Things were not well in the wizarding world, but thankfully most blokes could still meet a friend in a cafe for a cup of coffee, and that was what Remus Lupin was doing.
Wearing a tweed jacket and khakis, the young wizard didn't fit in with the somewhat fashionable witches that were seated in two's all around him. His tawny brown hair (that was more and more being infiltrated by grey strands) was uncombed and his scraggly facial hair wasn't very manly as he looked over his half-moon-shaped reading glasses at the Daily Prophet he held between two scarred hands. Occasionally a witch would peer over her shoulder at him and the giggling would commence at a table nearby, but the young wizard was exhausted from his second week of teaching English to Muggles scarcely younger than him, and couldn't be bothered by the mocking glances of strangers.
He was staring at the page of the newspaper the Ministry staff had began to reserve for the names of war dead. It wasn't an article - just names, and while Lupin was pondering the tact of that, a waitress bewitched some more coffee into his mug, and he thanked her without looking up.
For once, Remus didn't see a name that he could put a face to, which didn't mean he didn't know any of the latest casualties - just that he didn't recognize any of them at the moment.
A hand caught him on the shoulder and he and the Daily Prophet jumped.
Lily Evans had a very distinctive laugh, and was laughing as she placed her free hand on his other shoulder and squeezed with both. She came around from behind to sit directly opposite him at the little table, and looked radiant as ever in a loose-fitting, cream-colored sweater and denim jeans. Her characteristic red hair was pulled back and she looked happy.
"Afternoon professor," she said with a smile, inspecting him politely as he folded the paper a bit and placed it before him.
"Afternoon yourself ," Remus replied, good-naturedly.
Lily was the first of their group to take to calling him that since he secured the teaching position. Sirius had argued that they - the Marauders, the guys - had come up with the name in school for the werewolf years before, but James (possibly just to quell an argument between his best mate and his girlfriend) had said that, either way, it did fit. And Remus had actually agreed.
"How have you been?" he added. The noise of people around them seemed to swell, and it was about lunch time for the tourist crowd, anyway.
Looking past Lupin at - presumably - the drink menu, Lily squinted to see, made a gesture toward the bar and then blinked back at her friend. "Thirsty, at the moment! I've been rushing all around town to make sure I've got everything for the dinner tonight. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find the right spices for-", but she trailed off when the wizard had made a face. "Remus, you didn't forget!"
He snatched the Daily Prophet up and suddenly became very interested in Quidditch scores, and Lily laughed again and flattened it with both hands to reveal Remus' slightly flushed features and a thin, toothy smile he was also trying to hide.
"I sent you an invitation two months ago. You said you'd bring dessert and, more importantly, you said you'd go!" she said with bemused irritation. "I even told Peter to go over and remind you last week."
"So that's what that was about!" Remus admitted, laughing. "Pete and I ended up going to get some take-out!"
She threw a sugar packet at him.
"What if they hate me?" asked the owner of the long legs that were thrown over the back of the couch that separated the little living room from the little, adjoining kitchen.
"They don't. You've met and wooed them loads of times - they like you!" a voice replied from the kitchen, where the clinking-glass-sounds of dishes being washed emanated.
"Yeah, but who's to say they won't hate me once we-" the legs started again-
"Shut up,",a boxer-clad Sirius Black said, as he emerged from a staircase out of view. "The two of you are prattling on like birds.." he said with a yawn, halting at the couch. "In fact, if you weren't wearing briefs right now, Prongs, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference."
He stretched his wiry-muscled arms and looked down at his friend, with a grin: "Though, mind you, there isn't much of one!"
James sat up and whacked Sirius in the stomach with a throw pillow, which Sirius caught easily and pushed back in James' face, despite the fact that Potter was wearing glasses, and he scrambled onto the couch where both throw pillows and fists met with a clash.
Peter came in from the kitchen, sleeves of his collared shirt rolled up and tie tucked inside the shirt between his topmost buttons, wiping his hands with a dish towel as he came to inspect the commotion. A pair of spectacles hit the hardwood at his feet, shattering instantly, and he jumped just as the battle on the couch subsided.
"Maybe we should act our age," James panted, popping up from behind the front of the couch.
Sirius, who had been on the floor, crawled around the side to survey the damage.
Things at the cafe had slowed considerably.
After splitting a sandwich and ordering several more cups of coffee, Remus and Lily had gone quiet while they digested and thought of something else to discuss. The lunch crowd had thinned, too, and the place was less noisy.
"Are you still seeing.. the Vietnamese one. What's her name?" Lily inquired, sitting up a bit.
"Belinda. And no," Remus replied with a slight hint of despair. "We were both too busy. It was nice, but lapsed into brief exchanges where we mostly talked about one of two things - work or school. We agreed that we were too boring for each other, and ended it amicably."
Lily didn't bother hiding her amusement. It tickled her to see her friends doing adult things - keeping jobs, paying bills, taking girls out on actual dinner dates.
"I don't know. I think somebody's poisoning the well at the Kestrals's pitch. You don't go through two different reserve Chasers in one season unless somebody dies," James said between sips of Guinness.
"My friend in the Games office said it's problems with contracts or something," Peter offered.
The three had accumulated on the couch somehow, and were almost comfortable, packed in like sardines, drinking and talking lazily about sports. It was a good afternoon.
"Whatever the hell it is - they'd better get their bloody documents in order and play the game. I've got three galleons on the next match against the Magpies," Sirius said, getting up with some difficulty.
[To be continued when I remember where I was going with this.]