Disclaimer: All HP belongs to JK Rowling. Nayda and Kirk Larkin belong to me.
A/N: Here’s the second to last chapter. I hope it is to everyone’s satisfaction. Sorry for the long wait for updates. I promise to post the last chapter in due course. Writer’s blocks are harder to move when they become boulders…
As always, read, review, and enjoy! ~Manya
Chapter 10: midnight reflections
"She means a lot to you, doesn’t she?"
Remus turned at the softly spoken question, finishing his stretch of his arms before answering. His muscles were complaining from the strain of carrying someone almost twice his size up ten flights of stairs. Nayda’s brother was heavier than he looked. James’ question was deliberate, despite the lateness of the hour. "Yes, she does," he replied, keeping his answer simple, though the deeper truth was much more complicated.
James regarded his friend in the flickering light of the fire reflecting off the hearthstones for a beat longer than was comfortable, then nodded slowly. "I thought so."
Remus frowned, wondering what had prompted such a stark statement. He asked as much aloud and got a reply that surprised him.
"There are days when I catch you looking at her in the same way that I look at Lily," James replied, not an ounce of criticism or censure in his voice, only a gentle tone that said these words I speak are true and you know it. "Only there’s something else in your expression, something…" he paused as he struggled to find the right word, gesturing with his hands as if to pluck the illusive adjective out of the air, "deeper. There’s some connection between the two of you that I can’t place. If I didn’t know you, I’d say you were twins or soul mates or some other such thing. The first time I met her, I saw the same haunted look in her eyes that I saw in yours that first ride on the Hogwarts Express. I think that look drew you to her."
Remus didn’t bother with denial. It would be a foolhardy act to deny the truth when it was being presented right to him. He gazed at the fire, then at Nayda, who was slumbering peacefully curled up in a ball in the oversized, overstuffed maroon armchair that really did seem to swallow her small form in its folds. He smiled faintly, too tired to conjure up anything more.
"Perhaps, it was," he replied. He tore his eyes away from Nayda and looked back at James. "Remember the day you told me you loved Lily?"
James nodded. "Do I ever," he laughed softly, "you told me I was out of my mind."
"No," Remus corrected, "that was Sirius’ reaction a day later when you told him."
"Oh yeah," James shook his head in disbelief. "Some support he was." He shot Remus a look. "Are you trying to tell me you love her?"
Remus considered the implications of his reply before giving it, choosing his words carefully. "I brought that up because when you told me you loved Lily, I asked you if you knew what love meant," he replied, deliberately avoiding a direct answer to James’ question for the moment. He’d get to it later, if James persisted—which he usually did.
"I said it meant always wanting to take care of her," said James. "Is that how you feel about Nayda?"
Remus nodded once. "She means as much to me as any of the Marauders, but in a much different way. We are cursed, she and I, to be alone most of our lives. Not for lack of friends, but lack of true companionship." He smiled softly, stole a glance at Nayda, then continued, fixing his gaze on the fire. "I knew at a young age what it was like to have my innocence and joy stolen from me, to have my mind be my enemy for a single night that, I swear, seems like an eternity every time. I’ll never get used to that eerie displaced feeling. But when I met Nayda, I saw that, what did you call it?"
"Haunted look. That works. I saw the darkness behind her eyes, and knew, I just knew, that I had to break her free of it. When I met you and Sirius and Peter, I was happy for the first time in years. I was able to look at myself in the mirror and no longer see the tired, broken, werewolf that no one would ever be friends with. I saw a sparkle come back to my eyes that I haven’t had for the longest time. As I’ve gotten to know Nayda, I wanted her to have that too. I guess somewhere along the way it became personal—I wanted to be the one to make her happy."
Remus finished and risked turning his head to see his friend’s reaction. James was smiling, in a knowing, common ground sort of way.
"I know exactly what you mean," James said. He held out his hand. "Welcome to the club."
…to be continued…
A/N: I know its short, but I wanted to split this from the last chapter because I thought it’d be easier to read that way. Let me know what you think. I love to hear from my readers. ~Manya