“Your mother was there for me at a time when no one else was. Not only was she a singularly gifted witch, she was also an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn't see it in themselves.” (Remus Lupin, PoA)
For Illuminate's odd ship challenge! Beta'd by the amazing butterbeergal, who was an incredible help. Thank you.
Remus collapsed at the top of the seventh floor staircase with a sigh, Lily shortly following him. They had just finished their weekly duty of patrolling the corridors, with only two successes – a pyjama clad couple attempting to paste themselves together behind the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, and one suspicious Hufflepuff third year who tried to claim that a gang of carnivorous House Elves had carried him off while he was sleeping and dropped him as they heard approaching footsteps, but who later relented and admitted he’d been visiting the Ravenclaw common room.
The stone floor was cold, so Remus laid his pointed hat on the floor and used it as a pillow, stretching his legs down the stairs and praying he was right when he thought this staircase didn’t move. Lily chose to remain sitting up. She wrapped her delicate arms around herself and watched the rain hitting the arched window.
Remus closed his eyes, letting the tapping of the rain remind him of his first day at Hogwarts. It had been raining on the train ride and on the traditional journey across the lake for the first years. The fake sky in the Great Hall was a heavy, claustrophobic grey when he was sorted, the hall occasionally brightened by sheets of electrical lightning. Young Remus had taken this war of the elements as a sign that he wasn’t mean to be at Hogwarts, that the monster would always be a part of himself, no matter how hard he fought it, and that he was unchangeably and repulsively tainted. As he had sat down on that stool his legs shook, not simply from nerves, but also regret. As a sudden flash of lightning cast an eerie light on all the faces he had endangered by coming here, Remus felt a deep sense of sadness for the loss of something he hadn’t understood at the time. Later, he realized what he had lost. The life that could have been.
But things had changed since then. He had been proven wrong. Though he could not escape the monster that hid inside of him, he had learnt that his affliction was merely a part of him, a contributing factor that made up the whole. And that whole had friends. No, Prongs, Padfoot and Wormtail were more than friends - they were a family and a reminder that he, Remus Lupin, was worth something.
But not everything had changed… a voice whispered inside of him. His friends filled him with hope, but he knew he could never truly be the same as them. Remus knew that their lives would follow a path he could not, a path which led to warmth and love and children’s laughter. In this aspect, Remus knew he would always be an outcast, no matter what Prongs said. And still, the loneliness… the feeling of shame and separation…
Remus was startled from his thoughts by a warm voice which he recognized as Lily’s, though it was fainter than usual.
“Why do you never laugh?”
Remus’ brows furrowed. He felt strangely offended. Of course he laughed.
“And I don’t mean that shy smile you do either, the one where you look as if you’re afraid someone might catch you.”
Remus sat up, but Lily’s face was still turned towards the window.
“I laugh all the time with Pr-James, Sirius and Peter. You just don’t see it.” Remus replied defensively.
For the first time since they had sat down Lily turned to face it. Her ivory face seemed empty without her usual tender smile. Instead her lips were pressed together firmly and her eyes bore into Remus’ with a stony determination.
“I mean really laugh, Remus.” Her voice was softer, almost pleading. “Laugh with no inhibitions, no private doubts about whether it’s really funny or not.” She was surveying him with that wise look that suggested there was no fooling her.
Remus felt at a loss for what to say. Lily was the only girl he had ever really had a real friendship with, and he’d never seen her like this. As he glanced down at the floor to buy himself some time, he noticed how white her clenched fists were and realised that what he was dealing with was a vulnerable Lily. A Lily with that witty, beautiful, hypnotic guard down.
He tried to think of the last time he had been laughing. Perhaps in the common room, before he had Prefect duty… no, he was watching Sirius and Peter laugh. A strange emotion leapt up Remus’ throat suddenly, which he stilled with the comforting thought that he knew he had really laughed before. Reluctantly he admitted to himself that perhaps he had never been carefree, but he didn’t feel the need to be. That wasn’t who he was.
Thankfully, Lily didn’t seem to expect a reply after the long pause. She was still gazing at him as if she thought looking away break her determination.
“I’ve been watching you lately.” The corner of her lips almost curved slightly as she realized how strange that sounded. Remus licked his own lips instinctively in return. “You just seem so sad. And you never really seem to commit yourself to anything, it’s like you have this mask and…” she trailed off.
Remus was not surprised that Lily had been able to understand him so accurately. She had always had a talent for seeing the best in people, even when they didn’t deserve it… But his shock that she had been watching him was audible as he whispered faintly “Remind you of anyone?”
She smiled sadly and unfurled her cold hands. With an intimacy they had never experienced before in their relationship she dipped her head closer towards him and traced a scar that ran across his cheek from his hairline to his lips. She stopped just before she reached his lips, suddenly aware that she had been holding her breath.
Remus stared deeply into her eyes, feeling as if the line she had traced on his skin was burning. He had always been aware that Lily had beautiful eyes, but now he was close enough to admire their distinct almond shape, the curve of her eyelashes. He noticed a freckle just beside her eyelashes and with a mixture of guilt and surprise he felt an urge to reach out and touch it. But then Lily leant away from him, staring once more at the rain, and the spell was broken.
Remus mentally shook himself, comforting himself by pretending that the moment hadn’t happened, and he had never felt those feelings. So new and magical had they been that it was easy to believe it was all in his imagination.
“We’re not so different, you and I.” She said pensively, more to herself than him.
Yes you are. And once more Remus fell back to reality. Lily Evans was uncommonly kind and loving, Remus barely deserved her as a friend, let alone something more… this thought was accompanied by a pang of guilt and a brief mental image of a dark haired face swimming before him. “We both feel different from our friends I think…” As Remus leant forwards to see her face, he noticed that she seemed to be seeing something he couldn’t. “Merlin, I’ve pushed so many people away. Lost a sister, my best friend…” She faced Remus once more and as her voice had remained calm and steady, he was surprised to see tears beginning to form in her deep ivy eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” A single tear fell from the freckle eye, but she ignored it as it fell down her face. Remus knew that Lily was too brave to cry with wails or sobs, yet because of this it was unbearable to see her so upset.
Remus placed his hand against hers, his mind working at an impossible speed. He had only just realized that despite all his many light-hearted conversations with Lily, even though he had considered her a friend for a long time now he had never really known her.
“Nothing is wrong with you Lily,” Remus told her in a sure voice. “You are one of the most incredibly loving people I have ever met. Your ability to feel this amount of pain even though you’ve done nothing wrong further proves what an invaluable friend you are to have, and an-anyone who can’t see that is blind or a fool.”
Remus stumbled over his words, cursing himself for not being able to comfort her as he would have liked. Even now she was shaking her head softly.
“Then why, why does no one want me? And the only person who professes to love me doesn’t really know me at all? And I doubt he wants to.”
Ah, James. Remus knew now was the time a good friend, a friend who deserved James would tell Lily just how much he truly cared for her. Yet, as he gazed at her innocent, pure expression he found himself beginning to doubt whether James really cared for her. After all, they’re both my friends. Lily deserves just as much to be happy too… He struggled to justify his conflicting emotions.
Remus was so angry at himself for not being the person Lily needed him to be. He felt her press his hand and he allowed himself to believe that maybe he could become that person. As he fell into her oceanic gaze once more he felt the connection between them, but this time he did not pretend he had imagined it. In her green eyes, usually so full of life, he now saw pain and… understanding, or at least a want to understand. Really understand. She was so beautiful, such a rare person that it was with disbelief that Remus thought to himself that she wanted him.
“Are you lonely, Remus?” Her voice was soft, tender.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Me too.” Her voice was just loud enough for Remus to hear. “Have you ever been kissed?” Her green eyes continued to stare at him with compelling intensity. Remus shook his head softly, unable to look away.
“Would you like to kiss me?”
He placed an arm cautiously around her waist, strangely aware of the awkward position they were in and little aware of anything else. He leant forward, their nose bumping slightly. He was so close to her now he could feel her lips move as she smiled and then they were kissing. And for the first time in a long time, Remus felt his burden lift from his shoulders as he was happy, truly happy. No inhibitions or doubts. He began to kiss her cheek, brushing his lips away from hers and along her cheekbone.
“What are you doing?” she whispered, smiling. Remus found the freckle beside her eye and pressed his lips to the exact spot, silently promising he would kiss that freckle every day if she would let him.
“Hmm, lemon.” He smiled as he leant away from her.
As Remus pressed his forehead against hers she began to kiss his cheek too, tracing her lips across the scar which her fingertips had nervously travelled before. They smiled at each other, both knowing they were flawed, and both not caring if the other could accept them.
Remus closed his eyes peacefully as Lily’s gentle lips kissed his cheek, his heart elated whilst his head vainly told him how wrong he was. But the memories of his friend that swam before his conscience were faded and unreal, and Lily was beautiful and warm. As he leant forwards to kiss her again, Remus’ mind mused that it would probably not last, but he knew that for tonight, he would be happy, and that was all he wanted to be.