Some Distant Shore

Author's Note: For everyone who thinks they have little to be thankful for, a little reminder that even when we think we're alone, we never are. Written in a different style, but for everyone who has ever reviewed, e-mailed, or even just read my story, and even for those I've never met. Happy New Year, 2005. Find your own place in the sun, and a reason to keep going forward, never back.

----------

One glass for Lily, fairest of them he had known, kind heart behind stubborn face, friend and defender to the last, gentle behind brashness.

One glass for James, grown up far too soon, the protector and the rock, loyal without question but never without impetuousness.

One glass for Peter -- the Peter they had known, who had somehow got left behind and plucked from the fold, perhaps the cruelest joke thus far, friend turned into foe, for he didn't doubt Peter had been friend before.

And -- last, bottle nearly empty, hand nevertheless steady -- one glass for Sirius, the bravest perhaps, and the most lost at heart, desperately needing to belong, to be surrounded, to be loved.

They ringed the edge of the table, four glasses painted silver in the winter moonlight, and Remus hesitated to join them even as he tucked the empty bottle into a pocket in the folds of his robe. To sit with them, with Sirius now insubstantial memory amidst them as he had never been before, would have been accepting a dreadful sort of finality he had never even allowed himself to consider before. With Sirius gone, he was the last that remained -- it was too much to hope for some flicker of the boy he had known remained within Peter, and he felt a painful sort of lurch at thinking his own inability to see it happening might have had a hand in it -- and Remus felt, although he knew he was far too old for wishing such fanciful things, that if he were to simply take back the glass he had poured for Padfoot and return to the house, perhaps peer into the parlour, he might find the last of the Blacks silhouetted against the fire in thoughtful repose as he had often done when he thought himself alone.

I don't want to be alone. Remus thought, wearily.

He sat.

For years the four of them had toasted in the New Year, made five by Lily's final arrival, her face flushed with delight at the inclusion and expectation for all the days yet to come. They had wished, he remembered, as they'd drained their glasses and pitched them into the air with ignorant abandon, for little things -- blind happiness in simple hope.

It was difficult to find such things in him now, despite the force with which he'd defended them against Harry when last he'd seen the boy.

Because Harry was like his father now -- finding far too early the need to become an adult, and shed the things children should clutch onto determinedly until someone patiently and kindly pries their fingers away.

Impulsively, Remus plucked one of his own hairs and examined it in the dark, eyes made keen by many excursion under the light of the moon. His hair was mostly gray now, patched here and there with the sad reminder of youth, and he smiled a little. To think that he, of all of them, had been the most anxious to grow up, the most anxious to prove himself and find his place.

I just always thought you'd have places with me, too.

And, yet . . .

. . . didn't they?

He stroked his chin thoughtfully, a little surprised to find no tears in coming this time. The glasses, around the table and facing him a little curiously, and filled with nothing more than Butterbeer rapidly cooling from the chill he felt seeping into his bones, were no replacement for his friends -- brothers and sister, really -- it was true. Nor did he have any desire to replace them.

It would have been so simple to mourn, to dredge up a few hidden tears, to cast back in his memory for the best of his days.

Instead, he felt only a growing sense of peace.

We've gone away. Lily's voice, so frank and blunt, but gentle this time, and not unkind. But you're not. There is much yet you can do.

And vengeance shouldn't be it. James? So upbeat, suffused with the vaguely embarassed quality his grins had always held. Merlin's Beard, Moony, don't tell me you've gone daft.

And no . . . no, vengeance wasn't it. Should never be it. There was so much left to do, so much left not just to fight for, but to see and find in his lifetime.

Remus Lupin tilted back his head and smiled in the moonlight. "Padfoot. Prongs. Wormtail. Lily. I loved you all. It hasn't ended with you." He tapped his wand on his knee and smiled slightly, suddenly younger, and whispered. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

And, perhaps a continient away, perhaps only a city or two, Peter Pettigrew, once Wormtail, shifted not uncomfortably in his sleep, lines etched by wariness, regret, bitterness and anger relaxing somewhat. "Mischief . . . still going strong." he mumbled in his sleep, and smiled genuinely for perhaps the first time in years.