The Sugar Quill
Author: Swirly Head (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: It Wasn't Built in a Day  Chapter: Default
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"Moony?"

"Hmmm?" replied Remus, not really listening. He was absorbed in the textbook, re-living Merlinís epic battles, coming face-to-face with horrors that lurked on the boundaries between worlds, devils and banshees, things that were un-named. Un-named because they had first walked this Earth before language was invented...

"In the name of someone scary, put down that book! Iím worn out," announced Sirius, leaning across the otherwise deserted table and neatly snatching the book away. Remus sighed, and lay his head on top of the pile of unfinished homework. Heíd just returned from the hospital wing, and, as always, needed to catch up with almost a weekís worth of work. This monthís transformation had been particularly bad, and he cringed when he thought of the ugly red scar bisecting his abdomen. James would certainly have something to say about that when he saw it later.

Surprisingly, Sirius hadnít said a word.

"Youíre worn out?" retorted Remus, quirking an eyebrow. "All youíve done for the past three hours is sit there and try to scratch ĎI Love Bunnies Ė Severus Snapeí into the table."

"Less of the Ďtryí, more of the Ďcompleted that task exactly 53 minutes ago and am now extremely bored, thank you. Anyway, itís late. Iím tired...even old Pinceyís gone to bed."

He hadnít said a word, none of the usual exclamations, dark mutterings about how Dumbledore should come up with some potion, reassurances that girls didnít care about huge scars, and in fact positively encouraged them...heíd just looked at the wound, then looked right back at Remus. Right into his eyes.

It was a well-known fact that Sirius Black couldnít play poker.

"You donít have to stay."

"No, no," he said, immediately apologetic. "I didnít mean it like that...here, Iím passable at Transfiguration..."

"Ah, so top of the class is only passable, now."

"I would give you a measured and unimpressed stare, but I canít be bothered. What I was trying to say was that Iíll do the rest of those Transfig. calculations, if you like."

Theyíd all been playing in the Three Broomsticks, Remus, Sirius, James and Peter. Peterís father had taught him how the previous summer, and Sirius had embraced the Muggle card game with gusto. Unfortunately, he hadnít been very good at it.

"What?"

"Nothing, nothing," Sirius said gleefully, almost falling off his chair in excitement. "Carry on, my pretties."

James exchanged a Look with Remus, and Peter frowned. "Why did you say Ďmy prettiesí ? Thatís what you said when you were winning at Scrabble last week! And when you were beating James at chess the week before that!"

"Your point is?"

The card game continued for a few more minutes until Sirius burst into sudden uncontrollable laughter. James slammed his cards down on to the table.

"Really, what is it?"

"Itís just...you lot...oh, Iím just so damned lucky! Iíve got the best hand! Iím definitely going to win!"

The other two followed Jamesí example, and Peter rolled his eyes in an uncharacteristic display of sarcasm. Remus pushed some stray strands of brown hair away from his eyes, and in a gentle voice started to explain.

"The point of the game is to bluff, Sirius. You have to keep a poker face Ė no emotions. You see, that way, the best hands donít always win."

"Yes, alright, but look, Moony," he said, excitedly, showing the other boy his Ďluckyí hand. "Itís the best hand! It has to win."

Sirius Black couldnít play poker, and in his near-black eyes Remus had seen it. For the smallest fraction of a barely noticed second.

Fury.

*****

"I should really do them myself," he protested, that oh-so-familiar ĎIíll break the rules but only if you make meí expression stealing over his face. Sirius grabbed the appropriate piece of parchment and flashed his friend a wicked grin.

"You can do them yourself another time. Like on Saturday."

"But the homeworkís due in tomorrow."

"Exactly."

With much sighing and hesitant body language, Remus finally gave his consent, which was completely irrelevant, as Sirius was already on the third problem.

Who wouldíve guessed that unpredictable Sirius Black loved Transfiguration calculations? He loved anything that had a solution, an answer. There was black, and there was white. There was right, and there was wrong. That would make a neat little world, one he could occupy quite happily. A world where he could get down to the all important business of having fun, and never have to worry about consequences or whether his best friend was going to accidentally slit his own stomach open one moonlit night.

Of course, Remus Lupin was everything he should, by all accounts, dislike. Remus was a werewolf. Werewolves were evil. Therefore, Remus was evil. Except, of course, he wasnít. Remus was possibly the kindest, gentlest and most thoroughly likeable person Sirius had ever met.

He was also a shade of grey.

*****

Fury.

There had been no other word for it. Perhaps pity, or hopelessness would have been easier to understand, but those would never come from Sirius.

Had it been disgust, then? Had his friend unmasked his true feelings?

That didnít ring quite true.

Still, he needed to ask. He had to know. Because that fury, that rage, sparkling like an uncoiled live wire, had disturbed him. Remus knew that spark well, it stared from cold glass plates on chill nights, with the moon, always the moon in the background, ever present, ever watching. A harshly glittered orb that cast its haughty gaze upon the wolf who howled in the room. The wolf, whose eyes sparkled with a live wire crack of murderous rage. The self-same wolf that would kill in an instant.

Remus had a valid excuse for his fury. Sirius, at the moment, did not.

"Why were you angry?"

The question came from nowhere, spilled from his lips before he had a chance to stop it. Embarrassed by the intense melodrama of the situation, Remus attempted to carry on working, fully aware that Sirius was frowning in his general direction.

"Angry? When?"

"Earlier, when I showed you my cut. You were angry...furious."

"Donít be so bloody stupid."

That was it. Stupid. Bloody stupid, in fact. Maybe it was the words, or the dismissive tone, or the doubt that poisoned the back of his mind. Whatever it was, Remus snapped. His head snapped up, his teeth snapped together and his heart started thudding against his ribcage. He could easily imagine the snapping crack of each rib. Snap, snap, snap.

"Iím not being stupid, Iím serious."

"No, Iím Sirius...really, Moony, thatís an old one..."

"I saw it."

Now he was standing up, and Remus knew he had to leave the room. It scared him, this feeling of uncontrollable emotion. Later he reflected that he always would be scared by it, would be doomed to a life of eternal restraint, just in case.

"Saw what? Look, Iím sorry I said you were stupid, I just didnít understand...honestly, please, sit down."

"No."

Just in case one day he really let himself feel.

"Moony, come back!"

"Stay away from me."

In case it turned out that all this time heíd been living a lie.

"Remus, I wonít let you leave until you tell me whatís wrong!"

Sirius was closing in, two steps nearer and he would reach out to grab Remusí arm.

"Iím warning you, stay back!"

"Oh, youíre warning me now? What is that, a threat? Whatíll you do?"

"You donít know what Iím capable of."

In case he really was the wolf.


"Yes I do, thatís the problem..."

There was a surprising amount of blood. He really hadnít expected the sound, either. The soft pop, the way Siriusí head had recoiled so sharply, the sting of pain in his knuckles and the blood. Thick and red it covered Padfootís lower jaw, spilling into his open mouth. Remus suddenly exhaled, remembering to breath. Sirius simply stared, before lifting his hand to his mouth and gingerly touching his jaw.

"Ow."

"Sirius..."

Horrified.


"Iím so sorry, I just...sit down, here, sit down," he managed to say, strangely overcome, not with grief but a steadily increasing fear.

"Ow."

A stunned Sirius allowed himself to be herded into the chair Remus had so violently sprung from only moments ago. Fingers of impatient adrenaline prompted Remus into tearing a scrappy strip from the bottom of his shirt. Carefully, so carefully, he daubed at the blood. For once Sirius let somebody tend to him. This was, after all, an evening of firsts.

The cut was still bleeding, and the area around it was rapidly bruising. Remus sighed, and straightened up. "Itís no good, weíll have to go to see Madam Pomfrey," he said shakily.

"No. No, it can wait. Moo...Remus, sit down. Youíre in shock," Sirius countered, his voice so kind and reasonable that Remus couldnít decide whether he wanted to cry or to jump out of the nearest window. Instead he did as he was told, and sat. They sat in relative silence for some while, the steady ticking of the clock a welcome distraction. Eventually Sirius drew a breath and Remus felt the intense Black gaze centred on his head.

"Why did you do it?"

"Because you said I was a problem. Because you were angry earlier, and donít try to deny it, you were. Because I lost it. Because Iím an evil creature, and thatís what evil creatures do."

There was another mortifying silence, and for the millionth time Remus wished he could take it all back.

"You are a problem. I was angry. But you arenít an evil creature."

He looked up sharply, and Sirius gave a wry grin. "Weíre sixteen, weíre single and weíre good-looking...yet here we are, in a deserted library, discussing the nature of good and evil. It really is completely ridiculous...not that ridiculous," he added hastily, looking worried. "Donít hit me, or anything."

Now it was Remusí turn to groan, and grin. "I suppose now youíll be terrified of me."

"Hmmm, make the most of it. I suppose we better have a manly heart-to-heart, old bean," Sirius said in a faux upper-class accent, slinging a companionable arm around the other boyís shoulders. Remus felt better. "Hereís the score. Earlier, when you showed me that cut, I was angry. Furious. Absolutely livid. But not with you, not at you. With me. There I was, sleeping warm in my bed, while you were ripping chunks out of yourself in some dirty old house!"

"You canít help it..."

"I know, and thatís whatís so galling...Iím never helpless. Never. Helplessness just isnít something Blacks do. Are. Whichever, the second point is that you arenít evil. Now, I have to say something to you, promise you wonít start going all mental again..." He waited for Remus to nod. "Alright. Donít be so bloody stupid. Thatís all Iíve got to say."

"And...Iím a problem?"

"Of course you are. Yíknow, when you finally told us the truth, it was good for us. Weíve all had to grow up. Things arenít just black and white, I see that now, I do. And Iím glad. If thereís one thing that I like, itís solving problems."

Remus started to protest, but Sirius shouted him done. "None of that pessimistic stuff. It might take me slightly longer than a day. A year, or two years, or possibly even three, but Iíll solve your problem, Remus Lupin, I will. Thatís what friends are for, and donít you forget it."

Afraid he was going to start sobbing, and so prove that he really wasnít qualified to be a Dark and Evil Thing Of The Night, Remus ventured another question.

"Solve this for me then. When I punched you, that wasnít me...what if it was the wolf...what if Iím the wolf..."

"Have you ever thought about acting?"

"What?"

"Do you realise how incredibly melodramatic and idiotic you sound? It was you, you plonker. I touched a nerve and you retaliated."

"But...but Iím not like that!"

"You know what they say...itís always the quiet ones. Come on, letís get back to the common room. Peter and James are dying to tell you what happened in Potions."

"What about your face?"

"Oh, that." Sirius grabbed his wand and muttered a few words. When he turned around the cut was gone and the bruise was fading fast. Remus gawped.

"How did you do that?"

"Made Poppy teach me. Sheís always had a soft spot for me, must be all those sponge baths..."

"So itís Poppy now..."

And so happiness was restored, at least for the time being. As they made their way back to the tower, Remus sighed contentedly. Rome certainly wasnít built in a day...but he was willing to bet that the Romans didnít have Sirius Black on their side.

 

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