Title: Christmas on the Dai Llewellyn Ward
Christmas on the Dai Llewellyn Ward
by Emily Anne
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns these characters and situations. Iím just borrowing them for fun and making no money out of it. Huge thanks to my beta, Zsenya.
Bran knew it was rude of him to stare. He tried to pretend he was really interested in his hospital Christmas dinner, with it's lovely over-cooked vegetables and delicious dry turkey, and not feeling bitter that that redheaded idiot who claimed he was friends with a werewolf (yeah, right, who'd want to be friends with a werewolf?) had ten people visiting him, while he himself hadn't even got a card from his mum and dad.
The idiot -Arthur, or whatever his name was - starting telling his wife about that half-witted idea he and that Augustus boy had had about using some Muggle remedy on his wounds, and the three older boys hurried out of the ward as she rounded on him. The four teenagers stayed where they were, but looked a bit apprehensive suddenly, and the middle-aged man in the shabby coat walked away from Arthur's bed and, for some reason, approached Bran.
"Merry Christmas," the man said, smiling warmly.
"Thank you. Same to you," Bran said, attempting to sit up straight in his bed and giving up when the sudden movement made the pain in his arm throb ever harder.
The man pointed to one of the chairs by the bed. "Mind if I sit down?"
"I'm Remus, by the way," he said as he sat down. "Remus Lupin." He held out his hand.
"Bran Mallory," Bran said. "Sorry, I can't..." he indicated his right arm, which was covered in bandages.
Remus lowered his hand and smiled. "It's all right. Looks like a nasty wound. Is it still painful?"
"Yeah," Bran replied, looking away from Remus and back towards Arthur's bed. "So, are you lot all family?"
"In a manner of speaking," Remus answered, looking over to where the four teenagers were suddenly rushing out of the room. "The redheads are, of course, and the rest of us have managed to latch ourselves onto them."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THAT'S THE GENERAL IDEA?"
They both jumped as Arthur's wife started bellowing at her husband. Remus looked as though he was trying not to laugh as he stood up and pulled the flowery curtains around the bed rail. Instantly the privacy charm kicked in and all the noise outside was subdued.
"Sorry to shut out the decorations," Remus said.
"It's all right, they were driving me mad anyway. There's only so many times I can hear that clockwork elf sing, Have Yourself a Healthy Little Christmas before I shove my Brussel Sprouts up its nose."
Remus chuckled and strolled casually back to his seat. "So, what are you in for?"
"Like the sign says - Serious Bites," Bran said, trying not to sound too evasive.
Remus nodded sagely. There was a moment of silence before he looked Bran right in the eye and said, "You must have been in here a while if you were bitten by a werewolf. The last full moon was nearly three weeks ago."
Any joy Bran may have felt at having someone - even a total stranger - pay him some attention on Christmas day was instantly extinguished. He'd actually been gullible enough to think Remus was just being friendly, spreading a bit of festive cheer by making small talk with a poor, lonely man.
"Great," he said, tearing his eyes away from Remus, who he was now sure had only come over to mock him. "I'm not even out of hospital yet and already a complete stranger knows my business."
"Why did you even bother asking?" Bran spat, still not looking back at Remus. "I bet you've all been gossiping about me, haven't you? Ooh, there's a werewolf in the hospital! How horrible and evil and nasty!"
"Not at all," Remus said, his voice irritatingly calm. "Arthur's wife mentioned it to me because she thought I might be interested."
Bran stared straight ahead at the curtains.
"Arthur told you he knows a werewolf, didn't he?"
He started to count the flowers.
"That he's friends with one?"
One pink ... one blue ... one yellow.
"Well, that's me."
It took a moment for Bran to register what Remus had just said. When he was sure he had really heard what his ears seemed to be telling his brain he thought he'd heard, there was really only one thing he could think of to say.
He looked back and Remus smiled at him again, not a pitying, patronising smile like those he'd been getting from the Healers, but one of understanding.
"Your arm really does look painful."
"You should have seen it three weeks ago. I was bleeding so much they didn't know whether I was going to survive or not. Don't know why they bothered trying to save me."
"Don't talk like that."
"Look," Bran said irritably, "if you've just come over here to spout more trite platitudes at me, you're wasting your breath. I've heard it and I'm not interested." He turned away from Remus once more and began prodding with his fork at his now cold stuffing.
"Let me guess," Remus said, easing back into his chair. "The Healers have been telling you that everything will be fine, it's not as painful as you think, you'll be able to handle it, and you'll have no problems leading a normal life."
"Sums it up."
Bran still didn't look at him, but he stopped playing with his food and actually listened now.
Remus leaned forward again. "Everything will most certainly not be fine, it's more painful than you can imagine, there will be times when you won't be able to handle it and your life is going to be anything but normal from now on."
"I think I liked their version better."
"You'll probably find that a lot of people hate you now," Remus continued, unperturbed. "Most people don't understand lycanthropy. I still come across people who think I'll pass it onto them by shaking their hand. Everyone knows werewolves are violent and dangerous and yet they can't equate that with that fact that you can only become a werewolf if you are bitten by one at the full moon; bitten hard enough that blood is drawn, enough blood to get the disease inside you."
Bran swallowed hard a few times, trying to choke down the lump that was forming in his throat.
"You'll find that a lot of people are afraid of you," Remus went on, his voice getting softer. "You'll catch people staring at you, wondering if you're going to attack them. I've met people who think that the wolf is the real me and this human face is just a disguise. They think I'm constantly overcome with blood lust and I'm liable to pounce on them at any moment. It's just ignorance."
Bran stared at the ceiling. The lump in his throat was now accompanied by a burning in his cheeks. He wished they, and Remus, would just go away.
But Remus pressed on still.
"There'll also be people who say that they don't care what you are now, that they know you're still you, no matter what happens at the full moon. But sometimes you'll find that even they won't touch you or that they'll always find an excuse to leave your company before the moon rises, no matter what time of the month it is."
"If you're trying to cheer me up, you're not doing a very good job," Bran said, surprising even himself at how hard his voice sounded.
"I'm just trying to be honest with you."
"Yeah, well don't bother, all right?" he snapped, turning to look at Remus finally. "I'm not interested in joining your little wolfy club."
"I said, 'tough'. You don't have a choice in the matter. This isn't something that's just going to disappear if you ignore it. Like it or not, you are a werewolf now, and unless some pioneer comes along with a miracle cure, you're going to be a werewolf for the rest of your life. The sooner you accept that, the better."
They stared at each other, Bran scowling, Remus gentle but steely.
Bran jerked his head away in disgust and stared once more at the falsely cheerful curtains. He balled the fingers on his good hand into a tight fist. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Remus casually leaning back in his chair, flicking through a magazine Bran had left on his bedside cabinet. If he hadn't been lying in a hospital bed, covered in bandages, Bran felt that he would have very much liked to hit this man. How dare he just come over here and start interfering like this? How dare he have the gall to be all righteous? How dare he assume that Bran wanted anyone to be honest with him? He just wanted to be left alone.
He stole a quick glance at Remus, who was now picking at a loose thread on his shabby overcoat. Remus' eyes flickered upwards and met Bran's for a second or two. He smiled, but Bran snapped his head away again. After a minute or so he chanced another look back. Remus was still looking at him, still smiling in that annoyingly serene way.
But in that moment Bran realised something else. There was no fear or judgement in Remus' eyes. When the Healers had come to talk to him their words had been kind and understanding, their voices deceptively mild, but they hadn't been able to disguise the fact that they were afraid of him now, that they thought he was less of a person because he had this disease inside him, and that they believed he would have been better off dead.
"When did you..." Bran began. "I mean, how long have you..."
"Been a werewolf?" Remus finished for him. "I was six when I was bitten."
"Six?" Bran said, so suddenly that he nearly upset the tray on his lap. "Bloody hell, that's harsh."
"Indeed. There was no Wolfsbane Potion in those days either, so my parents just had to lock me up every full moon."
"Yeah, the Healers have been telling me about that stuff. Does it really help?"
Remus nodded. "Very much so. It's possibly the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted - and I include manure-flavoured Bertie Botts Beans in that - but it does help. It doesn't alleviate the pain of the transformations but you keep your mind, that's the main thing. It's quite nice really, in the middle of winter. You can just curl up by the fire, covered in fur, and go to sleep as a harmless wolf."
"They told me I wouldn't be able to get it free on the W.H.S, though."
"No. They've been sneaky, you see, and defined the potion as being treatment for werewolves rather than humans with lycanthropy. Because werewolves are classified as 'beasts' the health service won't pay for the potion. We have to buy it privately, and it's ... not cheap."
"No, I didn't imagine it would be."
"You can make it yourself, of course, if you're confident with making potions. Are you any good?"
"I did it at N.E.W.T - got an O."
"Well, there you go, you're all set!"
Remus grinned at him and Bran couldn't help giving him a half-smile in return.
He shifted his dinner tray, which was becoming uncomfortably heavy on his legs, a little further down the bed. Remus jumped up from his seat, picked the tray up, and set it down on top of the magazines on the bedside cabinet.
"Thanks. Is that what you do, then?" Bran said, as Remus sat down again. "Make the potion yourself?"
"I've attempted it a couple of times, but itís complicated and I was always a bit rubbish at Potions to be honest. However, an ex-colleague of mine, who's an excellent potions maker, was kind enough to make a batch for me recently, and a friend of mine just bought me a year's supply of it as part of my Christmas present."
Bran raised his eyebrows. "Wow. Good friend."
"Yeah, he is," Remus said, a wistful smile playing across his face.
"Hang on," Bran said, furrowing his brows. "You just said 'ex-colleague'. Do you..."
"No, I don't have a job," Remus admitted. "Finding and keeping a full time job is nigh on impossible when your name is on the Werewolf Register."
"Oh, God, the Register." He had forgotten all about that. The infamous Werewolf Register, open to the public, available in every wizarding library, detailing every living lycanthrope in Britain. "I'll have to go on it, won't I?"
"It's the law," Remus said, though from his tone of voice Bran suspected he thought it shouldn't be.
"Anyone can see that Register. Anyone could see my name on it."
Remus shifted in his seat, leaned forward again, and looked at Bran very seriously. "Mr Mallory ... don't lie to anyone about what you are. People will always find out eventually. You'll just end up providing ammunition for those who'll reject you because of it, because they'll think you're ashamed, and hurting those who'll accept you despite it because they'll think you didn't trust them."
Bran didn't say anything. He felt utterly wretched and worse than ever. Not that he was feeling particularly wonderful before. What a great Christmas this was.
"So, are you married?" Remus said, with the air of someone trying to awkwardly change the subject.
"I live on my own."
"What about your parents? Have you, er ... have you told your family about this?"
"Well you probably should. I know it's scary, but they might surprise-"
"One of the Healers told them for me," Bran said, cutting him off. He gave Remus a depreciating smile. "They haven't been to see me."
"I'm so sorry." He sounded like he really meant it, which actually made Bran feel a bit better.
"I'm not surprised," he admitted. "They think Dolores Umbridge had the right idea. You should have heard my dad when that segregation law was passed." Bran puffed out his cheeks and put on a pompous-sounding voice. "It's about bloody time someone did something about this. It's all getting out of hand, werewolves working in the ministry and teaching children, it's ridiculous! They should all be locked up!" He smiled humourlessly as he looked down at his battered arm. "Thing is I never thought to disagree with him," he said very quietly. There was a moment of silence, with neither of them quite sure what to do, before Bran turned back to Remus and said, "I take it your parents were fine and dandy about it? Organising Werewolf Pride marches and storming the Ministry, campaigning for better rights for their son?"
"Not quite," Remus said, without a trace of a smile. "They generally tried to keep it a secret. Most of their efforts were spent trying to find a cure rather than helping me live with it. I hardly ever see them now, to be honest. They haven't disowned me or anything, but as I'm sure you can understand they never wanted their son to be a werewolf. Who would? They write to me quite often, but I suppose it's just easier for them to not have to see me ... not have to look at me and be instantly reminded of what I am."
"What do you mean? You don't look like a wolf," Bran said, a slight panic rising in his voice. "Am I going to start looking like a wolf? Am I going to get a hairy back or have to start shaving my palms?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Remus said soothingly. "It's more ..." he looked down at his robes. "Well, I'm pretty scruffy aren't I? It's fairly obvious to look at me that I have no money and that's because have no job and that's because no-one will employ a werewolf. Also ... well, how old would you say I am?"
Bran shrugged, then immediately wished he hadn't because it made his arm hurt again. "No idea."
"Go on, just have a guess. Be honest, how old would you say I am, roughly?"
Bran looked at him questioningly. Grey hair, lined face, terrible dark circles under his eyes ... yet he must look older than he really was, or wouldn't have asked the question. Bran decided to give him an age range that was something younger than he actually looked, just to be polite. "Mid-forties, I suppose."
Remus smiled. "I'm thirty-six."
Bran felt a hot blush creeping across his face. "Are you winding me up?"
"No, I really am only thirty-six."
"Oh. Well, when I say you look old, I mean not old, just-"
"Good rule of thumb, Mr Mallory - if you're in a hole, stop digging," Remus said, a good-natured grin on his face. "It's all right. I wouldn't have asked if I hadn't been expecting an answer like that. Being a werewolf takes it out of you. You'll find yourself getting ill very easily, particularly around the full moon. And the transformations themselves ... well, you don't want to see the scars I've got."
Bran must have looked thoroughly miserable again, because Remus leaned forward once more, resting his elbows on the edge of the bed and spoke to him in a very soft undertone.
"I know I'm painting a pretty bleak picture of being a werewolf here, but it's not all bad."
Bran raised an eyebrow at him, not bothering to hide his scepticism.
"Really, it's not!" Remus insisted. "This will probably bring out the worst in a lot of people. You should be prepared to lose many of those who you thought cared about you. But for all the people who turn their backs on you now, you'll also find that there are those who really don't care what happens to you at the full moon, who know that you're just a person, the same as anyone else. You'll find people who will defend you against all comers."
Bran didn't believe a word of that, and his expression must have shown it. Remus just continued to smile knowingly at him.
"You'll see what I mean. The first time you see someone getting righteous and indignant on your behalf..." he trailed off and that same wistful look he'd had earlier, when talking about his friend, reappeared. "My friends used to do it when we were at school. If ever someone made a disparaging remark about werewolves or started ranting about 'filthy half-breeds' or what have you, my friends would hex them into next week. Of course, as they were the only ones who actually knew what I was, everyone else just thought they were a bit loopy." He nodded his head briefly in the direction of Arthur's bed. "You saw those kids out there just now? One of them graffitied his copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on my behalf. Where it says 'Werewolf' he added an 's' onto the end and then wrote, 'aren't all bad.' I thought it would be churlish of me to point out that he really should have crossed out the 'f' and changed it to a 'v-e', but I don't think grammatical accuracy was really the point."
"As lovely as that sounds, Mr Lupin, you'd still give anything for it to have never happened, wouldn't you? If you could go back in time and make it so that you were never bitten ... you'd do it."
Remus sighed deeply, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said, "Honestly? You're going to think I'm mad, but no, I wouldn't. I mean, if a Healer came in here now shouting, 'Eureka! We've found a cure!' I'd take it in a heartbeat. But to change things so that I was never a werewolf in the first place ... no, that I wouldn't do. I don't expect you to understand that, though. I was only six when I was bitten, I don't remember a time when I wasn't a werewolf. If it had never happened, I wouldn't be me. Perhaps I'd have a job, decent clothes, boyish good looks, but those are just surface things. I'd be a completely different person. I wonder sometimes whether I'd be like the majority of wizards out there and hate and fear werewolves? My parents didn't know anything about lycanthropy before I was bitten. If I'd been raised ignorant of it would I accept it at all? And my friends ... I know the value of true friendship but I doubt that would hold true if I wasn't a werewolf.
"No-one asks for their life to change, Mr Mallory, but yours has, whether you like it or not. You can either be afraid and ashamed of what you are now, or you can accept it and try and make the best of it. And believe me, there is good capable of coming from this."
Bran didn't want to look at him. He wanted so badly to believe what Remus was saying - he did believe it - and he was afraid that if he looked into his eyes he'd see that his words were just empty, pretty lies.
At that moment the curtains twitched and a face popped around them tentatively.
"I'm sorry to interrupt..."
"It's all right, Molly," Remus said, rising from his seat. "How's Arthur?"
Molly made a noise that sounded startlingly like a tiger about to attack someone. "He's lucky he's in hospital or I might kill him. Stitches! I ask you! Anyway, we're going to find the children. If you want to stay here for a bit..."
"It's all right, don't let me keep you," Bran said.
"I'll be out in a moment, Molly," Remus said.
Molly glanced quickly at Bran, smiled at him politely, then scurried away again.
Remus didn't sit down again, but he turned back to Bran for a moment. "Have you ever read Hairy Snout, Human Heart?" he asked.
"Er, I can't say that I have, actually."
"You should do, it's a good book. I could lend you my copy if you like. It's held together with spellotape 'cause I've read it so many times, but you're still welcome to borrow it. I could bring it for you next time I visit Arthur."
Remus hovered for a moment by the gap in the curtains. "There's nothing I can say that will make this all better, and nothing that will really prepare you for what's about to happen to you," he said slowly, as though choosing his words very carefully. "But if you ever need to talk to anyone, I'll be happy to help. Just send me an owl. It might be nice to have someone who understands."
Bran wasn't sure which of them Remus meant it would be nice for, but he nodded anyway.
"Well ... good luck. Take care," Remus said, and he nodded slightly before turning to go.
"You too. Remus ..."
Remus looked back. Bran hesitated ... he wanted to thank him for everything he'd said ... thank him for making him realise that even if he couldn't have a normal life, he could at least have a good one if he wanted ... thank him for making the effort to talk to him in the first place, but he couldn't quite find the right words.
"Merry Christmas," he said.
"Merry Christmas, Bran."