My Eyes Are Dim, I Cannot See
Considering that this was their ever first party, thought Lily Potter, things were going pretty well. She smiled to herself, and looked over the guests assembled in Godric's Hollow with satisfaction.
By the standards to which she had been raised, this was a most unconventional gathering. The food laid out on her new set of nested coffee tables (a wedding present from her parents in Bexhill-on-Sea) was not the usual sandwiches, fairy cakes and sausages on sticks, but mountains of richly glazed pumpkin pasties; teetering, multi-storied cakes dripping with lurid blue-and-orange striped icing or sprinkled with huge spun-sugar stars; a cornucopia of lychees, mangoes, figs and pomegranates from their own little greenhouse at the back of the house. There were Self-Warming Rolls, butter and cheese sculpted into fairy-tale castles, and a cauldron of mouth-watering Fenny Snake Soup was hanging over the open fire, ready for the guests to help themselves. A lot of the men were wearing robes, and almost all the guests were carrying wands. Odd-looking cats twined themselves round people's ankles or patted huge, gulping toads with carefully sheathed paws. The colours in the room were so bright, almost glittery; the atmosphere… charged somehow, in a way her life had never been in her parents' house. Well, she was free of all that now.
Lily was now a member of the Wizarding world in truth – not just as a legal adult, or as a holder of a Hogwarts diploma, but married into one of the oldest Wizarding families in the country. She had come a long way from the skinny, redheaded eleven-year-old who wept silent tears into her pillow, missing her big sister and her home, lost and alone in a strange castle in the cold, far north, where there was not even a telly for her to watch Doctor Who.
And now, for the first time, Lily had managed to persuade a member of her own family to visit her new house. Her parents – uncomfortable among Wizards at best – were away on holiday in the south of France, but her sister Petunia, after much flattery, pleading and even tears, had agreed to come along.
And there she was, standing by the mantelpiece, her powder-blue Laura Ashley floral dress with its white collar instantly visible among all the long, sweeping robes the other women wore. She was wearing discreet pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, with matching shoes and handbag, blonde hair pulled back from her long face into a tight knot at the back of her head – to Lily, utterly conventional, yet in this company strangely exotic. With the firelight bringing out warm tints in her skin and hair, and a rare, genuine smile giving breadth and life to her rather horsey face as she smiled up at the shabby young man beside her, Lily realised with a start that Petunia was surprisingly beautiful. Perhaps she, too, would find a match among the people who had taken her in… dreams of shared, parallel happiness she had not dared to contemplate since the year she turned eleven began to take shape in her mind.
Then she saw Sirius Black stride briskly across the room, tap Petunia's new friend lightly on the arm and whisper something urgently in his ear. Lily's heart sank as he turned round to listen, and she reminded herself with a pang that Remus Lupin, the man who had brought beauty to her Petunia's pinched face, was the one man in the room she knew for a fact could never be interested in her sister or any other woman.
A warm room, an open fire blasting heat onto her skin through her thin dress, an atmosphere that was all chatter and strange yet homelike smells… The man beside her was telling her some story about his schooldays with Lily, all the while staring at her as if he had never seen anything so alluring. Petunia felt like she was melting, and yet at the same time somehow expanding as she gazed into those hot, mesmerising yellow eyes.
"It must be the punch," she said. "There must be something in the punch."
"What must be the punch?" he asked, moving closer to make himself heard above the background conversation.
She looked up into his face, warmth creeping up her chest and neck to her face.
"You know," she said softly, and she knew that he did.
Remus knew he was babbling but he could not stop himself. Raised all his life among wizards (for obvious security reasons that never need to be explicitly stated), he had never come close to a proper Muggle woman – not a tamed, over-the-wall type like Lily, but a true, unregenerate Muggle. All his life, he realised, he had accepted without question that gaudy butterflies like the ones that filled this room – like Lily herself – were the epitome of beauty. This woman was no butterfly but a moth – soft, quiet, dry, feathery: a creature of the dusk, whose eyes were drawing him deeper and deeper in, with a pull as powerful as ever the moon had been… (Aged nineteen, Remus still fancied himself a poet).
He felt a tap on his shoulder, and half-turned to face Sirius.
"Moony, can you come outside for a minute?" he said. "Fletcher's back from Trondheim, and he thinks there's trouble brewing…"
Controlling his irritation – could they not have left it a few hours? Trouble was always brewing in Trondheim, and it never came to anything – he apologised briefly to Petunia, promised to bring her another beaker of mulled mead on his way back and elbowed his way to the exit.
Petunia was deep in her own thoughts when Lily spoke.
"Petunia, love," she said. "Can you come through to the kitchen for a moment? There's something I need to explain to you about Remus."
It was cold on the back porch, and the light of the waxing moon was giving Remus a headache. Sirius was more than half drunk, and making a ridiculous fuss about some minor Norwegian local deity which was insisting on the full resumption of its ancient worship in exchange for aid in the fight against Voldemort. Since no human blood and little animal suffering was involved, Remus really could not see the problem. And how the wretched man talked! Anyone would think that a gaolbreak in the middle of a blizzard was something new for Mundungus Fletcher, who would do anything for money, and must have broken out of every lockup in Great Britain since he was of age.
Both men heard it – a violent slam, followed by the sound of small feet pattering in a rush down the garden path. Lily's voice called after her from the front porch:
"Petunia! Don't be so silly! I had to tell you – you'll thank me for it one day, you'll see!"
But Petunia Evans was already out of sight, and she did not look back or stop running until she reached the bus stop at the foot of the lane. There she stood shivering in the dark for half an hour, before a large, fleshy young man in a BMW drew up beside her. An utterly uncharacteristic burst of chivalry (which he later put down to a whelk he had eaten at the house of his sister Marge) prompted the driver to check whether this obviously respectable young woman was in any kind of difficulty in this out-of-the-way place. Her appalling stories of sexual perversions and dangerous hippies living in squalor aroused his pity. He wrapped her in his own pure wool overcoat, turned the car heater on full blast and drove fifty miles out his way to deliver her safely to her door. By now, Petunia was comparing this stolid, safe, workaday kindness most favourably with the cruel, unreliable glamour she had encountered at Godric's Hollow. And the rest was history.
Remus could not believe his eyes. The first girl in over a year who'd really shown an interest in him, and Lily had scared her off. What was she playing at?
Leaving Sirius jabbering on about bronze knives and standing stones, he approached Lily, and took a deep breath.
She got interrupted him.
"Don't worry, Remus," she said with an arch smile. "She won't be bothering you any more."
"Bothering me?" he said. "I've never been less bothered in my life. Your sister's a lovely girl…"
"Yes, I know," said Lily, "and you didn't know how to let her down gently. Well, don't worry, that's all sorted. I didn't want her making a fool of herself when it was plainly impossible – she's very fragile, you know, underneath all those posh society manners. And it had to be me to tell her – I am her sister, after all."
Remus felt cold.
"I see," he said, in an unnaturally polite voice, because the alternative was to fly into a violent rage. "Of course you don't want a werewolf in the family. I quite understand. And please do accept my apologies for my presumption…"
"Oh, Remus, you're so sweet," she said. "But did you really think I didn't know? I wouldn't have told Petunia about the werewolf thing – none of us care about that. No, I told her about you and Sirius."
Remus looked at her blankly, wondering which of their childhood derelictions was bad enough to cause a pretty girl to run out of the house in tears. Since the girl in question was not a Hogwarts prefect, he could not offhand think of a single one.
"I know you don't like to talk about it," Lily continued, "but honestly, a woman knows these things! And it's all right – this isn't Wendelin the Weird's day! I think it's really lovely – him leaving his family for you and all… and you're so obviously right for each other…"
Remus gaped at her.
"Are you trying to tell me," he said slowly, "that you think me and Sirius are lovers?"
Lily looked pityingly at him.
"Don't be coy, Remus," she said with mock severity. "I've known you since you were both eleven, remember? You've been living together for the past few years…"
"What… no way… of course we aren't…" Remus was so shocked that it took him a few seconds to get his voice under control. "There's nothing going on, Lily. There are two bedrooms in that flat. And a sofa-bed for when Peter comes for the weekend. If living together was all it took, shouldn't you be worried in case I used to sleep with your husband as well? Don't be ridiculous."
"Oh really," said Lily with asperity, rather annoyed that Remus had not been more impressed with her sensitivity and intuition. "Of course that's not all. There's the way you finish each other's sentences -"
"- no we don't -"
"You do. I've heard you. Then there's the way you touch each other all the time -"
"Sirius touches everyone all the time. He's a nice, friendly person. What am I meant to do, punch him in the teeth every time he slaps me on the back?"
"You argue like an old married couple – you finish each other's sentences – you can't stop staring at each other – "
" – you're deranged –"
"– you're like a pair of gay uncles – "
"Lily, you haven't got any gay uncles! You're from Eastbourne!"
"Bexhill-on-Sea! And even your animagus form are compatible – you can howl at the moon together, which is so gorgeous… and a wolf and a dog, you know, even when you're transformed, you can…" she giggled and looked at the ground, rather pink.
Remus looked revolted.
"You can't mean that," he said. "Have you any idea what dogs do to wolves? If a pack of dogs gets hold of one, they tear it to pieces. And that's a revoltingnotion in any case. Would you do it with a chimpanzee? A female chimpanzee? Because that's what it amounts to."
Lily pulled a face. "Yuck. Anyway, I don't see what you've got to be ashamed of – it's sweet…"
James put his head out of the door.
"Remus, are you upsetting my wife?" he said cheerfully.
"No," he said. "Your wife has made quite sure that the most beautiful woman I've ever seen will never be interested in me. Ever. And now, if you don't mind, I'm going home."
He stalked off, out of the garden and through the fields, towards the nearest Apparition point.
In his hurry to leave, Remus had left his cloak at the Potters' house. By the time he got back to Sirius's flat in Putney he was chilled to the bone. The chill made his transformation the following day even more debilitating and unpleasant than usual, and by the time the moon had set he was running a high fever. Sirius had gone back to Trondheim to try and sort out the problem, and by the time a very sheepish Lily called round to apologise, she found Remus in the grip of a particularly nasty strain of Fwooper flu. She visited him daily with nourishing broths and jellies, and before long he was on the mend, if still rather reserved and formal towards her.
As soon as he was well enough to get about again, Remus got Petunia's parents' address from Lily, borrowed some presentable Muggle clothes from James and paid a call. Her father – an elderly man in a clerical collar and a cardigan – answered the door, and informed Remus that Petunia was visiting an Ideal Kitchens Exhibition in Brighton with her new young man - a very nice young man who worked in drills. Once he realised who Remus was, his manner became extremely frosty, and he refused to take any kind of message.
Remus thought about going back and trying again. But somehow he already knew it was too late.
From then on, Remus became much more wary around Sirius. Lily had been completely wrong about their relationship – of course she had – but could he speak for Sirius? He started to avoid physical contact with his friend, and although Sirius had obviously noticed and was hurt by it, he was never going to explain why it was. He really would rather die.
After he came back from Trondheim, Sirius noticed the change in Remus. It was nothing obvious, but he seldom looked him in the eye, avoided his touch and often fell into a reverie, staring at nothing, a worried, guilty look on his pale face.
Something was up. Sirius had been brought up around Dark creatures, and he thought he recognised the signs. This one would bear watching.
When Peter came to London – something he had been doing less and less of late, as he had secret matters of his own to occupy him – he could tell at once that something was amiss in the little flat in Putney. There was tension in the atmosphere, a palpable sense of hurt and rejection.
His new Master had given him eyes to sense out weakness, and taught him the cunning to bend it to his own advantage. Slowly, patiently, overlooked even by his childhood friends, he began to work.