AN: This was originally written for the Halloween Challenge at the Werewolf Registry. Thanks to Kit the Brave for the suggestions.
"We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be."
Halloween The Present
Remus lay in bed wide-awake. When he'd last looked, the clock had read 1:00am. He supposed that he shouldn't have been surprised. Halloween was always fraught with difficulties. Why shouldn't it begin with him not being able to sleep in the wee hours of the morning? It could be a 24-hour sleepless experience.
Inevitably, someone during the course of the day would bring up the fact that, "You-Know-Who was defeated today." This always lead to a discussion of "the sacrifice of the Potters," and that "poor lad Harry." Frankly, Remus was just plain tired of dealing with feelings being dredged up again and again. Although, given everything that had happened in the last couple of months, he doubted that he'd be plagued by that particular problem today. It was doubtful that anyone would be rejoicing today that, "You-Know-Who was gone." The reality of recent events would most likely spare him that this year. Today, he would settle for memories that were neutral. He had given up on happy all together.
Remus' minded wandered as he rolled over yet again in a useless attempt to fall asleep. Halloween hadn't always been bad. Really there was no reason why this one would have to be. In fact, many a Halloween had been spent stealing food from the Hogwarts kitchens, pranking the Slytherins, or romping through the Forbidden Forest. The best Halloween, however, was the one he spent in the hospital ward his fifth year. It was the year he began to allow himself to dream of possibilities…
Remus lay in bed counting the ceiling tiles muttering to himself. "205, 206, 207…oh, bugger it all!" Remus beat the bed sheets in frustration. Instantly, his broken nose throbbed from the sudden movement, and he wished he were anywhere but the hospital wing.
His friends had promised to come by hours ago and they still hadn't arrived. Peter had even sworn up and down that he would bring Remus some of that chocolate pumpkin tart that was a Hogwarts tradition. According to the wall clock it was near half ten and they still hadn't made an appearance.
It was bad enough that he was aching in all his joints, nursing a broken nose that made him sound like he was talking through a paper bag, and that he was missing the party in his common room. Now, on top of it all, he was without any company. Minus his friends to distract him, he was obsessing over the fact that he had been forced to pass off his prefect duties to Lily Evans again. He didn't like shirking his duties no matter how many times Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore assured him with platitudes ranging from "it was just fine" to "there were other things he could do to be helpful." Remus knew Lily wouldn't complain. She was always volunteering for all sorts of extra jobs, but he just didn't want her to be assigned extra work on his account.
All the prefects had to patrol the corridors the week leading to Halloween and Halloween night itself. Mischief making had become something of a tradition. Theoretically, each house would try to out do the others while not losing any house points themselves in the process. It was quite a challenge. Unfortunately, what had once been innocent fun had turned quite serious last year.
A number of students from various houses had fallen victim to "innocent pranks." Then, the real trouble started, and neither Madam Pomfrey nor the board of governors had been amused. The sixth years had just mastered switching spells and the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws had overenthusiastically teamed up and tried one. They turned the marble corridor leading to the Hufflepuff common room into ice just as all of the Hufflepuffs were returning from dinner. The results were disastrous. One or two injuries could be overlooked; half of Hufflepuff house flat on their backs with broken bones was another matter.
Remus had stopped wondering if he was missing out on any of this years' fun earlier in the evening. Madam Pomfrey had told him what an exceptional job the perfects had done this year in maintaining order. According to her, they had more than made up for last year's debacle. All the prefects had been sent to the corridors with strict instructions that no type of prank at all would be tolerated. Word had come down that Hogsmede weekends were at risk if anything going on last year's scale occurred. Even without Madam Pomfrey's proclamation that the prefects had outdone themselves, Remus knew they had been successful. He was the sole occupant of the hospital wing. No one had come in for so much as a bandage.
Suddenly, a creak on the floorboards alerted Remus to a visitor, although he couldn't see who it was because the privacy curtain blocked his view. At last he would have an end to the dreaded boredom. There were only so many times he could count the number tiles on the ceiling.
"It's about time you came. I am dying of boredom," Remus called in the general direction of the noise. He didn't know which of his friends was there. He was just glad for the company. Much to his surprise, it wasn't one of his roommates.
A bemused Lily Evans stood at the foot of his bed with her book satchel slung over her shoulder, "Well, someone is just a little fussy, but I suppose you're entitled seeing as you're cooped up in here. However, if I knew you were waiting on me especially, I would have been here earlier."
"Sorry," said Remus, sheepishly, "I thought you were Peter."
"Well, yeah, or Sirius or James."
"Remus, in case you haven't noticed. I'm a girl. That's the first time I've been mistaken for three boys, let alone one."
"Don't worry about it. I'll assume it's temporary insanity due to that nose injury."
Remus groaned and rolled his eyes. "I was afraid it was that noticeable. I can actually see my nose in my peripheral vision and it's making me dizzy."
Lily crossed around the side of the bed and sat next to Remus. "I'm sorry, I was trying to make you feel better."
"That's your version of bedside manner?"
"I was trying to make you laugh. Guess, it didn't work, huh?" asked Lily. She then continued with a doubtful smile. "Does it hurt a lot?"
Remus just looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Never mind, stupid question. Ok, before I dig myself in any deeper here, maybe I'd better just give you this," Lily rummaged in her bag for a moment before pulling out a rather nicely sized piece of chocolate pumpkin tart.
Remus grinned as he took the treat, grateful that the day was no longer a total disaster. "Thanks, Lily. Apology accepted."
"And before you think your friends have totally forgot about you. They haven't. They just got caught vanishing the doors to Ravenclaw common room," Lily giggled, her matter of fact prefect tone was now gone. She kept choking back laughter as she continued. "It was quite a good prank actually. They had already done the same thing to the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins when they were caught red-handed by one of the Ravenclaw prefects who put them all in a full body bind and then called in Professor McGonagall. The last I saw, they were all still in her office. So, I came right here."
Remus just stared at Lily before deciding there was no diplomatic way to ask his question. "So, you came here to tell me my friends are getting detention? And that Hogsmede will be a distant memory at best?"
"No!" Lily's face wrinkled into a frown. "Honestly, Remus, what do you take me for? Peter slipped me this piece of tart and mouthed your name so I sort of figured out the rest on my own," she then added, quietly, "besides I wanted to see you anyway."
Remus grew concerned. This was going to be it. Lily was going to talk to him about not pulling his own weight. He could practically read her mind; it was all there in her eyes.
"Lily, look," Remus started, his voice shaking, "I know I haven't been doing as much as you. But I really have been doing my best."
"Did I say I didn't think so? Remus, you're always trying twice as hard as the rest of us to help the younger students. Every time I turn around, you've taken a new first year under your wing. I just came here because I was worried about you. You're always getting into scrapes and I just wanted to make sure you were ok," Lily seemed to think for a second and then added, "How about we make a deal? If you don't assume I'm out to get you, I won't assume you and your friends hate me."
"What?" said Remus, incredulously. "We don't hate you. I mean I'll admit that you drive Sirius nutters with the way you enforce the rules, and Peter has this habit of always getting caught, but James-"
"Ok, so maybe you all don't hate me, but how about a truce. Especially since, I'd like us to be friends. At least you and me. I don't know that Sirius Black is ever going to do anything more than tolerate my presence. And I'm sure James-"
"Really, Lily, believe me, they don't think of you as the enemy, just-"
"Just what? A stick-in-the-mud? Insensitive git? A prudish know-it-all?"
"It's not at all like that!" Remus sat up, rubbing his nose. It throbbed from raising his voice.
"What then?" Lily was raising her voice and turning as red as her hair, "I'm an oversized toad escaped from Care of Magical Creatures?"
"No!" Remus blurted out, "Actually, at least one of us happens to think you're kind of pretty!"
Remus blushed to his ears. The words had come out before he even realised what he was doing. James was going to kill him. In fact, death would be preferably to the slow torture that James might enact when he came to realise that Remus had just let the cat out of the bag.
Suddenly, it dawned on Remus that Lily was silent. She hadn't said a thing. She was just sitting there. Well, actually not just sitting there, she was opening and closing her mouth soundlessly as if to say something. She looked a bit like a guppy out of water.
Finally, Lily swallowed hard and quietly asked, "Do you mean that? Is that the truth?" Her green eyes were boring into him, hunting for the answer.
Well, there was simply no way around hoping she hadn't noticed what he'd said. He'd have to explain it. Only, under pressure, he had no idea how he was going to do that. Remus shifted uneasily in the bed. The only thing he was good at lying about was lycanthropy. He'd had plenty of practice in that regard. Unfortunately, he had no stock stories to cover the divulged romantic feelings of one of his best friends. He'd have to come clean.
"Yeah, Lily, it's the truth," he replied reluctantly as he stared into his lap, unable to look her in the eye.
"I don't know what to say, Remus. I had no idea…I mean…I hoped, but…I never dreamed…" The usually articulate Lily Evans had resorted to sputtering and stumbling over her words.
Remus felt more embarrassed than before. What a complete mess. He wanted to smother himself with the pillow. He didn't care about the potential pain. Maybe it would be a quick death with his nose broken.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said a thing. It wasn't my place," Remus was barely able to look her in the eyes as he managed a final, "I'm sorry."
Lily tucked her hair behind her ears and traced the seam on the sheets with her finger. Remus guessed that she was just as embarrassed as he was. He was about to beg Lily not to ask him which of his friends liked her when Lily spoke again.
"No, I'm glad you told me. It makes things easier actually, because," Lily took a deep gulp, and looked up at Remus through her lashes. "I feel the same way."
"You do?" Remus was stunned. Was he off the hook that easily? James would be thrilled. Lily had always acted like she'd rather hex him than hug him.
"Yeah," Lily smiled a warm smile. "I do, I really do."
Remus couldn't believe his ears. This was an amazing turn of events. James would be ecstatic; Lily was happy; what more could he want?
Then, suddenly, Lily sprang to her feet as she gathered up her satchel. "Well, I suppose I'd better go."
"Bye, Lily, and thanks for coming," said Remus. Then he added. "It means a lot."
Lily dropped her satchel and slowly sat back down on the bed. She reached out and pushed Remus' hair out of his eyes before she gently stroked the side of his face. "I'm sure you'll be back in Gryffindor Tower in no time. We miss you."
Remus couldn't move. Lily's hand was warm and comforting against his skin. He felt an unusual tingling in his stomach. He knew that his friends always said they missed him when he was stuck in the hospital wing. But Lily? No one else, especially a girl, had ever said anything like that to him before. Now, it was his turn to stumble over his words."I…that's…thanks." He managed to regain his composure and add, "And don't worry. I won't say a word to James-"
Lily giggled and tossed her head. "The last thing I'd ever accuse you of, Remus Lupin, is being anything other than the perfect gentleman. I know you won't tell James or the rest of them. In fact, I'm positive you're not one to kiss and tell. It's part of why I like you so much."
Then, before he could react, before he could say anything, it happened. Lily leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Then, she shyly gave him last look before gathering her belongings and going out the door.
Lily Evans liked him and not James Potter.
Remus was thunderstruck. The thought was both thrilling and terrifying. Truth be told, it was more thrilling than anything, and that was what was terrifying Remus.
Remus had always noticed Lily, but she was out-of-bounds, and out-of-his-league, or so he'd always thought until a minute ago. She'd always been what James wanted, not him. Actually, that wasn't quite true, he told himself. She was what James wanted and didn't have, and what Remus wouldn't allow himself to admit. The feelings were there. They had always been there right below the surface.
Remus groaned and slunk down in the bed. He started considering the very real possibility of James murdering him in his sleep while Sirius held him down and Peter played the look out. This was going to be a problem.
Right then and there Remus made a decision. He could think about "his problem" tomorrow. Right now he could still smell her perfume, feel the warmth where Lily had sat on the bed, and taste the faintest traces of pumpkin juice on his lips. He nestled under the covers. No more counting ceiling tiles, he was going to lie there and enjoy the moment.
Even now, years later, that bittersweet moment was one of the best in Remus' life. Eventually, things changed, he'd let Lily go before things got out of hand and Lily and James had found each other.
However, on that one night, on a Halloween long ago, Remus had discovered that someone actually liked him. He wasn't automatically destined for a life of being alone. There were possibilities. In fact, the best of all possibilities was currently hogging the duvet, her pink hair barely visible above the covers that were wrapped around her.
Two women, two nights, two memories. One thing was certain, he wasn't letting this one go. As he snuggled next to his favourite cover hog he realised that this Halloween would be a happy one too.