The Sugar Quill
Author: Lone Astronomer (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Dangerous Ruminations  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 bit of really random, angsty, R/S shippiness for the SQ fanfic tournament. Remus guilt! Huzzah!

I think there was some sort of challenge involving sugar quills and drama. Yes? Yes. This is my answer to that challenge.

Standard disclaimers apply- everything belongs to J. K. Rowling and the various publishing companies that have dug their talons into her work. I'm making no profit, this is only for my own (and hopefully others') amusement.

*

The rhythmic falling of raindrops on the windshield was interrupted only by the humming of the wipers and the windshield cleaner that the car's sole occupant pumped out onto it. It was a used car, and extremely old, the best he had been able to procure for himself after leaving the wizard world. His own world wanted nothing to do with him, he realized, since the end of the war; Muggles had no qualms with employing him because they knew nothing of who he really was. In his own world, he had been treated with a grudging respect and almost pity for a few months before being gradually cut off. He still had money in Gringotts, though no great sum. He still had a contact at the Apothecary in Diagon Alley, and he still had his wand. He still had friends in the wizarding world. Didn't he?

Remus was having some trouble convincing himself. The last time he had visited the Leaky Cauldron, all of its familiar patrons had avoided his eyes. The others, too, but it would always be that way with them; he was a werewolf, he made them uncomfortable- yet at the same time they seemed to be examining him, sizing him up. Looking, perhaps, for something that hadn't been there, ever, yet everyone had seen. It was ironic, he realized. He had suspected Peter, and Peter had suspected Sirius, and Sirius… Well, Sirius had pretended, at least, that he suspected Remus. In this way, they were all traitors to some extent. Friends didn't suspect each other of things like this. It wasn't done.

Remus felt a pang of guilt and regret, but also something stronger. It was a common enough occurrence- it seemed that every time he thought of Peter-

sweet Peter, innocent, unsuspecting Peter, forgive me, Peter, my friend, Peter, I couldn't protect you-

or Sirius-

oh Sirius, why? How? How could you betray your friends, Sirius? We loved you. I loved you. I still love you, Sirius, this can't be-

he felt an immense sense of loss, a depression, something deeper than betrayal. Sirius had robbed his best friends of their lives, his godson of his parents, and Remus of the only family he had ever known. He had left Remus with nothing but sentiments and emptiness and the residual guilt from having suspected the victim of betrayal. Peter would never have a chance to forgive him. He was dead now.

Remus shook himself, realizing that he was in no shape to drive, and pulled over to the side of the street. He was nearly at his destination, anyway. He noted the parking meter with detachment and inserted a few coins, hoping it would be enough for a short trip into the world that had left him behind. He didn't need too much, anyway, but there were just some things you couldn't buy in Muggle shops- Wolfsbane. Magically enhanced restraints.

A really good flea powder.

But there were also things he couldn't avoid in the wizarding world, such as those prying gazes he often got and the cool reception from the general public. Often, they did not even know why they treated him so badly, so he supposed he shouldn't blame them; he thought it probable that his shabby robes and haunted honey-brown eyes made them nervous, anxious to escape his gaze. Sometimes he could fool himself into not noticing this. Sometimes he could pretend that they looked at him that way out of pity, out of compassion and understanding that all of his friends, all of the people who cared about him, were dead, or at the very least dead to him. Sometimes he caught people wanting to ask about James and Lily and oh, how was little Harry, but they always remembered and bit their tongues in time and life went on, and he had to forget them.

But he couldn't.

Remus walked through the Leaky Cauldron with nary a word to the bartender, Tom, who had once been his friend. He took no notice of the fact that his shaggy dark hair was soaked, along with the rest of him, or that he was dripping on the floor, or that it was freezing cold. These things were irrelevant when you were damn near immortal and even closer to alone. He tried to ignore the curious stares or the fact that all conversation stopped when he entered and resumed only in whispers which concerned him when he left.

"Did you see-"

"-lovers."

"-betrayed-"

"-Remus Lupin-"

"-Sirius Black-"

"-thirteen people with one curse-"

Remus' mouth formed a grim line as he tapped the proper brick to be allowed entrance to the alley. He would be in and out again, he told himself, before the memories could start. He had to be. It was too painful when other people were around.

He hurried into the Apothecary first thing, already having withdrawn enough money for his purchase on his previous visit. He very nearly made it all the way back to the Leaky Cauldron before something caught his eye and Remus stopped, looking down into the display window, staring.

There, stacked innocently enough between a box of Chocolate Frogs and some questionable-looking lollipops, was a perfectly innocent sugar quill.

Remus closed his eyes and remembered.

*

It was the day before Christmas break, and because Lily, James and Peter were all going home for the holidays, they had decided that a little Christmas celebration was in order. With everything that was going on, there was no telling when they would be able to get together again- in fact, there was no guarantee that they would ever be able to gather in the same place again, period. Yet it was a merry enough time; they decided that a few presents were in order and soon Sirius had managed to get wrapping paper strewn everywhere. The common room was a complete disaster, not that anyone minded. It wasn't as if they had to clean it up; Remus and Sirius were the only two Gryffindor students staying at Hogwarts over the break. Besides, the House-elves would probably get to the mess before anyone else could even consider tidying it up himself.

Lily and James were snuggled up in one armchair by the fire; most people were pretending that they weren't there in an effort to give the Head Boy and Girl a little privacy. After all, James and Lily were very tolerant people when it came to others snogging in the Gryffindor Tower; it would be hypocritical of them not to be.

Peter had just read out the tag on the final gift. "This one's 'to Sirius, with love from Lily,'" he said.

Sirius grinned. "Are you sure you should be signing your letters like that, Mrs. P?" Lily was a bit too preoccupied to answer; James made a vaguely rude gesture to his friend from behind Lily's back. It was a warning, Remus knew as well as Sirius; James didn't want anyone knowing about the proposal. He had the absurd notion that it would make Lily some sort of target. Remus didn't know what sort of target, exactly, unless James meant a target for jealous girls. But then, James had always been smarter than he'd let on. How else had he made Head Boy?

When the wrapping paper was done away with, Sirius found himself the proud new owner of a set of slightly fragile-looking quills in an enchanted box. "What's this, then?" he asked curiously (but not ungraciously), running his fingers lightly over the plastic.

Lily had broken away from James to explain. "It's a sugar quill, Sirius," she had explained, the ghost of a smile on her face. "I figured maybe you needed some motivation to do your homework for once. And we do have the N.E.W.T.s coming up soon. They're really made of sugar, too, and you don't need to worry about getting ink on your face when you suck on them." This was followed by an even wider grin; apparently Lily hadn't forgotten the incident the previous year, either.

Sirius shook his head and laughed. "Trust it to you to come up with a way to make it more likely that I'll do my homework." He smiled at her. "Thank you, Lily."

That night Remus and Sirius sat awake in the common room long after everyone else had gone to bed. Sirius was composing an owl to his great-aunt Louise, who had become his legal guardian when his mother had died the previous year, probably omitting significant details such as his latest prank or the reason the toilet in the prefects' bathroom was suddenly carnivorous, which happened to be the same thing. Remus had been content to watch him ponder over the right word, the quill caught between his lips, at least until he realized that he was becoming notably jealous of a writing implement. He went through a moment of shock, a moment in which he discovered his feelings for his friend were no longer merely platonic, and his knees weakened and his brain had rebelled at the idea.

But he could not shake the feeling that what he felt was right, somehow; preordained. If he didn't love his best friend, after all, then who?

Sirius must have noticed something- sudden, loud breathing, or perhaps just gaping, uncomfortable silence- because he put down the quill and gave Remus a curious look. "Moony? Are you alright? You look a little pale…" He got up and moved towards the couch on which Remus was lounging.

Remus jumped up, banging his shin painfully against a table and toppling it over as he retreated towards the stairs to the seventh-year boys' dormitory. "No, Sirius, I'm fine-" His head exploded in pain as he cracked it against the hard stone wall and he stopped, massaging his head and resolutely not looking at his friend. "Er, I was fine…"

But Sirius had caught up with him. "Moony?" He took another step closer. Remus held his ground, knowing he would trip over the first stair if he moved backwards any farther, and getting any closer to Sirius at this point was definitely a bad idea. Detachedly, he noted that his friend was in need of a shave. Although, Remus' mind inserted rebelliously, he would look rather fetching with a goatee…

Sirius stopped his advance and raised a hand to Remus' face. He froze at the contact, petrified. "Are you sure you're okay?" the raven-haired teen asked, then seemed to realize what he was doing and averted his eyes, embarrassed.

It was pure luck, Remus reasoned, or perhaps misfortune, that he had diverted his eyes upwards. They- Sirius' eyes- became rather round for a moment before narrowing in what Remus vaguely recognized as determination. Then Sirius' mouth was on his, soft and sweet and tasting vaguely of sugar quill before withdrawing with its owner. "Mistletoe," Sirius explained, as if this were the most natural thing in the world, but his mannerisms betrayed him. He refused to meet Remus' gaze and fidgeted with the hem on his sleeve like he always did when he was nervous. "Um. I should go to bed- it's late-"

But Remus had done something extremely uncharacteristic and, for perhaps the first time in his life, effectively shut Sirius up.

*

The jingling of the bell above the candy shop shook Remus from his dangerous ruminations. A short, pleasantly round young woman with blonde hair and a more than generous smattering of freckles stood in the doorway, gazing at him concernedly. "Sir?" she said gently, her eyebrows knitting together. "Are you alright? Only, you've been standing there for more than ten minutes, and…" Her hurried words trailed off.

"I'm fine," Remus answered, quite aware that he was not, in fact, any such thing. He knew, logically, that he should have been tired and hungry, or at the very least cold and wet, but he felt none of these things; all he seemed to be experiencing was a kind of quiet emptiness and regret. Why, Sirius? he asked once again, but answer came there none. "Sorry if I alarmed you. Just a bit of nostalgia."

The woman- girl, really, probably only a year or two younger than he was- nodded, and bid him a polite farewell.

Remus began to walk away, turning up his collar against the chill, heading back to the pub, lost in thought once more. The following day was Sirius' birthday, a fact which he was having trouble coming to grips with. He remembered Sirius' last birthday with the sort of ache that can only come with the knowledge that one's friends exist only in one's memory; Sirius was worse than dead and the rest of them were.

Hearing the voice of the candy shop witch, he spun around again. "Sir!" she panted, coming up beside him with a shopping bag. He realized that it was his; he must have left his things in front of the shop window. He hoped she hadn't peeked in and discovered what exactly it was that he'd been buying; he didn't want any more enemies. "You forgot this."

She had run out into the rain to return his shopping? He was confused. Why should anyone do that for him, let alone a complete stranger? "Er, thank you," he said, tentatively reaching out and taking the bag.

She smiled at him hesitantly and suddenly, Remus felt extremely self-conscious. "You're welcome." She retreated into the crowd with a cheerful, "Bye, Remus!" Within seconds, she had vanished from his field of vision.

Interesting, Remus thought as he tossed his supplies into the front of the car, that he couldn't recall ever introducing himself.

It was not until he got home that he noticed the extra package in with his purchases, the one he hadn't paid for. A box of sugar quills seemed to be watching him with an innocent expression, if that could be said of a box of candy. There was an adhesive sticker on the top of the box with the address of the shop and the name of the proprietor on it.

Remus traced a finger over the sugar quill logo, much the way Sirius had done years before, and felt much of his tension leave him. He decided that perhaps it was time to move on with his life, after all… and made plans to visit Diagon Alley again the following day.

End.

 

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