Love In Fire
And In Blood
making it permanent
PG-13, James/Lily, Sirius/Remus. In which James and Lily get
married, Sirius gets maudlin, Remus gets put-upon and everyone gets pissed.
There was a point, at four in the morning when the first glimmerings of dawn
were at the window, when everything seemed, somehow, like it was going to be all
On his back, on the kitchen table, Remus thought it might be something to do
with the half-full bottle resting on his chest, and maybe something else to do
with the three empty ones rolling around the kitchen floor, and maybe it was all
another manifestation of how everything was immeasurably more enjoyable viewed
horizontally and the meaning of life involved taking it all lying down. Remus
always found the meaning of life when drinking. A different one every time, but
it was more usual for it to involve teapots.
The room was quiet and serene until he broke the silence. “Men,” he said.
Glancing at Lily, he amended, “And woman. I have a tragic announcement.”
James lifted his head from the tiled floor and said, “Speak on, dear Moony.”
Remus held the bottle up to the light, which was dim and muted and filled up the
glass with bleak sparkle. “I can see my reflection in the bottom of this. S’all
blurry and my face is all mixed up with vodka.”
“Orange juice,” Peter said thoughtfully. “Also mixes well with vodka.”
Remus sighed. “That is either profound in its poetry or poetic in its
profundity. I’m not entirely sure which.”
“And you’re drunk,” Peter said. His voice rose like a foghorn from the depths
beneath the table.
“And I’m drunk,” Remus agreed. “D’you know, that is true. And do you know what
it is also true? This is the last bottle. That is the great futility of life.
There is always the last bottle.”
“That,” said Sirius with heartfelt emotion, “is a tragedy. Give it here.”
Making a random stab into the dark, Remus passed it down. After a second, he
heard the pleasant, liquid sounds of five shot glasses being unsteadily filled,
and then the clunk as the bottle rolled across the floor.
“A toast,” Remus said, when by dint of careful manoeuvre each of them was
holding a glass, with Lily discreetly propping James up against a table leg. “A
toast, on this momentous occasion, this last night of James’s carefree
bachelorhood.” He held up his glass. “Ah, I have it. To Lily Evans, the only
woman man enough to put up with James.”
“To Lily,” they chorused, all knocking back the shots. Catching her eye, Remus
went on, dreamily, “The only woman I ever loved,” and then carefully drank the
very last of the vodka.
“Sirius,” said James after a minute, “one or both of us is going to have to kill
him.” He paused, considering it. “You’re closer.”
Sirius stood up, swayed mightily and fell over again. Remus considered rolling
off the table to join him.
“Killing me won’t be required,” he said, feeling precise enunciation was
probably required. “It was past tense. All very much of the past tense.”
“Moony, you are bloody lucky that I am” – James swallowed and took a deep breath
– “inebriated. For if I were sober I would have to think that you just
declared your love for my fiancée the night before our wedding. And then I would
have to knock your head off, because that, dear Moony, is Just Not On.”
“It was entirely, what do you call it, something about Greek philosophers.
Platonic. It was entirely platonic. And in the morning you will have no memory
of this on account of the bit where we are all” – a pause was somehow necessary
“That’s true,” Lily said, “and also there’s the bit where we had free run of the
prefects’ bathroom for two years.”
“Sirius,” said James urgently, “I have swallowed my tongue. It is another
tragedy. It is stuck in my oesophagus together with a feeling of impending
Sirius leaned over and petted him. “Now, now, Prongs,” he soothed. “I’m sure the
prefects’ bathroom is entirely conducive to prefectly and platonic... er, bubble
James groaned deeply into the floor.
“James, dear, I’m marrying you.” Lily joined in with the petting, and Peter
jerked away to avoid being caught in the flurry. “Not Remus, because he never,
er, he never did the thing. He never asked.”
Remus asked, “Lily, will you marry me?”
She kissed his cheek. “No, sweetie.”
“You see?” Remus shrugged. “I lie here, drunk and rejected, on your kitchen
table. By rights it is I who should have impending doom in my oesophagus. By
rights, I should have more vodka in my oesophagus. I implore your forgiveness.”
“I forgive you,” James said magnanimously. “Only because to hold a grudge is
unmarauderly, and tonight we are instructing Lily in the Way of the Marauders.”
“We have a Way?” Peter asked sleepily. “Sort of zen, that kind of thing?”
“The Things That The Marauders Do,” James intoned. On the table, Remus admired
his ability for pronouncing initial capitals.
“Like, er, drinking? Getting laughed at by girls? Going to hospital a lot?”
Peter suggested. “Walloping the giant squid? Getting arrested for indecent
“Kindly cease your facetiousness,” James intoned. “She knows our ways, she knows
all our secrets.”
Sirius sat up and bumped his head on the table. “All our secrets?”
“It’s okay,” Remus said from above him, “she doesn’t know about the thing with
Lily giggled and counted off on her fingers. “I’ll tell you what I know. Remus
is a werewolf, which by the way I knew already.”
“How?” Remus asked sharply.
“Girls get quite good at keeping track of monthly cycles, you know,” she told
him.. “And I know you three are, whatchamacallit, like McGonagall only not cats,
and this explains why James threw up when my mum gave him venison.”
“And also why Sirius slobbers over everyone,” Remus agreed. “Isn’t that right,
There was no answer. Remus leaned over the table edge in an attempt to poke him,
went an inch too far and rolled off.
“Ouch,” he said after a minute. “I think he’s asleep. I think he’s passed out.
Otherwise he would have woken up when I fell on him. Um. I think I have broken
all my bones.”
“Do shut up, Moony,” Lily said, and patted his head with the hand she was not
using to pat James’s head. “I think we’ve lost James, too.”
“I’m awake,” James muttered. “I heard everything you were saying, and everything
Remus was saying, and everything about the thing with the sheep that was all
lies and wasn’t at all true.”
“It never was the same again,” Peter said sadly. “Walked funny all the rest of
its short life.”
Remus decided, just before slipping into unconsciousness, that Lily was a good
sort, just as he’d always thought, and she and James were going to be very
happy, and also, Sirius made a good pillow if you positioned yourself right and
avoided his clavicle and other pointy bits, and really, everything looked like
it was going to be all right.
“Remus, dear, are you awake? Did you have a nice evening?”
“It was very nice, thank you,” said Remus politely. He’d always felt a little
nervous around James’s mother; anyone who could shout down not only James but
Sirius too had the power to command his everlasting respect. McGonagall had it
“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” Mrs. Potter went on. “Just perfect for the
garden, like we planned. I’ll get the caterers and decorators out as soon as
it’s properly light. Oh, you’re yawning! I’ll let you go back to sleep for a
couple of hours.”
“Goodnight,” murmured Remus, and was just about to lay his head back on Sirius’s
shoulder when she paused in the doorway.
“Roll James over, would you? I wouldn’t like my only son to have tile imprints
on his cheek on his wedding day.”
Remus gave James a poke, who muttered, “I didn’t mean to go to sea,” and went
back to sleep facing the ceiling. Remus snuggled down and everything faded into
About twenty minutes later, a new voice rang into the dark. “Remus! I know
“Urgh,” Remus said, rolling off Sirius with a thud. “Sleep.”
“No, you’re not.” A small, warm hand grasped his own and started to pull. “Come
on, I need you.”
“I need me too,” he muttered as he was dragged to his feet. “I need me to
“Open your eyes, for heaven’s sake,” she said. “You’re going to walk into
“Like that, for instance. No, through the door. That’s right.”
After a second, Remus said, “My socks are wet.”
“Take them off. And open your eyes!” Lily withdrew her arm from around his
shoulders. “That’s better.”
“We’re outside,” said Remus, surprised. The dawn was well advanced, glowing in
droplets on the grass. Leaning down with a groan, he pulled off his dew-soaked
soaks, bare toes curling in the chill.
Behind him, Lily was spreading a rough blanket. “Sit.”
Remus sat. “Why are we having a picnic?” he asked, hugging his knees. His head
had cleared enough for him to notice she was laying out two small loaves of
bread, a block of cheese and a flask of coffee. “And why did I have to be awake
“Because otherwise you’d choke to death when you ate, and that would never do.”
Lily tapped the flask with her wand and it started to steam. She poured out and
he held the cups. “And also, in about an hour a large gaggle of my female
friends and relations are going to descend en masse to help me get ready, and I
wanted to have breakfast in peace first.”
“But why take me?” asked Remus, pulling his wand from his pocket. A word turned
it into a sharp cutting edge, and he dug it into the cheese.
“It seemed logical,” Lily said, taking a bite. “Peter was snoring too loudly for
me to wake him, I’m not supposed to see James before the wedding and Sirius
would have eaten all my food. You were my natural choice for company.”
“I’m honoured.” He leaned back on the blanket, feeling wide awake suddenly. “No,
I really am. Is there any more coffee?”
“Here.” She poured it for him. He drank deeply and looked up, following her gaze
across the dimly lit garden. “I can’t quite believe this is happening,” she
said. “Pretty soon this will all be full of people. Hundreds of people, just for
me and James.”
“And why shouldn’t there be?” Remus asked, smiling. “I’m not the only person who
wants to see my friends get married.”
“Some of them are only coming because they’re waiting for the punch line,” Lily
said gloomily. “James Potter, marrying a Muggle-born witch no one’s ever heard
of, got to be some kind of joke.”
“Some people do think that, it’s true.” Remus was still smiling. “Sadly, I don’t
think the Death Eaters have that much free time for attending weddings.”
“Remus, you’re laughing at me.” Lily stared indignantly at him, but he held her
gaze. “Oh, all right, all right, I won’t worry about that now. Time to worry
about it when it isn’t my wedding day.”
“Exactly. In fact, I wouldn’t worry about it ever. What I would worry
about,” he continued, “is the expected gaggle of female relatives who are, even
as I speak, walking up the garden path.”
Lily followed his gaze and her face visibly fell. “Oh, dear.”
“Lily!” called an anxious voice, and Remus recognised Molly Weasley with a baby
balanced on each hip and somehow managing to run down the path regardless. A
second later, she was followed by what Remus dazedly thought was every woman he
had ever met. He recognised half a dozen people he’d been to school with, most
of Lily’s dorm-mates, Sirius’s cousin Andromeda, and his own immediate superior,
“We’ve only got two hours, we’ve got to start getting you ready!” Molly went on,
worriedly. “Who’s been distracting you? Remus Lupin, what do you think you’re
“Being force-fed bread and cheese,” Remus murmured, but no one was listening to
him apart from Alice, who clipped him round the ear.
Approximately an hour later, the garden was looking like some sort of enchanted
fairyland – not that he knew what enchanted fairylands were supposed to look
like, having never been that sort of fairy or participated very much during
Sirius’s acid synthesis phase – and the house was whirling with life.
Sirius was the first outside. “Moony,” he said, “Moony, Moony, Moony, tell me
how ravishingly, dazzlingly attractive I am in my wonderful new dress robes.”
“You’re wearing odd socks,” Remus informed him blandly, wondering why the
bridesmaids had to be shrieking at just the right frequency to make all the
bones in his skull vibrate.
“Ta ever so.” Sirius disappeared.
Next, Remus spotted Peter wandering out of the kitchen, holding a pocket mirror
and with one hand on his head. “Remus,” he asked plaintively, “do I have weird
hair? I can’t make it lie down flat. Do people talk about it? Do they say, ‘that
Peter Pettigrew, what weird hair he has?’”
“Oh, yes,” Remus assured him. “In fact, some days it’s all I can think about.”
“I knew it!” He stomped off, and Lily appeared as soon he was gone. She wasn’t
dressed yet, but her hair and make-up were done, and Remus could feel the
irritation coming off her in waves.
“Next time I get married, it’ll be in Gretna Green,” she said sourly. “In jeans
and an old T-shirt. No guests, no bloody meringue of a dress and no Alice
Longbottom chasing me with curling tongs and an enchanted hairdryer.”
“You know,” Remus said thoughtfully, “if this hadn’t been happening in wartime,
it would have been the society wedding of the year. Probably there would have
been twice as many guests. Maybe an extra tier on the cake. And as for the
“Shut up, Remus, before I sit on you. And where do you think you’re going?”
“Back to bed,” said Remus, and meant it, after a fashion; he was nursing a
sleep-deprived headache and a growing affection for the kitchen table. “I have
half an hour before the service begins, isn’t that right? Maybe things will be
Things weren’t better. They were quite a lot worse.
Remus was clutching his head with one hand and doing up his shoes with the other
when Sirius skidded in shouting something at the top of his voice, and
everything started looking not all right at all.
“What do you mean, he’s gone?” Remus was glaring at his shoelaces. For a moment,
he was sure they were glaring back. He shook his head to clear the impression
and swore inwardly as the headache kicked in. “Who’s gone?”
“James!” Sirius yelled. “I can’t find him anywhere! He’s gone!”
“Yes, you said.” Remus stood up and took a tentative step. He didn’t fall over,
which he thought was a promising sign. “He’ll be around somewhere. Maybe he’s
off straightening his robes or practising his vows or throwing up somewhere.
It’s his wedding day, he won’t have got far.”
Sirius motioned for him to follow. “Remus, he’s not anywhere. I’ve checked. You
said it: it’s his wedding day. Are you getting it?”
Remus stopped walking. “Sirius?” he said warningly. “Are you saying...”
“Yes, I bloody well am saying! Now what the hell do we do?”
“All right, all right.” Remus allowed himself to be dragged out of the Potters’
kitchen and into the garden. “Oh, isn’t that lovely?”
Sirius glanced up at the clear blue sky, the flowers, the trees, the throngs of
guests, the brightly-coloured pixies charmed to hang decoratively and drunkenly
off the tree boughs. “You can admire the scenery later,” he snapped, slapping
Remus’s hand away from a house-elf’s tray of canapés. “When we have a groom!”
“Where would he have gone?” Remus asked, struggling to keep up. “Oh, fuck it,
Sirius, this is not helping my head.”
Without missing a beat, Sirius whipped his wand from his pocket and muttered an
incantation. Remus shuddered, and breathed out slowly as some of the pain eased.
“What did you do?”
“Caffeine, straight into the blood, no waiting.” Sirius looked pleased with
himself. “Now tell me, what the hell do we do?”
“Why am I supposed to have all the answers?” Remus demanded. “You’re the best
man, you’re meant to be able to deal with this sort of contingency!”
“Now, now, boys, you’re not arguing on a day like this, are you?” said a
“Hi, Andromeda,” they chorused guiltily. Remus had somehow forgotten the
possibility of attracting the attention of the many, many guests amassed on the
“Don’t you scrub up well!” Andromeda smiled at them both. “You both look so
grown-up in your dress robes! Oh, you must be so pleased for James.”
Sirius seemed rendered unable to speak. Remus swallowed and said, “Yes, we are,
“And it’s such a beautiful day for a wedding, too. Dora’s having a lovely time
out in the sunshine.”
“Er, Andromeda,” Remus said desperately, “it’s almost time, and Sirius has his
speech to be working on and I really think we should...”
“Of course, of course. I’ll see you both at the reception. Dora’s dying to see
you both again.”
“Some reception there’s going to be when there hasn’t actually been a wedding
ceremony,” Sirius groused as soon as they were out of earshot.
“Well, about that.” Remus was thoughtful. “Historically speaking, that was the
traditional function of the best man. If anything were to happen to the groom
before the wedding, the best man was supposed to step into the breach, as it
Sirius stopped dead. “You’re not serious.”
“No, that would be you.” Remus smiled at him. “Did you check all the bathrooms?”
“I think you should know that I hate you a whole lot right now. A lot. A whole
big humungous lot.” Sirius glared some more before answering the question. “I
think I did, but you know this place, it’s bloody huge.”
“They’re a very wealthy family,” Remus reminded him. “Very old, very
well-respected family. If James doesn’t turn up to his own wedding… well, I
dread to think.”
Unfortunately, the last bathroom they stormed into turned out to be already
occupied. Peter whipped around in a well-dressed fury, his robes sweeping the
ground. “What the hell are you doing?” he yelled. “Can’t a man have a slash in
“James has gone missing,” Sirius informed him tragically. “We need to find him,
now. We’ve got” – he glanced at his watch – “twenty minutes. Oh, fuck.”
Peter blinked. “He’s done what?”
“There’s no time to explain! Peter, you need to stall Lily.” Remus was very
definite on this point. “Tell her… tell her…”
“Tell her there’s been a death in the minister’s family?” Peter suggested
brightly. “Tell here there’s a rabbit stuck in the organ pipes and we’ve got to
get it out before there can be a wedding?”
Remus grinned weakly. “That might do it. Go!”
Peter stalked off, a vision in blue fabric, and Remus turned to Sirius. “I
think,” he said carefully, “we may have to entertain the possibility he’s not in
Sirius was wringing his hands. “This is going to be awful. This is going to be
“How is there an organ when they’re having the wedding in the garden?” Remus
“Moony, focus.” Sirius placed his hands on either side of Remus’s face. “Focus
on the fact that we are buggered. He could have Apparated. He could have taken a
Floo. He could be anywhere at all by now. We’re running out of bathrooms and
we’re running out of time!” He grabbed hold of Remus’s hand again and started to
run, out onto the landing and down the stairs in the direction of the garden.
“We’re making people wonder what’s going on!” Remus yelled, out of breath.
“They’re going to start asking awkward questions! Sirius, stop!”
Sirius stopped. So thoroughly and comprehensively that Remus went thudding into
him, and the two of them collapsed onto the ground in a pile of limbs and newly
Sirius groaned, separating himself from Remus and lying flat on his back in an
attitude of defeat. “Give us a fag, Moony?”
“Yeah, all right.” Remus reached into his pocket without thinking, then let his
hand flop to his side. “Ah… these aren’t my ordinary clothes. Sorry.”
“Brilliant. Bloody buggering brilliant. I’m going to kill James.”
“Not his fault we’re out of fags,” Remus said fairly. “Go inside and go through
my pockets, if you like.”
“Can’t be arsed. No, I think it’s perfectly clear what’s happened,” Sirius said.
“James has gone to live in Tahiti and sip cocktails on the beach all day. Soon
there will be lots of shouting and then approximately seventeen and a half
minutes from now Evans will turn us both into flowering cactuses. I know it. Or
maybe she’ll be merciful and kill me outright. Give me a nice eulogy, Moony,
please. Use lots of superlatives.”
“How can I, when I’ll be a flowering cactus?” said Remus morosely. “Oh, bugger
all this for a lark! Why couldn’t James have got cold feet yesterday, or the day
before, or maybe that day in first year when she smacked his arse and told him
he was a pretentious wanker?”
“Maybe we sneak over the wall and go and live as Muggles.” Sirius groaned again.
“Or run away to sea. Or, I don’t know, start a farm on a remote island and herd
our own sheep.”
Remus sat up. “That’s it. That’s how we find James.”
“What, herding sheep?”
Remus ignored him. “Sirius. Take off your clothes.”
Sirius raised his eyebrows. “Moony...”
“It’s a wedding!” Remus said impatiently. “You wouldn’t want them to smell of
dog, would you?”
Sirius got it.
Five minutes later, Nymphadora came running across the grass and said, “I didn’t
know you had a dog, Remus! Can I pet him?”
“A little later,” Remus replied. “Right now we’re going for a walk.”
They found James on the dusty street outside, leaning against the high garden
wall with his forehead resting on his knees. The dog gave a joyous bark,
reaching the end of the trail of scent in order to transform and sit on James’s
shoulders. Remus, not to be outdone, sat on his feet.
“What,” James said, but his voice was muffled, “are you doing?”
“What are we doing?” Sirius yelped. “What are you doing, mate? Five
minutes till I do and you’re sitting out here like some kind of citrus
fruit! We’ve been going mental looking for you!”
“Get off my head,” James muttered.
“Sirius, get off his head,” said Remus sternly. Sirius complied. “Now tell us,
James – what’s this all about?”
James looked up, eyes wide and intense. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You’ve got five minutes. You’re going to have to talk about it.” Sirius leaned
against his shoulder. “Tell us. We’re on your side.”
“Always.” Remus wished he were wearing a watch. “As we speak, Peter is spinning
a tangled web of deception for the benefit of your beloved. We’ve got a bit of
time. You can tell us anything you want.”
James stared at the ground. “Don’t you ever worry, Remus, that your whole life
is happening to you too fast? I mean, how old are you?”
It didn’t seem to be a rhetorical question. “Just about twenty,” Remus said. “A
little younger than you. You know that.”
“That’s just it! I mean – it’s so soon. It’s all so soon. And it’s like the war
makes everything happen in double-quick time. I just... I don’t know.”
“Wasn’t that the point?” Remus asked. “You wanted to make it permanent just in
case something else happened that was also... permanent.”
“It’s not the best reason to get married, is it?” James said quietly. “A wedding
ring isn’t magic. It’s not going to stop me from losing her.”
“Nothing can guarantee that.” Remus leaned against the wall with James, and
Sirius slipped down to join them. “But you can do this. You can be happy today.
And even when the winter comes, even when the world outside is getting darker,
you’ll still have this day.”
James was looking at him with sudden interest. “Remus, I never suspected you of
being a secret romantic.”
“It’s a disease,” Remus told him. “One night a month I feel an irresistible urge
to eat Parma Violets and listen to Donny Osmond.”
James laughed, weakly, and Sirius clapped him on the back. “I’m your best
friend,” he said, with rare, pure sincerity. “I’m your brother, right?
And I’m not going to let you do this. This is Evans. You’ve been doolally about
her since you were about twelve. It’s still been a bloody long time.”
“Time enough for us to start calling her Lily,” said Remus gently. “Listen,
James. Do you love her?”
“Yes.” James frowned and looked like he wanted to bury his head in his knees
again. “Yes, I do.”
“Does she love you?”
“Yeah.” With a ghost of a smile, he added, “Though not as much as she loves you,
Remus snorted. “I’ve got my ever after. We’re talking about yours.”
“Then yes. She loves me.”
Remus got off James’s feet, sat back on his haunches and thought about it. “It
seems to me,” he said carefully, “that you have two options, Prongs. The first
one goes like this. Sirius gets off your head – again – and I get off your feet,
and we all go back together to your wedding and we never speak of this again.
How’s that sound?”
“Depends. What’s the second option?”
“You stay here, Sirius stays here to keep an eye on you, I go and tell Lily, and
in about ten minutes she hunts you down and turns you into shrubbery.”
“Moony, you wouldn’t.”
Remus inclined his head. “Do you want to test that theory?”
James smiled. “I’ll take option one.”
“You will?” Sirius asked, as though coming out of a trance. “You really will?”
“Yeah.” James was still smiling. “I want to go and get married.”
Remus sighed. “I’m glad that you do. I’m really glad, Prongs. I wasn’t looking
forward to a lifetime encased in terracotta.”
“Three minutes to go and we didn’t have to use violence!” Sirius said
exultantly, standing up. “I was armed and ready, I’ll have you know. I have a
werewolf and I’m not afraid to use him.”
Remus laughed. “I am resisting the urge to ask for what. Are you ready,
“I would have come back in time,” James said quickly. “I wouldn’t have just...
disappeared. I would have come back.”
Remus nodded. “I never doubted it.”
“Hark!” Sirius cried. “Do you hear what I hear?”
At the first strains of Mendelssohn from over the garden wall, they ran for it.
“I told her about the rabbit in the organ,” Peter told Remus. “She said, ‘Why is
there an organ if the wedding is in the garden?’ And then she thought for a
minute and asked, ‘Is this something to do with Remus’s furry little problem?’”
“Ah,” said Remus. His head was beginning to hurt again.
“But you got him there in time, almost, and she never suspected a thing!”
“I’m so glad to hear it.” Remus sighed. Turning away, he looked out across the
tables to see a vision in white drifting in his direction, and motioned to Peter
to stop talking if he didn’t want to subject them all to a fate worse than
vegetation. Spending his school career as Marauder lookout had taught him how to
convey impending doom in a few minimalist hand gestures.
“Remus.” Lily’s voice had a new, odd softness about it, and his name washed over
him in a soothing wave. “Thanks.”
“What for?” Remus asked, nervously. Behind Lily’s head, Peter was jumping up and
down and drawing a finger across his throat.
“Just everything.” She smiled, still with that unfamiliar gentleness. “You’re a
good friend. And if it weren’t for you intervening I might have killed James
years ago, so there is that.”
“It was my pleasure.” Remus looked at her and grinned suddenly. “James not being
dead is always a pleasure. Speaking of which, I think we have to sit down and
cover our ears. It’s time for the best man’s speech.”
She laughed and went off to sit down, the dress leaving a sweeping, gossamer
wake. “Lily!” he yelled out. “You look beautiful!”
“Tease,” – and she’d gone.
The speech, surprisingly, wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. Peter flumped himself
down next to Remus and they exchanged worried glances over the floral
centrepieces, but Sirius hurried quickly over anecdotes featuring rampant
troublemaking and indecent exposure and lingered more on friendship, and true
love, and admittedly also that thing in fifth year with the sheep and the
motorbike, but people did laugh.
Some people cried, too. James’s mother had cried. Lily’s mother had cried.
Andromeda had said, “Oh, isn’t she lovely,” and cried as her daughter
rolled her eyes. Remus was surprised, though, when Sirius sat down amid the
applause following his speech and promptly dissolved into his glass of
“Padfoot?” he said inquiringly. Sirius cried when the Cannons lost, or when
Remus callously threw out ten years’ worth of Chocolate Frog cards (Remus had
said they were taking up too much room, which was true, and also that half of
them had been dyed purple during the course of That Incident Involving Snape’s
Underwear That We Never Speak Of, which was also true, and that the Cannons
never won anyway, which wasn’t quite true, but that was the year the team
changed their motto from “We shall conquer” to “Let's all just keep our fingers
crossed and hope for the best”). He didn’t cry over things that mattered.
“Remus,” said Sirius brokenly, holding out his hands, “Prongs got married today.
Married. D’you know what that means?”
“I have an idea, yes,” Remus assured him. “As far I’m aware, it means they can
go back to living in their flat without their mums twittering about sexual
immorality and at Christmas they can send joint cards. And, apparently, it also
means that they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives
together. Am I missing something there?”
While he was talking, he was watching James and Lily dancing slowly around the
floor. James kept treading on her feet, but Remus thought she probably didn’t
“You have all the emotional sensibility of a baked potato, Moony,” Sirius
wailed. “It means he’s all grown up! He’s started talking about
responsibilities, and permanency, and pensions! Pretty soon Lily’ll be all
sprogged up, and where will we be?”
“Probably propping James up in a pub somewhere,” said Remus, dryly. The mental
image was astonishingly vivid, and he blinked. “Padfoot, we have
responsibilities and permanency, too. There’s the bit where we have to keep the
world safe for future generations, or had you forgotten that?”
“That’s different.” Sirius waved a lazy hand. “That’s just life. But Prongs and
Evans – that’s actual life. What if they forget about us? It’s been just
us, just the four of us for so long. What if she makes him forget?”
“You’re talking nonsense.” Remus sat back in his chair. “She’s Lily. She
wouldn’t do anything like that. You’re being paranoid. Don’t say it!”
Sirius said it anyway. “It doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get me!”
“Including James?” Remus laughed. “He’s your friend, and mine, and Peter’s. And
nothing will ever change that.”
“Would you,” Sirius said through gritted teeth, “just for once in your life,
stop being so sodding reasonable?”
Remus ignored him for a moment. Other couples had joined James and Lily now, and
Remus smiled at the sight of Nymphadora dancing with her father. Peter waved,
twirling around with Emmeline Vance; she was leading and he looked very happy.
“Sorry.” Remus scraped his chair back and got to his feet, stretching out. “It’s
an irrational compulsion I have, being reasonable. And now I’m going to leave
you to be maudlin by yourself. This is a wedding, and I’d rather dance at it.”
Sirius made a wordless and heartfelt sound of woe.
“In fact,” Remus continued, “I’m going to wait about ten minutes, and then I’m
going to ask to dance with Lily and watch the look on James’s face.”
“He’s not going to let you,” said Sirius, momentarily distracted.
“Oh, yes, he will,” said Remus. “That is, if he doesn’t want his newlywed wife
to hear about a certain very foolish thing he did today.”
“You evil creature,” said Sirius, staring glumly into his glass. “Go, then, if
you’re going. Leave me to dance with my best friend’s wife, you heterosexual
harlot. James got married, and now you leave me. It is secretly Be Cruel To
Sirius Day, isn’t it? I bet you have rosettes and leaflets and everything.”
“You’re being irrational.”
Sirius glowered. “I’m allowed to be. Go on, what are you waiting for? Leave me
so I can sulk in peace.”
“I am planning to leave you, yes,” Remus said cheerfully. “In about fifty or
Sirius got up and followed.
It ended as it had begun, just them and their glasses and the still silent
night. Remus stepped into the room and lit the lamps with careful sweeps of each
hand. There was tiredness deep within his bones, pleasantly heavy, and the power
bubbled up from deeper within, a slow, controlled flame.
Sirius and James had their heads close together, talking quietly as they’d done
in school, plotting the Slytherins’ latest embarrassments in a secluded corner.
As Remus approached, Sirius whispered something, a soft, affectionate verbal
caress that made bunny ears sprout from somewhere beneath James’s hair.
Remus tried the counter-curse, but nothing happened. “Time delay?”
“Seven and a half minutes,” Sirius said, grinning. “Sit down, Moony. The others
are just coming.”
They were, moving to their chairs without speaking, but without awkwardness.
There was that feeling of exhaustion in the air, the crystalline clarity of
people who were very, very tired.
Remus noted that five chairs had been left out, and one bottle. James had
evidently been planning this. “Everyone,” he said solemnly, “ladies, gentlemen,
Marauders all. This is the end of an era.”
“And the start of one,” Sirius added.
“Right.” James nodded. “And this time I’d like to propose a different toast.”
No one spoke as he uncorked the bottle and poured it out into each glass. The
liquid sparkled ruby red in the low light, became like dull blood in the dark.
James leaned forwards. “I don’t like taking things seriously,” he said slowly.
“I don’t like it when we get all heavy on each other. But the female influence
is sadly persuasive, it would seem.” Lily smiled, and covered his outstretched
hand with his. “Quite apart from anything, I find myself wanting to compose epic
poetry on the beauty of her lips and her eyes and her toothbrush and suchlike.”
“Get on with it, Prongs.” Sirius was still affectionate.
“Yes, of course. As I was saying, I think this is the end of an era, as well as
the start of a new one, and not just for us. I think this is the first of many
changes, and we’re going to have to do, and say, and be a lot of things we never
dreamed of at school. But there’s something else, something else that’s
important. In short, I’d like you all to raise a toast to the one thing that
never changes. To us!”
“To us,” they chorused, amid the clinking of glasses and the guttering of the
flames. In the wine, Remus tasted the change: the heavy-blackberry sweetness,
and the acidity, the sharp, new tang. He caught Sirius’s eyes, bright with
reflected gleams, and smiled.
“And good luck to the three of you,” James added, grinning, “left here in the
murk and the wet when I and my lovely wife are living it up in the tropics.”
“We,” said Sirius loftily, “will be just fine. Finer than fine. Remus, I know
you are itching to tell me that ‘finer’ is not a word, so I tell you here and
now that I made it up to be emphatic, because you are the sort of person who is
a bore in all civilised company, that is, the sort of person who needs a joke
explaining to them until it is not remotely funny any more, so there.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything of the sort,” said Remus archly. “After all, I
wouldn’t want to spoil the moment.”
“Sirius, you’re a prat. I don’t remember what I was saying,” – James looked
confused – “but look after yourselves, lads.”
“We will,” Peter said, “and thank you for the thought. Don’t get killed by
falling coconuts, if you can help it.”
“And we appreciate that thought,” Lily told him. “Look, we’ve all had a long
day. Time to turn in?”
There was a general chorus of agreement, and Sirius gathered up the glasses
while Peter tucked in the chairs. James took the bottle to the outside bin bag,
refusing to let go of Lily’s hand as he did it.
Remus, standing in the middle of the kitchen, murmured, “Finite incatatem.”
The lights began to dim, slowly, like frame-by-frame falling stars.
“Remus? Where are you?”
“Here,” Remus called, and felt Sirius brush past him into the hallway. James and
Lily were visible as giggling shadows passing the window and leaving, and Peter
mumbled something about following the sound of knocked-over furniture, that’d be
Weird Hair Pettigrew, and then he was gone.
“Does Prongs know about the bunny ears?” Remus whispered, on the threshold.
“They turn Lily on,” Sirius whispered back, and the room was dark.