The Sugar Quill
Author: IsabelA113 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Journey  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: Portions of the dialogue are taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A/N: Portions of the dialogue are taken directly from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. A big “Thank you!” to Zsenya, for helping to keep Remus in character.

 

 

            When he arrived at King’s Cross Station, Remus Lupin had to admit that he felt a bit ridiculous. He would be the only adult on the train, aside from the driver and the plump witch who pushed the food trolley. He wondered vaguely if it was the same witch from his own time at Hogwarts. “Anything off the trolley, dears?” and the subsequent sugar rush had been the birth of many great adventures in his youth.

 

He smiled to himself and threaded through the Muggle crowd towards the Platform nine and three quarters. Those had been the best days of his life. For those few years, he had felt like a normal boy; not a freak, not a dangerous creature, but a person. He sighed a little as he stepped casually through the barrier between Platforms nine and ten.

 

            When Remus caught sight of the red steam engine, he was glad that he had decided to arrive so early. Memories came flooding back with a fierceness that brought tears to his eyes. He remembered the first time he had seen the Hogwarts Express as a shy, mousy eleven-year-old. That mix of joy at the chance to be normal and fear that someone would discover his dark secret rose up with perfect clarity. Not surprising. After all, he was coming back to Hogwarts and he would have to hide things from the others just as he used to.

 

The thought made him feel slightly ill, but he reminded himself that it was worth it. After years of sporadic, menial employment, he would be teaching again.  He would have his dignity, as long as he could keep the wolf inside. As much respect as Dumbledore commanded, Remus knew that once his condition became public there would be nothing the Headmaster could do for him. The wizarding world was simply not ready to accept werewolves.

 

            Walking slowly along the train from front to back, he cursed his Lycanthropy. The timing of the full moon had been all wrong. It happened to fall on August 31, and with the preparations for the beginning of term, it had been deemed best that Remus make this last transformation at home. He had told Dumbledore that he would be able to Apparate to Hogsmeade, but Dumbledore had seen right through him. The Headmaster had insisted that he come on the Hogwarts Express. Probably for the best, Remus thought ruefully, feeling the way he did he would definitely have managed to splinch himself rather nastily.

 

Merlin, he felt awful. The transformation had been particularly taxing, even with the Wolfsbane potion. It was odd, and slightly frightening to think that next month, Severus Snape would be preparing his Wolfsbane. He always did have a gift for potions. Hard to imagine him as a professor, he couldn’t possibly have the patience or sensitivity for such an occupation. Then again, Remus himself was an unlikely professor, considering the number of rules he had broken during his time at Hogwarts. A lopsided smile played upon his lips at the thought, then faded.

 

Severus had been a slimy git in their school days, but Remus couldn’t help feeling that he hadn’t deserved all he had gotten at the hands of the Marauders. James had come up with that horrible name- Snivellus. They had taunted him mercilessly and Remus never said anything to stop it, even when he had wanted to. Wolfsbane was a notoriously difficult potion to brew; if Severus wanted to he could make things very uncomfortable for Remus and there would be no way to prove it was intentional. But they were adults now, and many things had happened since their school days. They had turned out to be on the same side after all, and he was fairly certain that the Potions master wouldn’t poison him.

 

Lugging his battered case, he boarded the train and breathed in the familiar smells. Wonderful- like coming home after a long journey. He stood in the corridor for a few minutes, drinking it all in. The students would be coming soon, he realized. He shook himself and walked down the corridor. Best to stay out of sight. He slipped into the very last compartment and slung his case up on the luggage rack.

 

 Someone was bound to wonder why a professor was on the train, he thought again. No teacher had ever traveled with the students, at least that he could remember. Dumbledore had implied that it was safer for the students, what with Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban. Sirius’ face came into his mind, suddenly very clear. Sirius as he had been, not that gaunt stranger from the Daily Prophet. He pushed the thoughts away and sat down heavily, leaning his head against the window. That image, in this place, brought back nearly more than Remus could bear. His head pounded and he closed his eyes. Tonight he would be back at Hogwarts, and he had to keep himself together. There would be things, and people, he needed to face. For now it was quiet, and in the familiar discomfort of the train, he let sleep overtake him.

 

A strange whistling noise drew Remus from his slumber. His senses were still heightened from the transformation, and before he was fully awake, he knew that he was no longer alone. He kept his eyes closed and his breathing as even as he could, and listened.

 

“Is that a Sneakoscope?” asked a girl’s voice.

 

“Yeah…mind you, it’s a very cheap one,” replied a boy. “It went haywire just as I was tying it to Errol’s leg to send it to Harry.”

 

Remus’ heart quickened. Harry? Surely the boy didn't mean that Harry. Hogwarts was a large enough school to have more than one Harry at a time. Then, an eerily familiar voice broke into his thoughts.

 

“Stick it back in the trunk, or it’ll wake him up.”

 

The second boy’s voice was enough to convince Remus that he needed a look at the other occupants of the compartment. He waited until the first boy’s voice launched into rhapsodies over the sweets at Honeydukes, then opened his eyes just enough that he could peer through his lashes. Sitting at the other end of the compartment were a lanky boy with red hair and freckles, a girl with bushy brown hair, and a boy with a mop of unruly black hair. The black-haired boy said something dejectedly to the others and turned his face towards Remus.

 

It was all he could do not to cry out in shock. There, before him, was the spitting image of a youthful James Potter. Remus closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the pretense of sleep. No, he told himself, it was not James. But it had to be Harry. He hazarded another quick peek at the boy. Oh yes, it was him. Harry had James’ features, but Lily’s eyes. Those startling green eyes.

 

Across the compartment the redhead and the girl were beginning to argue, but for Remus there was only one other person in the world. Harry, the son of two of his old friends. Harry, who he had held as a baby, for whom he had imagined such adventures- adventures featuring his three doting “uncles” of course. Remus made a sound in his throat, and then froze. Had the others noticed? Certainly, because he could now feel eyes on him. Trying to look as natural as possible he shifted and turned his face towards the window. The others seemed satisfied and after a moment they went on with their conversation.

 

Remus’ mind was beginning to churn. Seeing Harry had shaken him. He had known he would have to see him, but hadn’t expected it to be so soon. Remus had intended to put off meeting Harry until he was settled in at Hogwarts. The way he had imagined it, he would get a look at Harry at the Start of Term Feast, but wouldn’t actually have to speak to him until classes began. Not that he knew what he would say. Dumbledore had explained that Harry knew almost nothing about his parents, a fact that both infuriated and comforted Remus. At least Harry had not spent the last twelve years with the ache of betrayal always in his gut.

 

The headmaster had left it up to him how much to tell Harry about his connection to James and Lily. He had briefly entertained the idea of befriending Harry, or at least telling him about his relationship with his parents and letting the boy decide whether he wanted Remus in his life. He had since thought better of it, knowing that there was far too much to explain. To tell about the four of them and Lily would eventually mean telling how their little band had ceased to be, and Remus was not sure that it was his place. After all, he had not been the closest to James; that was always Sirius. They had been as close as brothers, so naturally Sirius had been Best Man, and the boy’s godfather, and Secret Keeper. But it was senseless to feel hurt about those things now, since he knew how it had all ended.

 

Harry was at such a difficult age. The story of the betrayal might even prove dangerous for him to know, now. Remus remembered only too well the adolescent impulse for revenge. The Marauders had thrived on it, in fact.  He felt the throb in his heart intensify at the thought of his old friends in better times. Why? He silently asked the question of the universe. Why am I the only one left? Too weary to even believe there was an answer, Remus drifted off.

 

He woke, some time later, to the sound of the compartment door opening. His eyes opened automatically, but fortunately he was facing the window and it went unnoticed by the others. In the glass, he could see the reflection of three people standing in the doorway- a thin blond boy between two large, burly boys. The blond was a carbon copy of a certain nasty Slytherin from his own school days.

 

“Well, look who it is,” drawled the carbon copy, “Potty and the Weasel.”

 

The two goons laughed and Remus cringed inwardly. There was no mistaking that tone of voice, this one had to be a Malfoy. Lucius Malfoy had been a few years ahead of him at Hogwarts, and his pureblood reputation and vast wealth had given him near-god status with the Slytherins. It had been the opinion of pretty much all of the non-Slytherin population that he was a poncy, arrogant prat, and the blond in the doorway sounded much the same. If this was, in fact, Lucius’ son then Remus would have to do his part to shrink his inevitably over-inflated ego- as a service to the boy, of course. The thought gave Remus a little surge of amusement. What would dear old Lucius say? He snorted aloud at the thought, then stilled, mentally kicking himself for drawing attention again.

 

The drawling voice said, “Who’s that?”

 

“New teacher,” replied Harry’s voice. “What were you saying, Malfoy?”

 

Ah yes, it was a Malfoy.

 

“C’mon,” muttered little Malfoy’s voice, and there was the sound of footsteps, then the compartment door closed.

 

The red-haired boy said angrily, “I’m not going to take any crap from Malfoy this year. I mean it. If he makes one more crack about my family, I’m going to get hold of his head and-“

 

“Ron,” hissed the girl’s voice, “be careful…”

 

She obviously meant to be careful in front of him, the teacher, but Remus was not thinking about that. Instead, listening to them face off with the bully had made him think of three Hogwarts students from his memory- a brave, noble, messy-haired boy, a fiercely loyal boy with the quick temper, and a bookish boy who had always tried to be the voice of reason. Somehow, though, they always managed to put his intelligence to bad use. Well, good use with bad intent. Then there was Peter. Poor quiet Peter, who had turned out to be so strong in the end. Where was the Peter of this little group? Remus could feel his throat tighten at the thought and willed himself to relax. He would not think of that. He would not think of them. He would sleep. And he did.

 

A sudden sense of uneasiness brought Remus out of sleep once more. There were confused voices and something about the compartment felt wrong. Remus opened his eyes and blinked. He blinked again. The room was pitch black. He heard the compartment door opening and then a thud that sounded like a body hitting the floor.

 

“Sorry,” said a new voice- male, “d’you know what’s going on? – Ouch- sorry-“

 

“Hullo, Neville,” said Harry’s voice. Something in Remus was relieved to hear that Harry was okay. There was some more talking and shuffling around and Remus tried to think. He did not like this; the hairs on the back of his neck were beginning to stand on end. The compartment door opened again and there was a smacking sound followed by two female voices crying out.

 

“Who’s that?” demanded one of them. Remus recognized it as belonging to the bushy-haired girl.

 

“Who’s that?” countered a new girl’s voice.

 

“Ginny?”

 

“Hermione?”

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“I was looking for Ron-“

 

They kept on, but Remus was no longer listening. He could feel a faint coldness at the edges of his senses and a quickening of his blood that was uncomfortably like what he experienced with the waxing of the moon. There was a dark creature near.

 

“Quiet!” he said. His voice was hoarse from howling and thick with sleep. It probably sounded rather scary, but Remus couldn’t worry about that now.  In the silence that followed, he conjured a small flame in the palm of his hand. He could now see the faces of the two people who had entered the compartment in the dark- a very frightened looking boy about Harry’s age and a smaller, red-haired girl who had to be related to the boy called Ron. “Stay where you are,” Remus told them as he got up from his seat. He felt colder now, and ill, and he had a sinking feeling that he knew what was coming.

 

The door slid open before Remus made it across the compartment. A Dementor, massive and cloaked in black, stood in the doorway. For a moment all thought of the others was gone as his vision began to cloud with white fog and his head filled with sound. He knew where the voices came from- twelve years in the past. There were dozens of people there, their voices a cacophony shouting at him to keep back. He could hear his own screams as he struggled, feeling the animal inside him fighting to break out and not even caring because he had to get to James and Lily. They couldn’t possibly be gone.

 

Remus knew that it was not real, but he was too exhausted to fight it off. Then he saw Harry out of the corner of his eye. He was closer to the Dementor than Remus was and he seemed to be having a fit of some kind. He fell to the floor and his body twitched. In a second, the world seemed to come into focus. Harry was in trouble. Remus forced the chaos out of his head and concentrated. Dumbledore had said that some Dementors had been sent out from Azkaban. It had to be looking for Sirius. He stepped over the trembling boy and said, as coolly as he could, “None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go.” The Dementor did not retreat.

 

 Remus took a deep breath and willed his happiest memory to surface. Perhaps it was this place, or Harry’s wild mop of hair, but the memory that came was one he had kept out of his mind for years because it was so hard to think of the good times now. He was young, they were all young, and they were running wild under the full moon. The wolf and the big black dog wrestled playfully in the dirt, while the stag trotted around them gleefully with the rat clinging to him with squeaks of terror or excitement- it didn’t matter which. He had a pack, a family, and for the first time since he had been bitten, he knew what it was like to feel whole. Remus’ heart swelled.

 

A silver wolf shot out of Remus’ wand. It bared it gleaming teeth and charged, forcing the Dementor out of the compartment. The wolf, at once his demon and his guardian. The cold began to recede as the silver light faded, going off in the direction of the door at the end of the train. Closing his eyes, Remus concentrated on his body, trying to sense if there were any other Dementors, but he felt nothing. He held his wand at the ready for a moment longer, making sure that the creature was truly gone, then turned his attention back to the others.

 

Ron and the girl, Hermione, were kneeling over Harry and slapping his face lightly. Remus nearly gasped. With his eyes closed, the boy was James. Remus felt his heart lurch. He wanted to throw his arms around the boy on the floor but he held back. It was not James, and he was no one to Harry. No one but a strange man on the train.

 

A flood of relief washed over Remus when Harry’s eyes fluttered open. Trying to think of something useful to do, he edged by the students and pulled a gigantic slab of chocolate out of his case. It was supposed to be part of his Defense Against the Dark Arts stores, but it also served to satisfy his ravenous sweet tooth. He began to break it up and the first crack resounded in the quiet compartment, making them all jump. Remus handed the first, large chunk to Harry.

 

“Here. Eat it. It’ll help.” He wished he could say more, but what? “I’m and old mate of your dad’s” hardly seemed appropriate.

 

Harry spoke to him for the first time. “What was that thing?”

 

“A Dementor,” Remus replied, doling out chocolate to the rest of the group. “One of the Dementors of Azkaban.” He fidgeted a bit with the chocolate wrapper. Now that he was speaking to him, Remus found he couldn’t stop staring at Harry. He needed to get a hold of himself before he said or did something stupid. Looking around, he noticed that no one had touched their chocolate. “Eat,” he said again, “It’ll help.” No one moved and the silence grew awkward. After a moment Remus made up his mind, “I need to speak to the driver, excuse me.” He strode out into the corridor.

 

Students were beginning to emerge- some looking frightened, others merely curious. Remus walked past them without a word, studying their faces as he made for the engine car. From the condition of the students it appeared that the Dementor had not entered any other compartments. That seemed odd, but then again perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps it had simply been drawn to the compartment where it could sense the most misery.

 

When he got to the door of the engine car, he knocked, and a gruff voice demanded his identity. “I am Remus Lupin, the new Defense professor.” The door opened a crack and he could see that the driver was looking at him warily with his wand in his hand. “If I were going to hurt you I wouldn’t have bothered knocking,” Remus said dryly.

 

“Beg pardon, sir,” said the driver a little sheepishly, “Just, we had a bit of queer feeling a moment ago. Thought there might be trouble.”

 

Remus felt a flash of anger. This man should have been protecting the students, not hiding behind a locked door. “There was,” he said shortly. “I need to contact the school.”

 

“Certainly, sir.” The driver stepped back and allowed Remus into the car. “We’ve got a couple of owls for emergencies.”

 

The food trolley witch was in the corner, looking nervous, and Remus gave her a tight smile and a nod of greeting. The driver waved him over to a small desk at one end of the compartment and opened a side drawer to reveal rolls of parchment. Remus sat, took up the quill from a stand on the desk, and began writing to Dumbledore.

 

After a bit of uncomfortable silence, the driver said tentatively, “Er, Professor, sorry to disturb you, but, could you tell us what happened out there?”

 

“A Dementor was on the train.”

 

The driver swore and the witch gave a little shriek. Remus looked up, meaning to glare at the both of them, but they looked so pale and frightened that he couldn’t help feeling bad for them. It was probably best that they had hidden, in a likelihood they had never attempted to conjure a Patronus in their lives.

 

“I’ve taken care of it,” Remus said soothingly. “It has gone and I do not believe it will come back.” He finished his letter to Dumbledore and pulled out another sheet of parchment to write a brief note to Professor McGonagall. She was Harry’s head of house, she would want to know what had happened. When he was done writing, he rolled up the letters, tied one each to the leg of the two tawny owls in the large cage hanging above the desk and sent them out of the compartment window.

 

“We, er, we ought to be reaching the school in ten minutes or thereabouts,” commented the driver, looking somewhat relieved.

 

“Thank you,” Remus replied, turning to go.

 

A hand on his arm stopped him. “Thank you, dear,” said the food trolley witch, pressing a chocolate frog into his hand. Remus gave her a small smile and a nod, then left the compartment. As he headed back down the train, he popped the chocolate frog in his mouth and savored the feeling of warmth that spread through his body.

 

When he slid open the door to the last compartment, he could see that everyone was still holding uneaten chocolate. He supposed he didn’t blame them. He probably would have been as wary of taking candy from a strange wizard, at their age. Smiling a bit he said, “I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know…”

 

Harry was the first to take a bite and Remus could see the surprise and relief on his face as it took effect. The others eyed his reaction, and then began on their own slabs. Not quite sure what to say, Remus announced, “We’ll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes,” then he asked “Are you all right, Harry?” He couldn’t help himself.

 

Harry mumbled “Fine” and looked embarrassed. Remus noted Harry’s reaction and felt a little bad for asking. The boy was what, thirteen? He probably wanted to ignore what happened. He must have felt incredibly foolish passing out in front of his friends because of some monster. None of the others had experienced such a dramatic reaction.

 

Remus suddenly wondered why Harry had reacted so violently. The Dementors stripped away happiness and left their victims with only the worst things that had happened to them. Did Harry have so little happiness in him? And what was the worst moment of his life? What did hear when the Dementor came near? Did he go back to the same night that Remus did, the night when the world had come crashing down?

 

He shook his head and settled back into his seat by the window, staring out into the black. Impossible, Harry had been too young to remember. He probably did not even remember James’ rakish smile or Lily’s tinkling laugh. It was better that way, Remus thought. He remembered, and they haunted his quiet moments, along with Peter’s silent presence and Sirius Black’s dark eyes.

 

The final minutes of the journey passed quickly, and Remus watched Harry and the others get off the train and meet up with Rubeus Hagrid. He took his case and made his way through the throng of excited students, feeling so very much older than his years. He climbed into the carriage that was waiting for him and set off for the school.

 

He thought, again, about why he had accepted Dumbledore’s offer. Dumbledore had a mysterious way of getting what he wanted, and his urgings had overcome the younger man’s protestations. It had been impossible for him to refuse, really. To teach again, and at Hogwarts! It was an honor even to be asked. Remus wondered, for the thousandth time, whether he had made a mistake. Even ignoring the fact that he had faced a Dementor, things did not seem to be going too well do far. Everything he saw brought back painful memories, and it would only be worse once he got to the castle. What if he could not do it?

 

Then he thought of Harry. Harry, who was so much like James. He thought of the protective feeling that had surged through him when Harry was in trouble. Harry had needed him, and he had been there. He couldn’t deny that it had felt satisfying to be able to help. Many years ago, the Marauders had sworn undying loyalty to one another, and Remus now admitted to himself that he had not held up his end of the bargain.

 

While Harry was with the Muggles it would not have been safe to contact him, Remus knew that, but Harry had been two whole years in the wizarding world and he had never reached out to the boy. He had heard rumors of Harry’s brushes with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and Dumbledore had mentioned that he had his father’s knack for trouble. Now a Dementor had come after him, and if Remus hadn’t been there- he sucked in a breath. It did not bear thinking.

 

He looked out the window as they were passing through the gates. Two Dementors stood guard, and the events of that long-ago night echoed faintly in his mind. As they faded, it struck Remus that he was the last one left to keep his promise. He would do it, he must. He would protect Harry for James’ sake. The boy would never even have to know, but Remus would be there to watch over him as long as it was in his power to do so. Suddenly, and for the first time in a very long while, he felt like his life had direction. He would protect Harry, and he would teach.

 

Stepping out of the carriage in front of the castle, Remus noticed Harry and his friends facing off with little Malfoy once again. So much like his father, Remus thought. He checked the smile that was threatening to emerge and stepped a little closer.

 

“ Is there a problem?” he asked, mildly. The little blond prat eyed him with disdain.

 

“Oh no, -er- Professor,” replied Malfoy, with the hint of a sneer in his voice. He herded his goons into the castle without further comment.

 

Remus couldn’t even manage irritation at the boy’s insolence, not tonight. He watched Harry and his friends go inside, and allowed himself a slight upturn of the lips. Then, he mounted the steps and entered the castle with the mass of excited students. Remus’ head ached dully and his body was exhausted, but as he made his way into the Great Hall, his heart was lighter than it had been in very long time.

//
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