The Sugar Quill
Author: Evelyn Dreamtrot  Story: Curiosity and the Cat  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.

"Peter, you won't fit under."

Lily was up late this evening reading by firelight after most everyone else had gone to bed. She jumped when she heard the harsh whispering behind her in the common room, then smiled. It was Sirius' voice, and he, Peter, and most probably James and Remus were up to no good.

She turned in her chair and immediately swiveled back, eyes wide. There was no one in the room.

"Why me? You do it, James," Peter's voice whined.

"Because you can be the smallest of us, that's why. Just go ahead and change here!" whispered James' disembodied voice. "Come on, we're late!"

"I hate being there when he transforms, anyway." She could almost hear the shudder in Peter's voice.

"We all do, Wormtail, you prat. Of course we do. But we're not there for our entertainment, okay? Well… not mostly."

Lily peeked cautiously over the side of her chair. She could see what might be the edge of a robe and quite suddenly a rat came skittering out from thin air. She hid herself behind the chair back again. This was going to be more interesting than she thought. Somehow they'd all managed to become invisible. They'd certainly turn her to bed if she revealed herself. Surely it couldn't hurt to follow along? I can be quiet as a mouse, as it were.

She heard the portrait hole open and close on its own, bringing the situation back to reality. It's about time I get to join in on an escapade. She climbed out of the chair and approached the portal wearily; they could very well still be in the room. She leaned out through the door slowly and watched the rat scurry against the wall, followed by her friend's sharp whispers. She brushed her slippers off with her feet so as not to make noise. As they turned a corner she caught sight of a heel and Sirius' familiar sneakers.

Pressing flat against the wall and thanking herself for wearing a stolen pair of James' pajamas and not her nightgown, she slunk after the Marauders, just letting them get behind each corner before hurrying after them.

After a while she recognized the way to the Entrance Hall, and soon after she peered around a corner to see the front door creak open. As they slid through (they must have) something caught on the door revealing James' arm.

Giddy with her own audacity she followed the rat and occasional visible body part out onto the brisk Hogwarts grounds, still wet with spring rain. Thankfully they were crossing a particularly hilly part of the grounds, so she was able to stay hidden. They seemed to be rushing to something. The advantage out here was evident: the grass flattened and occasional footprints could be seen in the mud. But she only saw two sets of footprints besides the rat. Where was Remus?

Slowly the shape they were heading for rose over the grounds. The Whomping Willow had been a curiosity to Hogwart's students for the six years it had been here. Now Lily hid behind a nearby docile tree and watched as the rat dodged the willow's furious branches and… was he pressing on something? Yes, he had put a paw on a knot and the willow's branches had immediately stilled. She caught her breath. Now there were footprints in the mud around the tree where no grass would grow. Mud slid down into a hole in the base of the trunk. Again the cloak (for she had concluded that was what it must be) caught on something, and James frantically pulled the hood over his ever-tousled hair. The rat followed them into the darkness and she was alone.

Lily's inquisitiveness was pulling her down the hole with them. She stole one last look at Hogwarts castle before heading towards the Whomping Willow. As she approached it, though, it began to slap the ground again. She thought fast. Grabbing a stone off the ground, she chucked it at the trunk in the general direction she had seen the rat go. It took several throws and a few light lashes from the end of a branch before it gave a great sigh and became motionless. She hesitated before practically leaping to the hole in the ground and through to damp darkness.

"Lumos," whispered Lily, breathing hard and throwing caution to the wind. If they caught her now they would have to bring her along, but the trio was nowhere in sight. A long, low tunnel stretched out before her, and she took a resolute breath and glared defiantly before hunching over and heading forward.

What seemed like ages later Lily banged her head painfully on something wooden. She had been practically dozing on her feet half of the way. She looked up at the wooden door, its latch firmly closed.

A scream sliced the silence. A scream that belonged to a voice she recognized.

"Remus?" she whispered, then, "Remus!" She frantically tugged at the latch, holding her wand in her mouth for light. Finally it gave way, and she rushed into the gloom of a boarded up house.

She ignored the broken furniture and rushed up the stairs, where Remus' scream of pain continued, shook, and grew steadily higher and more howl-like. The boards creaked under her feet.

"Remus! Remus, where are you? Remus!" she yelled, panicked. The howling stopped and was replaced by a deep growl. As she turned the corner into a long hall the growl turned to a rabid barking, and there was a crashing noise. Suddenly she heard hooves, and soon after a large stag came rushing at her, head down to butt and antlers threatening.

Lily gave a scream and turned to run, the stag snorting angrily just behind her. In her rush she tripped and went hurtling down the stairs, hitting her head painfully. She heard a crack from her left arm when she hit bottom, and pain raced through it from the fracture. The sound of hooves following after her in a rush, and there was another slamming noise that sounded as if wood was breaking. A large black dog had pinned another to the wall at the top of the stairs, and still the stag came after her, looking fierce. Clutching her arm she managed to get to her feet and race out of the room to what looked like the remains of a boarded up door. She slammed into a wall she had to turn past and let out a strangled yell before falling forward onto the door, ripping some left over boards loose and rushing out into the chilly night, the hooves pounding after her.

Her chest felt as though it would collapse into itself as she ran. If she stumbled the stag prodded her roughly in the back with an antler and clapped its hooves around her. Was it playing with her?

She had dropped her wand, and in the darkness she didn't see the muddy ditch just ahead. She turned to look behind her and stumbled backward into it, but some how remained on her feet. In last minute panic she picked up a rock and hurled it at the stag, hitting it between the eyes. The force made her fall back, and on instinct she put her elbows out to catch herself. The pain in her left arm shot throughout her body and she screamed in anguish and curled into herself, ready for the inevitable attack.

Nothing happened. For a minute all she heard was her heartbeat in her ears and all she could feel was the shallow water of the ditch around her and excruciating pain in her arm.

She heard a shaking breath of someone behind her and the warmth of a body as arms wrapped around her curled form. She jumped at the touch and started shaking, her body wracked with hiccuping sobs.

"Lily. I'm sorry I had to scare you. Please, shhhh, be quiet. I'm sorry," someone was whispering into her back. It was James, his voice shaking and sounding as scared as she was. "Shhhh, Lily, I'm so sorry."

"James?" She uncovered her head and found herself looking into his eyes close to her face, devoid of glasses. He pressed his forehead to hers.

"That was… that was too close. Way too close," he rasped, placing his hand on her cheek and brushing her red hair out of her eyes.

"Where did…" Lily began, then stopped. There was a bruise and a cut bleeding profusely between his eyes.

"That was me, Lily. I'm sorry I had to do that to you but…." He noticed her clutching her arm and reached to it. She gave a cry that was broken off when his mouth pressed urgently to hers, serving more than one purpose. Lily shuddered as he helped her to sit up, holding onto his shirt with her good arm frantically.

"What the hell did you do that for?!?" Lily asked, sobbing between every other word.

"I had to get you away from there." He pressed his nose into the top of her head and took a hesitant breath. "Remus is a werewolf. That was him upstairs."

She immediately froze, then tried to push away from him to look at his face, but her arm shook under her own weight. "What?"

"That's where he goes every month. He's a werewolf. We… became Animagi to keep him company. He's harmless to us. But to you…" He took in a shaky breath.

Lily had never seen James like this. Instead of his cool calm self he was panicked and shaking, somewhat lost for words.

"What about… the other dog? That was Sirius, wasn't it? And Peter…"

"Peter is a rat."* James pulled her back to him and kissed her forehead. He brought his hand from the small of her back with blood on his fingertips where he'd scuffed her with his antlers, and took a sharp intake of breath. "I didn't mean to hurt you so badly… but I heard your voice and I panicked. The wolf started after you and Sirius attacked him…"

Lily jerked out of his grasp, wincing and clutching her upper arm. "But if Sirius gets bitten…"

"I don't think…"

"Of course you weren't thinking!"-

"He won't bite us, Lily! Not if we're in animal form!"

"But we don't know if he will when you get between him and a midnight snack!"

James shut his mouth and looked at her, but she couldn't see his expression in the dark. Oh no, I've said the wrong thing…

"Sirius would have done it anyway," he said, looking slightly indignant. "You won't… I mean… don't hate Remus for this…"

"Blame Remus? For being a werewolf? I couldn't possibly. He's one of my best friends! I couldn't hate him for being bitten. Especially since it's him. Oh James, of all the people…"

James took hold of Lily's hand and rubbed it comfortingly.

Though she had heard no one approaching, Peter came sliding down the side of the ditch and splashed through the murky water. He was holding something silvery, James' glasses and her wand.

"Is she… oh good," he wheezed, doubled over and breathing hard. "Sirius is okay, he got Remus into the back room. Remus isn't too badly hurt either. Nothing worse than what he does to himself," he added bitterly.

Lily looked from James to Peter and back again. Peter handed James his glasses; both had their eyes locked on her.

"What he does to himself…? Oh… what he does to himself." She shuddered as realization dawned. Oh Remus…

She looked determinedly at James. "I want to do it, too."

"No."

She opened her mouth to protest, but James interrupted. "Remus wouldn't want you to it even if I did. He was human enough at one point to know you were there. He'll be stressed out tomorrow until he sees you're okay."

Lily nodded reluctantly, understanding full well that it was best for Remus if she stayed away. But she couldn't help but feel she was being left out of the fun, as dangerous as the fun might be. She was sure they'd all figured out how to enjoy themselves while visiting him. Yet here James was, being stern when he never was… meaning this was something he was sure of.

"We'll go in through Zonko's, Peter. Give us the cloak. You guys take the map. Don't let Remus out tonight. We'll… do what we planned next time."

Peter nodded and handed James the silvery material and Lily her wand, smiling weakly at her.

"I'll be fine, Peter, go back." She managed to smile back. She watched the boy climb out of sight, then the faint hush of paws across wet grass. Glancing back at James, she found him watching her.

"Do you want to ride?" There was James back, smiling mischievously.

"Ride…"

Without a word he grabbed the two ends of the invisibility cloak and tied them in a knot. He pulled his undershirt off expertly without taking off his robe and helped her set a sling, then looked up at her.

"When I change I want you to loop this over my neck and around your back, and hold on with your good arm, okay?" he instructed, motioning to the circle of silver. He handed her his glasses, and she stared at them in her hand.

"Change… change!?!"

But James had backed far away from her and stood up. He closed his eyes. There was a faint pop, and the stag that had been so threatening before now looked at her lovingly with large amber eyes.

"James…" she whispered, starting to get to her feet. He rushed over and stood next to her for support. She braced herself against his warm side and heaved herself upwards. Capturing his broad neck with one arm she rested her cheek against his flanks. "So this is why they call you Prongs…"

The stag backed away from her and nodded, then bent down slowly on his knees so that she could loop the cloak around his neck and climb on. When she had wrapped the other end around her waist and leaned down to clutch his neck he slowly rose to his feet. Being a small girl, Lily's weight was not enough to bring him down.

She leaned to whisper into his ear and jumped when it swiveled around.

"Let's ride, James."

The small noise the stag made could be called a laugh.

Off he raced, Lily clutching herself tightly to him. She felt the heave of every step as he leaped across the field to Hogsmead, and the wind through her hair. Looking upward the stars followed their gallivant and, feeling the security of the fastening around her, she let go and opened her good arm out to them. She laughed with the breath the wind left in her and smiled at the sky, forgetting completely how close she had come to death, or worse.

_____

*If only James knew the reality of that statement. Stupid bitter

//
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