Title: Nothing Remains
Author: Sullen Siren (adena(at)direcway(dot)com)
Summary: "No one knew Remus Lupin loved her too."
Pairing: Remus/Lily, Lily/James mentioned
Spoilers: Through all books
Notes: This was intended to be a lot more action and a lot less Remus thinking. But Remus didn't cooperate. Written for maleficently, who now has to write me Remus/Sirius. Ha! Thanks to oraclejenn for an initial read-over.
"Everything flows; nothing remains."
James Potter loved Lily Evans.
It was something that everyone knew, as James hadn't a subtle bone in his body, and scarred trees – their trunks cruelly carved with shapes of unrequited love – gave testament to that fact with crooked letters and lopsided hearts. It was a staple of minor holidays and fleeting triumphs that flowers and chocolate would find their way to her room and be left in the common room the next morning. It was sniggered over, laughed at, wondered about, and the cause of endless complaints from one Sirius Black, who mourned the death of James' dignity in daily diatribes against the female sex in general and redheads in particular.
James Potter loved Lily Evans. Everyone knew that.
No one knew Remus Lupin loved her too.
It was a secret he carried close in, huddled beneath his skin and running along his nerves to pulse in soft, electric waves when she smiles at him.
He loves that she has a smile for him that never touches her lips when she looks at anyone else. He loves that she laughs with her whole body, as if she can't help it. He loves that the passions in her run as deep and as strong as they do in Sirius, but that her kindness tempers it, cools the heat of her temper.
He loves that she can laugh at herself. That she has a faith in the world that he hasn't had since the first moonrise warped his bones and his nature and taught him he was a beast with the skin of a man. He loves that she can't hide what she feels, that her eyes give her away, and the fluttering of her slim-fingered hands. He loves that she's a little too thin, a little awkward when she's caught off guard, a bit new to the beauty that came with growth and shy because of it.
He loves that she sees him before she sees James. That she smiles at him and talks to him in ways she never does for James. He loves that Sirius' name is an exasperated curse on her lips, and Peter's earns a soft sigh of pity.
He loves that to Lily, he was the hawk amidst the cawing pigeons. And he hates himself for that, because he loves his friends, and he owes them more than he can ever repay. But Remus has never had something that others wanted. He had never been anyone's first choice, never the center of anyone's universe. His mother wilted and looked away from the scars that crisscrossed his cheeks and his father worked his way into the sort of mindless eccentricity that meant he never had to truly see the world for what it was. Remus was a number on his father's papers that meant "son" and little else.
He didn't blame them. He didn't blame anyone for not seeing him. James and Sirius took him in and he thanked a god he didn't believe in every day for that, for his friends, for hands that bandaged bleeding slashes in the aftermath of the night, and cold noses, twitching tails, and fast hooves that let the wolf roam so the walls didn't chafe and burn and hold him in until it tore itself to pieces. He loved them. He needed them. And he was nothing when he stood beside them.
Sirius was fire and temper and brilliance and beauty. He burned bright and had a presence too big to fit beneath his skin. He filled a room, possessed it with the ease of one who was born for spotlights and glory. He was wild ideas and impracticality and confidence. He was the lieutenant, second in command, muscle and charm and amorality. (In his darker moments, Remus thought about candles that burned at both ends, and wondered if Sirius' light would flare and flicker out like a dying star.)
James didn't command attention the same way – but it came nonetheless. He was easy competence in all things, aptitude and athleticism and the sort of devious mind that found outlet in Sirius' grand ideas. He had his own charm, but it was less boisterous, less wild. He was the leader, and it came easily to him. (Near the full moon, when the growing moon left him restless and sleepless and James lay in snoring bliss, Remus wondered if James knew how ruthless born leaders were, and that he was no exception.)
Peter was a follower, a reflection of them. He had his own good traits – dependability, determination, a sort of shrewd cleverness that served him well when he chose to use it. (In his weaker moments, Remus comforted himself with the knowledge that he was more than Wormtail, and then came the flush of shame and the memory of the wolf and the realization that he was lying to himself.)
Remus knew what they all were. He wasn't so sure of his own place, though. He was smart, but he wasn't the one who worked out the kinks in Sirius' wild ideas. He was witty, in his way, but it wasn't him that sent the others off in gales of laughter with raucous jokes. He had his uses. Long hours with old books in a library few knew as well as he did, research, methodical methodology that helped them in projects and pranks alike. When he was with them, he could feel as if he belonged, but when he was alone, his own doubts made him feel isolated and diminished.
But Lily saw him. She saw him in a crowded room where his friends held their court. She read Dickinson aloud in her prim, quiet voice and hit him when he called her a self-indulgent mad hermit.
The first time she kissed him they were in the library, heads bent over an arithmancy problem. She tasted of mint and muggle chewing gum and something he couldn't identify as anything but Lily. She kissed like she knew how, and he, who didn't, found it surprisingly easy to return, and to sink into. When her pale fingers tangled in his hair and her arm slid around his back, he forgot to think, to worry, to fear what this might mean and where it might lead. It was a welcome mindlessness.
She kept it secret too, and he never thought to ask why. She had her reasons, he was sure. (When she slid her hand from his at the sound of footsteps, he wondered if she was ashamed of him.)
Lily Evans could have anyone she wanted. Because she was just shy of beautiful, but she was the girl James Potter wanted and couldn't have, and everyone wanted to succeed where he failed. No one ever did though. The rumors said "frost queen" and "frigid" and James hexed anyone who said it while Remus hid a smile and a bruise on his throat from her lips, knowing how far from the truth the rumors were.
She dyed her hair black for a week just to spite James, who said it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. The row they'd had over it woke the whole of the house and Sirius had slouched on the wall next to him, watching with his dark eyes and a smirk across his lips. He'd said that when those two finally shagged, the whole castle would shake. Peter had asked why and Sirius had shrugged as he answered. "She hates me – do you see her yelling at me? Different kinds of hatred. That one's the kind that comes before snogging and fucking and probably little squinty eyed red-headed babies I have to keep from calling me Uncle Sirius."
It was the first time Remus had really watched them fight, seen the heat in Lily's eyes and the way her whole body focused on what she was saying, on who she was saying it to. His stomach had tightened and he'd realized that Lily might really see him – but it wasn't a guarantee.
He didn't think she would keep James a secret, if he and she ever began together.
She met him in the abandoned room they'd turned into theirs the next day and he kissed her, running his hands through the newly-black hair. She'd smiled and said it was only temporary, and he'd had a selfish moment of wanting it to be permanent, because maybe if it was James would lose interest.
But the black made her pale and distant-looking, and it wasn't her. It didn't suit. He'd kissed her and run his hands over her breasts as she sighed into his mouth and shut his eyes, the Lily in his mind smiling and red-haired, green eyes only for him, body straining and attentive as it had been for James as they yelled insults across a room.
Her fingers would trace the lines of his scars when they were together, and he would kiss her before she could ask, drowning curiosity in passion and touch and the heat of bodies pressed together against cold stone walls. She was Head Girl and he was a prefect, and neither had much time to spare for stolen moments and hidden kisses, but somehow that made it all the more precious.
Remus Lupin loved Lily Evans.
And he would lose her.
He wasn't Sirius, oblivious save when it suited him to see, or James, who could ignore the telltale signs of things if what he saw didn't agree with what he wanted. He saw the way her gaze lingered on his scars, the resentment in her eyes when he evaded a question, when he didn't touch her in public.
To touch her was a betrayal of James, and that was bad enough.
To tell her would be a betrayal of Lily, who didn't deserve to be drawn into the truth of what he was.
Because she would understand. She would smile and nod and kiss his nose where the thin line of a wolf claw crossed it. She would lie with him at night, move against him, sheath him inside her, and murmur that she loved him. She would clean his wounds after moon-nights and cry for him when he was too weak and wounded to move.
She would still love him, and she would feel sorry for him, and he would hate it, because she didn't deserve him. She didn't deserve a life of shadows and secrets.
His selfishness in wanting to tell her anyway only proved that the beast in him went deeper than the man. James would have given her up for him. To make her happy, to make him happy. He would hate it – but he would do it.
Remus wasn't James. He wasn't any of them. He was only Remus Lupin.
He kissed her goodbye in the room they'd made theirs, and told her that it just wasn't working. She'd stared at him with green eyes that seemed to look through him, their sparkle lost in the sudden shadow, and he hated that he'd done that to her. She nodded once and left.
A month later she went to Hogsmeade with James and Remus listened with a fixed half-smile as James related the whole date for them in minute detail that left Sirius moaning for him to shut up. James talked about the shape of her lips and Remus realized the feel of them against his own was becoming a dim memory to him already. He knew that nothing remains unchanged, but he wished he could hold that memory without losing it.
Two months more and the end of term loomed close. She began to study with him again and she wore a necklace James had bought for her. She shone, bright and beautiful and in love – and said she would like to be friends again.
He said he'd like that too and she'd hugged him the scent of apples and cinnamon on her hair. She'd whispered in his ear that she knew, and that it wouldn’t have mattered, and that he would always be Remus to her, no matter what the moon changed.
He'd known that all along. It wouldn’t have changed things for her. She wouldn't have left.
It would have made it easier if he'd thought that she would.
There is cookie dough in the fridge. I wish for it to magically become cookies without me having to cook it. I wonder if I can harass my sister into making the dough metamorphosis into cookies. Transcend into your higher state, little roll of prepackaged dough! Emerge from your plastic cocoon and become the delicious chocolate-chip butterflies you are meant to be.
And put foil on the cookie sheet so I don't have to wash it. 'kay?