The Sugar Quill
Author: Seriana Ritani  Story: The Morning After  Chapter: Default
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The Morning After

Due to Popular Demand, A Continuation of _Frighten Me_
From the Keyboard of Seriana Ritani

Remus Lupin woke up on the floor of the shack. He was sprawled on his stomach before the hole in the basement wall that was his tunnel to Hogwarts.

He felt horrible.

He usually felt horrible upon waking up after a full moon, but this was worse. His throat was viciously sore and breathing was a torture. His mouth tasted of copper and dirt and there was hair on his tongue. His shoulders and chest felt like they’d been slashed to pieces. His robes were freshly torn and uncomfortably sticky with blood. And his head was pounding.

He spat the hairs and foul tastes from his mouth and got to his hands and knees, groaning. As his pounding head cleared, he remembered images absorbed by the wolf’s mind, but they didn’t make any sense. Trying to translate what the wolf remembered into human thought took a lot of effort, like trying to translate Troll into English when you didn’t speak Troll.

His first instinct was to ask James, Sirius, and Peter. They always filled him in over breakfast on the fun they’d had during the night. But last night something had gone wrong. He had blood and dog hair in his mouth. Sirius had fought with him, violently, to protect someone or something from his cursing bite.

He stared at the floor between his hands and tried to think. His memories were in dim black and white, or in sounds that he couldn’t translate into words. But the smells were crystal clear.

The smell of Sirius had been everywhere, both his human smell and his dog smell. James, too, but his stag smell was missing. He hadn’t transformed.

There was a third smell that he thought at first was Peter: Peter usually smelled frightened, and the sharp bitter scent of the mysterious person was extremely similar. There was some fear, decidedly. But more than that, it was hatred, stale and unpleasant. There were more ordinary smells on top of it, things his human brain recognized, like sweat and the must of old books and the sour smell of Jellyworm bile. He had all of those smells on himself, anyway, which made him think he might be confused. Anyone who spent time in the library would smell musty, and they’d used Jellyworm bile in Potions the day before.

So whoever had been there was sweaty, frightened, and bitter, spent time with old books, and had been in Potions with them . . .

Oh, no.

He lay back down on the floor and tried to go back to sleep. He preferred prolonged unconsciousness to dealing with the thought that Severus Snape had encountered the werewolf.

He got no relief, for at that moment with a rustle of robes Madam Pomfrey climbed out of the tunnel. Remus groaned and sat up as she immediately began fussing over him.

“All over your neck, young man! Honestly, I don’t know how you manage to do these things to yourself. Well, drink up and I’ll see about you.”

She offered a flask of pleasant, lemony-smelling potion. Remus gulped it down, and felt his soreness fade a bit, while his head cleared and he woke up completely. The potion was to keep him going until he could get a long night’s rest. It wasn’t a healthy habit to get into, but knowing the importance of secrecy Professor Dumbledore had approved it for him.

Madam Pomfrey meanwhile began smearing his Sirius-given cuts with a salve of myrtlap and libium. It smarted for a few seconds and then melted away, leaving smooth, uninjured skin across his skinny chest.

She’d brought him clean robes, as well, and when he’d changed and combed his fingers through his hair they headed back to Hogwarts.

James, Sirius, and Peter were clustered at the far end of the Gryffindor table. They were eating listlessly, in silence.

Sirius was sick with frustration and guilt. He kept running over yesterday in his head, thinking, “How could I be so stupid? How?” He had a nasty bite from Remus on his shoulder, and he kept pressing it to punish himself. He almost wished he’d gotten it while human. He would have deserved it. The thought that he’d let Severus Snape in on their secret made him wince more than the wound did. Who knew what the Human Greaseball would do with that information. He’d promised secrecy, sure, but what did that signify when dealing with a Slytherin?

James was sick with dread with the thought of what Remus was going to say. He wished frantically that the whole thing could be kept a secret, but knew that would never happen. Remus was too smart, Professor Dumbledore too forthright, and he, James, was too honest. But the thought of having to explain what had happened to a friend who trusted him so much made him sick.

Peter had not been involved in the evening’s fiasco. He was of a simpler mind than his friends, and though the matter had been explained to him he wasn’t able to grasp the full implications. He’d hoped that Snape would be so injured he’d be forced to leave school, and this didn’t seem to have happened. Nobody had died, nobody had been bitten, and he couldn’t see that either good or harm had been done to anybody. He wasn’t able to sympathize with Remus’ feelings of betrayal as the others could. His mind had simply never learned to operate that way.

Remus slipped into the Great Hall. There was color in his face, but it was artificial, a result of his strengthening potion. He slipped into his usual seat beside Peter and looked across the table at Sirius and James.

“What happened?” he asked quietly.

“There was a misunderstanding,” said James.

Remus sat in silence, looking at him.

“Better eat something,” said James, feeling more and more uncomfortable. “You look awful.”

“Please tell me what happened,” said Remus quietly. He wanted to shout. He wanted to reach across the table and punch James in the nose. He was so angry that he was flushed and hot, so upset that he felt sick to his stomach. He’d trusted these boys with his secret. He had trusted them to protect him, and not only had they failed, they had failed intentionally. Guilt was written across their faces.

But he couldn’t loose his temper with them. Traitors or not, James, Sirius, and Peter were all that he had in the world. No matter what they had done, he would keep following them, helping them with homework and covering up their pranks, because if he lost their friendship he would be alone. He’d spent his whole childhood alone. He would do anything to keep from going back to that.

James opened his mouth to start explaining, but Sirius cut him off. Sirius was sometimes an idiot, but he was never a coward. He wasn’t about to let James suffer this ordeal in his place.

“I had a stupid idea. I thought Snape would get a good scare if I told him how to reach the hideout. That part worked really well. Just that Prongs had a better idea at the same time, so Snape ended up spying on you . . . without a wand.”

Remus’ glance flicked over to the Slytherin table, desperately looking for Severus to search for teeth wounds on his face. His throat had gone dry, and he rasped, “Did I . . .”

“No, he’s fine,” James insisted quickly. “Not that he deserves it.”

“No one deserves this,” said Remus quietly.

“James got him out,” said Sirius.

“Sirius helped,” said James, endeavoring win back Sirius’ good name.

“He saw me?” asked Remus. “He knows?”

James nodded.

Remus closed his eyes. For a minute, the others thought he was going to faint. Then he pushed away from the table and stood up.

“Where’re you going?” Sirius demanded.

“I have to go pack.”

“Moony . . .” James protested, reaching across the table to grab him by the sleeve, “Remus, sit down. It’s all right. You aren’t going to have to leave. Dumbledore caught us sneaking back in, and he swore Snape to secrecy. He’s not going to tell anyone.”

“He was furious with all three of us,” Sirius offered. “Snape wouldn’t dare tell.”

Remus looked Sirius straight in the eye. “I thought the same thing about you, yesterday.”

Sirius didn’t flinch, but his face went hard and blank. “I’m sorry, Moony,” he said, with a trace of anger in his voice. “I didn’t think. I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I can say.”

Remus searched his mind for something he could make Sirius say or do that would make him feel better, but nothing came. All Sirius had to give was the apology, and Remus knew how hard it was for someone as proud as Sirius to admit he’d been wrong.

Wearily, resignedly, Remus sat back down. “It’s all right,” he sighed. “Apology accepted.”

Sirius relaxed, as did James. Peter had been deliberately avoiding the whole conversation, pretending not to hear the confrontation and conflict among his friends that made him so uncomfortable. Now he perked up again and said, “So what’ll we do if Snape does tell? What’ll we do to get back at him?”

“Nobody’s getting back at anybody,” said Remus. “The whole Snape thing is finished. Right, you guys?” He looked expectantly at Sirius and James.

“Are you kidding?” James demanded. “He’s promised revenge on all three of us for trying to kill him! We can’t just let him get away with talking like that!”

He suddenly looked very excited. Sirius smirked and Peter’s eyes were wide and eager.

Remus opened his mouth to say, “Please, James, I want you to leave him alone. I hate watching you pick on him all the time. Just let it end.” His mouth was open, but the words themselves got caught in his throat.

He couldn’t risk losing these friends. They’d risked their lives to keep him from being guilty of murder. Few people -- and even fewer werewolves -- had friends like that. Sirius and James loved torturing Snape and would please themselves, no matter what he said or did. It wasn’t worth the effort and it wasn’t worth the risk.

Miserably, he took a mouthful of toast and stared at the table in front of him while his three friends concocted their next plan.

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