The Sugar Quill
Author: Menya  Story: A Close Call  Chapter: Default
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A Close Call



Moony ran deep into the forest, glad to be outdoors. His ears pricked up at the sound of hooves. He rushed off in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of a silver-white unicorn before it reared on its hind legs and with a swish of its tail vanished into the trees. The werewolf gave chase for a while, but the galloping soon faded away and he lost interest in the sport. He paused at a trickling stream to lap up some water before splashing across and padding up the opposite embankment. He reached a small clearing just as the moon escaped from the clouds. He howled mournfully at the sight of it.


A giant black dog bounded into the clearing with a short, reproachful bark. A stag joined the dog and stamped the ground in annoyance. Clinging onto the stag's antlers was a large gray rat who squeaked indignantly at Moony for nearly losing them. Moony whimpered softly at his friends. Padfoot playfully nipped at his heels. Moony growled and pounced. They wrestled, not rough enough to do any real damage to each other, until Prongs pawed the ground impatiently. Then Moony took off into the trees again, but slower this time so his companions could keep up.


The four of them traveled deeper into the woods, where no human had ever ventured before, into the very heart of the forest. The trees and branches were dense here, cutting off the night sky. The chattering of creatures concealed in the shadows and the creaking of the swaying trees surrounded them. They waded through deep layers of fallen leaves, stirring up a heavy smell of decay. Ancient trees towered above them, twisted roots tripped them, and sharp stickers scratched them as they pushed their way through the thick undergrowth.


After a little while the trees started thinning, and they came upon an overgrown path. Strange, tantalizing scents floated in the air, and Moony sniffed eagerly. He tensed, instinctively recognizing one of the scents. It was a scent that drove him wild. Human. Yipping excitedly, Moony tore off. He could hear Padfoot's booming barks and the pounding of Prongs' hooves as they struggled to reach him, but he easily outstripped them in his fevered desire. The scent made him salivate as it grew stronger and urged him onward. Soon he caught sight of his prey, an old witch kneeling on the ground as she was gathering some plants. He raced forward with an eager howl.


Alerted by his howl, the witch reacted surprisingly fast for her age. She flung her bag of herbs at him in reflex as she snatched up her wand where it lay next to her. Moony barely noticed the impact of the bag as he rushed at her, but a jet of red sparks from the witch's wand tip knocked him backwards. Incensed, but otherwise unharmed, the wolf snarled and lunged. She sent a spell that slashed his muzzle. He yelped in pain and momentarily halted. Seizing the advantage, she tried the spell again. This time Moony was ready for it. Growling, he leapt out of its way as he lunged at her again.


Antlers bowled him over just before he reached her. Moony sprang up. Prongs lowered his head and charged him head on. Moony avoided the antlers as they collided. He dug in with his heels, but Prongs strained forward, forcibly shoving him inch by inch away from the witch. Moony lashed out at Prongs, freeing himself. Almost instantaneously, Padfoot tackled him. No longer a friendly game, they wrestled furiously, snarling and snapping at one another as they battled for supremacy. Prongs trotted back and forth, guarding the witch, who stood transfixed in a mixture of horror and curiosity. Once or twice Moony broke loose from Padfoot and attempted to attack the witch again, but was effectively blocked by Prongs. Prongs could see that Padfoot was fast wearing down, but he didn't dare go to help and leave the witch unprotected. If only she'd run, clear out of there so Padfoot and he could herd Moony away!


Wormtail, who had taken refuge behind a tree to keep from being trampled on in the commotion, seemed to sense Prongs' predicament. He hesitated, trying to work out a plan that wouldn't get him killed. Moony threw off Padfoot again and this time managed to slash Prongs deeply across the chest before Padfoot, bleeding heavily, could get up and tackle him again. Wormtail knew he had to do something fast. He scurried from tree to tree, skirting around the battle and then over to the witch. Unnoticed by her, he crawled up her boot and sank his teeth into her ankle. She shrieked in pain and kicked out, sending Wormtail flying into a tree. The impact knocked him unconscious, but his plan worked. Suddenly coming to her senses, she seemed to realize where she was. She turned around and fled.



~********~


James plopped down at the foot of Remus' hospital bed the next afternoon. "Well, that was a close one last night."


"Don't remind me," Remus said darkly. Although he couldn't control his actions as a werewolf, he could always remember them.


"Oh Moony," Sirius protested, "last night was the most excitement we've had all year! I mean, it's not like anything serious happened."


"I think that witch would disagree."


"Nah, it was probably the most excitement she's ever had in her life."


Remus gave a small smile in spite of himself.


"She was really stupid, though," Peter said. "Just standing there." He did an impression of the witch, which made them all laugh.


"Now," said James, rubbing his hands together, "Where should we go next month?"


Remus took a deep breath, "Listen. I'm not sure this is such a good idea anymore."


"What are you talking about?" Sirius said in disbelief. "Look, we proved last night that we could handle you."


"Besides," added James, "It was only our first time out of the shack. We'll be better prepared next time."


Remus hesitated. He remembered how wonderful it had felt being outdoors on a full moon night. But most of all, he remembered how it felt no longer being alone on those nights. He looked around at his three friends, all watching him expectantly, and smiled.


"Next time."

//
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