A/N: I do not own Harry Potter.
"Maybe that's what life is...a wink of the eye and winking stars." – Jack Kerouac
Lily had left the window open and a late-March breeze accompanied the silver-blue glow of the full moon into the bedroom. Teddy cast his improved surveillance charm on the wall opposite the wardrobe, and Lily perched on the edge of his desk, her knees drawn up to her chin as the four rooms in the basement appeared in illuminated two-dimensional form on the far wall. Ana, Josef, Tomas, and Sebastian – who had finally been accepted back into the trials – stood in the centers of their respective rooms, their bodies tense and ready for the abrupt transformative force to take them.
Teddy stood beside his desk, one hand placed palm-down on its surface, and Lily knew without looking at him that he stood as still as the werewolves. Ever since he'd had that breakthrough a year before their experiments had grown increasingly frustrating. They had assumed that once they stopped the transformation in one part of the body, it would be simple to adjust the potion to stop the whole process. They had been hopelessly mistaken. The werewolves still appeared every full moon, they just didn't have tails. Lily had been particularly hopeful about this month's variations, but it was the last full moon in March, and she was starting to wonder whether they'd ever be successful.
She bit into her bare knee and watched the images. Nott had started pacing, the way he always did just before he transformed. Ana stretched flat on the floor. Josef stared up at the ceiling, and Tomas tugged his shirt from his shoulders, revealing a scarred back. Lily sighed. Full moons had always been horrendous, but they had turned monotonous these last few months.
And then Ana was arching up over the floor, her mouth open in a scream that the visual charm didn't translate; the skin on Tomas's back rippled with magic, Josef's arms sprouted fur, and Sebastian froze mid-pace and dropped to all fours, landing on clawed paws. But – Lily hopped down from the desk and she and Teddy crossed the room to examine the images.
"Their faces." Teddy's voice shook with an odd mixture of restrained happiness and horror. The four werewolves stared up at their respective ceilings with scared eyes. Their bodies were wolf-like, covered in gray fur and still quivering, but their heads were human. Sebastian's teeth gnawed at his lower lip and Ana's mouth was a thin line of pain; Tomas and Josef both had tears rimming their suddenly bloodshot eyes.
"Shit." Lily pressed one fingertip against the image of Nott. "Shit, Teddy, it must hurt like hell."
"It always hurts," Teddy pointed out. "Usually we can't tell because it's not as obvious on the wolves' faces."
"But this looks worse," Lily said. Nott had turned his head so they couldn't see the evidence of the pain. "Much worse."
"Lily." Teddy stepped behind her and gripped her shoulders, leaning his chin against her hair and speaking softly. "Look at them. They're not howling or clawing at anything. They've got werewolf bodies, yeah, but their heads – their minds – are still human. I guarantee that when we let them out tomorrow morning they'll say that all the pain in the world was worth that." He squeezed her shoulders. "This is the real breakthrough, Lil. All we need to do is figure out how to stop the rest of the body from transforming. The mental aspect was always the most important and the most difficult."
"But it won't be easy." Lily continued staring at her agonized friends.
"Of course it won't, but we knew this would never be easy. Merlin, Lil!" He pivoted her to face him and tipped her chin up with two fingers. "Be happy!"
She shook her head, turning away from him. "I'll be happy in the morning." Lily knelt on the floor, her eyes moving from one square to the next, looking for some sign that the pain had become too much or that it had lessened. She found neither.
She stayed like that all night, while Teddy pulled out their notes on the potion and began hypothesizing changes that would enable them to stop the physical transformation entirely. He moved to sit beside her at one point, because she looked so scared sitting there while their friends suffered. Teddy hated how much easier it was to observe the transformations when his friends looked like wolves, but he was also grateful for it. If every full moon had been like this, he and Lily would never have kept it going this long.
The sun finally began to lighten the room from blue to gray, and Lily stood and started pacing. "What if they don't change back?" she asked.
"What on earth would make you think they wouldn't?" Teddy asked. "In all of our research, we've never heard of any case where the transformation didn't end at dawn." He nodded to the wall, where Nott, Ana, Josef, and Tomas had begun shaking again, their bodies morphing slowly back into the full human form. "They're fine." But they were all still lying on the floors of their rooms, and as Teddy dispelled the charm Lily hurried to the doorway and down into the kitchen. She was about to undo the locks on the basement door when Teddy came up behind her. "Let them come up on their own, Lil. They probably need a little bit of time to recover. Why don't you stick the kettle on?"
Lily hesitated by the door for a moment before nodding and turning to the stove. They stood in silence, watching as the kettle began to steam, and then noises issued from the stairs and the door burst open and Lily found herself wrapped in Nott's arms.
He swung her around. "You've done it!" he crowed, "You've done it!"
When he finally let go of her she saw that Ana, Josef, and Tomas had all embraced Teddy, and everyone was smiling. Tears sparkled in Ana's eyes. She hugged Lily. "Thank you," she whispered.
"But...didn't it hurt?" Lily asked when Ana released her.
"Of course," Ana said. "But at least I was aware. I'd suffer any amount of pain for the knowledge that I am human during a full moon."
"And the pain wasn't even that bad," Nott added. "I've certainly felt worse."
The tea kettle let off a sudden burst of noise, and Lily moved to brew tea for everyone. "So, you think we're getting there?" Josef asked as Lily handed him a cup.
"Teddy thinks we are. I'm scared of being too optimistic."
"We are definitely on the right track," Teddy said, resting a hand on Lily's shoulder. "Whether or not it'll take two more months, or twenty-four more, I cannot tell you, but I have a feeling that it'll happen sooner rather than later."
Ana grinned. "Well, I'm not sure what you all are thinking, but my muscles could use some stretching after last night. Anyone up for a hike?"
"I'm game," Nott said.
"I'm in," Josef added. Tomas tossed back the rest of his tea and nodded.
"What about you all?" Ana asked, turning to look at Lily and Teddy.
"I want to look over our notes for next month," Lily said.
Teddy shook his head. "I'm going to take a nap. You lot have fun."
The others left the kitchen, and Lily and Teddy went upstairs. Teddy collapsed on his bed and Lily picked up the notebook he had been examining the night before. She went back to the kitchen and sat at the table, looking through the slight changes they had made to the potions since Teddy had had his first breakthrough the year before. Sitting there, alone, she finally allowed herself to hope. It might take a while, but they had known they weren't wolves. They had been conscious. And that mattered.
She pushed back from the table and walked up the stairs, opening the door to the bedroom without bothering to be quiet. Teddy was sprawled on his back, and Lily didn't even try to avoid waking him as she sat cross-legged on the bed beside him. He had stripped to just his jeans, and she watched the way his smooth chest rose and fell with his deep sleep-breaths. He cracked his eyes open and smiled at her.
"Hey." He held out his hands to her, but instead of taking them she moved to straddle his hips, her bare knees pressing against his sides as she leaned forward so her lips hovered a few centimeters from his.
He traced patterns on her skin beneath his old button down shirt and asked, "Are you happy now?"
"I've never been happier," she told him, and then he pulled her down, closing the distance between them.
Lily disentangled her limbs from Teddy's a few hours later. She yawned and stretched, plucking Teddy's discarded shirt from the floor and shrugging it over her shoulders.
"Where are you going?" Teddy watched her dress without moving from the bed, although he did toss her her shorts when she began lifting the covers to find them.
"I'm hungry. Do you want anything for," she glanced at her watch, "an early dinner?"
Teddy smiled at her. "I'll come down in a little while and get something. Promise you'll come to bed early tonight?"
She winked at him as she left and he called, "That's a creepy face, Lil! Don't ever make it again!"
She jumped from the final step and landed in the kitchen to find Nott sitting at the table. He had poured salt out onto the wooden surface and was drawing designs in the white grains with his index finger.
He glanced up. "Oh, hey."
"Hi," Lily said slowly.
"I didn't want to come up, in case you and Teddy were..."
"Yeah, because that would have been awkward." Lily opened the icebox and began sorting through the leftovers. Nott didn't respond. "What're you doing here?"
"What? A guy can't come over to hang at his friends' house?"
"Usually he waits for his friends to let him in." Lily tugged some minestrone out of the icebox and tapped her wand against it. It began steaming. She poured it into two bowls and dropped one beside Nott's salt design, carrying the other to the seat across from him.
"I thought we were past all the formalities, Potter," Nott faked offense, "I thought we were closer than that."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Our home is your home and all that shit."
Nott nodded. "Damned straight." He blew onto a spoonful of soup and ate it while Lily stared at him, trying to decipher his expression.
"So," she finally said. "What're you doing here, Nott?"
He stared into his bowl of soup for a silent moment, and when he looked back up at her his eyes were bright and determined. "I might not be a werewolf forever, Lily," he said. "You and Teddy might actually cure this." He hesitated. "I don't want...I don't want to go back to being who I was before but...I'd like to start...repairing some things." He ate a few more spoonfuls of soup and Lily waited in silence. "Will you help me write a letter to my mum?"
She didn't hesitate before saying, "Yeah, yeah I will."
He grinned. "We can tell her the truth, that I might get better."
"We can." The truth wasn't always as dangerous as they had once believed it to be.
"We won't address it to my dad, though. He's still a bastard."
Lily smiled. "He might be better now. You never know."
"People don't change, Lil." He shook his head. "Not that much."
"Sometimes they do. Sometimes they change a lot."
"You think my dad did? Really? After what he did to you and Teddy?"
"I don't know, Nott. But I do know that he loves you enough to have shown weakness around me and your mum and my parents. And that's a lot of love. So maybe he's changed. You could give him a chance."
"I could." Nott was tentative and noncommittal but when he started his letter a few hours later he began it: "Dear Mum and Dad."
Lily thought that things often seemed to turn out okay, if you let them.
A/N: After I realized that this fic was going to be longer than four chapters long, I started doubting whether I'd ever finish it. It is certainly the longest story that I have ever written, including original fiction, and I am amazed that some of you have stuck with it this whole way. Thank you, all of you, for reading. To those of you who favorited, or added this to your alerts, and especially to those of you who took the time to review even once, thank you so so much. I wish that I could give you all cookies or hugs or something mildly less creepy, but because I can't, please know that I've appreciated every response this story has received.
I hope that I did not let any of you down with this ending.
Thank you (again)!