The Sugar Quill
Author: inyron (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Four Sins: Prelude  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.

A/N- This is the first of six very loosely related short stories taking a close look at the Marauders. The next four parts have original plots, and will relate more to the title. I just think this event, Remus' unveiling, is so important to character and motivation that it should be used as an introduction. I love feedback, either here or in my email. Many thanks to my wonderful and timely beta-er, Zsenya. Any remaining mistakes are all mine.

Oh, and by the way, none of these characters are mine, and I'm not making a profit off of anything.

*****

PROLOGUE

*****

 

After an hour of restless tossing and turning, James Potter finally crawled out of his bed and crept silently down to the Gryffindor common room, whose solitude and familiarity was receptive to a good case of brooding. James was not really accustomed to brooding; he would be the first to admit he didn't usually have a reason. He did, after all, have a very satisfying life. Great, supportive parents, as proud of him as anything- too proud and doting, if that could be a problem, (which he sometimes, at 12 years old) thought it was. Great marks in school, without the bother of studying- well, not too much. A spot on the Quidditch team in just his second year- that, he valued over almost anything else. Flying had come naturally to him since he was a young child, and had never lost its wonder. And he was good at Quidditch too, good enough to womp Slytherin last October (he had scored 80 points!) And to massacre Hufflepuff last week (he had scored... well, let's just say "lots" and spare the poor Hufflepuff Keeper the shame.)

James bit back a smile remembering that game and tried to find his train of thought again. Right, his life. His friends. Great friends, friends that beat out even Quidditch in importance and entertainment value. He was rather popular in his year, despite the fact that most of the teachers favored him. The only people he didn't get along with- and sometimes warred with- were the Slytherins, and that was OK, because they were... well, Slytherins. He didn't really care what they thought of him. As Sirius would say, "If the opposing fans are cheering for you, then you're doing something wrong. Better that they be throwing things at you. Like those hard little model Bludgers. Why do they sell those things at games anyway?" Ah yes, Sirius. Fellow Gryffindor, fellow irreverent scholar, fellow mischief maker. His best friend. James didn't bother biting back a smile this time, but a couple quickly-wiped-away tears followed too, and James turned his attention to his other two roommates. Peter. Well, Peter was OK. He kind of hero worshiped James, but that didn't annoy James so much. It meant he never ratted them out to the teachers, and covered up for them occasionally, when they needed it. All in all, an asset.

And then there was Remus. The reason he was down here so late on a rather chilly school-night. Remus was... well, Remus was a lot of things. Nicer than anyone. Quiet, but with as good a sense of humor as the best of them. Good at school, but one of those studiers. A very good friend, or so he thought. No, he was a good friend. James and Sirius had become very close with him. But he was the reason James was down here so late this night. Because Remus was, as he and Sirius were forced to face, a liar. Ever since they had come to Hogwarts as first years, he had been disappearing. Repeatedly. For a day or two at a time. He would claim that he wasn't feeling well, or that his mother was ill, or he would just sneak out refusing explanations. They believed him for a long time (he did look sick, after all) but they eventually had to face the fact that he was lying. His mother wasn't sick. And if he was really ill himself- well, something was *wrong.* Why was he lying? Was he contagious? No, Madam Pomfrey would know. The teachers wouldn't put them in danger. Was it... Was he... James couldn't figure it out, and that bothered him. It wasn't good for roommate relations, either. Sirius was taking all this as a personal affront, and the friendship that lay between the four of them, which seemed so special all last year, was strained. Remus refused to talk about it, refused to share, just set himself quietly apart, as if he didn't even care. Though James knew that wasn't true every time he looked Remus in the eye.

It was reaching the breaking point. Something had to be done, and James had to do it, if he was to make sure everything turned out right. Now he just had to figure out what it was that had to be done. Maybe if he figured out Remus' secret? But he and Sirius had been discussing that for a while, and they really didn't have a clue. What was it he felt he needed to keep from them? From them, of all people! He sighed again and dragged himself up off the couch, brain racing. He paced for a while, but couldn't think of anything. Finally he threw himself down again, on the ground this time, next to the small window, and looked up into the starry night outside. It was bright out, for night. The sky was nearly cloudless, and the nearly full moon... The nearly...full moon... the moon... Once a month, the full moon... Oh my God.

*****

"Sirius? Sirius!"

James was almost late for class the next morning; he finally fell asleep around the time dawn was breaking, and was woken up when Sirius threw a swiped scone at him after he got back from breakfast. He hadn't yet told Sirius what he figured out. He was excited, but decided not to wake anyone up so late, though he knew, wryly, that Sirius wouldn't have had any qualms if the position were reversed.

He suffered through two excruciatingly long and boring periods (History of Magic was particularly torturous that day) and a very strained lunch where no one seemed to be meeting anyone else's eyes, James least of all. After the last period, James manhandled Sirius up to their dorm room with Peter, sensing something was up, followed hesitantly on their heels. Remus disappeared, to the library probably. "What? What is it?"

"Tonight. Remus is going to disappear again, tonight"

James wasn't going to hold back. He figured Peter had as much a right to know. We had to get this all in the open, now.

"What?"

"A werewolf. Don't you see? It's the full moon tonight, and if I'm right, he'll disappear. A werewolf, Sirius."

*****

Remus had a quiet walk, so there was very little warning when he was approaching the dorm. Peter had time enough to throw his Magical Monsters textbook under his bed, when the door creaked softly open. There he was, behind it. Pale as a ghost and looking warily at his friends. He knew something was up. How could he not? How could he think they wouldn't figure it out?

"Remus."

"I... I... what is it? I can't. I have to go."

"Remus!"

Shock. Betrayal. An undercurrent of anger.

He closed the door behind himself, and leaned back against it for

support.

"I, I'm sorry. I have to go."

"We know, Remus. We know what you are." Sirius. Harshly.

"I...What? No."

"It's a full moon tonight." James spoke up, his voice steady, and not so emotional as Sirius'. Remus looked back, his calm slipping. He opened his mouth as though to deny it, but no sound came out. Instead, he started to tremble. Sirius stepped forward, and started to speak again.

"Why didn't you tell us?"

Angrily, not gently.

"Remus, why didn't you tell us you're a... a werewolf?"

At that, he turned and bolted, slamming the door behind him. Sirius

started to swear, but James grabbed his arm.

"Follow him," he said. "We have to follow him." Things weren't supposed to be going this way! They weren't supposed to be fighting! Remus wasn't supposed to be running! The truth could only bring them closer together, stop the fighting... right?

"The invisibility cloak... hurry." To his surprise, Peter grasped the edge of the cloak, and hauled himself under it along with the two of them. This was crazy anyway, he thought. They wouldn't be able to find him.

But there he was, standing next to the entrance of the hospital wing, where James knew he would be. They waited silently in the corner. Madam Pomfrey came out in a few minutes.

They saw her smile kindly at Remus for a second, then notice his expression. She leaned down to talk to him, but they didn't hear what wassaid. They just saw Remus shake his head and look down, apparently unwilling to talk. So, she walked with him down the halls, and they followed at a safe distance behind. She led them outside, and across thegrounds. Then she stopped... right in front of the Whomping Willow, just out of the way of it's wildly swinging branches. James, Sirius, and Peter crept closer. She pulled a short rod out of her robes, and said a few words. The rod lengthened, and she used it to prod at one of the roots of the Willow... they crept closer, one of the knots on the root...and the Whomping Willow stopped moving. Madam Pomfrey and Remus proceeded into the darkness around the tree. Sirius made a move to follow, but James pulled him back roughly. He pulled off the invisibility cloak, traded a significant glance with Sirius, and turned to head back to the castle.

They followed silently behind him, and no one said a word until they were five minutes back in the dorm.

"We shouldn't have jumped on him like that," mummered James. He thinks we think..."

Peter spoke for the first time. "What do we think?"

More silence.

Sirius spoke up. "He shouldn't have lied to us like that. He's been lying for nearly two years!"

"Yes, but... I mean, aren't you supposed to keep something like that a secret? He had to know how we'd react." Peter, hesitant, but stating his mind.

Sirius stayed silent for a moment, a pensive look on his face. James spoke up again, a very determined set to his voice. "Look guys- he's our friend. That's why we cared that he was lying to us in the first place, that's why we're going to support him now in spite of it. I mean, it's a shock that he's a werewolf and all, but the teachers must know, we can't be in any danger. And this, it doesn't change who he is. He's still our friend.

"And he looked very upset. I don't want to fight like this anymore. Sirius, I know you're mad, but this is more important than that. And Peter, I know you're scared, but he, he can't hurt us. You know what the book said. Only when the moon's out. And he must be safe... under the Willow."

Silence was the rule for most of the rest of that night, but James knew he had gotten through to Sirius and Peter. He knew Sirius cared about Remus anyway, he was just overcome with emotions that night, as he was prone to. They brought the book out again, and stared dully at the pictures. Sirius went down to the kitchens for a midnight raid, and Peter went too, anxious to find out where the secret entrance was. James stayed behind and stared out the window.

*****

"I think we should go and meet him."

"Wh-what?"

"Think of it James! The suns almost up anyway! We go down to the Willow with the invisibility cloak, and we talk to him... you know, let him know we're all right with it. Otherwise we won't see him again 'till tonight or tomorrow!"

"We could go visit him in the infirm-"

"How do we know he's there? We've never visited him there before."

"How do we know he's not still a wolf?"

"Peter, you know very well what the book says."

"Yes, but..."

"Actually, I agree with Sirius. We have the invisibility cloak... we've stayed up all night anyway, I want to get this settled."

Peter bit his lower lip and looked at each boy in turn. Then he surprised them by nodding his consent. "Me too. I agree too. I'll go too." Again they slipped the invisibility cloak over their heads, again they crept silently through the halls, down many hours of sleep, but wide awake on adrenaline. Peter was being remarkably good about it, quiet and concentrated. Finally they reached the Willow, and pulled off the cloak. Sirius started forward, then stopped when the Willow gestured threateningly. He looked back at James.

"I don't know; a branch or something."

Sirius darted in quickly and grabbed a long-ish looking branch. He whacked desperately at the knot they had seen Madam Pomfrey press, and the Willow stopped. And they were in.

"Lumos!"

The path was taking forever. It obviously led away from the grounds, and Sirius said it led right into Hogsmeade with the authority of someone who knew what he was talking about. Finally, it led right into...

"A house? We're in a house." A boarded up house, James noticed.

Well, that was good. But something was wrong here. Something felt off.

"Remus?" Sirius was calling out. He went into one of the other rooms.

"Remus?" James started searching corners too, while Peter stood there very rigidly with half-closed eyes.

"Remus? Re-" James stopped short. It took his mind a couple of seconds to process the sight in front of him. Then a couple more seconds.

In the meantime, Sirius rushed over to stand next to him. Peter held

back for a moment, then skulked over silently. And Remus kept lying on the ground. Naked. Scarred. Bloody. Bloody as if he had been mauled by- by a terrible animal. And conscious. Alert enough to notice his three closest- only?- friends here, staring at him. The idea that they had come here to comfort Remus, to be with him and assure him they were okay with the fact that he was a werewolf buzzed at the surface of James' mind, just out of reach as he took in Remus' expression. Hurt. Shock.

Anguish... and shame. This was what it meant to be a werewolf. This blood. Those marks. This was in no book. He hadn't thought...He hadn't thought, and this was all his fault. It was his fault he shared the secret. His fault they confronted him. His fault they followed him. His fault for coming here. And his fault for not being able to move or to say anything as Remus moved his closed his eyes and turned his head away.

All of the sudden, there was a noise behind them, and James found himself able to move again. "Quick!"

They all managed to struggle under the cloak and fit themselves in a corner before Madam Pomfrey came in. She had a cloak with her, and used it to cover Remus while checking him over. She mummered a few spells under her breath, and Remus was able to sit up, though he still looked semi-conscious and injured.

"Oh no. It was particularly bad this time, wasn't it dear?"

He made no reply, just simply stared at the floor. After a few more minor spells, the nurse put a charm on him, helped him up, and supported him as they walked out the door and started the long trip back to Hogwarts.

The cloak came off, and the room was silent once again.

*****

They all agreed they were going to be as gentle and supportive of Remus as they possibly could, though they had no idea what they could say. James mentally rehearsed a lot, wanting to get it exactly perfect. He didn't return to the dorms that night, which was semi-unusual, but not extraordinarily so. But when night fell the second day, they went from simple fretting to distressed. They finally decided to pay a visit to the hospital wing, though just to make sure he was physically alright-

James didn't want to go barging in there to force a confrontation again. But when they got there, the news they received did not put their minds at ease. According to Madam Pomfrey, Remus had been released back to his dorm over an hour ago. After assuring her they had just come from the library, not the dorms, and, yes, the reason they were checking was because Remus himself told them he wasn't feeling well, they dashed back to the dorm to regroup.

James knew of course where he must have gone, despite Peter's stutterings about checking the library or someplace. And forced confrontations aside, it was suddenly the most important thing in the world that the three of them get to him as soon as possible.

*****

He was in the same room as before, but in the corner, huddled, wand out casually in one hand, eyes fixed on the large stain in the middle of the floor.

"Remus?" It came out more tentative and hoarse than anything James had ever said before in his entire life. Sirius walked past him and set himself next to Remus against the wall, keeping his eyes on the stain also. James tried again.

"Remus?"

And the tears started. He finally looked up at James, eyes full of them (but not a single one more than Sirius, right next to him) with such a look of begging and quiet desperation in his eyes that it hit James like a two ton weight.

In the end, none of James' rehearsed speeches were used. None needed to be. Acceptance and support were most effectively communicated without words.

*****

This might have been where it ended. But though James saw one problem solved- the only fighting going on in the dorm now was the usual, between Sirius and himself, and Remus lost a bit of his haunted look, another problem still loomed large in his mind. Remus hadn't been very forthcoming with details, and no one wanted to pressure him, but James of course had a clear idea of what went on once a month. And he just couldn't accept that Remus had to go through that, that torture at all, much less so often. Did that happen to all werewolves?

James knew that their kind had been around for thousands of years, and that he was just a twelve year old wizard, but he just couldn't get the idea out of his head. Remus was his friend. There had to be a way to make things all right. He would do whatever it took.

fin

Continued in Four Sins 1...

//
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