PG, 2800 words
Remus/Sirius, Peter, James, Lily
Summary: They'd kept vigil like this before now, and yet, the thought of anything happening to James, or to Remus - Remus, who only a few short weeks ago had just been a friend, and now--
Notes: Originally written for avendya at hp_quotathon; inspired in part by T.S. Eliot.
"This is when you decide to break it to me," James said. "Just before we go on a mission."
"I didn't know we were about to be sent out," Remus snapped back.
"But all the same," James answered, "you could have given me a little warning! Only fair to give a bloke a bit of preparation before you floor him with sudden pronouncements."
Remus rolled his eyes, not that James could see him. "I'll bear that in mind next time I decide to--"
"Shut up," James murmured urgently, and Remus could feel his shoulders stiffen against his own back.
Remus stared out into the twilight surrounding them, ears straining for any sound, and knuckles tightening around his wand.
"Homeneum revelio," James whispered. "No, false alarm. Probably a bird or something. Sorry, where were we?"
"You were being a idiot, I believe," Remus said.
"I'm the idiot? Moony, quite aside from the fact you have bizarrely decided to Beat for the other team - I mean, do you know the wonders of womanhood that you're missing? - you are the one who has decided to shack up with Sirius Black, of all people. He grows mould in drawers and likes to turn people's socks in earwigs."
"So do you."
"Well, yes, but I only do that to Sirius, and I'm not shagging him. I fear he does not possess such powers of discrimination"
"You know, he's really not -- I mean, there haven't been any earwigs involved -- it's been nice, actually, it's been very nice," Remus explained, beginning to smile a little foolishly as his words stumbled over themselves.
There was a rustle in the undergrowth, and James stiffened again. "I think it might be best if we carry on this discussion in a bit," he muttered.
Remus grunted assent, and they turned as one, wands pointed into the darkening forest.
"Thanks for helping us out back there, by the way," Sirius said as the train pulled out of the station.
Lily said nothing for a moment, too busy burrowing into a duffle coat and about ten scarves, it looked like. Eventually her head poked out, looking disgruntled. "Bloody Muggle trains, they never get any better!" She turned to face Sirius. "Sorry, what were you saying? Oh, yeah, no problem. I know what James is like. You do know he's fine with it really, don't you?"
Sirius laughed. "I do. Honestly, he'd probably be overreacting just as much whatever relationship either of us were announcing. Seems to have forgotten that our plans to live in a bachelor pad of debauchery until we were fifty fell apart a little while back."
"Sort of ruined that for you, didn't I?" Lily shook her head. "I'd apologise, but you seem to be getting by just fine anyway."
"We do all right," Sirius agreed, grinning.
Lily squirmed around in her seat a little more. "Don't see why we have to play Cold War spies on a train, anyway. Surely there's an easier way to pick up these documents?"
"You'd think, wouldn't you," Sirius murmured back, confident the rattling of the train was loud enough to mask their conversation, though his eyes were casually scanning the other passengers in the carriage. "Apparently this is the best way."
"Well, if Dumbledore thinks so, I suppose he must be right."
"Indeed." Sirius turned to the bag he was carrying. "Now then, what I have got here - The Guardian?" He looked at the front page, feeling a little disappointed. "Doesn't seem terribly exciting."
"There's a crossword inside," Lily told him, and Sirius' eyes lit up. As he got to work, chewing Lily's biro quite extravagantly, Lily curled up back into her layers, though despite appearances of being asleep, her eyes were only half-closed.
Remus and James lay flat on their stomachs on the hillside, peering down at the scene below. All the spells at their disposal had proven useless, but their eyes were serving as pretty efficient guides as to what was going on. A coven of dark-robed Death Eaters was gathered in the valley below, and judging by Bellatrix Lestrange's maniacal laughter, something was going very well for them.
"Bugger." Remus grimaced.
James snorted. "Eloquent as ever, mate." He edged a little closer, shoving aside bushes to get a better look. He hissed in frustration. "It's no good, I'm going in."
"We're going in, you mean," Remus answered sharply.
"Cloak'll only cover one," James replied with a shrug, before standing up and draping it over himself.
"You and your damn heroics," Remus muttered, before standing up cautiously himself and beginning to edge down the hillside before James got himself killed.
Every now and then he saw a branch move slightly where James must have been, and it guided his steps, while all the time the Death Eaters' voices were getting louder and louder - oddly so, as if the closer he got, the more barriers of charms he passed through. At last, by this point hardly daring to breathe, Remus reached the edge of the clearing. Merlin only knew where James was, but he had a pretty clear view, and he guessed that James had to be somewhere close by.
"I'm going to kill you after this, Prongs," he promised under his breath.
Sirius looked over the top of his newspaper. A small girl in pigtails was standing at his knee, holding some folded up papers.
"These are from Mum - she says the second page is really good."
Sirius nodded. "Thanks, that's very good of you - tell your mum thank you, will you?"
The girl smiled, and went out of the carriage again. Sirius smirked - whoever the spy was, clearly no effort was too much to remain incognito, apparently.
"Mmm," Lily said sleepily, "can I have a look at those, dear?"
With a fond look, Sirius handed them over.
They got off on the next stop - Wellingborough - and congratulated themselves on a job well done. "Reckon James and Remus are done yet?" Lily asked.
Sirius sighed. "I doubt it. Let's get over to Peter's in the meantime, shall we? I'm sure he could use the company."
They crept over to a shady corner of the station, out of the view of the elderly warden, and Apparated into Peter's kitchen.
"Identify yourselves," came a booming voice from the sink as the room began to grow menacing and dark.
"Sirius Black!" "Lily Ev-- Potter, Potter!" they yelped in succession, well-versed in what would happen to those who didn't successfully pass Peter's security charms.
The lights came up again, and Sirius walked into the hallway. "Peter?" he called out.
"In here!" came a voice from the bedroom at the far end of the flat. Lily and Sirius walked through to see Peter in bed, propped up by pillows and looking a little pale, but he smiled as he saw them.
"All right?" he asked.
"Piece of cake," Sirius told him. "How are you holding up?"
"I've been better," Peter said, laughing slightly and then wincing. "Still, at least I'm not in hospital for Christmas, right?"
Lily frowned sympathetically and patted him on the shoulder. "Do you need anything?"
"Nah." Peter nodded over to his wand. "I do believe Accio is the best spell ever invented."
Sirius growled. "Don't worry, we're giving them hell for putting you out of action like this!"
"I know you are." Peter hesitated. "Have you heard anything from the others?"
"No," Lily said, and Sirius bit his lip.
He knew better than to be worried, because worry was a useless feeling, and in times like this, if you weren't careful you'd never do anything else.
"They'll be fine, though, won't they?" Peter asked.
"Of course they will!" Sirius forced a smile. "Kicking some Death Eater arse on your behalf, I don't doubt."
"They weren't meant to get into a fight, though," Lily said quietly.
Sirius pulled up a couple of chairs, and they sat with Peter to wait. They'd kept vigil like this before now, but this time Sirius had to work very hard not to ask for panicky reassurance from the others - who, after all, knew no more than he did. And yet, the thought of anything happening to James, or to Remus - Remus, who only a few short weeks ago had just been a friend, and now--
He barely noticed, but his knuckles were white as he grasped the arms of the chair.
There was a chilling sight before Remus. Half a dozen hooded figures stood in a tight circle, close around something - someone, Remus guessed - that was clearly of great interest to them. There were two flaming torches either side of the group, and the fire cast odd, flickering shadows over the ground, as though the entire clearing was burning.
There was movement in the gathering, and then Remus could see what was in the middle. Horror gripped his insides as he saw Emmeline Vance seated on the ground, head high but with a wand held to her throat. Mind whirling, he glanced around him in all directions, looking for something that could help him get her out of there.
But then he felt something brush beside him, and saw branches being pushed aside by no one at all. Hardly able to breathe, Remus leaned out as far as he could, hoping to see what James was doing before they did.
Then a strange expression briefly passed over Emmeline's face, and Remus felt as though he could see James crouching beside her, presumably whispering in her ear. Then suddenly her wand was flying towards her, and she leaped to her feet as James became visible and Stunned her nearest captor. They were outnumbered, but surprise was on their side and Remus sprinted out into the open, trying to even the odds, odds which swung in their favour as their three combined spells felled Bellatrix to the ground.
Remus felt his instincts kicking in, for this was not the first time and he moved faster than conscious thought - keep moving, keep them guessing, seek out the strongest enemies first, stay close to each other. But the Death Eaters hadn't stayed off-guard for long, and Remus had to run close to the ground as jets of murderous light streamed towards him.
He jumped over the prone body of Nott, and James was gripping Emmeline's arm, looking out wide-eyed towards him: they were getting out while they could. But James stretched out a hand to him, clearly ready to Apparate them all, and Remus was running flat out, hands grasping for James', and he was fingertips away, heart hammering in his chest, and it looked like it was going to be all right--
Something thudded into his back, and the world went out.
Sirius' hair was a state. His hands would pull it convulsively in frustration until Lily or Peter shot him a look, whereby he would subside for a short time, only to start again later. In his defence, he noted that Lily's fingers were forever winding themselves into an increasingly complicated knot, and that Peter - though not moving much, understandably - kept glancing anxiously at both of them and then out of the window, then back again.
Sirius had endured this kind of wait a few times now, but it wasn't getting any easier. He both hoped for and dreaded the idea that it ever would. With all his mind concentrating on just what not to think of, he of course could not imagine anything but James and Remus injured, captured, or dead.
"Look!" Peter said suddenly.
Sirius stood up as a silvery form could be seen coming towards the window. It slipped through onto the bedroom floor, and James' eagle patronus ruffled its feathers, before James' voice came through, sounding breathless and rushed.
"Lily, Sirius, Peter. We ran into a spot of bother and we're with Dumbledore now, but we'll be with you as soon as we can - Remus has been knocked out, but I think he'll be ok."
The message ended, and Lily and Peter looked at Sirius in shock.
"Right," Sirius said shakily. "Wormtail, got a first aid kit anywhere?"
"It's just in that bottom drawer," Peter gestured, and Sirius went to get it with fumbling hands, before taking it out into the kitchen and putting it next to Peter's sofa, adjusting the cushions and fetching a pint glass of water. He ran quickly through healing spells, setting things out, hoping that the preparations could quell his rapid heartbeat.
Then Peter was yelling out counter charms to his security spells as James and Emmeline appeared in front of Sirius, and he rushed forward to catch Remus as he sagged over from their shoulders.
"You're sure you're all right, Emmeline?"
"These two heroes got to me, thank goodness - the Lestranges seemed in top sadistic form tonight. I just can't believe I was so stupid as to let them creep up on me like that! I should be sacked from the Order, who knows what could have happened."
"Don't be ridiculous, it could have happened to any of us."
"Oh God, let's hope it doesn't!"
"Are you sure we shouldn't Ennervate him?"
"No, no, it'd be better just to let him come round naturally."
"Wait, look, I think he's waking up."
Remus frowned at all the voices. "'M ok," he said stupidly, throwing an arm across his face as bright lights shone straight through his eyelids.
"Don't be daft." It must be Sirius who was kneeling next to him, hand on his shoulder.
"Mmm, hello you," Remus said with a smile. "Sorry I'm late."
He let one eye open slightly, to be met with Sirius' anxious face. He tried to sit up, but Sirius pushed him down again. "You're not going anywhere just yet."
Remus sagged back against the sofa. "Where'm I?"
"Pete's place," Sirius said.
"Oh. Where's Peter?"
"Hey, Moony!" came a call from another room. "Looks like we can be invalids together!"
Remus jolted upright, feeling wide awake. "James! Emmeline! Where are they?"
Then he saw Emmeline, laughing. "We're right here, thanks to you."
James looked as his feet. "I'm sorry, Remus. I should never have just rushed in like that, it was stupid."
Remus shook his head. "Worked, didn't it?"
"Merlin, Remus, you're lucky they weren't aiming to kill!" Sirius still looked desperately worried.
"Emmeline," Lily said, "can I get you something to eat? I think Peter's got quite the stash in his room."
"Thanks, that would be great," she replied.
Lily looked pointedly at James. "You coming?"
"Hmm?" James glanced up, puzzled. Lily made entirely unsubtle gestures with her eyebrows. "Oh." James' eyes darted towards Remus and Sirius. "Oh, right, food, yes, great, coming."
The three of them vanished very swiftly from the room, and Remus laughed. "Prongs'll get there in the end, you know."
"Yeah." Sirius was still crouching, and he leaned over, arms crossed at Remus' side. "I was worried out of my mind, you berk - what did you have to go get yourself taken out like that for?"
"Ah, yes, sorry. Next time I'll just let them kill James instead."
"That's not what I meant."
Sirius sighed, one hand moving to push the hair from Remus' face. "Is this what it's going to be like, every time?"
"I suppose it might be."
"It'll be all right, though," Remus said, shuffling up more gently this time, turning to face Sirius properly.
"Yeah, I think so."
"I just kept thinking, you know. About - about, well, how really sort of brilliant this is, how you are, and what if we died tomorrow, before we ever got going at all?"
"I know." Remus reached out a hand to rest on Sirius' arm, trying to find words that could wipe that expression from his face. "I know - I think that too, sometimes. But the thing is," he continued, taking Sirius' face in the palms of his hands and drawing him up to meet him, "we already have got going, if you ask me."
Their mouths found each other, and Sirius' kisses were still afraid, taken as though in confirmation that Remus really was there, so Remus drank them up, trying to tell him in touch alone that he wasn't going anywhere. The world was large and full of battles yet to come, but after all the trials, all the agony in stony places, he knew he would always come back home, here to Sirius' warm hands and his warm heart.