The Sugar Quill
Author: Emma Dalrymple (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: His Ivory Tower  Chapter: Chapter One - So Shaken As We Are
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HIT1 CHAPTER 1:  So Shaken As We Are

"So shaken as we are, so wan with care.”
 - Shakespeare's Henry IV


    His wounds had healed, but the ragged scars still ripped across his body, a daily reminder of what had happened.
    Days and nights melded together into a blur.  He functioned like a machine, his body going through the daily rituals while his mind was elsewhere.
    He had stopped communicating with the outside world.  He hadn't intended to go into self-exile, it had just. . . happened.  He knew that there were people who were worried about him, but he was far too wrapped up in his own grief to feel guilty or even care.
    Most days he did the bare minimum to keep his house in order, then sat on the sofa and simply stared out the window for hours, lost in thought and memory.

    James dashed into the parlor, where the other Marauders were talking animatedly by the fire.
    "She said yes!" he cried.  "She said yes!  Lily said yes!"
    Sirius whooped and jumped up, bounding over to pull his dazed friend into a bearhug.  Grinning, Remus and Peter pounded him on the back, and the four friends hugged each other tightly for a long minute before James collapsed onto the chair behind him, a silly smile on his face.
    "So, where's the lucky lady, James?  Lock her away so she can't escape now that she's finally gone nutters and agreed to marry you?" Sirius asked.
    James laughed.  "She's writing an owl to her parents as we speak."
    He got that dazed look on his face again, and leaned back into his chair.  "What could I have possibly done to deserve her?  To make her say yes?"
    "I honestly have no idea, but it seems I'm stuck with you now," Lily's amused voice remarked from the doorway.
    James just grinned weakly at her as the others jumped up again and hugged Lily.  He watched as they congratulated and teased her about her choice of husband, then got up and walked slowly to her.

    She turned to him, smiling as he pulled her into an embrace.  She stood on tiptoe and kissed him full on the mouth before wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning against him, sighing happily.
    "Best man, Sirius?" James asked, smiling, his chin resting on Lily's head.
    Sirius' grin widened.  "Of course."
    Remus and Peter pretended to be affronted.  "What, you're not going to break with tradition and have three best men?" Peter pouted.
    "No, this one has to learn once and for all that Lily's off-limits.  Find yourself your own girlfriend, Black."
    The room echoed with their laughter.


    "I'm sorry, Mr. Lupin," Michael Holden said apologetically.  "You know that I'd let you stay here for free if I could, but I have to make a living somehow."
    Remus stared blankly at his landlord.
    "Do you have someplace to go?"
    He nodded numbly.
    "All right."  Michael sounded reluctant to leave.  "I just want you to know that I'm really sorry about your friends, and I feel lousy for having to turn you out a month after--"
    "It's all right, Mr. Holden," Remus said.  He smiled unconvincingly and closed the door.

    "Moony!  Moony, wake up!  Mail's here!"
    Remus muttered something incoherent and rolled over, pulling the covers over his head.  They were pulled off him and Sirius' face juxtaposed itself onto Remus' line of vision.
    Remus grunted and sat up, blinking in the bright light.  "What's so damned bloody important that requires you to deny a man his sleep?"
    "It's
my house, Moony, and you'll get up when I damn well tell you to," said James from somewhere in the background.
    "Besides, the
mail is here."  Sirius said, his eyebrows raised expectantly.
    "What's so bloody important--" Remus repeated irritably, then stopped.  Sirius, James, and Peter were looking at him meaningfully and Remus' eyes opened wide with comprehension.
    "The N.E.W.T. scores!" he exclaimed hoarsely, leaping out of bed.
    "Now
that's the Remus we all know and love," Peter said, grinning, as Remus dashed toward the door.
    "We didn't want to open ours until you opened yours," James called after him as he barreled down the stairs.
    When the other three arrived downstairs a few moments later, Remus was standing at the kitchen table, clutching his unopened letter and staring at it with a dazed look on his face.

    "Go on and open it," James said, ripping his own open.
    "Yeah, it's not as though you've got anything to worry about," Peter chided, giving him a good-natured poke in the ribs.
    "Bloody cleverest boy in the class," Sirius added, grinning proudly.
    Finally, Remus drew a deep breath and ripped his letter open as the others were comparing scores.
    "How'd you do, Peter?"
    "All right--seven.  Enough for my mum.  You, Padfoot?"
    "Not too bad.  Ten.  James?"
    "You owe me ten galleons, Black.  Beat you by two."
    Sirius swore and pulled out his wallet.  He handed over the gold coins, then turned expectantly to Remus.
    "Well?" James asked.
    Remus just stared at him.
    "It can't be that bad," Peter said, exasperated.
    "Fifteen.  I got the highest scores in the class," Remus whispered, showing them the letter.
    There was a moment of stunned silence, then the house was filled with whooping and yelling as the Marauders pounded him on the back and swept him into tight bearhugs.

    "That's it.  You're coming with us to the Three Broomsticks tonight, our treat.  No objections this time.  We're going to get you completely smashed if it's the last thing we do."

    He stumbled blindly through the woods, for days, weeks, months--he neither knew nor cared.  He vaguely remembered retreating deep into the shelter of the forest when the time of the wolf drew near--he was not so lost to grief as to forget himself entirely--but otherwise stayed on the fringes of the forest.  Near enough to the villages that he could beg for food, but comfortingly close to the proffered sanctuary of the trees.
    He passed that winter in the forest.  He was far enough south that there wasn't much snow, and he cast Warming Charms around himself at regular intervals so that he wouldn't freeze to death.  He slept in caves when he could, but usually just used the frozen ground.

    "And this," James said, placing a squirming bundle into Remus' trembling arms, "is Harry."
    "Also known as the newest Marauder, future Quidditch captain for England, the next in line for the Potter fortune, dashing good looks, playboy tendencies--"
    "Sirius," warned Lily darkly.
    "Sorry," Sirius grinned, not looking abashed at all.
    Remus cradled the tiny creature in his arms, looking at it with wonder.  Little Harry gazed up at him curiously, sucking on his fist.
    "Where's Peter?" he asked, his gaze fixed on Harry.
    "With his mother.  She's sick again.  I swear she's got some sort of tracking spell on him--every time some opportunity for mischief comes up, he clutches his arm and mumbles something about his mother before Disapparating," James said, frowning.
    "His loss," said Sirius airily.  "Gives me a head start on getting Harry's first word to be 'Padfoot'."
    Remus watched, fascinated, as Harry's little fingers caught one of his and held it fast, refusing to let go.  This child--this tiny little creature--had been created by his two friends.  He was half Lily, half James, all innocence and possibility.

    "Don't be ridiculous, Sirius," Remus said, looking up at his friend.  "You know very well that his first word will be 'Quidditch' if James has anything to say about it."
    "Quite," James cheerfully affirmed.  "Your duties as godfather will be officially terminated, Black, if his first word is so much as 'dog'."
    Sirius pretended to look put out and sighed dramatically, "The best friend is always the scapegoat.  Oh, look!  Ickle Harry likes Moony."
    Everyone turned to look at Remus and Harry, who was waving Remus' finger around and giggling.
    "Looks like the real one to watch out for is Remus," Lily teased.  "Harry'll be a right sharp fellow when he grows up if Remus is allowed to get his hands on him, won't you darling?" she cooed at her son.  "Highest N.E.W.T. scores in our year, after all."  She smiled affectionately up at Remus.
    "No son of mine is going to be a bloody bookworm," James growled, winking at Remus.  "It'll be all fun and no work for this one, I'll make sure of that."
    "Right," Sirius said, grinning, "just as soon as Lily goes mental and lets you."
    "Git," James laughed.
    "Prat," Sirius shot back.

    Remus watched Harry's eyes drift closed and his head loll to one side.  Lily reached for her son, and as Remus settled the blanketed bundle in her arms, he knew he had lost his heart completely.

    The forest ended abruptly, and Remus blinked against the sudden onslaught of sunlight.
    He stumbled through the village on dirt paths.  He only sought an apple or perhaps a loaf of bread before returning to the solitude of the forest, but he was to be denied even this.
    A group of small children playing in an alley gaped at him as he staggered past, his expression haggard.  Their parents had pointed out beggars to them before when they visited London, but they had never seen one in their village before.
    They saw only his torn robes and ragged shoes, their youth blinding them to the paleness of his complexion and grief-stricken eyes.
    "Get out of here!" one yelled, raising his fist menacingly.
    Others joined him in a chorus of "We don't want your kind 'round here!" and "Go back to the slums where you belong!"
    They began pelting him with sticks, pebbles, rotten food from the street, anything they could find.  They chased him beyond the village's borders before returning to their homes, satisfied with themselves for singlehandedly ridding the village of an unwelcome menace.
    Remus knew rather than felt the objects striking him, but didn't turn around.  He didn't think he could bear to look into another person's eyes and have them see what was in his.  He staggered onward.
    Finally came the welcome relief of the woods again--the soaring, sweeping expanse of boughs above him, the unquestioning voices of the woodland creatures, the springy moss gentle on his bare feet.
    The sky above him was ominously grey, however, and water began to trickle from the tree leaves onto the ground.  The dripping soon grew into a torrential downpour, flattening branches against trees with its force.  Wind whipped through the forest, howling.
    And still he pushed on, bent forward to fight his way through the storm.  Rain plastered his unkempt hair to his forehead, and gusts of wind chilled him to the bone through robes that had long fallen into disrepair.
    He tripped over a tree root and landed in a puddle of muddy water.  He blinked the water from his eyes and stood up to trudge onwards again.

    Remus heard shouting from downstairs in the common room, but ignored it.  James, Sirius, and Peter had had some little in-joke between then for years now, and he was sick of being left out of the loop.  They had been avoiding him all week, and they had left him alone again when they knew very well that the full moon was tonight.  He rolled onto his side bitterly.
    The noise was getting louder, though, and he now recognized the voices as belonging to Sirius, Peter, and James.  He heard their loud footsteps bounding up the stairs to the boys' dormitory.  He grunted irritably.
    The bedroom door was flung open as his three roommates piled inside, laughing and grinning at Remus.  James and Peter crowded around Remus' bed as Sirius slammed the door shut behind them and locked it before joining the others.
    "Moony!  Wake up!  We have something smashing--"
    "--just absolutely brilliant--"
    "--bloody amazing to tell you!"
    Remus wondered grumpily what had the other Marauders so excited.  Something they'd obviously done without him.
    "You know how you have to be locked up in the Shrieking Shack during your transformations?" James asked, almost bouncing up and down with excitement.

    Remus scowled.  Was James daft?  How could he ever forget what had happened to him once a month for ten years?
    "Yes. . ." he replied slowly.
    "Well, we became Animagi so we could keep you company!" Peter exclaimed, grinning.
    If Remus was expecting a revelation, it certainly wasn't that.  He felt his chin drop.
    "Wha--what?  But--how?  Animagus transformations are incredibly difficult--
very advanced magic--would take years of research--"
    "Three years, to be precise," Sirius interjected.
    "Let us introduce ourselves.  Monsieur Moony, may I present Prongs--"
    Remus watched, awestruck, as James transformed into a stag.
    "--Padfoot--"
    Sirius was now an enormous black dog.  Remus started.
    "Geezus, Black--could you get any bigger?"
    "--and Wormtail."
    Peter disappeared from view, and Remus had to lean over the side of the bed to see that he was now a rat.

    Moments later, his friends had resumed their usual forms, and they stood before him, grinning.
    "But--why?" Remus managed to gasp, gaping at them.
    "Peter's idea," Sirius said, clapping Peter on the shoulder.  "You're an absolutely miserable git to be around when the moon's getting full, and we were tired of putting up with you," he winked.
    Peter laughed.  "Besides, we thought the wolf would like some company.  You know. . . to continue marauding in disguise."
    Remus felt the corners of his eyes prick, and he blinked furiously.  The magnitude of what his friends had done for him was inconceivable.
    "I--it just--I'm--thank you," he choked.
    James smiled warmly and brushed his thanks aside.  "Don't even think about getting all sappy on us, Moony.  Aren't you supposed to be heading down to the Whomping Willow right about now?  We've got some troublemaking to do."
    The four boys whooped and sprinted down the stairs and out into the night.


    Had he been lucid enough to look at his surroundings, he would have noticed that the trees in this wood were different from any of the others he had passed on his travels.  Instead of the usual homogeneous blend, there were slender birches and somber yews and venerable oaks.  In contrast to the unruly anarchy that governed other forests--herbs and creatures and trees all fighting for local dominance--there was a quiet balance here, a respectful appreciation for order and tranquility.  No dead trees, toppled by age or disease, littered the moss-covered paths here.  Each fern, each branch actually glowed faintly with health and life.  If he had been looking anywhere besides the forest floor in front of him, he would have noticed the soft white aura emanating from the forest itself and wondered if it hadn't a spirit of its own.
    Finally, he came upon a little clearing that was remarkably circular in shape.  Noticing the sudden appearance of his shadow, he raised his head to look at the sky and gazed upon the waning moon.  He sank slowly to his knees, taking in the sky for the first time since his last transformation.  It was dark with the duskiness that comes only with the middle of the night.  The stars were obscured behind an inscrutable mass of gloomy grey clouds, relics of the storm that had raged earlier.  However, the moon was still shining defiantly, refusing to be veiled, and her light fell upon him gently, almost apologetically.
    Remus closed his eyes, memories of the Marauders' glorious nighttime larks flashing unbidden to his mind, and he crumpled onto the ground, victim of starvation and exhaustion.
    In the deep recesses of his consciousness, Remus heard a soft gasp and twigs breaking underfoot nearby, and then something soft fell across his cheek.  He forced his eyelids open and was immediately arrested by a pair of clear, deep blue eyes looking back at him.  The confusion and alarm in them was almost palpable.  He felt a smooth hand caress his brow.
    "Who are you?" he heard himself ask of the creature before him, unable to tell how he could force the words through his exhaustion.
    "Cate," he heard the creature murmur.  "Cate Fairchilde."  Something brushed his matted hair gently off his face and he succumbed thankfully into unconsciousness.

Continued in Chapter 2: Wake Unto Me
//
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