"We shouldn't be doing this," he said, his tawny-brunette hair framing his scarred face, his voice anguished as he pulled his lips away from hers.
"Why not?" she asked petulantly, "Is it because of Potter?" Her ruby waves fell in a fiery cascade down her back as she looked up into his amber eyes.
"He's my best friend and he's been in love with you since third year," said Remus in a pained voice, "I can't betray him like this Lily." Merlin, there was no denying that he wanted to lean in and capture those soft lips with his own once again, that he wanted to fall asleep with her in his arms, that he wanted her. But he couldn't, he was a werewolf, a stigma to society. She deserved a person who was whole, a person who she could be proud to walk down the street with . . . she deserved a better man than him. She deserved someone like James.
"You're not betraying him," she said softly, her indignation that he had refused her dying away at the tormented look in his eyes. She had fallen in love with him over the years, with his shy, bookish nature and the way he always invoked a flutter of butterflies in her heart whenever their eyes met. She also knew that he felt it too; she had seen it in his eyes when she caught him staring, in the way he shied away from her when she would try to hold his hand or caress his cheek. It rankled, but at the same time she understood his hesitancy. She knew what a close bond existed between the Marauders, that they were more brothers than best friends. They were the most annoying, conceited group of pranksters in the school but she couldn't deny being envious of their deep friendship. Her heart felt surprisingly heavy as she contemplated the young werewolf standing in front of her, he would never return her affections if it risked ruining his friendships. So long as James Potter staked his obnoxious claim on her, there would never be a chance for her to be with Remus.
"I am though," he said, not meeting her gaze, "I just snogged one of my best mate's girl."
"He fancies me Remus, but I am not his girl," she interjected, "I don't fancy him. I can barely tolerate him. I have only ever wanted you Remus . . . and it's obvious you like me. If he's really your best mate then he'll understand."
"Lily . . . I . . ." he stammered, "I can't."
"Why can't you?" she asked, stroking the back of her hand across his cheek, not caring about the faint scars running across his tired face. But it isn't the exhaustion caused by lack of sleep, it's the emotional tiredness of somebody who's been fighting to stay strong for too long and was crumbling under the pressure.
"Because I'm a werewolf," he said, "And werewolves don't deserve happiness." He turned on his heel; his shoulders slumped as he headed for Gryffindor Tower. Lily stared after him, still feeling the tenderness of his kiss and the fireworks he had set of in her heart. When finally she looked down and turned away, she missed the sight of him turning to look back, pure longing etched across his face.
"Hey," he said awkwardly as he showed up for patrol ten minutes late. She hadn't spoken to him since their kiss as he had taken to avoiding her as best he could, going so far as to turn away and walk in the opposite direction if he caught even a whiff of her scent. "Damn his werewolf senses" Lily had cursed half a dozen times this week alone. It was torture to her; that he had been skipping out on the study-sessions they usually held every other night at the library or in the common room. It stung that he had been avoiding her. It was as if he didn't want her, but she knew that wasn't true; she had felt it in their kiss.
"Hey," she said sweetly, "Tired of avoiding me?" He flushed at her remark but didn't reply, choosing to hurry a few steps ahead of her as they began their patrols. She couldn't help but notice the slump in his shoulders, the dark rings beneath his lupine eyes. This is ridiculous, she thought after twenty minutes of awkward silence, speeding up, she grabbed his wrist, yanking him hard so that he spun around to face her.
"What do you want from me Lily?" said Remus softly, meeting her eyes with a resigned look in his gleaming orbs, she flinched at the deep loneliness which filled them.
"I just want you, Remus," she said in a voice just as soft, not releasing his wrist, feeling his rhythmic pulse beneath her slender fingers.
"James fancies you," he said. James had fancied Lily for years, everyone in the school could testify to that. He couldn't betray his friend like this, not when James had done so much for him over the years. As a werewolf, he was never guaranteed acceptance, a future, friendship, or love and yet he had found unconditional love and acceptance in the form of Sirius Black, James Potter and Peter Pettigrew. If he let himself date Lily, he would lose them. He couldn't lose them. They had risked their lives for him, becoming animagi so that he wouldn't be alone on a full moon and in the process, exposing themselves to the dangers of a full-grown bloodthirsty werewolf. How could he betray any of them when he owed them so much? If keeping their friendship means that he would never be with the woman he loved, it was worth it.
"I told you, if he's really your friend he'll understand," said Lily, her emerald eyes staring intently into his own as she began to stroke his facial scars with the back of her free hand.
"I'm a werewolf, Lily," Remus said. He wanted to kiss her so badly, the wolf in him screaming to take her in his arms and never let her go. For the first time in his life, boy and wolf could agree on one thing. They both wanted to mark her as their mate, but the boy could never let her in. It was dark inside and he could never let her get too close.
"You're not a werewolf," she said, a wan smile on her face, "You're Remus Lupin, I don't look at you and see a wolf. I look at you and see nothing but Remus Lupin." She was caught off guard when he wrapped his arms around her waist, backing her up against the wall and bringing her lips crashing down to his.
"You okay, Moony?" asked Sirius, concern evident in his voice as he cornered the young werewolf. James and Peter were on either side of him, cutting off all possible means of escape. Damn them, they knew him too well. He could physically force them out of the way, as a werewolf he quite easily rivalled all three of them put together when it came to brute strength, (despite his lean physique, he was quite capable of lifting Hagrid off the ground) but it was bad enough that he was already lying to them.
"I'm fine, Padfoot," said Remus, too quickly causing his friends eyes to narrow in suspicion. He glanced up and immediately regretted it, quailing under James' shrewd look.
"Who's the girl, mate?" asked James quietly.
"What girl?" laughed Remus unconvincingly, cursing the flush that spread across his face.
"You've been in a right state of depression for the past month Moony," said Sirius in a very serious tone, "There's definitely a girl."
Remus' shoulders sagged in defeat. "There is a girl . . . and I do like her but I can't be with her," he said dully as he developed a sudden interest in his trainers.
"Why not?" asked Peter curiously.
"I'm a werewolf," Remus said instantly as if this with explain everything, "And somebody else fancies her."
"Does she know you're a werewolf?" asked James pointedly.
"I told her," he said softly, missing the dawning comprehension in Sirius' stormy grey eyes.
"What did she say then?" pressed James.
"She said that I'm not a werewolf . . ." he began, "That I'm just Remus Lupin. That she doesn't look at me and see a wolf. She just sees Remus Lupin," he felt himself breaking into a shy smile at the memory of her words.
"Tell us about this girl then," said Sirius pointedly, and in that moment Remus knew that he knew. The look in his eyes pleaded for Sirius to not say anything and he nearly cried in relief when his friend nodded imperceptibly.
"She's amazing," said Remus softly, "And brilliant . . . she found out my secret before I could tell her."
"Remus," said James in a pained voice – because he had been there for that conversation, hiding beneath the invisibility cloak when she had confronted Remus about his monthly absences, "I know it isn't easy being a werewolf. I know you've never had any hopes of falling in love or having a girlfriend because of your lycanthropy . . . but if this girl can look at you, knowing what you are and still say that then she must be pretty special. You don't give that up for anything or anybody . . . even if it's your best mate standing in the way."
Remus gazed up and met his eyes, something clicking in his mind as he saw the resigned look on his best friends face. Quickly, he flung his arms around him in a warm, brotherly embrace, his voice breaking slightly as he spoke.
"Thank you Prongs."
"You deserve a shot at happiness, Moony," came the firm reply as the bespectacled boy patted him awkwardly on the back.
"You knew there was only one girl in the entire school who knew that he was a werewolf right?" asked Sirius accusingly, his voice oddly gentle as he stood beside his best mate, both leaning across the covered bridge and they took long drags of Sirius' favourite brand of muggle cigarettes. James turned and looked at him for a moment, a well of sadness in his eyes as he gave his friend the ghost of a smile.