The Sugar Quill
Author: Jess Pallas  Story: For Want Of Silken Thread  Chapter: 2: Dreams and Memories
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2: Dreams and Memories

2: Dreams and Memories

 

Branches slapping, brambles tearing

 

Remus rolled onto his side, tucking his hands beneath his pillow as he buried his head into the soft down and quietly prayed for sleep.

 

His own feet slapping, his breath rasping, the pounding of paws in his wake

 

He grasped the edge of his quilt, yanking it up over his shoulders as he curled into a fetal position, willing his mind to be silent.

 

Tree bark beneath his fingernails

 

His old scars ached and burned; his bite scar, the lines along his back and a ring of circles that marked his neck, twisting and itching and driving him mad. He fought to ignore it.

 

Pain raking his back as claws dragged him to the ground

 

Why was this happening to him? Why was it happening? Why was he in the woods? Why was he alone? Where were his parents?

 

Teeth gleamed. Golden eyes glowed

 

Why weren’t they here? Why weren’t they with him? Why, why, why

 

And so much pain….

 

So much… 

 

Pain.

 

His throat seared with discomfort but he dared not speak a word – he had no wish for his sobs to be met with yet another harsh backhand. He could see little in the gathering darkness, just the branches and brambles that scratched his face and arms as they ploughed forward and the last distant glow of sunset fading against the trees to his left.

 

The moon would be rising soon.

 

 The man – if he was a man, for what kind of man had he ever seen before with such claw-like fingernails or pointed teeth? – had not loosened his grip upon him, one arm bundling him firmly against his chest to still his wriggles, the sharpened nails of the other hand digging hard against the soft skin of his neck in an unspoken demand for silence. The putrid breath was a harsh reminder against the top of his head as they surged forwards through the undergrowth, heedless of any damage to himself or the child he carried as he pushed on, on, on, deeper into the woods, casting looks over his shoulder as he ran. Every so often, he laughed.

 

He did not like his laugh. He did not like this man.

 

He wanted to go home.

 

He didn’t understand what was happening, why the man had taken him away from his parents and fled with him into this darkening, once-loved but now sinister forest on the outskirts of their home. He was confused, terrified, bewildered – he wanted to cry but he had quickly learned that the penalty for tears would be pain. The sun was all but gone now. He wasn’t allowed out after dark.

 

Why was this happening? Why was he here?

  

The man had shouted at his daddy. He had thrown things. He had cursed. He had smashed his way into the peace of their evening. The man had used words that he did not understand.

 

Reparation. Retribution. Justice.

 

Daddy hadn’t liked those words. The man had not liked Daddy’s answer. He had not liked Mummy’s blow.

 

For it was then the man had snatched him up and dragged him away to this place.

 

Suddenly, shockingly he was hurled to the ground. He felt himself gasp at the bruising impact as roots and brambles slapped at his small body, swallowing hard at the pain in his throat as blood trickled from his wounds. He had half-scrambled to his feet, when a long-nailed hand clasped his upper arm and hauled him around to face his kidnapper.

 

The man’s face was broad, crisscrossed with a pattern of vicious scars, the freshest of which, acquired just minutes before, was staining his cheek with scarlet. His hair was matted and wild, untamed. His eyes gleamed gold in the gathering night.

 

He hated the eyes. The eyes terrified him.

 

 He whimpered and sniffed as he flinched away. He couldn’t help himself.

 

The blow rocked him backwards, the harsh grip on his arm all that kept him from tumbling to the floor. Silent tears streamed down his face as he fought not to make a sound.

 

The man snorted with disdain. “Pathetic.” His voice was an icy rasp. “Just what I’d expect from a brat of Lupin’s. A coward just like your father. But you will learn the folly of his hiding and excuses.”

 

His other arm was seized as the man all but lifted him off the ground, drawing his face close. His teeth glinted. Behind his head, the last vestiges of sunlight had disappeared.

 

“He’ll come for you, boy.” The man’s voice was a whisper, his face all but pressed against his petrified captive’s. “But he won’t come alone, oh no, because he knows what I’ll do to him; he’ll call his little Auror friends first. And that will give us time, just enough time to set things to rights and be away. Remus.” He shivered at the sound of his name on this man’s tongue. “How typical. Christened a victim, just as I was. But as was once done for me, I will make you better than your name. I will see you renamed, reborn. Do you know why?”

 

He shook his head. He was too afraid to do anything more.

 

The man’s smile spread – it almost seemed, suddenly, to be a smile of a great many more teeth. “Well.” The word was expelled in a gravely tone, almost a growl. “Your dearest daddy owes me boy, owes me for a life and a lifetime. And you’re my payment.” A glint of silver whispered behind the trees, a hint of rising moonshine. The man’s lips curled upwards, his golden eyes filled with vindictive bliss as he shifted and writhed with some strange sensation that the child did not understand. The man’s shadowed outline seemed almost contorted, his grip against his arms suddenly odd.

 

“You’ll go now and my true self will come for you. You’ll thank me for this, one day.” The words were thrown out in a gasping rush as he threw his head back with a howl of joy. “I’m giving you a gift.”

 

The grip released abruptly; he tumbled backwards, slumping to the uneven ground as he stared up, transfixed in horror at the twisting form of his kidnapper.

 

The man was changing shape.

 

His head was elongating, his clothes ripping away from a body sprouting tufts of fur; he tumbled from his crouch onto all fours, gasping with painful pleasure. Half-changed, half-formed, he lunged suddenly towards the frozen child slumped on the earth before him, thrusting his muzzle-like face at the boy as he spat out a single order.

 

“Run.”

 

The child’s terrified scream echoed through the trees as he obeyed.

 

Running. Claws. Bite.

 

He screamed and could not stop. The pain was unbelievable, like nothing he had ever thought possible, a ripping agony that centred on the savagery of torn skin where the wolf’s jaws had ruthlessly clamped down. But it did not stay there. It spread in waves, flowing through his skin and veins like a creeping poison; was it his imagination that he could feel himself being twisted, the very makeup of his body rewritten into some new and mysterious code? And there was more.

 

There was a presence.

 

What was happening to him?

  

Hands, hands grasping him, people everywhere shouting, a voice calling his name. It sounded so far away, his mind shocked and strangely numb unable to create any response but screaming, more screaming. Something swathed him, a blanket perhaps and he felt himself lifted from the ground. He caught a glimpse of his father’s face, his comforting voice whispering to him as his strong arms engulfed his son. He felt detached, removed from his own being and floating loose as the presence, the something pushed his limbs into a frenzy of contortions and blows, fighting against his father’s hold. Why was he fighting? He didn’t want to fight! He just wanted to hold on and be held until all the awful horrors of that night went away. But he was no longer in control.

 

It was.

 

He could feel it, sliding across his mind, vicious, vindictive desire tearing at his consciousness as though seeking to drive itself into the very essence of him. It wanted to claim him. It wanted to be him.

 

He didn’t want it there! He wanted it out! Get it out, get it out!

 

All sense of time was lost to him – he did not know how long he struggled within and without before the walls appeared, the horrified faces that stared down as he was deposited onto softness, a bed of some kind in a long panelled room that he had never before seen. His father’s arms were abruptly gone, the hands that pinned him suddenly unfamiliar. With a last desperate heave he broke to the surface, screaming for his daddy at the top of his voice before being dragged sharply back under. Beyond the wall of unknown figures in lime-green robes he caught a glimpse of his mother, pale and sobbing desperately. His father was beside her, repelling the green-robed woman who hovered around him; his clothes were soaked with blood, his stance peculiar, his neck scratched and bloody from his son’s own unwilling assault. He did not seem to care.

 

He was staring at his thrashing son with distressed, horrified repulsion.

 

And then suddenly, he was there, forcing aside the lime clothed figures as he reached out and touched his wand to the forehead of his struggling son. He was going to fix it. He was going to send the presence away. His daddy knew about things like this. His daddy could fix anything.

 

His father’s face was pale and set. He spoke a single word.

 

“Obliviate.”

 

 “Remus! Remus!

 

Hands, hands shaking him, still shaking him; he gasped and fought instinctively to free himself from their grasp, eyes tight closed as he pushed back against the grabbing. He was not going to let them! He was not…

 

“Remus, for goodness sake, wake up!

 

There was a shocking splash – icy cold water washed across his head to soak his hair and drip and dribble down his face. Gasping with surprise, Remus’ eyes flew open and fixed upon the concerned faces of Poppy Pomfrey and Minerva McGonagall.

 

He blinked. What the…?

 

One glance around was enough to tell him that he was still in his Hogwarts chambers, the familiar hangings of the four-poster bed, the panelled walls and stocky wardrobe to which he had grown accustomed all swimming into view. Morning light, poured in through the narrow window and flooded the room with dawning day.

 

It also illuminated the worry lines and creased brows of the two women bending over him.

 

Still breathing deeply, his mind a racing maelstrom, Remus gathered himself sufficiently to drag himself onto his elbows. “Minerva,” he said, forcing his voice into a level tone. “Poppy. What in Merlin’s name are you doing in here?”

 

Poppy Pomfrey’s expression was vaguely accusatory. “You weren’t at breakfast. And then Hagrid happened to mention what happened to you last night.” She glared. “I would have expected to hear it from you, Remus Lupin, and rather sooner than the next morning. You really are the most ridiculously stubborn young man I have ever…”

 

“We were worried about you.” Minerva’s intrusion into Poppy’s gathering diatribe was polite but decisive. “So we came up to check. And we heard you screaming.”

 

Remus blinked. It really was ridiculously bright. “I missed breakfast? What time is it?”

 

“Don’t change the subject.” Minerva’s voice was stern.

 

“I wasn’t aware that I was.”

 

The Head of Gryffindor House was not to be deflected. “Of course you were. Why were you screaming?”

 

Remus couldn’t escape the vague, nagging sense of being a student again, under interrogation by his Head of House in relation to some misdemeanour or another. It took a moment’s effort to remember that he was no longer a child but a fully-grown man and a Professor to boot.

 

He pulled himself into a sitting position. “It was just a nightmare. Nothing to be concerned about.”

 

Poppy raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Nothing to be concerned about? We could hear from down the corridor. If it wasn’t a Sunday, the students would probably have…”

 

“It’s fine.” Remus knew the interruption was less than courteous but he had no intention of discussing his – dream? memory? - with anyone before he had time to process its impact himself. It was too private, too personal and too fresh to share out loud. He needed to be left alone. He needed to think.

 

Golden eyes, the bright full moon, his father’s bloodstained face as he extended his wand… it all danced before him. He forced the images away.

 

Please leave me alone. I know you mean well but please…

 

“It was nothing,” Remus repeated more insistently; wiping his wet hair out of his eyes, he swung his legs around and tossed aside his covers as he grasped one post of his bed to pull himself to his feet, praying that he did not look as shaky as he felt. His shoulders felt tense and set and the remnant scar of his bite seemed to itch and burn all at once. “The Dementors just shook me a little but I’m fine now. There’s no need for this kind of fuss.”

 

He supposed he should have expected the twin glares that mixed scepticism with weariness as they burrowed into his features.

 

Poppy was the first to strike. “Fuss? Caring about your health is not fuss, Remus Lupin!”

 

Minerva was not far behind. “Remus, an encounter with Dementors, especially given your history is not something to be lightly brushed off. You should…”

 

Wearily, Remus raised his hands in a posture of near surrender. “Minerva. Poppy. Please. I’m barely awake, fairly confused and my head is soaking wet. Could you please at least give me a while to get dressed and sort myself out?”

 

Both the Matron and the Professor appeared less than convinced. But at Remus’ rather plaintive expression, they exchanged reluctant glances and sighed.

 

“If you insist,” Poppy grudgingly conceded at length. “But I expect to see you in the Hospital Wing before classes start tomorrow.”

 

“And I expect to see you in my office.” Minerva’s eyebrows arched beneath her spectacles. “You still owe me a discussion about your intentions for exams.”

 

Remus nodded graciously, trying to ignore the steady drip-drip of water that splattered from his chin and hair onto the floor. “Of course.”

 

He was subjected, briefly, to a final scrutiny from Poppy Pomfrey, whose gaze was designed to drill through the claims of health and find the nagging problems that lay beneath. But Remus’ armour against such assaults was thick and well-used and at his gentle half-smile, Poppy retreated with a wry nod and moved into the corridor. After a final stare of her own, Minerva McGonagall followed, pulling the door closed behind her.

 

And Remus slumped onto the bed.

 

Oh Merlin. Oh dear Merlin.

 

Suddenly he was shaking, almost uncontrollably, cradling his damp face in his hands as he leaned forward over his knees and shuddered. He felt sick, empty and violated. The terrible memories rushed rampant through him, dark trees, the gleaming moon, golden eyes, the flash of teeth and dreadful, dreadful pain, as fresh and vibrant as though he had been bitten yesterday. And it had been real. There was no question in his mind – what he had just seen, what he had experienced within the embrace of sleep was no false hallucination. It was the truth. The truth of the night he was bitten. The truth of the night that had tainted his life.

 

And it was not at all the truth he had expected.

 

If Remus had been asked before this night, he would have thought that the ability to recall his bite would have made his history clearer. Instead it only opened a thousand new questions to the air.

 

He had not wandered into the woods. He had been dragged there. Why?

 

A werewolf had dragged him. He had bitten him on purpose. Why?

 

He had felt the creep of the wolf, the overwhelming horror of a feral attack almost twenty years earlier than the incident in 1981. But he was still himself. Why?

 

And as he lay screaming in pain in hospital, his father could only muster the strength to wipe away his memory of that night. Why? In Merlin’s name, why?

 

What was it that his father had been so desperate that he not remember? What had he not wanted him to know?

 

The werewolf had blamed his father. He believed he had been settling some kind of score.

 

And Reynard Lupin had wiped out his son’s memory to hide the truth of it, and kept it a secret for thirty years whilst his only son lived with and suffered the results.

 

Oblivious. Literally.

 

Thirty years.

 

A cold chill struck at Remus’ heart. His birthday. It was in just a fortnight’s time. That meant this week… How could he have forgotten?

 

Two weeks and three days before his birthday. Today was the thirtieth anniversary of his bite.

 

He needed to speak to his father. Now.

 

Home. He’d be at home. The cottage at Winter Hollow where he had been born and raised, the cottage where his father has lived alone since his mother’s death – Reynard Lupin would be there. These days, he nearly always was.

 

He had worried about his father’s solitude a great deal since he had taken the position at Hogwarts. But he would see him today. He had a lot of explaining to do.

 

He loved his father dearly. After his mother’s death, he was all the family Remus had left. But he would not be deceived. He would not be lied to anymore.

 

Grimly, sadly, wearily, Remus reached for his robes. It was time for a family reunion.

 

 

//
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