Sadly, they're definitely not my characters; I'm just having my wicked way with them.
This was written for the Tales of Sin & Virtue Challenge at the LJ Community, Redandthewolf. Which is a really excellent site if you're a fan of Remus, Lily and Marauder Tales, btw. It was my first attempt at anything other than R/T (and was followed by a second;)) so feedback is very welcome. The prompts I chose were first chance, pride and the lyrics from "Someone Like The Moon" by Pulp - She likes to watch the moon as it travels through the sky, 'Cos she's heard that it's romantic, though she really can't see why.
The slender figure had been climbing steadily towards him for a while now. There was a noted purpose and determination to her stride since she'd first glimpsed him a few moments ago.
He should have moved when he saw the unmistakable head of dark red hair moving inexorably in his direction, but he'd thought no one would find him out here. It was many months ago that he'd told her about this place; a casual, off-the-cuff remark that could, and probably should, have been instantly dismissed. But she'd remembered. He watched her approach, picking her way up the steep incline, swerving the spikes and spines of brambles and gorse, and wondered if, despite every internal indication that she was the last person he wanted to see or talk to right now, he'd banked all along on her doing just that.
How easy it was to deceive yourself, it seemed. To kid yourself you were something that you were not. Not quite so easy, apparently, to deceive others of it however hard you tried.
"Remus," Lily Evans said, pausing about twenty feet below him with a degree of breathlessness and her hands on her hips. "What in Merlin's name is going on around here?"
What indeed? He smiled, the warmth he always felt on seeing her prevailing over the chill inside, and made a welcoming gesture with his hand. "Come on up and admire the view. I can offer a lukewarm beer for weary travellers in need of refreshment. Out for an afternoon stroll, are you, or unable to bear the excitement of another History of Magic lesson?"
Even at the distance that still separated them, he saw the jaw rise perceptibly, the hair thrown back over her shoulder and, on another occasion, another time, would have allowed himself to grin at recognising the signs of her being prepared to do battle.
"Has anything happened to you?" She hadn't moved from the spot.
"No." He shook his head easily enough at the truth. "Nothing's happened to me."
She regarded him thoughtfully for a moment longer, rather as if she was weighing up his casual words against his carefully half-hidden position. Then she turned and looked behind her for a second, seeing how high above Hogwarts they were; the land sloping away from them in a patchwork of greens and browns, touched by a finger-light breeze that brought with it the scents of heather, bracken and coarse, dry grasses.
And her. She always smelt of something delicate and insubstantial, which danced tantalisingly around the senses and never stayed long enough to be pinned down. Dawn on a fresh May morning was the nearest he'd come to labelling it, whenever he was in the mood to wax lyrical about things that were forever out of reach.
"Well, it seems something odd has happened to quite a few people. It's all very mysterious," she added, clambering up the final few feet that separated them, and joining him in the shadows where the overhang of the rock formed a small cave of cool solitude.
"Professor Binns will be worried about you," he said, watching as she sat down opposite him on a similar stone. "Surely you don't want to miss out on another exciting chapter of the Gittisham Goblin Uprising of 1874?"
A small smile was playing round her lips even before he'd finished the sentence. "No - that's all wrong, Remus. You really shouldn't be trying to sound like an ex-prefect here, but expressing interest in the exciting gossip. Which is making me wonder if you've heard it all already?"
"No. I haven't." He'd imagined every word, and much more, though.
"Besides, it's Potions on Wednesday afternoon. That's what happens when you keep skiving off lessons. You've lost track of what you're actually missing."
It was quite true, he had. And if Lily was prepared to miss her favourite one, then things must be very bad indeed down in the school.
He'd known all along, really, that he'd just been kidding himself with the little bit of hope that had insisted on prevailing amidst the resigned acceptance. Despite all Dumbledore's assurances, despite James' pleas, and despite Sirius' own defiant, outraged words in the one brief snatch of conversation they'd had afterwards, it was clear that there would be only one inevitable end to all this. And it was the right one.
She folded her hands almost primly in her lap; they were rather large, square capable ones, lightly freckled on the back. "Okay, if that's the way you want to play it. Something strange is going on amongst the previously inseparable Gryffindor four. For starters, no one dares go anywhere near Sirius Black because the look on his face suggests you'll risk losing a couple of limbs, at the very least. He's missing classes all over the place as well, but, strangely, none of the teachers are handing out detentions, and I just happened to see him coming out of Dumbledore's office this morning. He didn't look very happy."
"Spying, were we?" Remus enquired gently as she paused for either breath or reaction.
"Gathering info," she said, with notable dignity and a hint of amusement mixed in. "The current thinking amongst the totally confused – that's most of us, by the way - is that the unthinkable has actually happened, that he and Potter have gone and fallen out over something completely pathetic. But I'm not going for that because Potter's always a small but significant distance away, looking a bit like a dog on duty who'd like to bite what he's guarding. They glower at each other all the time and don't speak." She sniffed, the small nose wrinkling up. "Meanwhile Pettigrew's wearing himself out running back and forth between them, like some kind of demented owl service."
Remus allowed himself a small smile.
"Yes." Lily smiled as well. "I think he's revelling in the fact that he's the one they both need for once. You'll have to watch him when you go back, all this attention might go to his head. But that's not the oddest thing."
"No. Snape's been to see Dumbledore every day for the last three days, and he comes out looking as though someone's stuffed a large amount of fluxweed in his mouth, and he won't tell me why."
A sudden constriction in Remus' own throat caused him to swallow with difficulty. He said, in a voice of carefully studied neutrality, "I didn't realise Snape was sharing confidences with you over a bubbling cauldron."
"He's not so bad as you think." A hint of defensive colour which, in other circumstances he'd have thought totally endearing, had crept into the freckled cheeks. "Well, all right, sometimes he is, especially when he's face to face with your mates. But this is different. And I still haven't got to the oddest bit."
"No. The oddest bit, by far, is that Remus Lupin, who would normally be relied upon to restore peace and relative calm, is nowhere to be found. It's very puzzling, especially as I've now found him up here and in about the last place anyone would look for him."
You looked. He turned his head away from her, both to give himself something to do and avoid the concern in those woodland green eyes. "Beer?" he offered, brightly, reaching for the bottle by his foot.
"Explanations first." She leaned forward on the stone. "What's going on?"
"Yes, there is. You're not wearing a tie."
"I don't actually sleep in it, you know. Not unless it's a very formal sleep, anyway."
"Mmm. Well, we'll argue that one another day. What's going on?"
"Nothing. I just fancied some time alone."
"No." She shook her head. "That's not you. You like company."
"Not always," he said, wondering if he was so transparent.
"Yes, you do. And I know this is a great vantage point, or a nice seduction spot to bring a girl and watch the moon rise—"
"I can't tell you, Lily," he said, through lips which were suddenly barely able to form words. The Shrieking Shack was clearly visible in the far distance behind her head. Dark and deserted, even in the bright sunshine, it mocked him.
"Yes, you can." Her own voice was very firm, her eyes fixed on him. "Whatever it is, however bad you think it is—"
"It's fairly bad." He forced a smile. "I'm going to be expelled."
She didn't even pause. "If this is because you're worried about Daphne Tizzard's morning sickness and recent bout of hysterics – Madam Pomfrey has told her in no uncertain terms to lay off the Go Go Bran for breakfast and her stomach should be back to normal size in no time at all." The lightness with which she spoke was in direct contrast to how very still she was. "Anyway, I'd have thought Black's a lot more worried about that one than you are."
Does Sirius Black worry about anything? The question seemed to hover unspoken in the air between them for a moment.
"Remus, you can't possibly have done anything that could get you expelled. It's actually quite hard to do, you know."
"Not when you're me."
"Especially when you're you!" She looked as though she was ready to dismiss out of hand anything he came up with, but then she said, more quietly, "Tell me what it is I don't know."
"I've given up a fascinating Potions class to be here. Slughorn could be in raptures right now over my inspired decision to add a sprig of peppermint to the Elixir to Induce Euphoria. I wanted to see a grown man drool."
"You shouldn't have missed it on my account." He meant it, too, but that treacherous warm glow touched him again.
"I'll miss ten of the damn things if you'll only tell me what's wrong. You've always been my friend. I thought I was yours. Friends share secrets, don't they? Why won't you tell me?"
"Things might have been different between us though, if …" He stopped, the words half-formed on his lips, meaning only, in his preoccupied state, that if she'd known the truth about him right from the start, then friendship would have been the last thing on her mind and so he'd deceived her from the very beginning, just like he had everyone else.
She was staring at him. The old green t-shirt she was wearing on top of dark blue jeans was shiny but it suited her. Everything suited her. He suddenly realised he was staring at her in return and how she might possibly be interpreting his words.
He opened his mouth to put a stop to this before one of them said something they couldn't take back, but he was alone with her up a hillside, more than half convinced he would soon never see her again, and if he never saw James again, either, then this moment of pure self-indulgence wouldn't matter. After all, it really should be a romantic place for a normal sixteen year old boy to bring a girl.
Another sentence was left to hang tantalisingly between them.
"Yes." She looked him directly in the eye, a vivid flush developing on the freckled cheeks. "I've thought about it, sometimes. But it's always been something more important than that, hasn't it, right from the start? Real friends are hard to come by. Close friends of the opposite sex even more so, it seems. You're my only one. But if you wanted … I mean, I've thought …"
She stopped abruptly as well and looked at her hands, now clenched in her lap.
He felt himself blush as well, deeper and hotter than he'd ever blushed in his life, both for what she'd said and how she said it. He must not think about it now and what it could mean. It was too late. "This … isn't something to share with a close friend." He swallowed. "Not one you want to always think well of you."
"Don't you trust me?"
It's you who shouldn't trust me. He suddenly realised he was indeed alone with a sixteen year old girl, who had absolutely no idea what she was sat a few feet away from, and he stood up awkwardly, shifting backwards till he touched solid rock.
She raised her head and smiled rather tremulously up at him. Sunlight just touched the edge of her arm and the golden hairs on it glinted. "Take a chance, Remus; take a risk and tell me. It can't be as bad as you think it is."
He'd sooner cut his throat out than see that look on her face; the disgust and the horror she wouldn't quite be able to hide. Oh God, the way Snape had looked at him, as though he was beneath contempt, and yet with the slightest suggestion of fear as well.
Impossible to tell which one was worse. Impossible to tell her. Even more so after what he'd just let her admit like the selfish bastard he was. Yet if she heard it from anyone, she should hear it from him, shouldn't she? He owed her that much. He had to be the one to tell her that once a month he turned into a filthy, ravenous beast that clawed the floors of the Shrieking Shack and had to be locked away from decent people to keep them safe.
"I nearly killed Snape three nights ago." The words came out in a rushed, jumbled heap, the only way he could say them. He got the next four ready to follow on immediately behind, as once they were out there'd be no need to say anything else.
She blinked. "What?"
"I'm a werewolf, Lily."
Much later, looking back, he could never remember exactly what happened next. He was staring so intently at her face as she stood up herself, bracing himself for the reaction, waiting for the inevitable, "I don't believe you," and ready to force, "You must," past a throat and a chest that were locked tight and rigid with grief.
"All those absences?"
"Your Mother's not sick?"
He never got round to asking her why she believed him straight away. Why she didn't need the words repeated or further explanations given. Why her face never changed at all.
She stared at him, her eyes wide.
She took his hand.
Just one fluid movement; her fingers sliding along his wrist and closing firmly and quietly round his. A simple handclasp that tilted the horizen and the earth beneath his feet so that he could never look at anything from quite the same viewpoint again.
"You great chump," she said, softly, squeezing his fingers between hers, and he could have broken there and then, and cried with relief. This was as amazing, if not more so, than when the Marauders had accepted him, because he'd always wondered afterwards if they'd been fully aware of what he could do, and not just overlooked that part in the spirit of some great exciting adventure.
"Tell me how it happened. Tell me what's happened now," she said, and he did while watching her holding his hand. Lily Evans was actually holding his hand, without a trace of fear in her green eyes after she knew the truth about him, and suddenly, instead of it being the end, a host of opportunities he'd thought were forever denied to him were opening up like the petals of an emerging flower. She held his hand; and it was as if the whole of him reposed there in the hollow of her palm.
Sheltered, at peace, and still wanted.
It was incredible.
If she could accept him for what he was, then there was always the possibility more people would. Other girls might, too, though it was hard to imagine another who could surpass Lily Evans for understanding.
Was it petty of him to wish there hadn't been quite so much compassion shining in those eyes as well?
"Why that stupid, idiotic bastard —" The absolute fury in her voice brought him sharply back to reality.
"No!" In defence of Sirius, he toned it down even more so that it sounded like the merest boy's prank, a daft idea which had had unforeseen consequences, and for which no one was in the least to blame.
"Why the hell do you think you're going to be expelled?" she demanded. "It's Black's fault, first and foremost, the stupid tosser, followed by Snape's. He can't bear to think he doesn't know everyone's secrets and he can't stand you."
"No, I never was top of his very short popularity list even before I—"
"That's probably because of me." The grip on his hand was tightening as her anger grew. He blinked, trying to keep up with her train of thought, but this one seemed to be a station ahead.
"Mmm." Colour flamed her cheeks again, the red running downwards, staining her neck and the exposed V of her t-shirt. "You know, because you and I are … friends. Oh, don't be so dense, Remus, you're not usually!"
He looked down at their hands, fighting, in spite of the situation to keep an inane grin off his face. An explanation that simple – and that flattering - had simply never occurred to him before.
"Anyway, don't worry about Snape," she continued, her voice low and angry. "If Dumbledore doesn't shut him up, I will! I know quite a lot of stuff about him. Things he wouldn't want known. As for that arse, Black—"
"He wants hexing from here to—"
He couldn't help laughing at her; her eyebrows knotted together in a rigid straight line, her ridiculous, wonderful rage on his behalf. Without thinking he swept his arm round her waist and pulled her to him.
"Sssh," he said, burying his face against the silken red hair, then into the curve of her neck, tightening his grip involuntarily on her. "It'll all be fine."
Her free arm slid up round him, up his back. "That's what I've been telling you, you idiot." Her voice was muffled against his shoulder. "As for Potter, he makes me absolutely sick—"
Remus was conscious only of the feel of her in his arms, the fact that her heart was thudding against him, and that all he had to do was tilt his head an inch or two sideways to cover her mouth with his. Either she was trembling, or he was, or they were doing it together. A day he'd thought would be the worst of his life had suddenly turned into one which both restored and reassured.
All down to her. Her kindness.
"No." He pushed her very gently away, feeling the slim warm body move under his hands, and wanting to thrust her roughly away from anywhere near him before he changed his mind.
She'd given him an amazing gift and it was time to remember those he loved like brothers and concentrate on loving her again like a sister. Loyalty had to come first, as did the realisation that she deserved far better than anything he could offer.
"James saved us all," he said softly. "He pulled Snape back and I can never repay him for that."
"Potter did that?" She stared up at him in bewilderment, a frown creasing her brow. He saw, with a wrenching tenderness, that there were traces of tear stains on her face.
"James did that." He nodded. "He risked his life to save Snape. And me. And Sirius, though I'm not sure he realises that quite yet."
"Oh." She was silent for a minute or two, and Remus watching her, said gently, "Does it make a difference?"
Her gaze, which had drifted away towards the trees behind him, came back to his face and she said thoughtfully, "Yes. But I don't know why it should."
Remus thought he did. He'd always thought Lily was a little over-fervent in her dislike of James, just as James definitely overdid his attempts to impress her. He realised suddenly how very tired he was and hungry. Next time he had a crisis on a lonely hilltop he must remember to pack some decent food. Of course, if he'd known Peter was running a personal owl service, he could have booked a special delivery complete with picnic hamper.
He almost chuckled to himself for the first time in he didn't know how long, put out a hand which wasn't quite steady, and brushed his fingers lightly across the side of her face. "Perhaps we should go back?"
"You ready to beat that bastard Black to a pulp then?"
"Something like that."
"You are not going to forgive him, Remus! I'll kill you myself!"
He smiled at her, those eyebrows indignantly knotted together again at such a blatant example of extreme male stupidity.
"Come on," he said, turning his back on the Shrieking Shack, and resolutely putting it behind him as they stepped into the bright sunshine. She took his hand again as they started carefully down the steep incline and, though he realised she'd let go as soon as they were in public view again, he thought he'd make the most of it while it lasted. She might not be for him, but he could still dream.
It was probably best not to tell her that the main reason he'd stayed up here was to resist all temptation to take the easy option and forgive. He'd never been so hurt and angry in his life; felt so used or, literally, abused, and he doubted he'd ever forget it, but one single handclasp from a square, freckled hand had somehow eased the agonising ache to something more bearable. Sirius would be desperate for acceptance again, too, though he'd sooner die before admitting any such thing. James would need to have his divided loyalties restored to a whole once more. Peter would be the only one sorry to have peace re-established again, but he'd get over it.
He'd taken a chance and it had paid off, unexpectedly and wonderfully. As to the rest; well, he'd have to do what he'd done before, and put his trust and faith in Dumbledore and his friends.
Hope you enjoyed this. Reviewers get to picnic up a lonely hillside with Remus and possibly get the picnic basket delivered too... ;)