A/N: Trying some stylistic stuff; let me know what you think! :)
She waits because it's the only thing she can do, because she is human and vulnerable and incapable. She waits even though she should be out there with them, even though she's told them, time and time again, that she can protect herself—even though she knows there is nothing she can do against a werewolf. Flesh and blood are no match for an angry beast with teeth and claws that would shred her skin like paper, despite her shields of magic and faith.
It's a different kind of waiting each month. They told her it would be, that first night she sat them down and demanded they tell her what was going on. Remus is a werewolf, they said. We are Animagi. That's where we sneak off to every month, to the Shrieking Shack, to a hide-away where Remus can transform. And it was hard to accept, in those initial few seconds, her disbelief choking her into silence. A werewolf—and Animagi—and she saw them change before her eyes, right then, these men in boy skins, brave and stupid and loyal.
And each full moon she hugs them all, sends them off into the night where she cannot protect them. They head out the portrait hole one-by-one, every time in the same order-Remus first, squaring his shoulders, then Peter and Sirius, tossing jokes, and finally James, falling behind. Sometimes he walks beside her to the door in silence; sometimes he takes her hand; sometimes he asks her what she's got planned for the night, when he knows she will sit by the window and watch the moon cross the sky, watch the unchanging shadows on the grounds and wait for them to come back.
Tonight he is quiet, smiling. "Be back soon," he says, squeezing her hand. She both loves and hates him for his easy laughter and wonders if this is what it'll be like, if she chooses to be with him, this constant state of uncertainty. He has not asked her to be his in quite some time, has instead traded his peppered questions with his hands, with almost-brushes of his lips, with gazes held across classrooms and corridors. She wants him to stay as much as she wants him to go. He must protect Remus. He must keep watch with her.
He chooses, every month, the option most difficult.
"Be safe," she says, letting him go, waving as the portrait hole closes behind them.
"Lily. Wake up."
A hand on her shoulder shakes her into consciousness. Asleep—she'd fallen asleep, face resting against the cool pane of the window. She wipes the drool at the corner of her mouth with her sleeve and looks up into Sirius's damp, dirt-streaked face, his wide, moon-gray eyes. "I need you focused, alright?" he asks, fingers pressing into her arm. It's the pain that wakes her, allows her to dig the worried panic out of the puzzle of his expression. His voice is slick as a knife blade, sharp and alert. "You with me?"
"Yeah," she says. She stands, shrugs his hand from her. Focus. Wake up. "Yes. What's happened?"
He takes her arm again, as if needing to anchor them both, as if touching her might allow him to borrow some of her unknowing calm. Clothes ripped, hair tangled, he guides her to the long sofa in front of the fireplace, turns her bodily toward it, keeps both his hands on her shoulders.
Her breath leaves her body, pulls her knees out. Sirius catches her around the waist and keeps her upright, helps her step hastily toward the sofa, toward James, toward panic. Shirtless, trousers ripped, glasses missing, he lies there, body marked with scratches. Three deep gouges rake across his side, and beads of blood, deep red and glistening from the light of the fire, seep from the open cuts, slide down the lines of his ribs. He lies there, still, unconscious.
"What—" she begins, kneeling, hands hovering over him, heart hovering somewhere in her chest. What—what can I do—what do I do—
Sirius presses her wand into her hand. "Focus," he says for the hundredth, thousandth time, focus, because he had been so focused, hadn't he, because he protected James like he was supposed to, because he kept him safe—
"What did you do," she demands, blinking furiously, tears warping the room, elongating the gaping lesions in James's body. The blood, there is so much blood, red and warm and continuous, and what has Sirius done? She wants to look at him, glare pain into his body, cut him as James is cut, but she cannot take her eyes from James or something terrible will happen. She must not look away.
Focus. She takes her wand in hand, watches the pale sheen of sweat on James's face, the light lift of air in his lungs. She will fix him. "Vulnera Sanentur," she whispers, watching the blood flow stop, watching, closely, as his pale skin tries to pull itself together. "Vulnera Sanentur," she says again, placing a bracing hand on his arm, hating the way he twitches in sleep, hating herself for causing him pain. There are left aggravated red scabs, delicate and tenuous, red streaks of his blood still drying on his chest.
"This isn't going to hold," she tells Sirius, dropping her wand. She takes James's limp hand in her own. She has never seen him so still.
"Peter's got some Dittany up in the room, come on." Sirius takes Lily's wand, makes to cast, but Lily snatches it from him. His sigh is exhausted. "Stop, Lily. He's fine. This has happened before."
"It happened today," she says, pushing him back. "And we can't float his body up the stairwell or his cuts will open."
Sirius rubs his forehead with a red hand, pulls his fingers through his matted hair. Shoulders hunched, eyes down, she sees how tired he is, how this must be killing him, how being the one standing, awake, okay has cut his heart. His words are meant to protect himself, she realizes—James is okay, he says, hoping to mean it, uncertain each time he says it.
Lily relents. "Okay," she says, twisting her wand into her hair. She rolls up her sleeves, moves towards James's legs, lifts when Sirius lifts, moves when Sirius moves. They hold James between them. He is heavy, heavier when she has to maneuver him up the stairs, heavier still when she has to be gentle with not rustling his side. Her gaze is trained to his face, but he does not wake, does not stir even when they finally reach the dormitory and hoist him up into his bed.
Muscles burning, Lily retrieves her wand and casts more quick spells on his cuts before they can tear. Someone hands her a glass jar, opened—either Peter or Sirius, she's not sure, but she knows they've already taken Remus to the Hospital Wing as they do every night-after—and she takes a small finger of it and spreads it slow along the scabbed up skin on James's ribs. It smells like fire and salt and makes her eyes burn, makes her hopeful that this has actually happened before and that this Essence of Dittany is the real thing. She would never forgive herself for hurting him any further than he already is.
"I'm staying here tonight," she says to the room, tugging off her jumper, shoes, socks. No voices of disapproval, only the sounds of them falling into their beds, tipping into a hard sleep. She pulls James's sheet up to his waist and crawls into his bed, trying to get comfortable along his uninjured side, trying to situate herself in this new territory. She does not know what she's doing, only that she's doing it, only that she would've fought to stay by his side regardless.
She watches him for a long time. So, so still, unanimated, near lifeless. It shakes her, the thousand ways the night could've gone, the thousand ways a life is changed by a single moment of time, the thousand ways to look at a person and see a thousand different things looking back.
They are here.
She wakes to a hand tracing feathered circles on the top of her shoulder. Through her eyelids she can tell that it's just past dawn, that there's a hesitant light coming through the windows. James is awake. He is fine. His chest moves up and down with a slow, hummed song that sounds low in his breath, that shakes her heart warm.
She waits to open her eyes. Just for now, she'd like to stay here, in this safe half-morning, in his arms, where she feels, finally, the strongest sense of belonging. She waits.