The Sugar Quill
Author: Shandethe (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Quill In Hand  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.

The knock on my door came at about four in the afternoon.

I looked up reluctantly from my letters. All right, it was just one letter, from one woman. Her handwriting was neat and precise, and her words were my only comfort here in this place.

It couldn't be the maid--though I wasn't sure there actually was a maid, not in this negative one-star Muggle boarding house. No one knew me here in Prague. At one I wanted to see without the proper defense spells up and working. Quickly, I put down the letter, and tucked it inside my copy of Dark Creatures and Where to Find Them.

Knock. Knock. KNOCK!

I walked the short distance across the room to the door, and peered out the peephole. I nearly jumped three feet in the air. No, it couldn't be! How did she--

I opened the door, still not trusting my own vision. "Ravenica?" I asked incredulously.

On the other side of the door, dressed in typical Muggle summer clothing, was Ravenica Black. Sirius Black's sister. We had been exchanging letters ever since his escape nearly a year ago.

Ravenica's letters always came at a time when I thought my life was of no good to anyone. Though I do not think she knows it, she has pulled me back from the brink more than once.

She was smiling. "Surprise!" she exclaimed, stepping forward to embrace me.

"How did you find me? I just finished reading your letter!" I exclaimed, still half laughing out of surprise as I hugged her back. I stepped back and held the door for her, and she entered the tiny Muggle hotel room.

She looked different, I noted. Her dark, curly hair wasn't down to her waist anymore--she'd cut it so that it fell just past her shoulder blades. Her face was different, too. She looked...older. Lovely as ever, but still older.

"I didn't find you," she replied matter-of-factly. "Darius did." Darius was the younger brother of Sirius and Ravenica. "Quite by accident--he visited the Laszlo Occult Bookshop yesterday, and saw a receipt with your name on it. From there we just looked for you in the local hotels."

I nearly kicked myself, glancing over at my copy of Dark Creatures and remembering Darius' addiction to all things of the musty book variety. "I see," I said when I had regained my composure. "Ravenica, what are you doing in Prague?"

"We arrived about five days ago," Ravenica informed me. "Mum wanted to come back to Europe--she said in case Sirius needed us. But Dumbledore didn't think we should return to England."

I knew what she was talking about. After Sirius' arrest, she and her mother and brother had left England to escape the backlash. Given that the Dark Lord had returned, the Blacks were probably the last people that would be welcome in England.

"So he arranged for you to come here," I said.

She nodded.

"Just a minute," I said, and walked over to the cheaply made desk. After rummaging through it for several moments, I emerged with two quills, two bits of parchment, and a half-empty bottle of ink.

Ravenica blinked. "What's all that for?" she asked, as I set them down on the coffee table before us.

I smiled. "In case we get tongue-tied, of course. I've been writing to you for so long, I don't think I remember how to talk to you."

Ravenica laughed. "I loved getting your letters," she said. "They--I mean, when I read them, I felt like I'd never left England." She shook her head. "I know that sounds odd--"

"Not at all," I replied. "I know exactly how you feel."

For the next few moments, there was a silent pause as Ravenica and I just sat there, smiling at each other. The silence was strangely comfortable.

I remembered years ago, when I'd first seen this shy, stammering girl standing next to her brother on our first day at Hogwarts. I'd befriended Sirius only days after that. I remembered happy times, when my friends and I ran wild (literally speaking) around the school grounds. The days when I thought nothing could possibly bring me down.

Of course, you can only fly high for so long. What goes up must eventually come down--and my world came crashing spectacularly down. That world was never perfect, I grant you--but it was the only time in my life that I have ever felt...well, normal. And normal is one thing that I will never be. The fact that I change into a monster during every full moon killed any chance I could possibly have of a normal anything--work, or even romance...

Funny, Ravenica. I used to have a bit of a crush on you. I don't know if you ever knew that, but I did. Sirius, James and Peter used to kid me about it all the time, but it was never a joke to me. I thought you were perfect.

Of course you aren't. No one is, but that's hardly news, is it? You could hardly speak for fear of stuttering, and I changed into a bloodthirsty monster once a month. What a pair we were.

"Remus?" Ravenica asked suddenly, looking on the verge of laughter. "Do you remember the Summoning Charms?"

She was speaking of the time that James and Sirius had tried to help her master Summoning Charms, and how she'd managed to give both of them multiple bruises with the wayward objects before the session was through.

When she finished, we were both chuckling.

"Poor James," Ravenica said. "Sirius knew to expect it--Charms were my worst subject and he knew it, but James was determined. He always said that anyone could master anything if they worked hard enough at it. You remember, don't you?"

Oh, Ravenica, how could I forget? God, James, how much I miss you. Especially now. You should be here, raising your son. It isn't right that you were taken so soon.

"Yes," I said at last. "I remember."

She frowned. "Remus, what's wrong?"

Blast. If there is one thing I hate about myself more than the moon's changes, it is that my expressions read like a book when I'm around those I know well.

"Nothing," I replied. "It's just...quite a trip down memory lane, that's all."

The problem with these trips is that they tend to make stops even in the places you'd rather not revisit. The dark days, during Lord Voldemort's reign of terror, when there was no knowing who could be trusted...and who was a traitor.

I did not learn until much later on that my friends thought me the traitor--at least, I did not hear that suspicion aired out loud until last year. But the hints were strong enough for me to pick up on, even from those as tactful as James and Lily. I'm sure that Sirius warned his family about me. Especially Ravenica...

"I'm just thinking," I said slowly, "About...after school. When Voldemort was gaining power."

Ravenica's dark brow furrowed, and she glanced down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. "Oh," she said at last.

I glanced over at the peeling blue paint on the wall.

"Remus," she said. "I feel like--I've got to say this to you, or I'm going to go crazy."

My gaze shifted, from the paint to Ravenica's face. "What?"

"I'm sorry."

I sat up straighter, and tried to read her statement through her curtain of dark hair. "Whatever for?"

"Because I knew," she replied quietly. "I knew that Sirius thought--that James thought--you were a spy. Sirius didn't want me near you anymore."

"And you listened." It wasn't a question, just a simple statement of fact.

Ravenica sighed. "He warned me of his suspicions. I didn't argue." Now she looked up at me, her blue-green eyes meeting my own. "I was never brave, Remus. I always depended on Sirius--and later on Darius. So when he warned me, I listened. Now I wish I'd stood up for you. I wish I'd believed in you. I do now, and I'm sorry--God, I'm so sorry--about not doing so before. But like I said, was never brave. You know that."

I simply watched her as she finished speaking, not saying a word, not letting my eyes meet hers. It's hard to say exactly what was going through my mind at that point--I was angry, yes. Sad? Most definitely. But I was not surprised.

"What I know," I said at last, looking up. "Is that you are stronger than you think you are, Ravenica. I knew it then, too."

Ravenica looked down, studying the threadbare carpet as if it were fascinating. "I know we've been beating around it in our letters. I thought it would be better if I said it out loud, in person. Now I think perhaps the written version wouldn't have been so bad."

I glanced at her. "You have a written version?" I asked.

"One or two," she replied.

I raised an eyebrow.

"...Hundred," she finished, flashing me a somewhat guilty look. "Most of them I tore up. The words weren't enough."

"Now that I understand," I informed her. "I've got to tell you that I wanted to apologize to you, too."

"For what?" Ravenica asked, the surprise plain in her voice.

I smiled a bit. "For running out on you the way I did after Sirius was arrested. It was an awful time for your family, and I wasn't much help. Actually any help, if it comes to that." It was the truth. When Sirius had been arrested, I couldn't face his family, not when I believed him to be guilty.

Ravenica sighed. "The whole wizarding world thought he was guilty, Remus. I don't think it would be fair for me to hold it against you for thinking so, too."

"So you hurt me," I said softly. "And I hurt you. We're even."

She smiled. "So it would seem. But you know, I did miss you."

"I missed you too, Ravenica," I replied. "But the fact is, you and Sirius and James--and I--acted to the best of our knowledge. There's no help now for what happened back then. I don't think it does any good to dwell on those days anymore. I will forgive you, if you will forgive me."

Well, Ravenica's smile upon hearing that could have been seen in the dark. Not that I minded. She'd always had a beautiful smile.

She took the quill in hand, and dipped it into the ink, writing furiously on the parchment. After a few moments, she handed me the parchment.

I read the words aloud. "Of course I will, silly."

Ravenica rose from her seat, and kissed me on the cheek. I was certain I turned the color of a tropical sunset--though I noticed that Ravenica's face was awfully rosy as well.

"So," Ravenica said, sitting down beside me. "What are you doing for dinner?"

I held up a carton of take-out from three days ago that had been lying on the card table next to the sofa. "Leftovers," I replied. "Chicken."

Ravenica took the carton from me before I could stop her. She opened it, and peered inside. "Chicken with fuzzy green sauce?" she demanded.

I groaned, but attempted to put on a brave face. "The fuzzy sauce is a good source of...ah...fiber, I'll have you know," I said loftily.

Ravenica rolled her eyes, and bit her lip as though trying not to laugh. "Why don't you have dinner with me and my family, Remus?"

"I don't want to be a burden--"

"Stop," Ravenica said, holding up one hand. She picked up the quill and parchment again. "If you refuse me, I will be forced to...."

She scribbled on the other bit of parchment, and held it up for me to see.

My eyes widened as I began to laugh in amazement. "Good Lord, Ravenica! Where did you learn language like that?"

"The advantages of having two brothers," Ravenica replied with a sardonic grin. "What do you say?"

"I say...yes," I replied, still chuckling. "For fear of what you'll do to me otherwise."

"Good," Ravenica said, satisfied. "Let's go now, then." We both stood up.

She reached for my hand, and I took it before I even realized I had done so. Her hand felt cool and smooth in mine as I entwined my fingers with hers. Right then I knew--there was nowhere else I would rather be. With my free hand, I closed the door behind us.

As it turned out, the quills hadn't been so necessary after all.

And when I touch your hand
It's then I understand
The beauty that's within
It's now that we begin
You always light my way
I hope there never comes a day
No matter where I go
I always feel you so

--Michelle Branch, "Everywhere"

(A/N: I only own Ravenica. Lupin belongs to J.K. 'Goddess of All Things' Rowling, unfortunately. The song 'Everywhere' belongs to Michelle Branch. Thank you, Zsenya, for your patient beta-reading.)

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