He sat in the corner, alone, staring into space. He had come because Molly had insisted. And he had mingled, exchanged pleasantries, and retreated to the couch by the window. He sat there, his eyes unfocused, his thoughts elsewhere.
"Bill, dear, would you go check on him?" Molly asked her son.
"Sure." He turned to Charlie and Fleur. "I'll be right back. Mum calls."
"Best to answer, then." Charlie chuckled. Bill made his way to the window.
"Hi, Remus." He said to the older man. Remus blinked.
"Hi." He replied.
"Feeling out of place?" Bill asked sympathetically.
Remus smiled. "A little. It is only family tonight."
"Mum considers you family." Remus shook his head ever so slightly. "Besides, it's Christmas Eve. Can't have you all by yourself." Remus smiled again, this time sadly. "So what's on your mind?" He asked.
"I was just remembering." Remus replied.
Remus sighed. "Christmas. The December after I graduated."
"And?" Bill prompted.
"James and Lilly had just gotten engaged, and wanted everyone to know. So they planned a huge Christmas party at James' place. For the first time since graduation, we were all together at the same time. Even J.J. made it."
"Jesse Longbottom, Frank's sister."
"Oh." Bill was silent for a moment. "I didn't know he had a sister.'
"When the first war ended, she fled to the States."
"Oh. Anyway, do go on."
"Well, Lilly and James were there of course, and Sirius showed up on that absurd motorbike of his around six in the evening. I was the next to arrive. Frank, Alice, and J.J. showed up together, and Kiki and Tandy." Seeing Bill's confused look, Remus began to explain. "Well, you know about Lilly, and James and Sirius and Peter. And you know of Frank, and Alice, his wife. J.J, or Jesse, if you wanted your face knocked in, was Frank's twin, and Kiki and Tandy were Lilly's friends. Kiki was energetic, kind of hyper. All the time. And Tandy was pretty much her opposite. Gloomy. Pessimistic. We were all Gryffindors, all from the same year. Grew up together, and were a lot closer than you would expect. And we all fought in the war, and were all in the Order.
"At first we just sat and caught up with what everyone had been doing. Then we had dinner and just enjoyed being in each other's company without having to worry about the war. At about eleven that night, Sirius decided he wanted to have a snowball fight, so we did that until Alice fell through the pond and we had to rescue her. Of course, after that we were all cold and wet, so we decided to go back inside. Then Lilly read the Christmas story- she always insisted that you couldn't have Christmas without it. We sang some Christmas carols, decorated the tree, tied Sirius up with tinsel," Bill laughed at this. "and talked about our days back at Hogwarts until we slowly dozed off, one by one.
"In the morning we promised to all get together again soon, wished each other well, told each other to stay safe, and left. It was the last time we were all together like that."
"Why?" Bill asked.
Remus frowned. "A week later Kiki was killed during a deatheater attack on her family. Some months after that, Tandy was captured and taken in for questioning." Remus shuddered. "She killed herself before they could get to her.
"James and Lilly got married, and soon after Frank and Alice did too. Harry was born nine months later, and Neville shortly after.
"Sirius and I began fighting, Often it was bad enough that James had to get between us. Then came the attack on the Longbottoms some months later. James and Lilly were killed by Voldemort, Peter framed Sirius, Sirius was thrown in Azkaban, J.J fled to the States, and I left Britain myself." He fell silent, staring out the window, perhaps wishing he could go back to that night.
Bill was silent too. It wasn't often Remus shared personal information with anyone. He wondered why Remus had shared this now, and with him. He looked at Remus, and saw loneliness, something Remus had never shown before, really. Perhaps he had simply needed someone to talk to.
He placed his hand on the other man's arm. "Merry Christmas, Remus." He said softly.
"Merry Christmas." The reply was equally soft. Remus smiled, and Bill smiled back and sat down on the couch beside him.
The two men sat in companionable silence.