The Sugar Quill
Author: Juliane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Witch Meets Werewolf  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter One

Remus Lupin was sitting at the bar, contemplating his ale and wondering where to go next. He was still not completely recovered from his last transformation, but he had started hearing the whispers, and knew it was time to move on before suspicions became fact. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror over the fireplace, he noted with a sigh the ragged edges of his robes and the unnaturally sharp angles of his face, and decided with a bitter frown that it would be impossible to find a decent job anywhere. As he raised the glass to take a sip of his drink, he heard a commotion in the next room and got up to check it out, happy to have a diversion from his tiresome and unprofitable musings. He opened the door to the back room of the pub and saw a girl trying to hold off three men attacking her with Stunning Spells from several directions at once. Remus instinctively drew his wand and cried "Expelliarmus!" catching all four wands and pointing his at the largest man.

"What's going on here?" he asked, looking at each in turn. Suddenly the girl drew a sword and had one of the men on the ground, her weapon pointed at his throat as she stood over him. "Who sent you? Was it Harold? Edgar? Gwendolyn?" She pressed the weapon in, drawing blood. "Well? I'll finish off all of you in turn, if I don't get an answer."

"Just wait a minute! Who are you, and get that sword out of that man's throat or I'll Stun you where you stand." Remus was shocked at the girl's action. She looked eighteen at the most.

The girl stared up at him with pale green eyes and said, "This isn't your fight, whoever you are, so I'd appreciate it if you'd give me back my wand and let me finish my business."

"I'd appreciate some thanks from you. These three had you cornered. Now put that sword away!" She gave him a furious look but slowly put her sword back in its scabbard and simultaneously placed her foot on the man's throat, causing him to choke and gasp for air as she pressed down with her full weight. His two companions started forward, ready to attack again as they realized Remus could only cover one of them.

Remus sighed at the memory of the barely touched ale still sitting on the bar but stepped forward, dropping the men's wands and grasping the girl firmly with one arm as he Apparated well outside the town. As soon as they were firmly established on the ground, he pointed his wand at her, saying "Keep that damned weapon put away. I'm not going to hurt you, but you owe me an explanation as payment for saving your life. Those wizards may have been using Stunning spells, but it obviously wouldn't have ended there." He handed her wand back to her, keeping his pointed at her throat.

"Did I ask you to interfere? I would have had them-"

"You would have been dead. Come on, let's go somewhere less conspicuous and you can explain to me why I wasted a good ale to save your ungrateful hide."

She surveyed him head to foot, eyebrow raised, then broke into unexpected laughter. "I guess I do owe you a drink, at the very least. Let's find a pub and I'll do some explaining. It won't take too long."

Sitting in a corner of a sparsely inhabited pub, Remus took a close survey of her as she took a long sip of her wine. She wasn't pretty exactly, but she had the look of an aristocrat, with fiercely intelligent eyes over high, slanted cheekbones set off by a stubborn jaw. Her robe was finely tailored, and her thick, dark hair was done up in a sloppy coil.

"Well? Why is a girl of obviously good family and some wealth brawling in pubs? With a sword? Isn't that a bit anachronistic? And how did you end up in England, since from your accent I assume you're French?"

"I am French, but I have no parents and must work for a living. As a matter of fact, you just made my job quite a bit harder, since now I'm not sure who's upset with me."

"That's a good story. Now how about the truth."

"That's it. By the way, my name is Viviane. Yours?"

"Remus Lupin."

They shook hands, and Viviane continued, "Why did you get involved? You could have gotten killed yourself - those guys aren't people to mess with. I think they were enforcers for a rival of the wizard I'm working for. I - eh - have made life a little difficult for them lately, as well as lessened their numbers by a wizard or two."

Remus laughed, incredulous. "You're telling me you're a lieutenant for some kind of wizard mobster? You?" He was laughing so hard he nearly upset his ale. "You look like you can barely handle a complex Transfiguration Spell."

"I don't need to do complex Transfiguration Spells to be a basic thug. But I'm an expert at swordsmanship, and know enough spells, charms and curses to keep opponents busy for some time. Your turn. What are you, some kind of Gringotts employee out on a lark?"

Remus scowled. "No. I'm unemployed at the moment, and on my way to somewhere else to try and find work."

"Oh. Why don't you try the area around Liverpool? That's where I'm headed. We can't Apparate directly there; there will be too many Muggles around, and we'll have to do some walking between towns. I'll pay for your lodging if you'll come along and watch my back. Since you rescued me so precipitately, I don't know where the danger is coming from and could use another pair of eyes."

Remus studied Viviane. She was terribly impulsive and possibly one of the strangest people he'd ever met, but her offer of lodging was tempting. As long as it didn't include-

"Oh, and we're getting separate rooms, Mr. Lupin. Just in case you-"

"Please, call me Remus. And I'll take your offer. Do you have a last name, by the way?"

"Chance." She then spelled it out for him, since the French pronunciation differed from the English. "Shall we?"

They left the pub and started down the road in the mellow autumn evening, the handsome, shabbily dressed young man and well-dressed girl making an odd pair as their robes swept through the piles of leaves on the ground.

"Let me get this straight. You work for this aforementioned wizard, doing whatever job he needs you for? How on earth did you meet him?"

Viviane laughed, and the mischievous note in her voice and the sly sparkle in her eyes made Remus catch his breath as he was vividly reminded of Sirius.

"I was broke, drunk and ended up pouring out my misery to Mort as he sat at a bar. He tried to pick me up, but found I was more useful as an associate than a potential bedmate. A good swordfighter with a thorough grounding in spells is hard to find."

"Oh." Remus thought that each conversation with her was stranger than the last. "And it pays well? Why not just find a teaching job?"

"I'm not much of a teacher. And yes, it does pay very well. Here's a good spot to Apparate; the next wizard town isn't too far away."

"That sounds great to me," Remus said, tired and eager for a good night's sleep.

****

They were on the last leg of their journey to Shipley, and a light rain was falling as they walked along the road towards town, well sheltered by the Repelling Spell they had put on their cloaks. Remus was in a contemplative mood, finding the gray skies and light patter of rain on leaves soothing as he speculated upon what kind of employment he might be able to find. He occasionally glanced over at his traveling partner, who seemed overly confident, if anything, when dealing with innkeepers, barmaids and at asking for information. She was amazingly skilled at refusing to give any, however. Despite Remus' best efforts, he didn't know much more about her than he did the first day they met.

His peaceful reverie was rudely interrupted by a pair of rough-looking wizards that burst out from behind the trees lining the road and, drawing their wands, shot alternate Patrificus Curses and Stunning Spells at Viviane.

She had her wand and sword out before they had cleared their hiding place, and easily deflected their attack with a Shield Charm. Laughing gleefully, she advanced on them, maiming one in his wand arm with her sword, and smacking the other across the temple with the flat of the blade as she whirled away from the first man in a blur of robes and hair. Stunned, the man staggered sideways while the first shifted his wand to his other hand and attempted an infuriated barrage of curses and spells that kept Viviane busy parrying them. Remus stood still, amazed at the scene, until Viviane huffed, "Remus! Get out your damned wand and take care of that idiot!" Belatedly, he realized that the man she'd Stunned had recovered and was again taking aim at her. Remus drew his wand and prepared to hit the attacker with a Patrificus Curse, but the man lost heart at facing a second opponent and fled back into the woods. Seeing his partner abandon him, the other let up and Apparated, leaving Viviane and Remus alone in the road.

Blinking with shock, Remus asked Viviane, "What was that about?"

"That's the sort of thing I hired you to help out with. Be a little more prepared next time, eh?" She threw her head back and laughed, apparently exhilarated by the experience. "What a sorry pair. They didn't even present a decent challenge. At least I know now who's trying to get me. I recognize those two idiots; they work for Gwendolyn. She and Mort are engaged in a territory war over whose girls work what areas-"

"Girls? You mean prostitutes?"

"What else would I mean? They aren't fighting over shopgirls and stableboys. How tall was that ivory tower you escaped from, anyway? Come on, let's get moving and find someplace to eat because I'm starving."

Remus tilted his head and looked at her in vague disbelief, as she stood among the leaves they'd stirred up, face flushed and hair in a wild tangle, her dark green robes blending with the colors of the foliage along the road. He wondered at her lightness of heart amidst the obvious dangers she faced, but felt his own spirits lift a little as an unwilling grin spread across his face. "All right. I'll try to be a little more helpful if this happens again. You just need to give me time to adjust to life in the criminal underworld."

"Adjust quickly, will you? Next time the attackers might not be so stupid or so slow."

****

As they approached Shipley, the pair skirted the Muggle settlement and Remus followed Viviane as she scanned the area and finally walked up to a closed junk shop that looked like it was about to topple over. She placed her hand on the head of a crumbling statue of a manticle and muttered "Hermetic Alley." An archway appeared in the side of the shop, and they both walked through to the wizard section of town. "This place was a real hotbed of Death Eater activity, I've heard," Viviane explained. "So the inhabitants have set up extra precautions these days." They found a decent-looking inn whose main room was most inviting, with dark paneled walls and a huge stone fireplace surrounded by comfortable chairs. A cheerful-looking woman with blue eyes and a knot of light brown hair was presiding over the bar against one wall, and the tables were crowded with people consuming the usual pub fare.

"Hello, luvs. My, you look like you've come a ways. Do you need a room?" queried the woman behind the bar. Viviane was amused to see her glance of obvious appreciation at Remus.

"Rooms, actually. We may be here for a month or two. I'm working for Mortimer."

"Oh, you work for Mort! Well, it's wonderful to meet you, my dear. You certainly don't look like the usual type he hires. So young! And you?" she asked Remus.

To his great annoyance, Remus found himself blushing as he answered, "Er, I came here to look for work, Mrs., I mean Miss-"

"My name's Emma, luv. Let me get somebody to show you some rooms. I'll be up later to make sure they meet all of your requirements."

As they followed another witch up the steps, Viviane shot Remus a sly look and raised an eyebrow.

"Not a word, Viviane," Remus growled. "Not a single word." He decided that if Emma knocked on his door he would definitely be fast asleep and unable to answer.

****

The next day Viviane went off to track down her boss, and Remus took a survey of the town, finding some job possibilities as a curse-breaker and a Defense instructor for the locals. When he got back he found Viviane in the main room, ensconced in a chair, reading, her feet on the fender and with a mug of coffee next to her. Remus sat down and glanced at her book. "A History of 13th Century Wizard Warfare. You go in for light reading, do you?"

"Remus! How did the job search go?" She took a sip of her drink and grimaced. "Why can't this country brew decent coffee? And the wine isn't much better."

"Try ale." He laughed at the face she made. "I found some possibilities. And you?"

She leaned back and closed her book. "I have to cover a shipment that arrives tomorrow, and make sure it gets to Liverpool, so I may be gone for a few days."

"Dare I ask?"

"No."

"Dare I ask you to be careful?"

"Only if you promise not to be tiresome about it."

Remus leaned forward to speak more quietly. "Viviane, I just don't understand. Why are you doing this, taking these risks when it's obvious that you were destined for better things? You should be at Beauxbatons, or working for the French Ministry. This-"

"I have nowhere to go in France, because I got expelled from school. I told you I have no family and I really am better off here, doing what I'm doing. Please don't ask me to explain. Now, why is a nice young man like you scrounging for menial jobs when it's obvious you're well-educated and highly trained? At Hogwarts, most likely. Hm?"

To her surprise, a look of deep sorrow crossed Remus' face, and he said, "It was, like I suspect it was for you, a combination of untoward circumstances that lead me to this. Come, shall we have dinner?"

"That's an evasion-" Viviane broke off as Remus' face closed down in a forbidding mask. "Sounds good to me - I'm famished!" she concluded.

 

 

****

Viviane left with her shipment of contraband goods, and Remus accepted work as a Defense instructor for a small group of wizards still worried about Death Eaters. The first day of class, he surveyed the half-dozen witches and wizards gathered about, and decided to just get down to business. After an hour of basic instruction in Confundus Charms, he dismissed class, and a distinguished looking wizard with dark curly hair, greyed at the temples, and sharp dark eyes came up to speak to him.

"Mr. Lupin. My name is Anthony Scipio. I'm the local Healer for Shipley, and we're thrilled to have a Hogwarts graduate to teach us the finer points of Defense. Especially one that's been through the wars."

Lupin was slightly taken aback. "How did you-"

"Oh, I do my research! I'm sorry that Hogwarts lost so many-"

"Thanks. One question, though. The war is over; why are you still so worried?"

The wizard ran a hand through his hair and said, "Shipley was hit hard by Death Eaters. We're still not sure they're entirely gone, and are afraid they may still attempt revenge on those who fought He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Look, Mr. Lupin-"

"Remus."

"Call me Anthony. My wife, Melinda, told me to bring you home for dinner. Please, do. This town has been so overrun by thieves and con men lately, I've not had a good conversation with an educated man for some time. I can promise some good food and a decent glass of brandy afterwards."

****

Remus fell onto his bed and stared up at his ceiling, just a little tipsy and feeling happier than he'd been for some time. Anthony turned out to be a wonderful conversationalist, and after a tasty dinner prepared by his shy but pleasant wife, they sat in his study and Remus found himself talking about esoteric subjects not touched on since he graduated from Hogwarts. While discussing Anthony's residence in Italy, they discovered their mutual interest in astronomy, which had been part of the curriculum at the medical school the Healer had attended. Obviously thrilled to have found another enthusiast, his host lead him up the tower attached to his house, where Remus was invited to use a magnificent telescope. As Remus turned the settings to bring the star Sirius into view, Anthony had remarked, "You came on a perfect night for this; there's no moon." Remus gave a start and had to redo his settings, but soon found what he was looking for.

"Padfoot," he whispered to the walls of his room, and as he got up to get ready for bed he wondered if there would ever be a time when everything didn't lead back to that moment in the street, with Sirius and Peter, and a freshly shattered world.

****

Remus and Viviane fell into a routine of working for the day, then returning to compare stories over dinner. Viviane even introduced Mortimer, a tall, powerfully built man with thick gray hair and disconcertingly blue eyes, who raised his eyebrows at Remus and seemed to find him terribly amusing. "My goodness, how did you end up keeping company with this French hellion?" he asked. "A nice Englishman like yourself?"

Remus looked quizzically at Viviane, who shrugged, and then all three of them collapsed in laughter. "Ah good, you have a sense of humor. Well, you'll need it if you're going to spend time with this one." He pulled Viviane's ear playfully and walked off to talk to Emma.

"Quite a character," Remus remarked. "Powerful?"

"Very. He controls several operations in the North. He's treated me fairly and kept me busy, which is all I can ask for right now."

"Viviane-"

"Shut up, Remus. I'm going to bed. See you tomorrow evening."

****

One morning over breakfast Remus announced that he was leaving for a week.

"A week? Where are you going?"

"Never mind. Will you be here when I get back?"

"I hope so, unless Mortimer decides to send me off somewhere."

He didn't and when Remus came back, he ran into Viviane walking back from the grocery store with a can of coffee.

"Viviane!" Remus smiled at her. "You've given up and gotten a coffeepot?"

"Remus! I'm so glad you're back!" She stopped to take a closer look at him. "What happened to you? You look ill. Where on earth were you? You've lost at least 10 pounds, and you can't afford to lose any."

Lupin said with a hint of a smile, "My turn to keep some secrets. Is my room still open?"

"Yes it is! And I just got paid for a bit of extra work, so we're going to have a very large dinner this evening. Come along!"

To Remus' surprise, he let himself be carried off, but he decided he was too tired to argue with Viviane at the moment.

****

The drinks were going around, and Remus, who'd been invited by Mortimer to join the group as he walked in after work, was amused in spite of himself by their plan to scam an ex-Ministry official. Sirius would have loved this, and James would have been horrified, he thought, and the familiar pain stabbed through him. He was distracted from sorrowful thoughts by Viviane hailing him as she entered the pub, dragging up a chair to their table. Before she could sit, Mortimer reached out and pulled her into his lap. "And how are you today, my aristocratic guttersnipe?" he said affectionately as he motioned for Emma to bring her a drink.

"Just fine. Anything going on?"

"Oh, a little project concerning a ex-Ministry official, a few bits of useful information and lots of gold. There's nothing for you to do, unless-" He took her chin and turned her face about, looking at her intently. "You know, you might do. You're not a beauty, but play up that French accent and get you in a low-cut robe, loosen up the hair; yes, you'd do perfectly. You're intelligent enough to act dumb."

Her face held firmly by the chin, she glared at him out of the corner of her eye and said, "I'm a hired sword, not a hired courtesan."

"I don't need you to be a courtesan. Just a distraction. Hold him in the bar while we investigate his room, that sort of thing. It would be very easy for a smart girl like you, and you'd get a very nice bonus."

Viviane shrugged. "Sounds interesting-"

Remus interrupted, "No deal, unless I go along. This sounds simple, but we don't know who she'll be dealing with, and she has no experience in this sort of thing."

Viviane stood up. "Under no circumstances. Just how am I going to explain your presence? As my houseboy?"

"As anything. Be creative. But I'm going to go along, because I can just see you making a disaster out of this."

"Thank you for the vote of confidence, Remus-"

"Shut up, you two," barked Mortimer. "Well, Lupin, I never thought a fine and discriminating gentleman like you would care to join in our nefarious schemes." He smiled rather fiendishly. "But it might not be a bad idea to have some backup. Lurk around and if Viv mucks it up, step in and make a jealous scene, or act like an outraged brother." He eyed Lupin. "You'd better stick with outraged brother. You don't look like the jealous type."

****

Remus was about to knock on Viviane's door when he heard a shriek and then a burst of giggles emanating from the room. Oh, no. She's had Emma help her get ready, he thought and had to pause to gear himself up to meet Emma's disconcerting glances. They were flattering, but he wasn't exactly sure what it all meant. For the millionth time, Remus wondered how he'd gotten mixed up in all this, then sighed and knocked. Emma opened it and stood aside to let him in. "Our girl will have no problem attracting Godfrey Pifflebaum, Remus. Make sure you keep your eye on her."

"Will do, Emma," he replied as she brushed past with a smile and a wink and went downstairs.

"Remus, you really are being an idiot. I can do this by myself, you know," Viviane greeted him as she turned from the mirror. Remus stared at her in shock.

"Viviane, you really do look like an idiot. Where did they get that robe?" He gazed in horror at the skin-tight red gown made of cheap satin that displayed ample cleavage.

"They borrowed it from one of Mort's girls. How's the hair and makeup? I so seldom wear it these days-"

"You look like you want to be picked up in a bar. So let's go and do it."

"Shall we?" Viviane said with a grin, taking the arm Remus offered her. They immediately both broke into a fit of laughter that they had to stop and get the better of before walking downstairs.

As they entered the bar of the inn down the street from theirs, Viviane spotted the ex-official that was her target from Mort's description. She sat down next to him and ordered a gin and tonic that she knew would be mostly tonic. Nerves strumming, she almost sensed rather than saw Remus take a seat around the corner of the bar, out of sight but within hearing. She chatted up her target, time passing rather slowly as she was forced to listen to a long, drunken tale of how he'd embezzled thousands of Galleons from the Ministry and left before he could be arrested.

All was going well until Godfrey decided he wanted a more private setting for their conversation. He imperiously demanded a bottle of champagne and a private room and taking Viviane by the hand, led her off. The barmaid glanced at Remus, and handing him the bottle, pushed him towards the door. Remus entered the room to find Viviane coquettishly holding the man off as he leaned into her, recounting his younger triumphs.

Godfrey turned around and gesturing at Remus, said, "Go on, pour it, man, and get out of here." Remus poured, then slammed the door, but quietly retreated to a dark corner of the room.

The ex-official turned back to Viviane and said, "I like 'em like you - not too pretty and stuck up, but nice and with some upholstery to you. Those women that tended to join Voldemort, they were a snobby bunch, 'specially those Slytherin girls. That was no place to go to school, if you ask me, 'specially if you got stuck in Hufflepuff like me. Being a Death Eater was no fun on the fun end either, you know, but it sure was profitable, if you know what I mean-"

Suddenly Godfrey crashed to the floor in a wave of blood, and Viviane stood over him with a dagger, her face glowing but her eyes filled with such cold rage that they chilled Remus to the marrow. Remus gazed at her, stunned by her transformation and the body on the floor, and then the metallic smell of warm blood and the sight of the gaping wound in the man's chest overcame him and he had to run to the fireplace to vomit.

As he recovered, he gasped, "Viviane, what have you done! You've killed him! Are you mad?"

Viviane prodded the body with a toe. "Do you think he really went to Hogwarts?"

"What?! What kind of question is that?"

"Do you?"

"Damn it, yes, he did. He was three years ahead of me. Viviane-"

Viviane smiled slightly, and wiping some blood from her blade with her finger, licked it slowly off. "That's two for one, then. Let's go. Did you lock the door into the bar?"

"Yes!" said Remus, somewhat wildly.

She took her stunned friend by the elbow and left out the back. As they reached their inn and went upstairs, she said "Goodnight!" and went into her room, closing the door in Remus' face. Remus started to knock, but something told him it wouldn't make a difference, so he prepared to spend a sleepless night awaiting explanations.

When Viviane awoke, she was startled to find Remus sitting firmly in a chair in front of her door. "Remus! How dare you break into my room!"

Remus, arms and legs crossed, simply stared at her.

Viviane gave a stretch and a yawn and continued, "Well? Oh come on, you know I'm no angel. The man was a Death Eater. He's wanted by the Ministry for embezzlement, and as unsettled as things are now they aren't going to waste time finding out who took him off their hands. Perhaps I should apply for a reward!"

"I don't even know what to say to you. You killed that man - killed him - without provocation-"

A faint echo of last night's rage glowed in Viviane's eyes as she said, "You don't know my provocations. Trust me, I had some. You'll have trust me, because I'm not discussing them at this time."

Remus got up, and Viviane realized, too late, that he was practically beside himself with anger. She flinched a little, shocked by the intensity of his emotion as he stood over her and said in a strained voice, "You've put both of us in jeopardy by your inexcusable behavior last night. How could you involve me in this mess-"

Viviane leapt out of bed, infuriated. "How could I? Did I ask you to get involved? Did I beg you to come along? Please recall that it was you-"

"Yes. I did. I agreed to a simple plan to hold the man downstairs, not murder him. Now we've got a dead body, the Ministry most likely nosing around, and have you even thought about what Mortimer is going to do when he finds out? Viviane, he may think you're cute and indulge you when you obey orders, but when you go around murdering people you're only supposed to detain, he's not going to like it at all. It draws too much attention to him."

Viviane rolled her eyes. "I'll handle Mort."

Remus' voice softened a little as he said, "You have a lot of growing up to do. I feel awfully strange saying this to a murderer, but you have no idea what you're dealing with here. I don't know why you did this, but I simply can't take the risk of being hauled into court for murder or beaten up by an angry mobster. I've made enough here to pay off my bill, so I'll be going."

"You're leaving? Now?" Viviane sat back down, wide-eyed.

"After my class today. I packed up last night. Viviane, I can only hope the best for you, but you're taking too many risks and frankly, you scare me. If you could have seen your eyes last night-" Remus gave a shiver, then quickly kissed her on the forehead, and left.

Viviane sat on the bed, bewildered. "What just happened?" she said aloud. "Remus?"

But she didn't get an answer, and found that he had left for class. As she got dressed for her next assignment, guarding a wizard on a journey to York, she wondered whether she should try and stop him. He was nice to have around, but something of a busybody. She couldn't deal with the problem then, though, because she was already running late. We'll sort this out tonight, she thought. He'll cool down.

On her way to the house where she was to meet the wizard she would be protecting, Mortimer unexpectedly joined her.

"Come along, my dear, that little job has been cancelled." He guided her into a house, lead her into an empty room and shut the door. Eyeing her for a second and taking in her puzzled look, he then grabbed her shoulders, lifted her off her feet and slammed her so hard into the wall that it knocked the breath out of her. As she gasped for air, he snarled, "What do you think you were doing, killing that man? How dare you disobey orders and bring the Ministry down on me?" He slammed her into the wall again and let go, allowing her to fall to the floor. She landed in a crouch, looking up at him furiously and reaching for her wand.

"Oh no, none of that. Expelliarmus!" As he caught her wand, he pointed his at her and exclaimed, "Crucio!" Viviane let out a scream, and curled into a ball as Mortimer leaned over her to hiss, "I've killed people for less than this. But you're useful, intelligent and young enough to learn the lesson I'm about to teach you. Crucio!" Viviane flipped over, letting out a wail but glaring up at him through the pain. "Ah yes, you do have spirit, don't you, my dear. Damon? I need you in here." Mortimer made a gesture in Viviane's direction as a brutal-looking wizard came into the room. He gave Mortimer a surprised look as he pointed to Viviane and Mortimer nodded. The thug swung his leg back and gave Viviane a kick in the ribs, audibly breaking some, then aimed a blow at her back. Mortimer commented as he watched, "I'd rather just use the Cruciatus on you, but I can't risk damaging your mind. You're so damned stubborn, though, that I need to give you a lesson to remember. And Damon will make sure you'll remember this one every time you look in the mirror for the next week."

After a few more strategic kicks, Mortimer hauled Viviane to her feet and held her up, grasping her jaw in a carelessly tight grip. "One more, but not too hard. We don't want to damage her face permanently." Viviane gave Damon a look that made him hesitate for less than a second before his fist made contact with her cheekbone, snapping her head sideways.

Mortimer released his grip on Viviane, letting her collapse to the floor. "Well my dear, that's it for now. Don't worry about showing up for work - I'll let you have the week off. Vacation time." He laughed as he left, only turning around once to put a lengthy, parting Cruciatus Curse on her before tossing her wand at her and shutting the door.

She lay there for several hours, in too much pain to move, but finally the cold cleared her senses enough for her to retrieve her wand and drag herself to her feet. Dizzy, and aching in every part of her body, she slowly made her way back to her room, taking back streets and alleyways, shrouding her face in her cloak.

****

Remus was sorry to leave his students and beyond furious with Viviane for what she'd done. It was first civilized existence he'd enjoyed since Hogwarts. He liked teaching the Defenses that he knew, and he felt in some way that he was making up for his failure to realize that Sirius was a spy for Voldemort. And as far as he could tell, his students liked him. Emily had even made him several batches of his favorite ginger snaps over the last few weeks, and had wept a little when he announced he was leaving. Anthony, shocked, tried to question him, but he curtly refused to answer, merely saying that he'd had an urgent message, and had to go.

On the way back to the inn, he pondered once again about the murder Viviane had committed, and shook his head for the umpteenth time that day, wondering how an odd but seemingly levelheaded girl could harbor such deadly rage. It was something he simply couldn't risk hanging around to find out the answer for, no matter how pleasant his life had become.

As he walked up the steps to his room, he passed a hunched figure with a mass of tangled hair, making its way slowly up the steps while clinging to the railing. Remus was momentarily surprised, because he hadn't seen a crone in years. As he was letting himself into his room, he noticed that the crone was trying to unlock Viviane's door, and staring in disbelief, he moved towards the figure and took its arm.

Viviane let out a scream and doubled over. "Don't touch me!"

"Viviane?" Remus said, aghast, as he pulled the hair away from her face. What he saw shocked him so badly that he reeled against the wall. "Viviane?"

She ignored him and fumbled with her wand, trying to unlock the door. Finally managing it, she stumbled into the room and fell on the bed, eyes closed. "Go away, Remus. We said our goodbyes this morning, as I recall."

"Viviane? What happened? Was it Mortimer? What did they do to you?"

"Yes. He had one of his thugs work me over, and then Mort favored me with the Cruciatus Curse."

Remus' voice was hushed. "He used one of the Unforgivable Curses on you?"

Viviane peered up at him with an exasperated expression, then shut her eyes. "No, he tickled me with a feather."

She heard a chair scrape across the floor and Remus sat down next to the bed. "We should get Anthony to look at you. Your face-" He lightly touched the livid bruise on her cheek, and Viviane flinched. "Stop that. It's all superficial. Mort wants to keep me around, so this is just a lesson. I'll be fine in a week."

"Are you sure? You seem to be having trouble breathing."

"Oh, I've got some broken ribs, another injury that just needs time. I'll be fine." She heard Remus leave the room and tried not to mind that he was gone for good, but it took an effort to keep tears back. Then she heard him re-enter.

"Here. Drink this. Emma made it for you. It will let you sleep off the initial pain from your injuries."

Viviane tried to raise an eyebrow but found it hurt too much. "Made it for you, you mean. Emma has fallen for your gorgeous brown eyes and gentlemanly manner!"

"Drink up and sleep, you silly girl." Viviane took a sip and as Remus turned to leave, she said, "One last bit of advice before you go. Remus, you're a wonderful man, you really are. But you have got to lose the habit of being always right. It's an infuriating trait, in a man especially. Do yourself a favor and work on losing that."

Remus grinned at her. "Right. You can elaborate for me when you wake up. I'll be here, I promise."

//
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