The Sugar Quill
Author: Kaidan  Story: Fallen  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.

Fallen

Fallen

 

“When the stars threw down their spears

And water’d heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

- William Blake

1985

“This is not a good idea,” Remus Lupin said, staring at the door in front of him. “Some demons are better left dead.” The words had not yet faded from the air when Remus placed a hand on the door as a healer might feel for a heartbeat. Remus tilted his head forward, resting his brow on the battered door, minuscule splinters prodding his scalp. He wasn’t even supposed to be here. Usually Tom handled all transactions with the Hogsmeade pubs, but he had sent an owl that morning saying that he was ill. Remus knew better. It was customary for Tom to skip out on work the day after a wild night of drinking and sex, both of which he boasted to be exceedingly good at. “Ill” meant that he was in the middle of a particularly good romp and hangover. Their boss, Carver, had taken it all in stride. He laughed knowingly and commented that Tom was such a great worker that he deserved a break every so often. It didn’t matter that his “breaks” were becoming more recurrent and that Tom’s workload had been given to Remus. God how he hated this job, but it paid the bills, if little else.

Remus struck his head against the door twice, wincing as the small splinters prodded deeper. He tried to lose himself in self-pity, but he was just too damn tired. It had taken him most of the morning to catalogue the liquor shipments and fix Tom’s mistakes. He had just sat down to lunch when Carver approached him and told him to deliver the firewhisky shipment to Hogsmeade. Remus had told Carver it was Tom’s job, and he could do it when he returned. Carver’s eyes had narrowed, making his round face look like a large boar. “Do as you’re told,” he grunted, suppressing a large belch, and knocked Remus’ lunch to the floor. Remus had complied, angry with himself for giving in to the louse. The rest of the afternoon was spent hauling heavy bottles of liquor through Hogsmeade, a place he had successfully avoided for over five years. After filling all the orders he went for a walk before returning to London. Instinctively his feet had led him to this door.

A late autumn breeze lifted the curled ends of Remus’ hair and raised a fine line of goose bumps along his neck. He lifted his head and adjusted his collar. His thin robes did little more than block the breeze, leaving the chill to seep back through the cloth and into his skin. Remus looked up at the sky and noted that the half-faced moon was getting brighter. Night was encroaching upon the daylight, much as the cold was doing to his skin. He turned away from the door and tried to visualize his small flat in London. In his mind he saw the small fireplace, adequate enough to warm the flat but small enough to make traveling by Floo rather uncomfortable. He saw his desk, his bed, and could even see the lumps in his mattress. He was about to Apparate when the image of the door behind him intruded into his thoughts. His concentration broken, he struggled to wipe the image from his mind so as not to splinch himself. But he found that he could not focus. He clenched his teeth in aggravation and ran a hand through his hair, looking back at the door. “What the bloody hell are you so afraid of anyway, Remus? It’s just a house.” Once again he placed a hand on the door, this time on the handle. Then, pausing only momentarily, he pushed the door open.

Dust rained down upon him and, illuminated by the fading rays of daylight, made the interior of the Shrieking Shack appear as a tangible ghost from his past. Remus saw something move out of the corner of his eye, and turned to see a large gray tabby cat sitting on the windowsill. The cat eyed him suspiciously from behind a piece of torn window screen before hopping down from its ledge. Cats didn’t like him, for obvious reasons, so he was surprised when this tabby trotted over to him and sat at his feet. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he bent down to pet the cat, who sniffed his fingers lightly before allowing him to scratch the top of its head. Remus reached into his pocket and pulled out half of the turkey sandwich that he had salvaged from his lunch. The cat watched anxiously as he stripped the bread from the meat and laid a small pile of turkey on the floor. As the cat ate, he surveyed the rest of the room. Everything was exactly as he remembered it, and he suspected that the room had had no visitors, except the cat, since he had last been there. The air tasted stale and Remus wondered if it was the same air that he had breathed all those years ago. He caught his breath, feeling as though it was heresy to breathe the air and disturb the memory of his youth.

There was an old mirror, hanging lopsided on a nail on the other side of the room. He walked over to it, straightened it, and then used the end of his tattered sleeve to wipe it clean. He regretted bringing his reflection into focus, because one thing became immediately clear.

“My God, I look old.”

There were far too many lines around his eyes and mouth for a man of twenty-five. With a long finger he traced a line from the corner of his eye towards his temple where he discovered, much to his utter disappointment, a gray hair nestled within the fine sandy hairs that lined his scalp. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He looked carefully on the other side of his head for its twin where he found two. Remus exhaled deeply. He gave himself seven, maybe ten, years before he was completely gray. “I guess gray’s not so bad, is it Cat?”

The cat looked up at him briefly as it licked the floor clean. The rough sound of its tongue scraping the wooden floor was easy to hear in the quiet stillness of the room. Remus sat down on a nearby chair. The springs whined underneath his weight. He noted for the first time how colorless the room was. A heavy coating of dust dressed the room in grays, eliminating any color that might have been present. He, too, was gray. His robes had once been black, but had now faded and matched his surroundings. His face was pale and devoid of hue, leaving nothing but the soft blue specks in his eyes to break the monotony.

He felt an odd sensation in his fingertips and he opened his eyes to see the tabby licking the fingers of his right hand. He scratched the cat under his chin and it purred loudly, stiffening its neck as an invitation for him to continue. A sudden pain lanced through his hand and caused him to jump. The cat hissed and made a quick swipe at him before leaping off the chair and disappearing into the shadows of the room. Remus balled his hand into a fist and rubbed his wrist, feeling the jagged scar that was usually concealed beneath his robes. Suddenly the room appeared more ominous, and the ragged scratch marks on the walls, which had until then remained hidden under the dust, became more apparent.

He wasn’t surprised that his wrist hurt. He had been lifting heavy things all day, not to mention that winter was approaching and the cold had always irritated the old injury. What he hadn’t been prepared for was the sudden onslaught of memories that the pain brought with it. Remus had never put much faith in fate. He never excelled in Divination, nor did he have much interest in the subject. There were too many complexities in life, too many factors to consider, for one to be able to divine the future from tealeaves, or by the position of the stars and moon. And Remus knew all about the moon. Still, one must wonder at how so many actions, so many variables, added up to the events of that night. Forever a fixture in his mind, it was a night that had found him in the branches of a tree, and the wolf at the foot.

It had been a beautiful summer’s day, seventeen years ago, and he had been playing in his mother’s garden. Remus smiled as the memory brought back the vivid imagery of the roses blending in with the pink of his mother’s heat red cheeks, and he could smell the breeze as it drifted from the flowers and brought the delicate smell to his nose. His mind coming back to the present, Remus felt himself relax slightly, and the throbbing in his hand ceased. He leaned back in his chair, sighed, and fell, once again, into his memory.

He was supposed to have been helping, but the attention span of a seven year old did not cater to delicate pruning of roses. He had instead resorted to playing a miniature game of Quidditch with a few twigs that resembled brooms only to his child eyes. His mother worked beside him carefully removing weeds and shaping her roses, handling each bud with a maternal tenderness. Sarah Lupin’s roses were famous among the wizarding gardening community. She would always have someone stopping by and asking what potions and spells she used to achieve such results, but she would always send them away dissatisfied. “I never use magic in my gardens, except to chase away a few gnomes,” she would say, her smile growing as the others’ frustration grew. “Nothing beautiful comes from hurrying. It is the process where beauty is found, not the outcome.”

Remus swooped his makeshift brooms in and out of the plants accompanied with the sound effects of lots of swooshes and zooms. “Watch out, Remus!” his mother cried out as a young bloom fell to the ground.

“Sorry, Mum. ” Remus attempted to place the flower back upon its stem, where it hung awkwardly. When it fell again he smiled sheepishly.

His father stuck his head out of the window; it was comically framed with the bright red roses that climbed the wall. “Remus?”

“Yeah?”

“Samantha is coming over to borrow some sugar.” His father’s head disappeared momentarily and when he returned he held a small blue pot, “Would you meet her halfway?”

“Sorry Dad. I’m helping Mum.”

“That’s okay,” his mother said as she watched her son pick up a pair of shears. “You go on and go, Remus,” she added, taking the shears away from him. She stood and handed him one of the roses that she had just plucked. “For Samantha,” she added.

Remus took the flower and the pot and ran to the edge of the small forest that distanced his family and the Winters. He met Samantha near a large oak. At first glance, Samantha Winters did not look like a girl. She was short and very thin. Her trousers had holes in them from falling off her broom and out of trees. Her hair was short, messy, and always had bits of leaves, dirt, and sometimes food, lodged within the locks. She smiled a big toothy grin when she saw him. He gave her the rose, which she took and broke the stem, placing it in her hair. The heat of the sun and the run from her house had brought out the crimson in her cheeks, matching the hue of the flower. When Remus handed her the sugar she licked one dirty finger and stuck it in the sugar. As she licked it clean, Remus took a finger of sugar for himself. Once the lid was again secure she nodded towards the woods. “Come on,” she said, and ran towards the forest. Waiting long enough to lick the remaining sugar from his finger, he soon hurried after her.

Without asking, he knew where she was leading him. A Muggle farmer had once planted an orchard of cherry trees so remarkable in appearance that people would come from miles around to picnic under the branches. Remus’ mother had done so as a girl, and she said that the trees were what first sparked her love of gardening. One day the farmer vanished, and without their caretaker, the trees soon withered. Several local farmers had attempted to save the beautiful trees, but many of them vanished as well. As the trees died, new life was spurred and surrounded the grove. Weeds became saplings and saplings became trees, leaving the once enticing orchard entombed in a wall of forest. The how and why of the disappearances of the men and the growth of the forest were amplified by local superstition. Children were forbidden to enter the midst of the forest, but Remus and Samantha had visited the orchard on several occasions, and had found its secret.

The ravages of time had eaten away all but the skeletons of the cherry trees, leaving their rotted branches to droop and dry bark to flake. But in the middle of the orchard, one tree remained in bloom. Its bright pink blossoms and rich bark stood in stark contrast to the others, whose wraith branches only amplified the beauty of the surviving tree. It was this tree that Remus and Samantha ran to that day and it was the same tree that brought a smile to Remus’ face as he sat in the chair, envisioning its beauty as if it were before him. As if it now stood in the gray room, its branches and bright petals bringing life to the stillness around him. He closed his eyes in an effort to focus on the memory, and in his mind he could see himself and Samantha climbing its branches and playing with the delicate petals. The sugar lay discarded by the base of the tree; Samantha’s mother’s need for it was forgotten. Time passed quickly and the day slipped into night, and a full-faced Diana rose casting a steely light onto the faces of the flowers and the children.

In the branches of the tree a small spider traveled the length of Remus’ wrist. As he brushed the tiny creature away he heard the glass pot break. He looked down and saw a black beast which he thought was a wolf, but the dim light of the night reflected a creature that was much too large to be a mere wolf. The beast sniffed the sugar and snorted as the fine granules attached themselves to its snout. Remus and Samantha sat frozen in the tree, but it did not take long for the beast to catch their scent. Its head snapped to them and Remus locked eyes with the monster. In its stare he realized that this was a being whose mind fed only on anger and fear. The stare was one of the reasons why he had avoided mirrors ever since that night, afraid that his eyes might reflect the same hatred and hunger of that monster, of the werewolf.

Samantha gasped and the wolf jumped against the tree, shredding the thin bark in an effort to attain the tree’s precious fruit. However, the trunk was too thin for the beast to climb, and the children too high to reach. Angered, the wolf threw itself against the trunk. Samantha screamed as the reverberation of the tree threatened to knock them from the branch. Remus and Samantha hung on fiercely to the branches while the creature assaulted the tree. When it finally appeared as if the werewolf was tiring, Samantha loosened her grip and was nearly thrown to the ground as the beast suddenly struck again. Remus reached out and steadied her, but the tree gave a sudden lurch, knocking the rose from her hair. Instinctively he reached down to grab the flower and, sensing the opportunity, the werewolf jumped and hooked its right claw into the boy’s wrist. Remus heard his robes tear and his arm burn. With a sudden tug the wolf tore through the delicate skin, and pulled him to the ground.

The impact of the fall dislodged the claw from his arm. Remus panicked when he realized he had fallen on top of the beast. However, the werewolf appeared stunned by his fall and he used those precious few moments to try to reach the safety of the tree once more. Samantha climbed down a few feet and tried to help him, but his injured hand would not allow him to grasp the branches. Red tracks of blood tainted the ashen trunk as the young boy struggled to reach safety. Tears of pain and fear blinded his vision and made his efforts all the more feral. At long last he clasped Samantha’s hand, but as she tried to pull him to safety the black beast below sank its teeth into his leg and tore him from the tree.

Remus rolled over on the ground and spat out a mouthful of blood. He had fallen on his face, his top teeth sinking into his bottom lip. He looked up to see the wolf standing near him. It watched him with a fixed stare, daring him to run. With much difficulty Remus stood, his clothes damp with blood and sweat. The wolf took a step towards him, when it was hit from behind. The wolf jerked its head around. Remus focused his blurry eyes on Samantha. Neither he nor the wolf had noticed Samantha climb down from the tree. She gathered some rocks and was throwing them at the wolf. As the beast began to approach she hastily scaled the tree and continued to pelt the wolf from the safety of the branches.

Remus, feeling as though he was caught in slow motion, tried to run. His right leg strongly protested, feeling as if it was slowly being torn away. Then a burning sensation, a liquid lava, began to overtake his body. The werewolf had bitten him above the calf and the force of the beast pulling him away from the tree had twisted his knee, causing even the slightest amount of pressure to send waves of nausea through his small frame. He screamed as it gave way completely and he fell to the forest floor. Tears left white trails down his dirty face, and he struggled for breaths between great sobs. He heard the sound of padded feet approaching and was vaguely aware of Samantha’s useless screams as she tried to avert the wolf’s attention. Remus stopped sobbing and listened to the wolf’s approach. Fear seized his heart and it overwhelmed his pain, forcing him to crawl away from the monster that pursued him.

As he edged away he felt the wolf grab the hem of his trousers with its teeth and pull him backwards. Remus stretched out his hands and grabbed anything that would slow the inevitable draw to the wolf’s jaws. His body slid over leaves and twigs, which cracked and crunched like bones. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the rose, lying where it had fallen. Its petals had not yet begun to curl from the absence of water or the separation from its host, its color as fresh as if it was still on the vine. The image became blurry as his eyelids grew heavy and closed. He forced them open and saw two shadowy figures behind the rose, before he was forced out of consciousness.

The past faded with that moment, and as his mind came back into the present, Remus opened his eyes. For a moment he stared at the work of a spider above the chair. His memory ended with the vision of the flower. He knew of what happened later only from the observations of others. Before the werewolf had been able to bite Remus again, his father had found them and, along with Samantha’s father, had managed to wound the werewolf and rescue the children.

Connor Lupin had picked up his limp body and carried him home. Sarah met them at the door, took Remus from Connor, and then sent him for a healer. He shuddered every time he thought of what his parents went through that night. His mother, holding the body of her son, thankful to have him in her arms that night, but terrified to think of what the morning would bring. His father, who while rushing to the nearest Healer, found that the news of a werewolf attack travels faster than the soles of any man. His father, who upon being refused by the Healer, threw money at the man, and when he still would not help, threatened him.

The Healer finally did come, but did only enough to ensure that Remus made it through the night, and only did that at the tip of Connor’s wand. Over time his scratches and bruises began to heal and then to fade. His parents spared no expense, sending for a well-respected Healer from India to mend Remus’ hand that many had deemed a lost cause. Eventually that healed as well, leaving nothing more than a jagged scar and a few aches and pains during the winter months.

While he might have appeared whole on the outside, Remus never completely recovered. No one recovers from a werewolf’s bite. The sickness, the virus, transmitted to him that night, permeated his flesh and mind. A wicked foulness born of Cain flowed through his blood, and conquered him each month, each dreaded anniversary of the bite. Even when he was able to master the beast, keep it hidden within his blood alone, it flowed into his heart and with a sickening desire ached for the steel rays of the full moon.

His parents took it upon themselves to make his life as comfortable and as normal as possible. It was a futile charge. Remus had lamented over the loss of his friend Samantha, for although she escaped that night unscathed, her father had forbidden her to see him. She did visit once, under the cover of night, and brought with her the flower he had once given her. It was frayed now, and its dried petals drooped. It’s thorns had grown soft and its stem had turned brown. He had kept it all the same.

Then the search for the cure began. Pained by the physical and emotional suffering of their only child his parents poured their time and finances into finding a way to cure his lycanthropy. The search continued for five years, taking Remus and his parents across the world. In the end, their money and spirits exhausted, they had abandoned their search and settled in a small town away from the fearful and pitying gazes of the rest of the world.

After Samantha, Remus knew no friends until his acceptance into Hogwarts. Hogwarts had given him many things, the best of which were three friends, three great friends, who became brothers to Remus in all ways but blood. Once again Remus found himself having fun, getting into mischief, and planning adventures. Oh, what plans they had. But once again those plans would never come to fruition. Once again Remus would lose friends, and be forced to start anew. It took a lot of strength to start over, to not succumb to self-pity or drown in the past, but he had done it once….

A sharp thud on the Shack’s door knocked Remus from his reverie, and he sprang from his chair to investigate. He cracked the door slightly and saw a group of boys, none of them older than ten, playing in a small copse of trees near the Shack. Three boys were throwing a Quaffle back and forth, using the trees as natural obstacles. Another kept his head down, pausing every few steps to bend over and examine the forest floor, each step taking him further from the trees and closer to the Shack. Remus realized that the boy was looking for something. He looked down and saw a small ball nestled in the brown grass a few feet from the door, which had, no doubt, been the source of the noise. The ball was crudely constructed from leather and what appeared to be a lot of Madam Morna’s Magical Tape. Two paper wings were taped to each side. Remus smiled.

The boy approached and picked up his fallen Snitch. He frowned and rubbed a finger over a large dent in the ball that the impact with the door had caused. He tossed it into the air, only to discover that the ball now had aerodynamics of a rock. Remus withdrew his wand and quietly positioned the tip through the crack. He whispered a few words and then watched the boy’s expression as the ball began to vibrate in his hand. The dents began to work out, as if someone was blowing air into the Snitch. The paper wings began to straighten and flitter, slow at first, and then with enough speed that the Snitch began to leave the boy’s hand. Although surprised, the boy was quick enough to grab the ball before it flew away. He blinked several times and then looked at the door. Remus smiled, knowing that this would fuel the superstition and mystery of the Shack for years. The boy turned and ran back towards his friends, holding the Snitch above his head and waving it feverishly.

Remus closed the door and could hear the excited voices of the boys as they examined the improved ball. He moved over to the window and peeled back a piece of the torn screen and watched as the boys began to set up invisible boundaries of a Quidditch field.  The spell he placed on the ball would only last an hour, maybe two, but he knew the hours would be well spent in perhaps the best game of Quidditch that the grounds of the Shrieking Shack had ever hosted.

If he concentrated enough, Remus could hear the voices of his youth in the boys’ game. Sirius’ laughter, James’ cool calculations of Quidditch fouls, and Peter’s nervous questions. He peeled more of the screen away in an effort to get a better look at the game, but the screen protested, cutting his finger. Remus winced and pushed down on the cut with his thumb until a small red bead appeared.

“In all ways but blood,” Remus said aloud. He had carried the burden of his lycanthropy for most of his life. Yet, Remus thought as he heard laughter echo from the trees, he had not born the weight alone. Through the tough years, and there were many, his friends stood beside him and he beside them until the weather turned fair again. Was this not in part because of what he was? Would his friendships have been as strong if not for the trust, compassion, and risks that it took to befriend a werewolf? Could the horrible events of one night, seventeen years ago, have in the end had such a positive outcome?

He suddenly found himself wishing that the day would never end, that night would never fall, not for his sake, but for the boys. He wished that their Quidditch game could go on forever.

Remus watched the boys play until well after sunset, cheering them on and applauding great catches, although the children remained unaware of their audience. When the light became too dim and the wind too biting, they gathered their balls and returned home, laughing and throwing the balls back and forth as they went.

Once the boys had gone Remus took one last look at the Shack. The tabby had reappeared from the shadows and was curled up tightly on the top of the chair, its fur stirring softly in the night breeze. When he opened the door the cat stirred and hopped down from the chair and sat at his feet.

“And what do you want?” he asked.

A meow and a wave of a tail answered him.

“Surely you don’t want to come home with me?” he asked, picking up the cat and holding it at arms length, his hands underneath the cat’s two front legs. This caused the rest of its striped body to hang awkwardly downward and its head to sink into the fur around its neck. A soft meow resonated somewhere within the fur.

Remus laughed at the cat, and brought it closer to his chest. He wrapped his arms around it and cradled it as one would a small child.

 “Alright then,” he said, freeing an arm to open the door. A gust of chilly night air met him and he could feel his skin begin to tighten once more. Although, this time it didn’t seem to bother him quite so much.

“So, Cat” he said, “mind if I borrow that coat of yours?”

He closed the door behind him and breathed deeply. The wind picked up and whistled through the windows and cracks in the Shack, creating ghostly voices within. Remus leaned against the door and his mind twisted the phantom howls into the sounds of four boys planning their next great adventure.

“Maybe I was wrong,” he said to the cat, “demons don’t reside here.”

 

He paused, and then added, “At least not anymore.”

 

Remus looked up at the moon and, for the first time in a long while, found beauty in its scarred face. Slowly he began to walk back towards Hogsmeade. London could wait. It was such a pretty night, and he found that he suddenly had a taste for a butterbeer. He looked down at the cat, now asleep and content in his arms. Surely, Madam Rosmerta wouldn’t mind if he brought a friend.

 

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