Author's Note: Never again will I kill off Remus. Never again will I kill off Remus. Never again will I kill off Remus. Never again will I kill off Remus. Never again will I kill off Remus.
This piece was written in penance for the Interlude in "Double Trouble" in which Remus passes beyond the veil. Liz, will you ever forgive me?
For Liz, who is the only one who has ever threatened to write me into a chapter only so she can kill me off. Here's to originality!
The light of the fire was warm, the glow it gave off soothing, and the combination thereof was slowly lulling Anna Black to sleep. In her lap sat a worn out, beaten and battered copy of Little Women, one of the first Muggle books Lily had let her borrow.
Against her will, she had found herself drawn to Jo, and her incredible strength that stemmed mostly from her family. When she was feeling her worst, Anna could turn to Louisa May Alcott's world and be swept away to a time and place where a family cared about all its members.
What a novelty.
She had Sirius, of course, who had spent most of his life being both father and mother to her, as neither one of her real parents had had any sort of inclination to do so. A true bond of love existed between them.
What was it like to love a parent?
She had known from the start that she was seen as an object, a trophy, a pet to be patted on the head and displayed when the time was right and the need to make a good impression high. Any signs of rebellion had been crushed thoroughly at a very young age, with both mental degradation and physical reinforcement.
Sirius loved her, she knew that Lily loved her… but did Remus? Certainly he had been gentle with her when she had to explain about her Gift.
Her sixth year at Hogwarts had been, so far, one of the most difficult of her life. The stress of the OWLS OWLs was nothing compared to that of the NEWT class she was taking. On top of everything that was happening to her personally, the enormous load of class work wasn't helping center her. She felt as though she were flailing around, desperately trying to figure out where she was going.
This growing up stuff wasn't easy.
With a sigh, she turned the page, and tried to keep from crying at Beth's death scene. As always, it left her somehow hopeful, but emotionally drained.
"Anna." Lily came up behind her and laid a hand on shoulder. "Are you going to bed?"
"No. I think I'm going to just sit here for a while," Anna said, and tucked her feet in between the cushion and the arm of the chair she was sitting in. "I don't think I could handle the dormitory right now."
"Are you okay?" Lily was very concerned. Ever since she had learned of her friend's Gift, she was careful to make sure that Anna ate enough and felt well enough to attend classes.
"I'm fine. There's something about tonight…" She let her voice trail off, then tried to smile. "It's probably me just being foolish, is all. Why don't you go upstairs and rest now?"
"Anna, tonight's a full moon," Lily reminded her gently. "I think we're both waiting up for the same reason."
"I don't know why I even bother," Anna muttered. "It's not like it makes a difference. He doesn't notice me."
Lily raised an eyebrow at that. "He doesn't?"
"Of course not. He never talks to me, he…"
"Could that possibly be because he's a little bit shy? You've got to admit that finding out about his lycanthropy the way you did was more shocking to him than it was to you."
"I suppose so. I just think that if we could talk…"
Lily laughed. "Getting blokes to talk about their problems is like… trying to pull water from an oil spout."
Anna looked decidedly blank.
"It's a Muggle euphemism for how extremely difficult something is," Lily explained. "You can't get something like oil from a well, you see."
"Ah," Anna said, and closed her book. "Why didn't you just say that, then?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "I have no earthly idea."
There was the kind of long, comfortable silence then that only occurs between two friends who are perfectly at ease with each other, and neither of them made a move to end it for quite some time.
"Why do you let James go out at night like this?" Anna asked.
Lily looked up in surprise. "I'm not James's mother. I can't tell him what he can do and what he can't do. In the first place, that's not my job, and in the second, if I did, our relationship would head swiftly downhill. He needs to be with Remus. I need for him to be happy. It all works out."
"I'm sorry. I guess it was a stupid question."
"No, it wasn't." Lily stopped talking for a moment to organize her thoughts. "Being with James is entirely different than anything I ever thought I would experience, you know? He has his faults, but I have mine, as well. We know and understand that about each other, so there isn't this overwhelming need to try to be perfect, some of the time.
"He listens when I talk, and I do the same for him, but I'm also perfectly happy just being with him, without any words being spoken.
"He's loyal to his friends, and he's loyal to me. There's no question of the love that he has for his friends, and there's no question of the love that he has for me. Sometimes I think I don't deserve him."
Anna laughed a little. "He says the same thing about you."
"It's not perfect," Lily hastened to add. "We fight… and oh, we can be horrid to each other! The things we'll say… I just worry about him, that's all."
Anna looked down at her hands, confused at this insight to her friend's life. "We never see you two fight."
"Neither one of us cares to make a public scene of our disagreements," Lily said softly but sternly. "The last thing that we need is gossip."
"I worry, too," Anna said, "but I suppose my worry is more selfish than yours."
"I worry that something will happen to Remus before we ever get a chance to work this all out. I worry that suddenly he'll just decide he can't even be my friend anymore, or that he'll tell me that there can never be anything between us, and I'll know, I'll just know, that there will be no way for me to change his mind."
"You can't worry about things like that, Anna," Lily said, and moved to sit on the hearthrug. "If you do, then you really will miss your chance."
"Do you remember the first crush you ever had, Lils?"
Lily had to think a minute. "I'm sure I do. Billy Bonafred, grammar school.. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes in Miss Mitchell's art class."
"Remember that hopeless feeling you had? You didn't quite know what to do… whether to go up to him and flirt with him directly, or to play hard to get, or to pretend that he didn't exist."
Lily smiled. "Oh yes, I remember that very well."
"That's kind of how I feel when Remus walks into a room. I just don't know what to do with myself. I miss being able to just talk to him without these horrible butterflies in my stomach."
"You'll learn to control those over time," Lily assured her. "You don't seem that bad to me, anyway."
"Maybe I do all right from the outside looking in, but every time I talk to him, something just rings false in my brain. I feel like I sound fake."
"Ah, yes. That hollow, far away sounding feeling," Lily said, and Anna nodded her head frantically. "I know it well."
"Did it stop?"
"Of course. When I decided to stop worrying about my feelings for James and just be myself."
"That's so hard to do," Anna whispered. "I can't stop thinking about it. When he talks, and he moves his mouth… or when he walks, and he stops to smile at me, and he does that turn over his shoulder and flashes that grin…"
Lily leaned back. "You've got it bad, don't you?"
"Thank you," Anna said sarcastically. "That was helpful."
"Any time," Lily shot back.
Just then, the portrait door made a slow sort of creaking sound. Lily and Anna could hear the soft thunk of footfall, though they could not see the boys making it.
Lily cleared her throat. "Good morning, you four."
The sounds stopped, and they could hear much shuffling and mild cursing from Anna's brother. James was the first to remove the cloak.
"Lily!" He strode across the room and stood awkwardly in front of her, not sure what to do with Anna standing there. Lily solved his problem for him by wrapping her arms around his neck for a close hug. "Hi, Anna," he said after a moment, keeping his arms encircled around Lily's waist.
"Hi," she said softly, and half-heartedly opened her book again.
"Anna's here?" Sirius's voice heralded his appearance as he shed the cloak. "Hello, sister mine!"
Anna couldn't help but giggle. "Good morning, Sirius!"
Her brother shook her head like the great dog his Animagus form was, and said, "Bloody early, isn't it?"
"Dreadfully," Anna agreed solemnly.
"Hello, Anna," Peter muttered, the shiest of the group.
"I say, old boy, you've got to let the girl breathe every now and again," Sirius heckled James. "Any minute now she'll start turning a delightful shade of blue."
"She most certainly will not," Peter said, loyally defending James from Sirius's imagined insult.
"Relax, Peter, I wasn't being serious," Sirius said, sneaking his favorite pun in.
Anna groaned, and then inhaled sharply when she noticed that Remus had finally appeared. He looked worn and withdrawn and… sick.
Without thinking about it, she rose and walked quickly to where Remus was standing and laid a competent hand on his forehead.
"Something's not right," she muttered. "Are you always this feverish after a full moon?"
Remus winced, and covered his eyes with his hands. "I'd rather not answer any questions right now, Anna. All I need is a bed."
The two of them had failed to notice it, but all the conversations around them stopped.
"Fine, then," Anna said, and turned quickly towards the armchair. "I'll just go off to bed. Good night."
She was almost halfway up the stairs into the dimly light hallway of the stairwell when she felt his hand on her arm.
"Please, don't be angry," his voice pleaded.
"I'm not angry," Anna shot back, her tone very angry indeed, "I'm frustrated."
"With me?" Remus seemed genuinely taken back.
"Yes, of course with you." Throwing up her hands in a gesture of impatience, she continued, "You can't decide whether to treat me like a friend, or like a friend's sister, or like an acquaintance. You're warm one day and cold the next. I find myself struggling to find my footing with you, Remus."
Remus blinked. "I had no idea I was causing you so much pain."
"Bloody hell, you really are thick headed," Anna muttered. "You're not so much causing me pain as making me wonder. None of it is your fault, though I do wish you would make up your mind."
Remus smiled. "My mind is made up."
Anna's eyebrows shot up. "Oh really?"
"Yes, it has been for a long time."
"What have you decided?"
Remus smiled, and through the wariness some sort of light lit his eyes. "I was sort of wondering if you'd be my girlfriend."
Anna sighed. "Well, why haven't you said so before?"
Remus chuckled. "Because I was afraid I was feeling something that you weren't feeling." Suddenly he stopped. "You are feeling what I'm feeling, aren't you?"
"That shouldn't make sense to me," Anna muttered, "but it does. Of course I do, you idiot. If I didn't, wherever would I get the courage to make that awful speech I just made?"
"It wasn't all that bad," Remus whispered to her, and came closer.
Of their own volition, her arms reached up around his neck. There was only a moment of stiffness on Remus's part, then he relaxed into the moment.
Gently, he reached down and kissed her cheek, then he closed his eyes.
"Now, go on," Anna said, suddenly very firm. "Go to bed. Don't make yourself worse off than you already are because you were…"
Remus stilled her with a finger on her mouth. "Being with you can never, ever, be anything less than good for me."
Anna smiled. "Nevertheless."
"Good night, then."
Thanks once again to Anne, beta reader extraordinaire! She's fantastic, she really is!