"Go away," I said with as much conviction as I could. Every part of me ached, and this new emotional bombardment make it exponentially worse. I had always wondered what reaction I'd have if I ever came face-to-face with my dad. I had never, ever dreamed that we'd meet after I'd survived a plummet to the death.
"Look," he said, his aggravating confidence returning as the horror of the actual confession wore off, "I know that I haven't been--"
"No," I said coldly, "You haven't been. And I don't want you to be. So go away."
Garrahan's eyes passed over each of my friends, silently appealing to them. Remus refused to take his eyes off of me, his expression unreadable. Peter kept looking from me to Garahan and back again, his jaw slack with confusion. Sirius shot Garrahan a hard look and his middle finger, making me chuckle and then groan as the sound reverberated in my skull.
"You heard her," James said, his expression better capturing how I was feeling than words ever could, "Leave. Now."
I could tell from the look on Garrahan's face that this was not at all how he had envisioned my reaction. I was certain that he had expected rainbows and butterflies as I welcomed him into my life with open arms. Screw that. He deserved a much worse send-off than what we gave him.
With an irritated shake of the head, Garrahan turned on his heel and left.
"This sucks," I said, leaning back and closing my eyes. I had had some pretty sucky days in my life, but this one took the cake.
What did that even mean?
"Maybe you should have heard him out," Remus said thoughtfully.
"He more or less raped my mum and then kicked her to the curb," I said, "This was the first time in living memory that I've seen the man. I'm bloody well not listening to anything he has to say."
Remus frowned but kept silent. As if he would understand. Both of his parents had accepted him knowing what he had become. My father had never even given me a chance.
In the midst of all this drama, I had failed to notice that someone occupied the bed across from me. It took me a few seconds to recognize him, what with the soot on his face and the end of his hair singed, but his was one of those faces that you just don't forget.
"What's he doing here?" I asked, not bothering to lower my voice. At this point I didn't much care about courtesy.
"Who, Snivellus? He showed up while you were out," James said. Severus Snape, from his perch across the room, narrowed his eyes but otherwise stayed silent.
"Some sort of potions experiment gone bad," Sirius added, "Figures he'd be holed up with his cauldron during a quidditch match."
As riveting Snape's antisocial habits were, I just didn't have mental capacity to care about them. I had never had a conversation with the guy that didn't involve threatening him to lay off or calling James down so that he wouldn't get a detention. Again.
Instead, my mind wandered back to the moments before I had decided to try a professional high dive, sans safety net.
"Oh, god," I gasped, bolting up into a sitting position. Not smart. "Where are my broom and my bat?"
"Both fine," James reassured me as he and Remus lowered me back down, "Both made it to the ground before you did with minimal damage."
Though in most respects, mine and James' definitions of "minimal damage" were extremely different, I trusted his judgment on most things quidditch related. Especially when Sirius was nodding reassuringly in the background.
"I'm not going to be able to play next match," I realized. There was no way that I would heal in time, and the last time that I had tried to play with a head injury had landed me, well, here.
"We'll have to get Erica," James said, trying to sound optimistic.
"Puts me way behind with scouts, though," I said. At least I had another year to play with. Despite what James was probably thinking, me missing a couple of matches was not the end of the world. And it gave him a chance to train Erica up in case we ever needed her again.
"Look on the bright side," Sirius said, "At least you've got a leg up. What with your dad and all…too soon?"
I was pretty sure that my murderous glare gave him his answer.
In the midst of said murderous glare, I was graced with another visitor.
She burst in the doors, all but ran down the row of beds, shot Snape an empty glance, and then turned her attention to me.
"You're awake! How are you?"
"About as good as I look," I responded. Lily's energy, usually so infectious, just aggravated me now. But I wouldn't tell her that, since she seemed genuinely concerned.
"I visited you earlier but you were out cold," she said, pushing Sirius out of the way to get closer to me. "I offered to sit with you, but your guard dogs wouldn't let me."
Sirius and Remus exchanged a glace. Oh, if only she could appreciate how spot-on she was.
"So I went back to the dorm and got this for you," she said, pulling something flowy and purple from her jeans pocket, "I figured you could wear it to hide your bald spot, and the color will really compliment--"
"I'm a prick," James blurted.
Lily stopped mid-sentence, eyes sliding to the buffoon that I was forced to live with.
"We're aware," Snape responded from across the room. Sirius showed him the same finger that he had shown my father. James didn't even seem to notice. He only had eyes for Lily.
"I'm a prick," he repeated, "A jealous, idiotic prick. I turned you down because of some sick sense of justice and I am so sorry. I wish that I could take it back, I really do. I like you, Lily. A lot. Can I please have a second chance?"
For half of a second, Lily smiled. Then it turned into a sneer.
"I'm done with your crap, James Potter," she declared, and without further ado, she threw the scarf down on my bed like a gauntlet and stormed out of the hospital wing, Severus Snape applauding her.
It took Remus a week to figure out how to grow my hair back. Until then, I was forced to braid my hair at odd angles and wear a few of Lily's ridiculous scarves. It wasn't so bad, I supposed, and I noticed a few other girls beginning to do the same thing.
Ronnie Camden, trend setter.
I still hurt all over, but not as badly. Pomphrey had mended all my broken bones and visible bruises. The rest would be taken care of over time.
Unfortunately, it seemed that time alone would not heal all of my problems.
"I give up!" I exclaimed, slamming the door behind me. Remus looked up from whatever homework he was working on, a page half-way turned, and Peter fell off of his bed in alarm.
I collapsed at Remus' feet, letting my frustrations out in one ungodly roar.
"They're driving me up the wall!" I said, "I swear to Merlin that if one of them doesn't give in the next few days, I'm going to throw them both off of the astronomy tower!"
I couldn't get within ten feet of Lily without her questioning me about James' current mental state and then preceding to, once again, go over all the reasons why she refused to give him the time of day. She had stopped referring to him by name, preferring to call him "your idiot brother" or simply "the wanker". And those were the nice ones.
James had taken to spending his free time holed up in a broom closet on the third floor binging on butterbeer and Every Flavor Beans and composing alternately depressing and sappy love poetry in a notebook that he had filched from Moony. We had to drag him out for meals and classes. He had spent the night there three days in the past week because none of us felt like putting forth the effort to bring him back to the dorm.
"Violence is never the answer," Remus said, "Unless rouge werewolves or Amos Diggory are involved."
"You sound like James," I said, pulling his book towards me and scanning the page. Yep, this was definitely something that I should have been working on. But thanks to my man-child pseudo-brother and his irate almost-girlfriend, schoolwork had been put on the backburner yet again.
Remus smiled slightly and then dropped an envelope on my face.
"This came for you a little while ago, " he said as I picked the envelope up and studied the front. It was addressed to Veronica Camden in vomit-green ink. "I don't know who it's from."
"I bet I do," I said, taking a deep breath before unfolding the letter.
I want to apologize for my behavior the last time we met. It was neither the time nor the place to give you news of that magnitude. While I understand that you're probably not ready to see me yet, I will only be in town for a few more days and I don't want to leave without giving us another shot. I will be at The Three Broomsticks at 6pm on Friday night. If you're ready, meet me. I hope that you want to mend our relationship as much as I do.
I snorted and handed the letter off to Remus, who read it in about half the time that I did, a frown on his face.
"Way to guilt trip you at the end there," he remarked, folding the letter neatly and putting it back in the envelope.
"There isn't any relationship to mend!" I exclaimed, "Visiting me on my sickbed to announce to me, my closest friends, and their nemesis that he's the scumbag who knocked up my mum does not constitute a relationship."
Peter took that moment to do something that he rarely ever did, and took a seat beside my head. I looked up at him as he stroked my hair. His smile was upside-down from my point of view, but didn't look forced.
"It's okay, Ronnie," he said, "You have until Friday night to think about it."
"Thank you, Peter," I said, trying to seem supportive despite the fact that this whole business with my father had erased all of my happiness.
"On the bright side, I think I know how to get Lily and James to stop fighting," he said.
"Do tell," I said, sitting up so that I could see him more plainly. At this point, I was willing to try anything.
"I need you and Remus to get Lily and James to the Room of Requirement at seven-oh-five."
"That's oddly specific," Remus noted, "What for?"
"If I tell you then you may botch it," Peter said impatiently. Remus quirked an eyebrow. It wasn't like Peter to be this forceful.
"Peter, I'd really like to know what it is that I'm getting myself into before--" I began.
"Who is the only one in our group with a functioning relationship?" Peter asked. He looked around the room and then back at us, "Oh, right! It's me."
Sure, if your definition of a "functioning relationship" involved a jealous psychopathic fairy child with a penchant for obnoxious bows. Though I guess Peter didn't know about the "jealous psychopath" part. Yet.
"Trust me," he pleaded. I looked from his determined face to Remus' unconvinced one.
"He's right," I admitted, "I never thought I'd see the day, but Peter is the only one of us who's having any luck in the love department at the moment. We should give it ago."
Remus shrugged and got up, putting his books away and shoving on his shoes.
"Where are you going?" Peter asked, retreating back to his own bed now that he had said his piece. What a little sneak, buttering me up with the reassuring hair stroking.
"If you want me to have James out of that closet and into the Room of Requirement in…two hours and twenty-seven minutes," he said, checking his watch, "Then I'd better go start the convincing now. Because he needs a shower, as he hasn't been back up to the dorm in four days and he refuses to use the Prefect/Quidditch Captain bathroom because he doesn't want to risk using the shower after Diggory or Thyme."
Merlin bless Remus and his unwavering patience.
It was markedly easier to convince Lily to follow me to the Room of Requirement. As soon as I cited my quickly deteriorating potions grade and asked her to help me, she was all over it.
The door was firmly in place when we got there, which saved me from having to explain to Lily why the room that I wanted to study in didn't exist yet. Plus, this room was one of our little group's trade secrets, and something that I would imagine James would want to have the honor of sharing with her in the future. If this whole mystery plan of Peter's worked.
Lily was chattering animatedly about (what else?) James being a dickhead as we entered the room, so it took her a good three seconds to look around and realize that we were not alone. In that time I was able to bolt the door behind us, which then promptly disappeared.
James looked just as shocked to see Lily as she was to see him. Peter looked smug and Remus just looked plain amused. I wondered what he had told James to convince him to clean up and come here.
"You're here right on time!" Peter said, "Fantastic! Let's get started."
He turned to the center of the room and closed his eyes, muttering under his breath. Two comfy-looking brown armchairs materialized, facing each other.
"Take a seat, please," he instructed Lily and James.
"Sit down, James," I ordered as he opened his mouth to protest. I turned on Lily, "You too."
She looked slightly taken aback by being treated in the same manner as James, but did as she was told.
"Do you mind if I take over from here?" I asked Peter.
"Go ahead," he said, conjuring a couch and taking a seat. Remus joined him.
I steeled myself and then turned to the other seated pair, who were looking everywhere but at each other. Lily sat straight as a board, hands folded in her lap so tightly that there would probably be bruises there within hours. James slouched in his seat, tapping his fingers restlessly against the arm of the chair.
This ended now.
"I'm done," I began, "I'm done with the moping, I'm done with the he's-a-prick-holier-than-thou constant chatter. I love the both of you, but I can't take it anymore. You've done this whole cat-and-mouse routine for the past three years, and I finally thought that just maybe it was finally coming to a close, but no. You both blew every move the other made way out of proportion. And who had to deal with it? I did. Because I'm friends with the both of you. And I'm sick of it. So either you two talk this out right now, or I'm never speaking to either of you ever again."
I heard Peter suck in a breath behind me at this last declaration. Though I really hadn't planned on a rant of this magnitude, my righteous fury made me feel about ten feet tall, and I really did mean everything that I said.
"You're bluffing," James accused.
"Try me," I growled. His accusatory stare wavered for a moment and then broke with a sigh. I nodded and took a seat with Remus and Peter.
"That was impressive," Remus muttered.
"And scary," Peter added. I smiled.
Two minutes passed with complete and utter silence. I cleared my throat.
"Look," James began, shooting a glare in my direction, "I already told you that I was an idiot and I'm sorry. What more do you want?"
"I don't know," Lily said, throwing her hands in the air, "I don't know, okay? I didn't want you. And then I didn't have you anymore, and I realized that I did want you. But then you didn't want me. And I have no idea what's going on."
"I know what I want," James said, leaning forward, "I want you. I've always wanted you. Am I going to be a prat? Yes. Am I going to screw up? Of course. But that doesn't change the way that I feel about you."
"You should have thought about that before you rejected me," Lily snapped.
"Like you rejected me the other eight-hundred times?" James scoffed, "What? I stop talking to you for a little while and you realize that your one-man fan club isn't around anymore and you can't take it?"
"That's not it!" Lily said, "It felt...wrong not having you around. I can't explain it. As much as you bugged me, I thought about you constantly. You're a great guy, James. I wish that I had given you a chance earlier."
"Then why didn't you?"
"Because of Sev," Lily responded, "He was my best friend and you treated him like dirt. I know he's a Slytherin, and I know that he fell in with the wrong crowd, but you never even gave him a chance."
"Do you think that would've helped?"
"No. But it wouldn't have hurt."
James bowed his head. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for how I treated Snape all those years. But he had something I wanted."
"What?" Lily asked incredulously.
Oh, please. Did she really not know the answer to this question? Either she was a very good actress or just plain stupid.
"You. He always had you. And sometimes I think that I he wanted you just as much as I did. The difference is that in the end, he took you for granted." He looked up, eyes boring into hers, "But me? I will never stop chasing you."
Lily was silent for a long, long while. I thought that she was going to cry, but when she spoke next her voice was steady.
"I want to give us a try," she said, "But only if you agree never to bring up Severus Snape again."
"Agreed," James said. And they shook on it.
It was a bit anti-climactic, really, but at this point I would take what I could get.
"Thank you," Lily said, looking over at the three of us. I smiled.
I stood and stretched, my mind already on the Beaters' Weekly that I hadn't yet had a chance to peruse. There was an article about a new line of Cormister's bats set to come out in December that I wanted to check out.
"Wait a second!"
I turned, hand on the handle of the door that had just appeared, to find James pointing between Remus and me, "If we have to work out our problems, then they have to work out theirs."
"What problems?" I asked, feeling my stomach drop a little.
"Don't play stupid, Ronnie," Lily said, stepping up beside James, "You know what he's talking about."
"Even I know what he's talking about," Peter added.
Of course I knew what they were talking about. Remus and me and what may or may not be going on between us. But how could they know if I wasn't sure myself?
"We'll talk," Remus said, glancing sideways at me, "But not with all of you here."
James narrowed his eyes. "Fine, but we're setting the door to stay locked for one hour. Got it?"
Remus nodded as the other three trooped out of the room, slamming the door, which then disappeared behind them. Remus didn't say anything for a very long time, and I finally turned around to see why he wasn't speaking. He stood in the same spot as before. As always, he was waiting on me.
"What do you want from me?" I asked, trying not to let the fear seep out of my voice. I needed to get a grip. My hands were starting to shake.
"To know how you really feel," he answered.
As if that were such an easy answer. He deserved something, at least.
"Me too," he said, "At least, until Peter had us kiss--"
"Idiot," I muttered.
"Maybe not," he said, stepping towards me. "Because after that I realized a lot of things that I had only caught inklings of in the past. Like how when I brushed hair out of your eyes and I had to fight the urge to trail my fingers over your face. Or how when you were sleeping in my bed, I sometimes wished that you were turned the other way and I was holding you. It took me all that time, and one kiss, to realize that I lo--"
"Don't say that," I said quickly, shaking my head in denial, "There is no possible way that you can know that."
"What are you afraid of?" he asked, his face soft.
I laughed shakily. If I told him, he'd think I was mad.
I loved James and Sirius and Peter and Remus. I loved Lily. I loved Harold and June. I loved my mother.
But I still wasn't sure if I believed in love the way he meant it. It was a side-effect of my home life with my mother. She taught me a lot of things at a young age, the most important of which was that men would always break your heart.
But after watching relationship after relationship go down in flames, with her holding the match nine times out of ten, I realized something else.
Women can break hearts too.
"I don't want to be like them," I said, feeling the tears begin to form in the corner of my eyes. I blinked and looked at Remus' shoes.
It was something that I had never admitted out loud: the fact that I was my parents' daughter scared me. Because it meant that I might have inherited the ability to cause pain.
"Ronnie," Remus said, tilting my chin up so that he could look me square in the eye, "When I look at you, I don't see your parents. I see you. Even when I'm not looking at you, I see you. I love you," he said deliberately, "I don't know for how long I have, exactly. Maybe always. But I know that it's not going to stop. And if you want to leave here as friends, fine. But I can't stand going one more day without you knowing, once and for all, how I feel about you. Because you're it, Ronnie. And you have no idea how badly I want you to feel the same way."
Remus was my lifeline. Remus was the one who, no matter what was going on, kept me sane. Being with him felt natural. More than that, it felt right.
And I knew him well enough to know that every word that he said was true. He loved me.
He didn't need me to say it, not yet. Because he understood me better than anyone, even James. Maybe even better than myself.
Even now, he stood and waited patiently, his fingers still gently tipping my chin up. I studied the familiar planes of his face, from his scars to his eyes to his mouth to the stubble on his chin.
He was it.
"Remus," I breathed.
And then I was kissing him, or he was kissing me, but it didn't matter because his arms were around me and mine around him and it felt right. I clung to him hard and when he didn't complain I clung to him harder. He was solid and warm and all around me and just about the realest thing that I had ever experienced.
We were it. And always would be.
A/N: Yay for speedy updates! Finally, finally, some Remus/Ronnie action. I hope you liked it! That scene went waaaay differently when I planned it out originally, but I like this better. Isn't Remus the best? Anyhow. Reviews, please?
And I got an MTA. So you should go check it out, even though it's nothing fancy.
And lastly, you guys are awesome. Your reviews make me really happy because (for the most part) they're not your typical "I liked this. Update soon!" review (though those are still much appreciated, don't get me wrong! :) )