The Sugar Quill
Author: Soupytwist (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Matter of Choice  Chapter: Default
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A Matter of Choice

Disclaimer: If I were J.K. Rowling, I would be rich, married and pregnant. As I am none of those things, it may be safely assumed that I would have a bit of a job pretending to own this stuff.

A/N: I owe lots of people big-time on this one. Many adulations go to Katinka, Poppy, Erica, Madhuri, Arianrhod and Akela. They’re lovely people, so go and worship them. Oh yes, and the title comes from a quote by William Jennings Bryan, and anyone who finds the Monty Python quote gets chocolate.

"Hallowe’en was originally the pagan version of our New Year’s Eve. The name comes from 'All Hallow’s Eve’, or the day before All Saints Day, which marked the beginning of the pagan new year. The Muggles had a peculiar practice at this time of a kind of practical joke; knocking on doors and running away, for example. They would also make an effort to make themselves look frightening. This was done in the hope that it would prevent the spirits, believed to be nearer the normal world on this day, from taking over their bodies. Additionally, this had an impact…”

Apparently Professor Binns had taken it upon himself to be topical, but this didn't stop him from being as boring as ever. Remus wondered whether he'd had to practice to make his voice that monotonous, or if it just came naturally. It had to be bad when even he, known for being the nerdiest of the Marauders, found it hard to concentrate.

"I can't believe he made even that boring," complained Sirius as they made their way downstairs afterwards. "There's all kinds of gruesome and interesting things he could talk about - I know, my dad told me. But no, we just get the really dull bits."

"Really?" asked James, perking up.

"Really! They even had these nasty spells for making Muggles believe a spirit was trying to get into them - some of it even involved live maggots and shrinking your skin and other really gory stuff. The Ministry stopped them doing it very much, even back then, but some people still did."

"Why?" enquired Peter, struggling with an errant buckle on his bag.

"Mostly because they thought it was funny, according to dad. Liked laughing at the silly Muggles believing a load of nonsense, apparently."

The conversation drifted on to other topics, such as the contemplation of Quidditch (Sirius having been newly promoted from Reserve to a full-fledged House Team member) and how many sweets remained from their first Hogsmeade visit two days before. In fact, they pretty much forgot about Binns’ lesson entirely, until they made their way to Gryffindor Tower after dinner, gave the password (“Romani ite Domum”) and entered the Common Room to find the whole place in uproar.

"Davey Gudgeon's lost an eye!"

"And broke his arm!"

"It's all Snape's fault, oh, if he doesn't catch it I'll-"

Amid the crowd gathering round Fiona MacDougal, the only person in the room who had actually witnessed the event in question, it appeared the story had got rather confused. All Fiona could say was that first year Davey Gudgeon - widely liked for his affable nature, if admittedly a bit inclined to hero worship - had been taken to the hospital wing after prompting from Severus Snape to go near the Whomping Willow. It also emerged that Snape, while officially denying having anything to do with the incident, had privately admitted that he'd suggested it, and that it had been a Halloween joke.

Gradually, the indignant yammering died down, and the Gryffindors began to disperse to get ready for the Halloween Feast. The Marauders, however, tramped off to the hospital wing, only to be told, “As I told you the other 87 times, he’s not having visitors yet!”

Remus was confident in his ability to sweet-talk Madam Pomfrey, though, and sure enough, a few minutes wait elicited the information, “He’s probably going to be fine, but he still needs constant care. It’s a very touchy stage.”

"Well, it could be a pureblood thing, I suppose," said James thoughtfully, back in the Common Room.

"Davey is Muggleborn," said Peter. "It might be that. Snape’s saying it’s a Halloween joke is rubbish, anyway."

"I'm not so sure," said Sirius, frowning. "Snape has History of Magic today too, doesn’t he? I bet Binns did the same lesson, and that gave him the idea. Maybe the stupid pureblood thing is partly behind it, but I think it might have less to do with the pureblood stuff and more" - he glanced at Remus in silent apology - "with Remus."

Remus was quite glad he hadn't had to say it, as while he'd had much the same idea, he didn't want to sound like an egomaniac.

James nodded.

"I think so too. He's convinced we've got something to hide, and maybe somehow he's connected it to the Whomping Willow. I wouldn't be surprised if Sirius is right and the idea was to have poor Davey stumble on something and then report us to Dumbledore. Trick Davey like those early Muggles."

“Wouldn’t put it past him,” muttered Sirius darkly.

Remus had to agree, and the cold feeling sank a little lower in his stomach.

**

Snape was conspicuously absent from the Halloween Feast that evening. This did not help the Marauders in their enjoyment of the delicious food one bit, and the other Gryffindors seemed unsettled too. Fiona was beginning to tire of being asked the same thing again and again, and everyone was rather tense and quiet.

This atmosphere wasn’t helped when, halfway through the meal, Professor McGonagall came up and quietly told Remus that the Headmaster wanted to see him once the meal was over. The rest of the meal was spent trading theories as to what it meant, although this didn’t stop them all from managing extra-large helpings of sticky toffee pudding.

The taste of the pudding was still in Remus’ mouth as he made his way to Dumbledore’s office. The statue in front of the staircase that led there moved aside as he walked up to it. Dumbledore clearly knew he was there; he couldn’t put it off by standing around, as he’d half thought of doing. Meetings with Dumbledore always made him feel as though he was made of clear glass at the best of times, and who knew what kind of interview this was going to be?

Once inside, Dumbledore ushered him into a seat. One of the portraits, a raven-haired 16th century Headmistress, waved to him as he sat down. The others ignored him.

“Now, Remus,” Dumbledore began, looking down over the tops of his spectacles. “I have called you in here because your name has been… ahem… mentioned in connection with the unfortunate events of this afternoon.”

So, he’d been right. It didn’t take a genius to guess who might have said something, either. It was just rather a pity that they didn’t have any actual evidence to prove it was Snape’s doing. Remus tried very hard not to stare too obviously at the floor.

“And what I want to know, Remus, is this. Did you or your friends, truthfully, have anything to do with this unfortunate incident, which may yet cost Davey Gudgeon one of his eyes?”

“No,” said Remus. He was going to leave it at that, but Dumbledore didn’t say anything and somehow the silence seemed to force him to carry on talking. “There is, um, something that you should probably be told about, though, sir.”

“Yes?” Dumbledore raised an eyebrow quizzically. “And what is that?”

“They… James and Sirius and Peter… well, they know. About the wolf. And I think Lily might have guessed too,” he blurted, glad to get it out. Part of it, at least.

“Ah,” said Dumbledore. “I see. Well, since they still appear to be perfectly happy to remain your friends, I don’t see that presenting a problem.” He smiled. “Rather the opposite, in fact.”

Remus had to smile too. “Yes, sir.”

“All right then, Remus, you may go. But remember,” Dumbledore’s blue gaze suddenly became pointed, “if you find yourself with any relevant information, don’t hesitate to come and see me.”

Not knowing quite what to say, Remus nodded, and left.

**

The Gryffindor Common Room was still full of people when Remus returned, so he had a job keeping the details of his meeting with Dumbledore secret. In the end he resorted to a policy of just saying that he’d been asked whether he knew anything and had said no.

It did, however, have the almost unprecedented effect of getting Sirius to go to bed early, simply so he could vent his frustration in the privacy of the dormitory.

“I can’t believe he’s just got away with it!” fumed Sirius later, sat upright in bed with the curtains back. “Absolutely scot-free, too.”

“He’s lucky, that’s all,” said James.

“That’s for certain,” said Sirius as he drew the curtain closed. “But he won’t be that bloody lucky always. Not if I have anything to say about it. He could have got Remus expelled.”

“He could have,” said Remus, who didn’t want to talk about it. “He didn’t, though. Night.”

“Good thing too,” yawned James. “He’d have had to face more than a bit of questioning from Dumbledore if he’d managed it. Didn’t stop him trying, though.” He turned over to go to sleep. “Night.”

“Well he’s going to pay for that, if nothing else, that’s all I can say,” muttered Sirius, closing his curtains. “Night.”

//
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