END OF THE LINE
Disclaimer: Our Lady and Mistress JK Rowling owns these five. I've just... borrowed them for a bit.
"Well," says James, "This is it."
"The last hurrah," Sirius agrees.
"The final countdown," Peter adds.
"The end of the line," Remus says quietly.
The Marauders are standing on the train platform at Hogsmeade Station, gazing at the big red train before them. It's early summer, warm and inviting, and it's either the beginning or the end of something Remus can't even understand.
The end of their lives as the Marauders. The end of being students at Hogwarts. The beginning of something intangible and untouchable and, as yet, unlived.
Lily comes up from behind them and slips her hand into James's. She turns her head to stare back at the castle that has been their home for seven years and sighs.
"It's so hard to believe it's all over," she muses.
Remus agrees. It's all like some strange and surreal dream, and that he'll wake up in his dorm in Gryffindor tower, Sirius wrapped around him and the smell of old socks and teenage boy and dog creating a not-entirely-unpleasant, desperately familiar background.
A whistle blows and the five hurry in, finding an empty compartment. It's their compartment (literally, their initials are permanently etched into the wood behind the luggage rack) and they take their seats. James and Lily take one seat, Sirius and Remus take the other, and Peter looks between the two before choosing the one with Lily and James.
Remus smiles to himself as he looks around at the compartment. James and Lily are practically wrapped up in each other. James has taken his girlfriend's lead and has Muggle clothes on under his robes now. Lily has a bracelet James gave her for her eighteenth birthday. It's gold with two charms on it - one is a flower with a ruby (fittingly, it's a lily) and the other is a stag with gleaming ruby eyes.
Peter isn't the short, chubby boy he was seven years ago. He's still round-faced and looks rather pale, but his eyes gaze out with a new... Remus would hesitate to call it darkness, but that's what it is. Peter has grown up.
Sirius, of course, is still Sirius. The same cocky grin, the same blazing grey eyes. He's matured, too (although several teachers would probably beg to differ) - become more of a good human being, dropped the residual bias that had been drummed into him since birth. In blatant defiance of his family, he also wears Muggle clothes - and not just any, but clothes he bought in second-hand shops. There's a rip in his jeans right at the knee. His family would not approve.
Another whistle shrieks and there's a sudden jerk as the train starts to move. Remus tumbles into Sirius's side (seven years and he still loses his balance on the train) and gets a sudden whiff of dog, and Sirius puts his arm up to support him. Remus blushes and wishes he was telepathic so he could tell his boyfriend that now isn't a good time. Sirius seems to get the message and goes the opposite, giving him the puppy dog eyes and whispering, "Maybe we should tell them now?"
Oh, damn those puppy dog eyes!
But before either can speak, James clears his throat. He lifts one hand to touch the Head Boy badge on his robes then gently touches Lily's Head Girl badge, shoves his hand in his pocket, and says, "I have an announcement to make."
Remus sits up straight and stares at him, and suddenly James looks a lot younger and a lot older at the same time.
"Lily," he says hesitantly, and Remus gets a sudden flash of insight. It's a wolfish thing, and he knows that what James is going to say is big.
"Yes?" she asks softly, curious and slightly awed at the same time.
"I..." James coughs. "Lily, when we first met, you emptied a vial of ink down the back of my robes. The second time we met, I transfigured your quill into a rubber snake." There's a ripple of laughter from Lily and the three boys.
James clears his throat, and says, "Obviously, we're mostly behind ink and rubber snakes now. We're..." He shakes his head, then says, "I love you, Lily."
Lily smiles warmly and says, "I love you too, James."
For twenty-three seconds (Remus counts), James stares out the window. But then he tells Lily, "These are dangerous times. We're all going to be in the Order, You-Know-Who could strike any time. I don't want to run the risk of losing the best thing that ever happened to me."
Remus's mouth is slightly open. Is James being... romantic? Sirius is staring too, and Peter has an odd, caged expression on his face.
"Lily Evans," James says in an odd, strained voice, and he pulls his hand out of his pocket, "Will you marry me?" And he opens a small jewellery box to reveal a graceful diamond ring.
There is precisely three seconds of stunned silence before Sirius whoops, "Alright, PRONGSY!"
The silence broken, Lily wipes tears out of her eyes and whispers, "Yes."
James breaks into the widest smile Remus has ever seen - wider than his first Quidditch match or the first time the Map insulted Snape or the first time he transformed into Prongs. He slips the ring on to Lily's finger then grabs her into a bone-crushing hug, and she laughs into his hair and there's a rather thoughtful look on Sirius's face.
"I have an announcement of my own," Sirius says, and Remus tries to become one with the curtain he's leaning against. "My uncle Alphard owled me two weeks ago. He's giving me a fair amount of gold, and with it I can get my own place."
Remus blinks. James grins. Peter squeaks, "That's awesome!"
"There's more!" Sirius adds cheerfully, shoving his own hand into his pocket and pulling out a bar of Honeydukes' best chocolate. Remus's eyes automatically widen a little.
James raises his eyebrow. "There is?"
"Remus Lupin," Sirius says, copying James tone of voice perfectly, "Will you shack up with me?"
And before Remus can answer, Sirius leans forward and sticks his tongue in his mouth - in front of Peter, James and Lily.
Peter gasps. James makes a rather choked squeak. Lily cheers and yells, "About bloody time!"
Sirius draws back a little and Remus shifts so that he's leaning against the wall, his legs over Sirius's and his arms loosely linked around his neck. He's blushing hard. Lily cheers again and claps her hands.
Finally, Peter asks cheerfully, "So who am I meant to shag?"
Looking thoughtful, Sirius answers, "We could set you up with Snape. A pity shag, and all."
While Peter makes funny spluttering sounds, Sirius takes the opportunity to kiss Remus again, then sits up (Remus's legs are still slung over Sirius's) and grins apologetically at their friends. "Um," he says eloquently, "It may have slipped our minds to tell you that we've kinda been together since last year."
Remus blushes as James raises an eyebrow. "Mate, I share a room with you," he tells him, "I had some idea."
"You did?" Sirius says, sounding wounded, "How?"
James raises the other eyebrow. "It's this useful little thing called the Marauder's Map," he grins, "And it has a wonderful habit of showing when there are two horny teenage boys in the same bed several times a week."
This time it's Sirius's turn to blush.
There's long silence. It's the kind of silence between old friends, the kind where you don't need words any more to let someone know that you love them. And Remus loves all of them - James, Lily, Peter.
Does he love Sirius?
Yes, he thinks he does.
The sun is beginning to set, sending gold across the compartment. The trip has been spent mostly in silence, punctured by the occasional joke or recollection. Lily is practically in James's lap. Remus is practically in Sirius's.
As the sun dips below the clouds, the outskirts of London come into view. Sirius gives a soft cheer. "It's official," he grins, "We're done with school. Forever. We're never going back!"
Remus smiles to himself and disagrees - he'd quite like to be a teacher. Or a librarian. James laughs, adding, "Me and Lily will probably have a million kids and they'll all end up going."
"If we're having a million kids," Lily tells him firmly, "You're carrying most of them."
"I don't want to go back there, ever," Peter sighs, "We're done with it."
There's a short pause, before Sirius asks James curiously, "Are you going to have kids?"
James shrugs uncomfortably and Lily nods. "I'd like to," she says, "I'd like a little girl - with my hair." She grins.
"A boy would be good," James muses, "A little future Quidditch star to spoil rotten."
"Oh no," Lily groans dramatically, "Smelly socks for the rest of my life!" But she's half smiling, and Remus can quite easily see her with a baby.
"My socks," James says, wounded, "Are not smelly." Then he grins wickedly and wriggles his eyebrows at Sirius and Remus. "What about you, are you planning on having kids?" he asks innocently.
Remus splutters inelegantly as Sirius laughs out loud. "Sure," he leers, "Just as soon as we figure out how to get Moony to grow a womb."
"No," Remus says flatly, "And besides, I counted. You've been on the bottom more than I have." He grins wickedly as Sirius goes the colour of the cushions. The cushions happen to be Gryffindor crimson.
James practically howls with laughter. "Oh yes!" he nearly wheezes, "Pads and his twenty-eight spawn..."
"I'm not so noble I'm above hexing you," Sirius warns.
"You're noble?" Peter snickers.
By now they're winding through London proper. Remus has his hands pressed against the window, taking in the lights of the night. And finally, Platform 9¾ slides in to view.
"Well," James says, looking around at them, "Let's go."
Four boys and a girl - no - four young men and a young woman leave the train and steps back into wizarding London. They remain close as their families approach - James's Dad, Lily's parents (and petulant, scowling sister), Remus's Mum and Peter's parents. They smile at their children. James's father has a camera.
The five of them huddle together under one of the bright lights. Sirius has one arm around Remus's waist and the other over James's shoulder. Lily is leaning against her boyfriend - no, fiancé. Peter is slightly in front of Remus, the light catching on his light hair.
"Take five shots," James instructs, and the flash goes off five times in quick succession. Detangling himself from Remus and James, Sirius steps forward to inspects them, then hands the photos out.
Five friends, laughing, playfully shoving each other. Remus's photographic copy is smiling, and, as the flesh and blood counterpart watches, leans up to kiss Sirius on the cheek.
"Well," Peter says, his voice cracking, "I'll see you 'round." He moves as if to hug them, but holds himself back at the last moment. And so he turns, and walks off with his parents.
Lily gives her parents a smile and her sister a smirk, then gives Remus and Sirius quick hugs. "We'll call you soon," she smiles, then wraps her arms around James's neck and kisses him soundly. Then, blushing, she turns and runs back to her family. Remus can hear her parents gasping and fussing over the ring as they walk through the barrier.
Now it's Remus's turn. "Thank you, Prongs," he says softly, and hugs James hard - a manly hug, of course, but a hug nonetheless. James grins in a rather embarrassed way and claps Remus on the shoulder. "No problems, Moony," he tells him.
And finally... "It's not goodbye," he murmurs, "It's just 'see you later'." And still he hugs Sirius like he never wants to let go, and Sirius kisses the top of his head. "Love you," he whispers.
"Love you too," Sirius smiles, and kisses him on the lips this time.
And Remus tucks the photo in to his pocket and turns his back on Sirius and James, collects his luggage, and walks back through the barrier.