Written for Livejournal's Red and the Wolf community's Tales of Slings, Arrows and Outrageous Fortune challenge using the prompt of follow through and 'How bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man's eyes!' (As You Like It, 5.2). It's a sequel to The Art of Knowing, which would probably be helpful if you read it first, but not necessary.
I am not JK Rowling, I'm just using her characters :)
It had finally happened.
It wasn't a surprise, really, but that didn't mean that it didn't still hurt.
Remus looked towards the portrait hole from his seat on the couch in front of the fire. James and Lily were standing close together, speaking in low voices and completely lost in each others eyes – Remus could see that from across the room. It happened to be one of those moments that was horrific to watch but one finds themselves unable to look away. Lily was smiling and James was laughing, brushing away stray hair that had fallen into her face, his fingers lightly touching her.
"You know you could have stopped it, right?"
Remus tore his eyes away from James and Lily to see that Sirius had plopped down in the armchair beside him, and by the look of the books he had spread out in front of him, he had sat quite some time ago. How long had he been watching them by the door and how long has Sirius been watching him watch them? Remus sighed and laid his head back against the couch, closing his eyes. He didn't want to deal with Sirius right now. He simply wanted to mope in silence. If it had been Peter sitting beside him, silence would have made the conversation go away. Peter would have picked up that Remus wasn't in the mood, but Sirius… Well, Sirius would know that Remus wanted to be left alone too, but the difference was that Sirius wouldn't care.
Remus rolled his head towards the chair Sirius was in and opened one eye slowly. Sirius was looking directly at him, with an odd look on his face. Sirius spun around to look at James and Lily, who were now standing even closer, with James looking down into Lily's face. "Oi, Prongs! If you are going to snog Evans for the first time, why don't you do it somewhere more classy than the common room? You've really got no sense of romance, have you? No wonder you didn't get the girl until now!" Instead of retaliating, James smiled sheepishly back at Sirius and Remus, took Lily by the hand and slipped out of the common room quietly. Sirius turned his attention back to Remus and waited.
What was there to say? The inevitable had happened, James and Lily were finally together. Despite what Sirius was claiming, there had been no way that he could have stopped this. Their coming together seemed like something out of fiction where two bitter rivals realize that all of their fighting and differences was really caused by sexual tension, not hatred as originally thought. Or at least it was in Lily's case. James had been smitten with Lily Evans since they met on the Hogwarts Express in first year. The obsession had started because he didn't understand her friendship with Severus and he found her an enigma – a Muggleborn Gryffindor who was friends with a Muggle hating pureblood supremist loving Slytherin. Mysteries were always fascinating, and who was more fascinating than Lily? No, there was no way Remus could have blocked this. You can't stop fate, and no one knew that better than Remus.
"I can't decide if after all this time, I'm proud of you or if I feel sorry for you. It's probably a mixture of both. You've always liked Lily, but never pursued her and always stood aside for Prongs, even when you knew that she liked you. Sometimes I wish that you would just step up and take what you want in life, but you never do." Sirius shook is head and chuckled darkly, "As if there aren't enough girls in the school. I don't think I could handle it if Peter wanted Lily too."
Remus looked away from Sirius again. "She was never mine for the taking. Despite what any of us thought at any time, this was how it was going to end up. You knew it, and I knew it. Some part of both James and Lily knew it. It's better this way less heartache and hurt feelings." For me, he added to himself.
"I was right. It is a mixture of both. Are you going to be all right with this?"
Once again, Remus sighed and closed his eyes. That really was the question, wasn't it? He had ignored Lily's advances and had downplayed his own feelings for over a year now. Yes, he liked Lily. Liked her a rather lot if he was going to be honest with himself, and it was hard to see her with someone else. But the way the James put that smile on her face almost made it worth it. Two of his best mates had found happiness with each other, he should be happy for them. He probably will be. Just not today. "I'm going to have to be, aren't I?"
The portrait swung open and James climbed back into the common room alone, looking slightly bewildered and his hand was rubbing the side of his head. He wandered towards them and climbed into the couch next to Remus. "Why is it that I never understand girls? I'm a smart bloke, right? Why can I not ever think straight around Lily?" Remus looked at James and could see a red mark on his head and it was swelling quickly. Whatever had happened was definitely going to leave a bruise.
Sirius had also apparently noticed the welt as well and barked with laughter, "Didn't you learn anything after the debacle in fourth year when you tried to grab Mila Desjardins tit on the first date? Your head looks similar to that time. Did you not understand my explanation of the progression through 'The Bases' then?"
"I knew you wouldn't be any help, Black. It's Moony's help I need. He's friends with Lily, maybe he can help me figure her out." James looked imploringly at Remus and Remus inwardly groaned. Not only did he now have to see James and Lily together, but now he was integral in them staying together? Why was it that when life got hard, it had to be was so bloody difficult?
"You mean that you are taking Moony's advise on girls over mine? With all of my conquests?" Sirius said with mock offense. He stood and stretched "Fine. I'll get over it, but it won't be easy!" he said looking pointedly at Remus and with that he walked off and headed up the stairs.
"James, what happened to your head?"
"I asked Lily what in hindsight was a rather inappropriate question right before I was going to kiss her. She's got a pretty strong punch." James rubbed the side of his head again, "If I'm not going to get an answer from her, maybe you'll finally tell me"
Remus resumed his position of head back and eyes closed against the back of the couch. Like Sirius, James wouldn't leave him alone, but unlike Sirius, James didn't know that there was something to leave him alone about. Was this what the rest of his life was going to be like? Being Mr. Fix It between his best friend and his… whatever Lily was to him? "What could I possibly tell you about Lily that she isn't willing to tell you herself?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Remus couldn't figure out what James was talking about. Tell him about what? First he says that he needs help with Lily, and now he…
James knew. How the hell did James know? Remus didn't particularly like the idea of getting hit, and now that Sirius was out of the room the chances of that had gone up exponentially. Once again, Remus peeked his eyes open and chanced a look. James was sitting at the other side of the couch, back against the arm with his knees up in front of him, looking straight at Remus. He didn't look angry, merely curious. Maybe he didn't know about the Remus-Lily relationship that was over before it started.
"I would have been ok with it, you know. You should have told me"
Or maybe he did. Damn perceptive bastard. "James, there really is nothing to tell. Nothing happened. In fact, less than nothing happened. I ignored the… problem, I guess it was, and it went away. Nothing to tell." Remus shifted and arranged himself sitting in a similar position to James at his end of the couch. "Do you mean that? You would have been ok with it?" Remus smirked at this and James smiled sheepishly and ran his hand through his hair, "Well, probably not initially, but I guess I would have gotten over it eventually. I mean, it would have taken sometime but I think we would have come out of it alright."
"How did you know? I mean, I thought I was pretty discreet."
"Please, Moony. You are one of my best mates, and well, I've been known to be as we'll call it "overly fond" of her for ever. I noticed. Little things mainly. You'd avoid her touching you if you knew I was nearby, but not if you thought I was away. She watched you. A lot. For extended periods of time. Just like you were doing earlier tonight." Remus groaned. So much for being sneaky, he thought. "Honestly, Remus. I figured out you had a little furry problem, and you played that one pretty close to the chest, something like this wasn't going to pass by unnoticed."
Remus felt like smacking himself in the forehead. This was James Potter he was talking to - James, who loved a mystery and deciphering the moves of others. Of course he would have noticed any changes in his or Lily's actions and would have analyzed everything unnoticed. He had done the same thing with what James, Sirius and Peter had called The Remus Mystery when they were first at Hogwarts with his frequent disappearing acts. He's the one who should be a dog animagus, not Sirius. A dog with a bone, he is.
James spun around and moved to stand up. "So, are we alright?" He had a worried look in his eyes. Was this what it was really about? James was concerned about their friendship, over a girl? Quite a magnificent girl, it's true, but he never thought James would put his happiness in front of James-Lily happiness. A small grin emerged on Remus' face. I did the same thing by not pursuing Lily.
"Of course we are. I'm happy for you. This has been something you've wanted for years. I've actually never known you not to want this. I'm glad it's finally come about." Remus answered truthfully. He was happy for James. He's snagged the girl of his dreams and they were happy.
"Good. I'm glad we're alright. Are you alright?" This time, James did stand. He offered his hand to Remus. Remus took the hand and pulled himself up and smiled at James.
"No, but I will be."