The Sugar Quill
Author: Eudora Hawkins  Story: Shameless  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.

Shameless

Shameless

 

A/N:

This story was inspired by characters and events created and owned by J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended. The sentimental Christmas ballad playing in the foyer is “A Christmas Love Song,” lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Also Remus makes a passing reference to a classic seasonal poem by Clement Moore. Can you spot it?

This tale is set during Christmas 2000. (Yes, I know, it’s January. Think of this as a belated holiday greeting, arriving just in time for the January doldrums.) Remus is married to Angela (née Hawkins) and has twin boys, named Sirius and James in remembrance of his old mates. Snape also has survived the war and has married Angela’s wealthy, pure-blood cousin, Ravena.

Thanks are owed to my friend and beta reader, Mrs. Lovegood, for her suggestions and editing talents.

 

A passing light streaming through the bedroom window washed over Angela’s bare shoulders and bathed her face in its light. Her eyes remained closed, unaware of Remus’ stare. Soft tresses lay across her cheek, begging for his touch. His fingers wove through the silky strands.

Angela stirred. Sleepy eyes peered over at him through a tangle of curls. She smiled. She scooted over on the bed and nestled her body against his. He pulled her close. The warmth of her skin radiated through his pajamas. Angela’s breath blew hot against his ear. A contented murmur, soft and low, escaped her lips. His sentiments precisely.

He kissed her cheek, working his way to her mouth. His hand wandered down the length of her back to rest on her backside, a deliberate trajectory. Her fingers conducted a search of their own, tracing a tingling path down his torso. Sweet Merlin, yes.

A child’s panicked cry pierced the night. Muuuuuuuuummy!”

For Agrippa’s sake, not again. Remus caught his breath. Perhaps the child would go back to sleep. Perhaps it was nothing.

Angela pulled away. She froze motionless, her ear tuned to the cry. The siren wail increased in pitch and intensity, joined now in dissonant harmony by the cries of the child’s twin brother. Angela shot Remus an apologetic glance, then moved from the bed.

“Please don’t go,” he whispered. He grabbed for her, but the look on Angela’s face told him that he could not change her mind. He tried another tack. “You stay here. I’ll go this time. I’ll be back before you know it.”

He jumped out of bed and pulled his dressing gown over his pajamas, muttering under his breath. What could it be? Whatever it was, he would quickly put it right and go back to his wife. Perhaps the mood would not be spoiled.

He sprinted across the corridor to the boys’ room and opened the door. High-pitched squeals assaulted his ears. His three-year-old twin boys clutched each other on the bed, four blue eyes wide with fright.

“What’s going on in here?” he asked.

“Daddy, Daddy, monster unner bed,” James, the first twin, yelled.

“There are no monsters under the bed,” Remus said. He uttered an exasperated sigh and ran a hand through his hair. Of all the childish excuses. Remus shook his head.

“It’s makin’ noises.” James’ chubby arms flailed in panic.

“It’s gonna eat us,” Sirius, his brother, added. Both children erupted in hysterical screams.

“Calm down,” Remus said. “Monsters don’t hide under children’s bed. That’s just an old wives’ tale.”

The children’s terrified wails rose to an ear-splitting pitch. He should have known better than to try logic on a couple of screaming tots. He sighed.

“Look, I’ll show you.”

Remus crouched to his knees and peered under the bed. A set of gleaming white teeth and two glowing eyes stared back from between an assortment of children’s toys. The creature emitted a menacing growl. Then a fur covered object shot out from under the bed and ran straight toward him, sending a flurry of shredded paper flying about the room.

Oy!” Remus straightened with surprise.

He dodged the hairy attacker and whipped his wand from the pocket of his dressing gown. He cast the first spell that came to mind. The hex hit. The creature stopped dead in its tracks. A tendril of smoke rose from its singed fur.

The two boys catapulted from the bed and ran pell-mell from the room amid more shrieks and screams. Remus approached the stunned creature and picked it up. The Children’s Book of Monster Tales, he read. A gift from Hagrid.

The clock in the hall chimed midnight. Christmas morning already. No children nestled all snug in their beds. No visions of sugarplums. No Christmas magic with his wife. He sighed. This night was not going well at all.

 

* * *

 

A mahogany table stretched across the dining room of the Hawkins Mansion like an endless black ribbon. The bounteous holiday feast lay upon its polished surface: salvers of turkey with all the trimmings, tureens of vegetables, turnips, and potatoes, Christmas puddings and mince pies. A massive ice sculpture surrounded by evergreen boughs graced the center. James Hawkins, Angela’s uncle, sat at the head of the table with his extended family bunched up on one end. This house was nothing like the comfortable Lupin cottage with worn and familiar furnishings that Remus shared with his wife and two rambunctious boys. Remus took an idle jab at his roast turkey.

He fingered his water goblet, eyeing his reflection in the shiny polished surface. His forty-one years showed in the deepened crow’s feet about his eyes and the abundance of gray around his temples. Good Godric, he even looked tired, and it had been two weeks since the last full moon.

The events of the previous night ran through his head. By the time he had rounded up his two little boys, calmed them, and tucked them back into bed, more than an hour had passed. He’d returned to his own room only to find Angela asleep. He didn’t have the heart to wake her.

He inhaled. The smell of the pine boughs decorating the dining hall filled his nostrils. The pungent scent, reminiscent of the Forbidden Forest, reawakened his remembrance. Light bounced off the crystal chandeliers floating above the table and glistened against the ceiling like a million tiny stars on a blanket of midnight sky.  The ice sculpture in the shape of a buck beckoned to him. Was it his imagination? Or did that centerpiece look like…Prongs?

Remus’ thoughts strayed to those nights when he roamed the grounds of Hogwarts with his friends, young and wild. The impulse swelled in his breast, an irresistible calling spurred on by his desperation and…he could no longer deny it…lust.

He cast a yearning glance at Angela. Her long locks of chestnut hair were pulled back into a prim bun. But a stray tendril had escaped the confines of the upsweep and fell to her shoulders. If only he could loosen every strand of those curls and bury his face in them. His right hand slid under the table, his fingers searching for and finding her thigh. How he longed to finish what had been interrupted the night before.

At his touch, Angela’s head turned to face him. Her green eyes meet his gaze, mirroring his longing. She dropped her head. That familiar smile crept over her lips. Her left hand slipped under the table to entwine with his.

He only desired what was rightfully his. Who could deny him a few, undisturbed moments of intimacy with his wife? Standing in his way were three of the most formidable adversaries that he’d ever faced: his twin boys and a certain nosy, meddlesome Potions master.

The curly-headed tots sat on conjured cushions, stacked on their seats in precarious piles. James shoveled his peas between the cushions, then bounced. A slimy mess oozed out from between the poufs. Where did they get these notions?

“James, what are you doing?” Remus asked, eyeing the child with curiosity.

“Daddy, I can’t feel peas,” James said, with a sincere, wide-eyed stare. “The pwincess did. Why?”

Ah! Remus suppressed a wry grin. Why had his wife read them The Princess and the Pea? And why did they insist on acting out every fairy tale?

“Because she’s a princess and you’re not,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Now tuck in.”

Remus released Angela’s hand, pulled his wand from his belt, and uttered an incantation. The mess disappeared. He patted the light brown curls that topped the boy’s head.

Sirius, the second twin, also played with the food on his plate. He mashed bits of turkey into the potatoes and molded the lot into different monsters. Loud growls and snarls accompanied his actions. Then he lowered his head to the plate and chomped off his latest creation’s head.

Severus Snape looked down at the child over his hooked nose with his most disapproving glare. His lip curled in scorn. He cast Lupin an icy stare.

“The family resemblance is uncanny, Lupin,” Snape sneered. “Can’t you control them?” He dabbed his mouth with his napkin and tossed it on the table. “I seem to have lost my appetite.”

Ah, Snivellus. Always sticking his over-large nose in Remus’ business. Why? Did morbid curiosity drive Snape to track his every movement as if he were a hunted animal? Or did he simply want to spoil Remus’ fun? Surely, it couldn’t be jealousy.

Emma Lupin, Remus’ snowy-haired mother, gave the children an indulgent smile. She patted Sirius on the head. The child looked up at his grandmother with his most angelic stare. Then the impish tot turned to Snape and stuck out his tongue. Snape scowled.

“Oh, let them be,” Emma said, turning to Snape. “It’s Christmas. And boys will be boys.”

Sirius’ food-smeared hand reached for his mother. Angela waved her wand. Conjured soap bubbles scrubbed the pink cheeks and hands clean. Then she drew the child into her lap and smothered him with her kisses.

Remus watched the exchange between mother and son, eyeing his pint-sized adversary. Ah, yes, innocent son. More like wily competition.

If he wanted that private moment with his wife, he would have to do something drastic. Desperate times call for desperate measures. He needed a plan of action. Time for the Marauder to reawaken.

 

* * *

 

The guests filed from the dinner table to the drawing room for games and music. Remus’ boys skipped ahead in the company of their grandmother. The promise of Christmas crackers sent them clinging to her skirts.

For the gentlemen, it was a time for cigars, brandies, and conversation. Severus Snape walked ahead in the company of James Hawkins, Snape’s father-in-law. Remus caught snippets of a conversation about gold futures. Given the Lupin’s modest income, he was lucky to have two sickles to rub together at the end of the month. They certainly would not miss him. He smiled.

Remus hung back, calculating his move. With his adversaries occupied, he spied his opportunity. Time to seize the day. Or rather, his wife.

He looped a hand around Angela’s waist and shunted her into a side passage out of sight. An exclamation of surprise escaped her lips. She met him with a questioning gaze. But he pressed a finger to those inviting lips to silence her, and cast a stealthy glance up the hall.

What was he doing? For Merlin’s sake, he’d acted on impulse. He didn’t even have a plan. What could he be thinking in a house full of guests? Not even his own house, at that.

Once all the other guests were out of sight, he looked back at his wife. Angela’s luminous eyes sparkled in the flickering gaslight of the hall. Her lips curled into a welcoming smile. He felt the warmth of her body in his embrace. A sudden rush of adrenaline surged up through his limbs. He kissed her. An eager, hungry kiss. Sheer bliss. His resolve returned.

“Lupin?” Snape’s cold voice echoed down the hall, sending icy shivers up Remus’ spine.

Then the loping tread of the Potions Master’s steps could be heard moving down the corridor toward them. Angela’s eyes flew open wide.

“Follow me,” she said in a breathless whisper.

She seized Remus’ hand and darted into the library. He stumbled after her, hoping that she had a plan. But she ran to the bookcases and stopped. A dead end.

Angela studied the titles of the books, her face drawn in full concentration. She muttered words of gibberish. What could she be thinking? This was no time for selecting books.

Remus glanced back at the door. Snape’s inky shadow fell across the threshold. Remus looked back at Angela. Her slender fingers stroked the leather spines of the books. At first, it seemed a random sequence, but soon he saw the pattern: a pentagram. Then books rearranged themselves on the shelves, shifting and sliding across the mahogany surface. An opening appeared just large enough to allow a small person to squeeze through.

“Hurry.” Angela ducked and stepped into the abyss. “In here.”

Remus crouched and followed his wife into the darkness. He glanced back into the library. Snape’s sneering face loomed into view. The Potions master rushed toward the bookcase after him, but the magical opening slid shut, slamming Snape’s fingers between the heavy leather-bound tomes. Remus heard a stream of cuss words not fit for polite company, then a series of spells. But the wall of books would not yield to Snape’s incantations.

Lumos,” Remus whispered in the dark.

A blue flame sparked from the end of his wand, lighting his surroundings and Angela’s snickering face. She was shaking with mirth, unable to hide her delight at their escape or Snape’s foiled efforts to follow them. Remus chuckled.

“How on earth—” he began.

“My Aunt Medea,” Angela whispered between giggles, “may she rest in peace. She thought children should be seen and not heard. My cousin and I spent our childhood roaming these passages to avoid her wrath. There are secret passages, like this one, all over this old mansion.”

“Brilliant,” he mused.

Remus raised his wand and peered into the gloom. A steep wooden stairway laced with cobwebs ascended before him.

“Where does this lead?” he asked, motioning up the staircase.

“You’ll see,” Angela said with a wink. “Follow me.”

She lit her wand and turned toward the crooked staircase. A spider scurried across the first tread and disappeared between the cracks in the floor boards. She hesitated, the smile fading from her face.

“Spiders.” She grimaced.

“I’ll lead,” Remus said.

He mounted the steep steps, brushing the cobwebs from his path and sending arachnids scuttling for cover. Angela followed close behind, clutching his sleeve. Her grip tightened around him whenever a large spider crossed their path. He felt a guilty thrill, knowing that her closeness was a consequence of her discomfort.

 The stairway ended in a landing facing a small door. Angela stepped forward and tapped the lock with her wand. The door swung open. Remus crept through and found himself in a storage room filled with wardrobes. The lamps in the room flickered to life.

“What in the…?” Remus said, glancing at the wardrobes.

“Old clothes and furs mostly,” Angela said.

She approached an intricately-carved wardrobe and reached for the handle. The cupboard rattled and shook. Angela’s hand withdrew with a jerk. She cast Remus a fearful stare.

Some dark creature. A boggart, most likely. Remus knew he could handle a boggart, but he wasn’t so sure about his wife. At the Dark Arts, she was a hopeless case. He could just imagine her screams, alerting the whole house to their presence here. That would surely put an end to their adventures.

“A boggart probably,” Remus remarked. “Best leave that one alone.”

Angela reached for the next wardrobe instead. She opened the door and, to his surprise, crawled inside. Dozens of floor-length fur coats of ermine, fox, and mink hung from hangers. Angela was nowhere to be seen.

He pressed into the soft blankets of fur and parted the coats. Hidden behind them, the cupboard extended the size of a child’s playhouse. There, his wife was busy laying coats on the floor to create a fur-lined den. She reclined on an ermine cape and beckoned him forward. An inviting smile played on her lips. An impish twinkle lit her eyes. Remus smirked. He couldn’t have planned this better himself.

He crawled into the cupboard. The door clicked closed behind him, plunging him into pitch blackness. A stifling smell of mothballs assaulted his nostrils, but then he caught the delicate scent of his wife’s perfume. His fingers searched in the furs, finding the cottony folds of his wife’s best dress and the smoothness of her skin. She giggled and pulled him close. Peppermint breath, crisp and sweet. A kiss, then another. His fingers fumbled for the buttons on her dress. Blasted tiny buttons. Too small for clumsy fingers.

“I’ll get it,” she whispered, her panting breath warming his face.

His hand slid down her body over her dress. Then he reversed direction, running his hand under her skirts up the length of her thigh.

Giggling squeals and pattering footsteps sounded just outside the cupboards. Remus froze, his breath catching in his throat. Not again! Did those children possess some kind of supernatural homing mechanism?

Muuuuummmy,” a high-pitched voice pleaded.

Remus heard a rattle and clank, but it did not come from their wardrobe. Angela held stock still in his embrace. He could feel her heart pounding against his chest and his own blood pulsating in his ears.

“Mummy’s in dere,” three-year-old Sirius replied.

“The boggart!” Angela exclaimed.

She wrested herself from Remus’ embrace and lunged for the cupboard door. Remus bolted out after her. His son’s little fingers grasped the handle of the boggart’s wardrobe and pulled. The door creaked ajar. Angela gasped. Remus raced for his sons, snatched both cubs in his arms, and dragged them away from the wardrobe. Shrill screams of terror filled the room. A flash of red light flew past Remus’ vision and crashed against the wardrobe door. The cupboard slammed shut with a loud BANG!

More footsteps echoed in the hallways. Muffled voices sounded in the stairwells, drawn by the commotion. Both tots hid their faces against Remus’ chest and whimpered in fear. He tightened his grip on them and uttered soothing sounds to calm their crying.

He shot a glance at his wife. Her green eyes were wide and round, her drawn wand still clasped in her fingers. Her once neat hair fell in disheveled curls around her shoulders. The bodice of her dress undone. If discovered, there would be no doubt what they had been up to. He couldn’t allow that.

“Quick, inside!” he said. He gestured toward the cloak wardrobe.

Angela darted back inside. Remus followed and handed his sons into her waiting arms. She hugged her boys, kissed their golden brown heads, and rocked them in her lap. The boys clung to their mother, still sobbing.

“Listen pups.” Remus said in his most calming voice. “We’re playing a little game. Hide and seek.”

The waterworks shut off in an instant at the mention of a game. Both little faces turned to their father with bright blue-eyed stares.

“Right then.” Remus put a finger to his lips. “We’re hiding from Mr. Snape. We can’t let him find us. Can you be very quiet?”

Both boys nodded in vigorous agreement.

“Good,” Remus said. “Now hold still. I’ll need to put a Disillusionment Charm on you.”

He tapped both boys on their heads. The children’s bodies were now camouflaged perfectly against their mother’s skirts. Remus crawled into the cupboard beside his family and closed the doors behind him.

Once again, darkness shrouded him. Both boys began to whimper. Damn. How could he forget? The boys were afraid of the dark.

“It’s all right,” Angela soothed. “Mummy’s here.”

Muted footsteps crossed the room. The little boys fidgeted and squirmed. Angela’s dress rustled. A child’s squeal of fright boomed like a canon in Remus’ ear. Angela whispered a soft hush. The footsteps came closer. Remus whispered an incantation. His skin prickled, as the Disillusionment Charm took effect. The wardrobe door creaked open.

The sullen face of the Potions Master peered through the curtain of pelts. His nostrils flared as he sniffed the air as if trying to detect their scent. Blue light from his wand glowed in the blackness of the cupboard. Remus flattened his back against the wardrobe and held still. Where his wife had been, a fox was curled around his two sons, looking just like an old fur stole. His twin sons did not make a sound, their bodies camouflaged against the fur of the fox.

“What are you doing up here, Severus?” a woman’s voice asked.

Snape jerked his head from the wardrobe and whipped around to face the woman. There stood Ravena, Snape’s wife. Remus could see her curvaceous form silhouetted in the doorway to the storage room. She strolled over to her husband’s side.

“I heard a noise up here,” Snape said in his silkiest tones. “I thought that perhaps those Lupin brats had been prying into things. We wouldn’t want them to get into trouble now, would we?”

Remus gritted his teeth. So now Severus was concerned for his sons’ safety? How kind of him to take the children’s best interest to heart. Could that hooked nose grow any bigger?

“And you heard them up here?” Ravena asked.

“Yes,” Snape replied, his voice dripping with contempt. “I could have sworn that I heard a child’s delightful screech coming from that wardrobe.”

Ravena’s thin eyebrows shot up with surprise. She parted the furs and peered into the cupboard. A dim light flickered in the gloom, sending shadows dancing against the back of the cupboard. A slender hand rested on the fox stole and skimmed across the fur. Then fingers tickled across a child’s belly. The tot erupted in a fit of giggles. Remus suppressed a groan. The game was up.

“Well,” Ravena said, scooping a child from the cupboard. “Look what we have here. James, is it? How clever of you to find my childhood hiding place. And how did you manage to put a Disillusionment Charm on yourself?”

“We’re playin’ Hide an’ Seek,” the child said with obvious glee. “Me and Siwius.”

The second child tumbled out of the cupboard after his brother. Ravena tapped their heads and removed the charm. The two boys were restored to their normal forms. Snape’s face worked into an enormous and most unpleasant sneer of satisfaction.

“Your childhood hiding place, Ravena?” he asked.

“Of course,” Ravena replied. “There’s a hidden passage from the library to this room. Angela and I used it all the time as children. We had a secret clubhouse in this very cupboard.”

“Did you?” Snape’s eyebrows shot up. A knowing look glistened in his black eyes. He eyed the cupboard with a suspicious stare. “And where do you suppose Lupin and your cousin are now?”

“Angela and Remus?” Ravena’s face assumed a most innocent look. “I’ve no idea. I haven’t seen them since dinner.”

James tugged on Ravena’s skirt and pointed a chubby finger toward the wardrobe. Remus shook his head. Damn that Disillusionment Charm. Of course, the child couldn’t see him.

“Mummy an’ Daddy are in dere,” the tot said.

“What an imagination!” Ravena replied, rolling her eyes. “Now come along. I have some chocolate downstairs for two clever little boys.”

She had said the magic words. Nothing could distract those boys as readily as the promise of sweets. The little tykes pranced around Ravena’s skirts amid more shrieks of excitement. Remus breathed a sigh of relief. That was close. Too close.

“Do come, Severus dear,” Ravena said, casting him her most engaging smile.

“In a moment,” Snape replied, eyeing the cupboard.

Ravena disappeared through the doorway with the boys at her heels. Snape turned back to the cupboard. An evil glint flashed in his dark eyes. He thrust aside the coats and peered back into the wardrobe. Remus held his breath. The Potions master’s gaze raked over the fox stole and the ermine cape on the floor. Then Snape jerked the coats closed with a hiss of frustration. The cupboard door slammed shut. Air gushed from Remus’ lungs in relief.

Then he heard a rattle and creak from the other cupboard. The boggart.

“Lupin!” Snape hissed with triumph.

BANG! Snape uttered an exclamation of surprise. Remus opened the wardrobe door just a crack and peered out. But his curiosity would not be satisfied. The door to the boggart’s wardrobe blocked his view of the shape that the dark creature had assumed. But Snape’s expression was clearly visible. His sallow face had gone completely white. His mouth hung open in shocked disbelief.

“F-f-father,” Snape sputtered. “B-b-but you’re d-d-dead.”

The shock lasted only an instant. Snape’s normal expression snapped back into place like a mask as the realization hit. Then a string of exploding hexes rocked the cupboard. With a swish of the black robes and a stream of unmentionable swear words, Snape retreated down the hallway.

Remus chuckled, holding his sides to contain his amusement. His wife erupted in sniggers at his feet. She opened the cupboard door and climbed out, her human form replacing the Animagus fox. Tears of laughter streamed down her blushing cheeks.

“Where to now?” she asked, swiping her eyes and stifling her giggles.

A twinge of remorse seized Remus. His more noble instincts arose, checking his recklessness.  Prongs, Padfoot, and Wormtail were not here this time to squelch them. The fun had ended.

“I think our game is up,” Remus replied with a sigh.

“Really?” Angela said. Her face fell, disappointment in her eyes.

“Look at you,” he remarked. “Your dress. Your hair. Imagine what our relatives would say if we got caught.”

Angela glanced down at her best dress, all wrinkled and mussed. Her fingers flew to secure the buttons and shake the creases from her skirt. Then she swiped a stray curl from the path of her eyes and gazed up at him with admiration. A winsome smile overcame her flushed face.

“That was so thrilling,” she said. “I can’t remember when I’ve had such fun.” She cast him a shy glance. “Perhaps we could persuade Mother to watch the children and you could join me for lunch…some day…at Hogwarts?” A mischievous glint sparked in her eyes.

Was she suggesting a midday rendezvous? Remus chuckled. He had an accomplice, after all. Who would have expected this of his mild-mannered wife? It’s always the quiet ones.

“Come,” he said, grabbing her hand.

“Remus,” Angela whispered. “Where are you taking me?”

Shh!” He held a finger to his lips and motioned for her to follow. “It’s a surprise!”

He lead her down the spiral stairs to the front foyer, a massive entry of marble decorated with great floating orbs of mistletoe, holly, and red velvet ribbons. The tinkling tinny sounds of a sentimental Christmas ballad filtered from the rafters, like the tune from a giant calliope. Remus drew Angela into a slow dance under the largest cluster of mistletoe.

“But Remus,” Angela whispered. “Everyone will find us here.”

“Out in the open?” Remus shook his head. “This is the last place they’ll look.” He drew Angela close and rocked in rhythm to the melody. “All I want for Christmas is you,” he sang softly in her ear.

Angela sniggered at his off-key rendition, laughter sparkling like emeralds in her green eyes. Remus twirled Angela in dizzy spirals, then caught her in his arms. There under the largest cluster of mistletoe, he planted a passionate kiss on her lips.

The pitter-patter of footsteps, accompanied by high-pitched giggles, approached from the adjoining hallway. Remus shut his eyes and willed himself to ignore them. He drew Angela tighter into his embrace. She pulled away from his kiss, but rested her cheek against his.

“We have an audience,” she whispered, still clinging to him.

Out of the corner of his eye, Remus caught the stares of his two little boys. The tiny tots watched wide-eyed, the chocolate-smeared mouths hanging open.  Their giggles had fallen silent, now replaced by cherubic grins.

“Let them watch,” Remus whispered. “I have a right to dance with my wife and kiss her under the mistletoe, if I choose. It’s Christmas. And boys will be boys.”

Remus held Angela close and resumed the slow dance.

 

//
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