The Sugar Quill
Author: InFabula (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Catching Up  Chapter: Chapter Two: A Little Learning
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.




Disclaimer: these wonderful characters belong to JK: I just borrowed them for a bit.




Sirius could just make out Remuss shape ahead of him as he turned down a side street. Putting on an extra burst of speed, he dodged in and out of the pedestrians, determined to catch him.


He was about a hundred yards away when Remus turned smartly left through a gate and up a short path. Sirius sat panting at the gate and let out a howl of frustration as he saw Remus disappear into a house.


He shook himself, pushed the gate open and padded into the front garden. There was a small shrubbery and he sat in the bushes waiting, ears pricked. What on earth was Moony up to now?


From his position, he could see the front room of the house through a large bay window. There was a piano that had seen better days at the back of the room and a large oak table with six chairs in the bay. A couple of portraits hung on the wall. Sirius squinted; the subjects appeared to be snoring.


The door to the front room opened and a pale fair-haired woman in her thirties ushered Remus into the room. She was wearing a pinafore and had her sleeves rolled-up as if she had been baking. She wiped her hands nervously on her apron and kept smiling and nodding at Remus who in turn seemed to be speaking gently to her as if to put her at her ease.


She pulled out a chair at the table and Remus took his seat, opening his briefcase and taking out quills and parchment. Then she went to the door and appeared to call. Immediately, four children between the ages of five and ten rushed in to the room and sat at the table. Their clothes looked like hand-me-downs but their faces were clean and eager. Each was clutching a small book.


Sirius relaxed. The mystery was explained: Remus was doing a spot of private tuition. Sirius watched the silent tableau unfold before him. Remus was obviously going over their previous lesson and each of the children in turn were reading to him from the books. He stopped one occasionally to correct them but generally let them demonstrate what they had learned, smiling encouragement at them.


He was an excellent teacher, Sirius thought objectively, watching the children swell with pride as Remus praised their efforts. He felt proud of his friends accomplishment and then angry as he remembered the letter Remus had sent him explaining why his position at Hogwarts had become untenable.


I made up my mind to leave: not drinking the Wolfsbane potion was - unforgivable. In more ways than one. In any case, Snape has decided to share with the general school populace the fact that their DADA professor is in fact a Dark Creature himself. Ah, well. Severus has his way after all. Maybe hell take the vacant position.


Sirius had snorted loudly when he had read that. Spiteful, vindictive Snivellus! Nothing changed.


The afternoon wore on. The woman brought fresh scones and milk into the room and Remus and the children took a break to eat them. Siriuss stomach rumbled. He realised he had eaten nothing since the night before. He laid down on his front paws in the drowsy sunshine and tried to ignore fantasies about roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes.


The sound of a front door slamming snapped him back to reality. He watched as a dark-haired, powerfully-built man burst into the front room causing Remus to jump to his feet. The children sat open-mouthed.


The pale woman came rushing in and stood in front of Remus as the man lunged forward. She appeared to be trying to placate the man whom Sirius supposed was her husband but did not seem to be having much success. Remus put his hands on her shoulders to try to move her gently out of the way. Sirius guessed he was explaining to the man about the lessons: in his head, Sirius could hear Remuss patient, reasonable tone.


An ugly scowl suffused the mans face; he interrupted Remus by reaching over and picking up one of the schoolbooks. Slowly and deliberately, he ripped it in two and threw it back down on the table. One of the children screwed up her face to cry but was hushed by her mother.


Remus looked sadly down at the destroyed book and then gathered together his teaching materials, snapping his briefcase shut. The woman put a hand on his arm and started to apologise but her husband pulled her away from Remus and gestured towards the door. Remus hesitated for a moment then left the room.


The front door opened and Remus emerged, his face white with emotion. He took a few steps down the garden path and Sirius started towards him then stopped as the pale-faced woman came running out.


Professor Lupin, she called breathlessly, please!


Remus turned round and the woman pushed some bronze coins into his hand.


Mrs Draper, I cant-


Please! she said, looking anxiously over her shoulder. Take them! I know it should be more, butplease just take them!


Alright, Remus said in a low voice. He threw a glance back up the path. Will you and the children be okay?


Yes, well be fine, Mrs Draper assured him, edging back towards the door. Im sorry, Professor, Im so sorry


And with that, she fled into the house. Remus looked after her uncertainly then sighed and walked out of the gate.


He felt something nudge his knee and looked down to see a big scruffy-looking dog wagging its tail at him. His eyebrows shot up.


Sirius! he exclaimed then looked round hurriedly to check that no one had heard him.


He dropped quickly to one knee.


Can you come back to my house with me? We can talk there.


Sirius gave a joyful bark and the two of them set off at a brisk pace homewards.


Remus stopped at a butchers to buy some sausages and picked up a bottle of Firewhisky from a shadowy little shop that passing Muggles ignored: both purchases received a happy woof of approval.


The journey home passed without incident apart from one point where a group of children with a harassed-looking governess went past in an open-topped carriage. One of them pointed at Sirius and shrieked Sparkle! Look, its Sparkle!


You mean Angel, shouted her sister at the top of her voice.

Jell-jell! bellowed another girl as the carriage took them in the opposite direction.


Sirius kept his eyes straight ahead and affected not to notice. A moment passed and he risked a glance up at Remus. Remus looked like he hadnt heard; Sirius breathed a sigh of relief.


They reached the two-bedroom terrace and Remus opened the door.


After you, he motioned Sirius in and followed him.


Sparkle, he added, shutting the door.


Sirius launched himself at him with a mock-snarl and sent him and his briefcase flying.


Enough, enough, Remus laughed, pushing him away. He propped himself up on one elbow. Padfoot, its good to see you - you have no idea how good. But why are you here? And wheres Buckbeak?


The dog changed into Sirius, sitting cross-legged on the floor, his expression turning grim.


Buckbeaks being looked after by Dumbledore. He sent me here with news, Moony, news of the worst kind.


Remus sat up straight.


Harry? he asked urgently.


Hes OK, Sirius reassured him.


He hesitated for a moment as if wondering where to begin.


Look, would you mind if I talk while you cook, Remus? I know its early but this is going to take a while and frankly, Im starving.


They moved into the kitchen and while Remus fried the sausages and prepared the vegetables he had bought earlier, Sirius explained the events of the previous night.


Several times Remus stopped what he was doing to stare in disbelief at his friend.


Cedric Diggory? Remus shook his head incredulously. I taught himhe was an excellent studentCedrics dead?


Sirius nodded. He continued with Harrys account of the events in the graveyard. When Remus heard the part Wormtail had had to play, his mouth settled into a tight grimace.


Peter, he said with disgust.


We should have killed him, Moony, back at the Shack.


It was Harrys choice we didnt, Remus pointed out. And as you said, of all of us, he has the most right.


Sirius scowled.


Next time, he muttered.


The story of Voldemorts resurrection and the battle of the wands kept Remus by turn so horrified and enthralled that the sausages would have been cremated if Sirius had not rescued them.


So Voldemort lives. Remus gave a shudder. Somehow I hoped we wouldnt have to face him at full power again. Priori Incantatem with the wandsthats very rare. Harry saw James and Lily?


Their after-images at any rate, Sirius said, serving up the meal. Like Dumbledore said, the dead cant live again.


Over the meal, Sirius explained how Barty Crouch Jnr had escaped Azkaban and impersonated Alastor Moody. The story about the Dementors Kiss made Remus push his plate away.


What is it? Sirius asked in between mouthfuls.


That would have happened to you Remus whispered. In his minds eye, he could see the cloaked figure swooping down on a helpless Sirius. You would have been he broke off and swallowed quickly.


Sirius chewed a piece of sausage in bewilderment for a few seconds before the penny dropped.


Padfoot, I Remus studied the table-top. I let you down. I let James and Lily and Harry down. If only Id drunk that damn potion Self-loathing filled his face.


Hey, enough of that! Sirius put his knife and fork down. Moony, we cant go through life playing What if?. I know its tempting. Do you think I didnt sit in Azkaban thinking What if Id waited for Remus and wed gone after Peter together? or What if Id stuck with being the Secret-Keeper? - of course I did!


He leaned forward for emphasis.


But this is the thing, we make choices, some of them conscious, some of them unconscious. And we have to live with the consequences. Its no use crying over spilt Wolfsbane. Weve got a job to do.


Taking a deep breath of resolve, Remus nodded. He listened to Sirius explain about the messages to Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix and the instruction to lie low at Lupins for a while.


He frowned. Finding Arabella will be no problem. Dung might be a little trickier. He tends to be on the move a lot. Lets seewho else is there? He counted them off on his fingers. Dedalus, Emmeline, Mad-Eyewell, hell already knowElphiasand Sturgis. Ill send a note to all of them telling them to be ready.


You forgot Frank and Alice, Sirius said, waving a fork at him.


One look at Remuss shocked face told him he had said something wrong.


Theyre dead? he hazarded.


St Mungos, Remus said quietly. Tortured for information after Voldemort disappeared. They never recovered.


This time it was Sirius who pushed his plate away, his appetite quite vanished.


They had a kid, Harrys age he said slowly.


Neville, Remus supplied. I taught him at Hogwarts.


Whats he like?


Takes after his mother in looks. Brought up by his grandmother and I think hes had a lot to live up to. Nice kid, though.


I hope I meet him someday, Sirius said solemnly. Frank and Aliceanything else I missed out on?


I dont knowI dont think sothe rest of the Order survived. We just slipped back into our usual roles. I havent seen Arabella or the others very much since. I guess now well have a chance to catch up with them together.


Going to a small chest of drawers, he dug out parchment and quill then opened the back door and on cue, a small brown owl flew in.


Youve met Amos, he said.


Amos flew lazily around the kitchen while Remus quickly dashed off the letters. Their content was innocuous enough to avoid rousing suspicion in any reader outside the Order of the Phoenix.


Having sent Amos on his way, Remus turned back to find Sirius with two glasses and the bottle of Firewhisky in his hands.


Time for a chat, Moony, he ordered. I want to tell you about my day.

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