little notes from Remus, now. Most of them say "Thank you," some of them say, "You're doing this just to guilt me out of sleeping here, aren't you?"
Lily likes that, the glimmer of Remus that shows through the politeness.
She tells herself that she's the only person who sees him like this, and she might be right.
Lily goes downstairs in the middle of November one night later than usual. She rubs her eyes and yawns and sees Sirius Black kneeling next to the sofa where Remus is, a graceless sprawl of limbs.
Sirius' hair is a wild brush of black in front of his eyes, and he doesn't see Lily at all.
He's very quiet, and very still.
Lily watches from the stairwell until Sirius uncurls, slides up closer, and as if he's afraid, tugs the edges of the blanket higher along Remus' chest, a determined expression on his features. Sirius looks tired, thinner than Lily remembers, and just a shade more gray.
The fire flickers and cracks and Sirius glares at it, like Lily has before, afraid that it will wake Remus, and then the moment will be over.
Sirius leans back, until he's sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching Remus sleep.
And Lily wonders what could have happened, what terrible thing Sirius had done to make it the way that it is today, and how it says this way even though Sirius holds this vigil. Lily tries to wrap her mind around how Sirius can look to broken, and have been so terrible at the very same moment; the images don't synch, can't click, but she knows enough to know that Remus isn't cruel--he can't be doing this just because.
Lily leans against the stairwell and watches Sirius watch Remus, and promises that she won't tell Remus this time, won't say she saw Sirius crying.
It is nearly dawn when she wakes Sirius up from where he has fallen asleep, head against the edge of the sofa, like a faithful pet.
"It's morning," she says.
Sirius blinks and his face is blurry for a moment before the panic sets in. She doesn't get the chance to tell him she won't say anything before he shoves her aside the runs out of the room.
Behind her Lily hears stirring, and turns just in time to see Remus waking up.
He is blurry and soft, a lazy smile on his face as he watches her. "Hi," he says.
"Morning," Lily says. Her smile is shaky, but she says, "Sleep well?"
He hums, and throws the blankets off of his legs. "Yeah."
There is a moment, a break in time, when Remus looks just as young as he really is, and Lily never noticed that he didn't, most of the time, before. But his hazel eyes are wide and a little bit scared, a lot hopeful; he draws closer to her.
Remus tucks a strand of her red hair--he thinks it's beautiful, Lily remembers--behind her ear, and says, "Thank you."
She doesn't say anything back, but that's okay, too. Lily thinks Remus understands.
The thing about dating, Lily realizes, is that most of the time, the couple in question is the last to know.
Hogwarts has been buzzing with her romance with Remus for nearly a month before she actually hears word of it. She wishes she found out in a better way, but it makes sense, and Lily respects logic.
But Belinda Hogarth starts winking at Lily over breakfast and Susan Reyes giggles and congratulates Lily on her catch. Enid, during prefects meetings, sits next to Lily and sighs loudly about it being such a terrible shame for Remus to be off the market, probably just to watch Ralph's face turn red and angry. Remus, thankfully, seems to stay blessedly ignorant.
Sirius Black corners her one day after Divination. Lily thinks she's been waiting for this moment--somehow, she's been waiting--since the day she went to the infirmary.
"What do you want, Sirius?" she asks, brave as she can manage.
Sirius has always looked a little wild, a little out of sorts. His hair is dark and windswept and his eyes are just the same, when they aren't blue like summer skies. Sirius' eyes are the bluest when he's with Remus, Lily knows, and thinks that it might be important.
Important because right now, Sirius is wild and dangerous in front of her. Walking wounded.
He says, "Is it true?" A pause. "About you, and--"
He swallows hard. "Is it?"
Lily takes four long breaths and doesn't know whether to lie or lie. Yes is a lie, no is one, too; Lily doesn't know what they are, what they will be, or even what she wants. There's nothing to say and no way to say it. But Sirius' eyes are deepening and she's feeling a tremble in her fingertips.
Sirius would never hit her, she tells herself. But his teeth are bared, canines sharper than they should be in an ordinary human being, and he's so close--
"Lily, Professor McGonagall says you left--Sirius."
It's stupid and embarrassing but Lily nearly cries in relief. Some part of her wants to push away from the cold edges of the wall, to rush past Sirius and behind where Remus stands at the corner, eyes wide in surprise.
She is silent and Sirius is still and Remus' eyes lower just a fraction.
"Lily," he says again, "are you all right?" Remus isn't looking at her when he says this.
It takes a moment to sink in. "I'm--"
"I don't hit girls," Sirius growls, and Lily pulls back again, away.
There's no further she can go, and the cut of ancient stone against the palms of her hands is like a reminder of that. Remus has never looked so far away. She wishes he'd reach out his hand, tell her to go over there, then she could run, and not worry about it. Then she wouldn't be presuming, and then she'd have an answer for Sirius, or at least the option not to lie.
Remus narrows his eyes, instead. "No," he says, almost pleasant. "You're smarter about it than that."
Lily blinks, and doesn't understand. But she hears the choking noise from Sirius, sees the way he fights for oxygen and all the color drains from his face. How the black in his eyes seeps away into watery gray and there's nothing left here--deflated, taken? Razed.
Remus curls his lip and closes his eyes for one moment, like he is reeling from what he's said, too. Remus takes a breath, gathers himself back together. He says, "Lily, Professor McGonagall told me you left a notebook in her room."
Lily nods, and starts to walk, which turns into a run as she hears Sirius say, somewhere behind her, "Remus, please."
She doesn't hear what Remus says back, but when she goes downstairs later that night, Remus is in the common room again, reading the same tattered copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles in front of the fire.
When Lily wakes up the next morning, she is not looking at Susan or Belinda's face.
"Remus," she says.
He smiles, and gray light from morning frames his face, silver-lines the shaggy stands of hair that don't stay where he swipes them back. "Morning," he says.
It occurs to her that this is not normal, this vigil she holds. And that as long as neither of them talked about it, she didn't have to deal with it. It occurs to her now that this is hideously embarrassing.
She curses under her breath and just as she's pulling away Remus' eyes widen and he reaches out to her, fingers catching hair instead of shoulder--and she freezes.
Lily remembers--too clearly--the way his eyes looked when he said her hair was beautiful.
Those long fingers are in her hair and she can feel the heat from her face flush straight down her body and tingle in her hands, her belly, and burn behind her eyes. The world is shrinking again but everything is louder--the sound of her breathing is terrifying.
Remus looks at her like he is trying to understand the meaning of life.
"Do you know?" he asks, hoarse and thin.
Lily has never been this scared before. Not her first day at Hogwarts. Not in the hall with Sirius, not even four seconds ago--the fear is building into an all-consuming cacophony.
And nothing makes sense, because hasn't she wanted this? Hadn't she let herself think about this exact moment? About Remus--or someone--this close, near enough to clasp, and how it'd feel to peel away the outside and lay beside them and just breathe?
She's so scared she's shaking.
"I don't know," she admits. "I don't know anything."
His eyes change now, sad for a moment, determined next, and then suddenly soft again.
"Okay," he says to her. "Okay." His fingers loosen and Lily breathes.
Close enough to burn.
"Don't be stupid, Enid."
"I'll keep that in mind, Wendlelynn."
Lily cocks her brow and glances down the table to where Enid is trying to do her Arithmancy, and where Ralph is badgering her again. What surprises her every time is how the rumors circulate about her and Remus, and no one says a word about Enid and Ralph. It's because they're a forgone conclusion, Remus would say.
Remus walks her to classes and carries her books sometimes. He always reminds her to put on a scarf and never fails to have chocolate in his pocket; this combination of factors makes him a demigod in the eyes of most of Lily's friends. They moan in envy and then harass Remus for answers to their Arithmancy homework, which he never really gives but manages to produce anyhow, through the Socratic method and generous teasing.
They're not...together, not in the traditional sense of the word, and Lily understands that. There is something in between, a certain distance or maybe even time. Maybe, Remus needs longer than Lily has waited so far.
But she's not in any rush. It all seems so wonderfully inevitable now, like watching a wave crest in the middle of a dark blue sea.
Lily doesn't think about Sirius, about how he seems even thinner now, but more exuberant than ever. He's lost Gryffindor nearly two hundred points on his own and he won't listen, not even to James, when people tell him to calm the hell down. He takes on every prank with a desperate sort of ferocity, and waits for Remus to say something.
Remus never does. He is always conveniently at the other end of the castle.
So Lily sees Sirius, and Lily sees the way that Sirius' eyes deaden a little more before they light again--hope is like that, one of the sweetest tortures.
"What's got you so entranced, Miss Evans?"
Lily smiles and turns to see Remus' eyes still trained on his Potions text. "You'd think they'd get sick of this eventually," she says lightly.
Remus looks now up, glancing down at where Ralph is now saying something low and offensive while Enid narrows her brown eyes. "He's probably just trying to figure out how far he can go," Remus murmurs. "Push the limits."
Lily rolls her eyes. "There're easier ways to do that. Asking, for example."
There is a quiet, still pause, and Remus says, "I'm asking, then."
Lily puts down her quill and looks at him. She thinks she's been waiting for him to ask since the first time she saw him asleep, hair orange and red in the light of the fire.
"Then ask," she says.
Remus looks away. He says, "I'm gone every month."
"And tired when you come back," Lily says. The noises in the Great Hall are suddenly deafening in comparison to the quiet tones of Remus' voice.
He turns to her and smiles. Like he's changed his mind. "What would it take to make you run away?"
Lily isn't having any of that. "And you're tired when you come back," she repeats.
Remus is staring at the hollow of her throat. "Is that locket silver?"
Lily traces her fingers across the engraved oval. "It was my grandmother's."
And for a moment, the trilling terror is back and Lily is about to yell for Remus to stop but then his hand is at her throat and his skin is warm against her own and too warm and she smells flesh burning and Remus is biting his lip so hard he bleeds.
Twenty minutes later, they are sitting in the infirmary thinking about their foolishness, as ordered by Madam Pomfrey. Remus is picking at the bandages on his hand and Lily is looking out the window.
"Say something," Remus croaks.
Lily blinks. It's Friday. She turns to Remus and says, "Go to Hogsmeade with me. Tomorrow."
He stares at her for a long time before he says, "Okay."
Madam Pomfrey bustles back into the room and mutters about teenaged boys being too stupid to avoid jewelry when they know very well they needed to all for the sake of a snog.
Remus' ears turn so read that Lily can't help but laugh.
She needs to figure out what to wear.
She decides on Muggle clothing, because it's nice to stand out sometimes.
Remus tells her she looks dashing in her green sweater and they traipse about Hogsmeade buying candy and drinking butterbeer and generally being teenaged terrors. Lily buys a moon chart that's charmed to change month to month, and draws a big purple heart around the full moon for March. Remus tells her not to advertise her time of the month, and Lily throws a Sugar Quill at him, which he picks up and pays for and eats.
It's new book day at the Flourish and Blotts and Remus grabs her hand as he drags her to the shelves, overflowing again with volumes. He jerks her around, first palm to palm, and then later, fingers sink into fingers, so naturally, and Lily is holding hands--really holding hands--with someone for the first time as Remus exclaims about this book and that.
But he doesn't let go later, when they leave the bookstore fifteen galleons poorer and Lily is fine with that. Remus babbles about his new copy of Theoretical Astronomy and Magic and Lily lets him.
She winks at Enid when she and Ralph walk by, and then Lily points at the heavens and tells Remus to look, aren't the skies pretty?
"I think you're prettier," Remus says, shy and very seventeen.
"That is such a line," Lily quips.
Remus coughs. "Well, yes."
She grins and swoops in to press a kiss to his cheek. "It worked," she declares.
Remus look at her for a long time. "Who are you, anyway?" he asks.
Lily laughs, and thinks she doesn't know anymore.
And later, Lily thinks that maybe it's not that important that she knows, either.
This is not a crush, and Remus is damaged goods. Lily is different with Remus than she is by herself, than she was before. She doesn't know when she changed, but she knows she doesn't mind changing.
It doesn't change how he presses her to the brick alleyway in Hogsmeade, and how he kisses her on the mouth. It's Lily's first kiss, and she's not about to admit that to anybody, but she's afraid that he can tell--it's clumsy and sloppy and wonderful, terrifying and too fast or too slow or too much. She doesn't know where to put her hands.
And when they pull away, Remus is slightly-glazed, cheeks red, and mouth swollen.
Lily thinks, not so dangerous after all.
But when he leans in again, closer this time, and she smells him--like night and forest and snow--she adds, but just as deep.
Their books are laying by their feet and Remus' long fingers are in her hair again, but it's so wonderful. So wonderful and awkward and Lily is scared--yes, scared, but happy, and she never connected the two so closely before.
When they pull apart, Remus rests his forehead against hers, and says, "I didn't know 'I wonder what's down this alley' was a line."
Lily laughs, scared and crazy and very young. She locks her hands behind Remus' neck and says too hell with the consequences.
She says out loud, "It worked."
And when Remus smiles, Lily feels like the world shifts under her feet. "Yeah, it did."
In March, Lily does exactly what Remus asks her never to do, and follows him out to the Shrieking Shack. It's silent until moonrise and then she hears Remus and then the wolf and then nothing at all over the sound of her own sobs.
"I was very small when it happened," he told her, playing with her fingers.
"But you remember it," Lily offered.
She remembers that he looked at her, like there was nothing else in that instant. He said, "Of course I remember."
And she said back, "Of course."
And now, Lily will remember, too. She will piece together fragments and nightmares and this right now--what she sees here.
Lily sits by Remus' bedside in the infirmary and watches Madam Pomfrey change his bandages while saying, "He'll be fine in a day. You'll see."
It's stupid, because how can lycanthrope be an abstract thing? But before, Lily didn't really understand it, hadn't really been so close she could be hurt by it. And now, she is too close, claustrophobic, pressed against the surface of it and she doesn't like it at all.
She wants to take Remus' thin hands and pull him away from it.
But this is life, she decides, and this is how you live it. She's old enough to make a decision, and if this scares her, it's not fair to stay.
Remus wakes up three hours later and says that she's so stupid.
"Yeah," Lily agrees, and stays the rest of the day.
But life's not fair, and Lily can learn to be brave. She holds Remus' hand and doesn't try to make them run away after all. Maybe, Lily tells herself, she can learn to run with him.
That night, Lily dreams of moon in dappled shadows on the forest floor.
James stopped chasing her, only Lily hadn't noticed.
She'd been busy, then, with memorizing the way that Remus' eyelid creased, or how he smiled. There were so many new things that she wanted to learn, and what moments James had wasted declaring his affections had immediately shifted into more productive avenues.
Lily now knows that Remus likes mandarin orange flavored tea, so Lily drinks as much of it as possible so Remus will sweep his tongue--just so--across her lips as he pulls away from a kiss.
Lily is devious like that.
Seventh year and Remus isn't Head Boy.
A summer full of speculation falls flat and Lily can't help but be angry when she walks past James in the hall. The badge is shiny on James' chest, and Remus spends a lot of time biting his tongue for when he used to take away points.
"I don't mind," he tells her.
It's not exactly a lie, but it's not true, either. Lily doesn't know what to do with that, so she lets it slide, and doesn't tell Remus about Sirius being in to see Dumbledore again, or how it's not stopping. She coaches herself for the next incident, tells herself that at least it hasn't gotten worse, and won't.
There's no reason for Sirius to be anymore--Remus isn't going to come running.
Only it doesn't seem to help, because one day Lily finds Sirius drunk off his arse on the Quidditch pitch at half past midnight.
"You're going to get expelled," she tells him. It's stupid to reason now, but.
Sirius swivels around grandly. "Piss off," he tells her.
So Lily sighs and starts to walk away until Sirius is suddenly in her face, moving faster than she thought he could and just as crazy as Lily is afraid he is.
"You're going to see him?" he says, drunk and voice slurred. "Remus?"
Lily stares. "That's none of your business."
The night is big, black, and starred. The moon is waxing and Lily is supposed to be doing one last sweep of the grounds for stray first years and giggling lovers. He Who Must Not Be Named is gaining in power and kids don't get it; she doesn't get it, either. But Dumbledore does, and so she pretends.
Sirius sneers, and leans so close she smells the firewhiskey on his breath. "Beautiful, isn't he?" he whispers, hoarse and hateful and hungry, too. "With the moon on his skin. Disgusting, unreal." Sirius' eyes are hollow. "No one should look like that. 'S not possible."
Lily doesn't know what to say, so she doesn't say anything at all.
"Don't tell anyone, Evans," Sirius says, a feral glint in his eyes now. "Don't tell."
"Is that what happened with you?" she blurts out.
She just lets all the pieces fall horribly into place. Sirius is so beautiful, even now, terrible and bereaved. But it makes sense now, makes sense that Remus would be so cold and stay so far away, that he'd sleep on the common room couch for two years.
Sirius looks very young and very old at the same time. "He's beautiful, isn't he?"
He grabs for her hand, brown fingers digging into her palm and red-rimmed eyes so close she can nearly drown in his loneliness. "What's it like, Lily?" he asks. "You have to have--I don't--you must have," Sirius decides. "Tell me. I'll never ask again."
She shoves as hard as she can and watches Sirius fall in a heap just as James emerges from the far edge of the castle, shouting "Sirius!" at the top of his lungs. Lily backs away, and then she runs and doesn't look back.
"Sirius is in love with you."
Remus looked up from whatever form he was filling out and blinked three times.
"Excuse me?" he'd said. "Lily what are you--?"
"Sirius Black," she shouted, eyes screwed shut then. "I found him. On the Quidditch pitch. He's pissed. And he's in love with you."
Remus set away his things and said. "I see."
Lily is crying now, because in retrospect, it was stupid to tell.
Sirius is popular, and Sirius is clever and funny and bright and Sirius was Remus' best friend. Sirius made a mistake and Remus must have wanted to forgive him, Lily can't imagine wanting to be angry. And Sirius is so thin and sallow now, a shadow of himself and Remus can change that now, he knows what to do.
Remus rocks back and forth on his heels before he frowns and leaves his things on the table. He rushes out the door and Lily sits down in the seat he left, still warm.
She thinks about red hair and the Hogwarts Express and of linen bandages.
She thinks about things that don't matter at all.
But she hears. For days afterward.
Advanced Herbology, a small, mixed class in Greenhouse Five. Everyone is talking about how Remus and Sirius got into a fight in the middle of the corridor long past curfew. How they are both serving detentions with Professor McGonagall. How Sirius has a black eye but is smiling again, at least, in his classes.
"I can't believe it," Enid says in disgust. "Two years. What a grudge."
Ralph makes a derisive sound. "Don't be daft, Enid. Lupin'd never do that unless it was warranted." He pulls his fingers out of biting range of his new hybrid mandrake just in time: potent, thankfully silent, and has control issues.
There is a short silent where Enid seems to be debating the concept.
Lily says, "It was warranted." She fluffs the soil around the Screaming Daffodils.
The class regards her for a moment before Enid shrugs. "I guess if anyone knows," she says. Enid frowns. "Where is he, anyway? Lupin?"
Lily closes her eyes.
There is no grand entrance, or spectacular declaration of love. It just happens, and Lily gets that, too.
She is sleeping on the common room couch when all of a sudden she isn't.
All of a sudden, she is looking into Remus' face: tired but happy and she thinks that's important. Nearly as important as how he cups her cheeks in his hands and kisses her slowly. First the bow of her mouth, and then the lower lip, like he's trying to tell her things without saying a word.
Lily can't understand, but she clutches the fabric of his shirt and is willing to learn.
She doesn't realize she's crying until she's got her face buried in the crook of Remus' neck, sobbing too hard to see and Remus is telling her that it's all right. It'll all be all right.
"Don't be stupid, Remus."
Lily ignores it. "I think it's a good idea."
James concurs with a scowl. "Don't pick fights, Sirius."
"I'm not!" Sirius argues. "It's just a stupid idea."
Lily rolls her eyes and James sighs. They sit at opposite ends of the table and think that sometimes reconciliation and all it entails isn't worth the effort at all, if after everything they're all just going to act like grade school children.
"Pray tell, Mister Black," Remus says, steepling his fingers, "why is it a bad idea?"
They're sitting in the Three Broomsticks, Apparition licenses fresh in their pockets and their whole lives ahead of them. James is in the middle of Auror-training; he's only allowed to rant five minutes at a time on any given occasion, Sirius informs them. Lily works with the Ministry in the Magical Research division, and she is only allowed to rant about her job for three minutes on any given occasion. Sirius writes--what, he won't tell them--and Remus is going to Kings College after a year of freelance exterminating.
"Because you went to sodding Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for seven years," Sirius says. "And now you're throwing it away to go to Muggle university for God knows how long."
Remus nods. "I expect I'll be middle-aged before they let me out."
Remus looks inordinately happy about this and Lily is happy for him. They have shacked up together in a little flat in London and panicked over bills and locked one another out of the flat. It's now a year and Lily thinks she could go in for a longer lease, but she's not going to say anything about that here.
And Sirius isn't...isn't quite together, but he's much better, much better.
He and Remus are friends again, different than before, but good, in a manageable way.
James sighs a lot and makes loads of inappropriate jokes while Sirius and Remus bicker about magical superiority and why a degree in Anthropology isn't a total waste of time.
It's almost like old times--but for the least expected outcome. And...
Lily blinks, and it comes to her, what might be missing.
She turns to James and says, "Where's Peter, do you know?"
James rolls his eyes and smirks, casting a glance at Sirius, who is flushing a dark red color. "Peter, do you ask, Miss Evans? Well, I have a little story to tell you about the heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, a bottle of firewhiskey, and why Peter won't come near us anymore."
"James, shut it," Sirius orders.
Remus smiles pleasantly. "Don't be a bastard, Sirius. Let him tell the story."
So Sirius, as in new equilibrium, mutters and does what Remus says and James tells his stories.
It's strange, being here, but Lily can work with that, too.
Remus' hand is clutching hers under the table and that's a tether she has known for some time now.