The Sugar Quill
Author: DancesWithChopstick (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Man in St. Mungo's  Chapter: Default
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The Man in St

The Man in St. Mungo's

 

The characters and setting of this story are borrowed from J.K. Rowling, with thanks for the pleasure she's given by creating the whole Harry Potter universe. This story is being written solely for the enjoyment of other HP & RJL fans, not for sale of any kind.

 


 

Albert Dittel stared glumly at the ceiling above his hospital bed. Visiting hours had started, and people were entering the ward, but none of the visitors would be for Albert. No one visits a werewolf, he thought. Well, almost no one. His sister might be up in two more days, if she could find people to tend the small farm and watch her two young children. Albert wondered if he'd ever see his niece and nephew again, or if his sister would keep them out of his way, to protect them. He found the thought of his relatives disheartening--surely a pall would hang over any future visits, wouldn't it?

 

"How are you feeling?" A man was looking down at him, and had asked him a question. Not a Healer, either, to judge from his shabby clothes. A man in early middle age, with rather a lot of gray in his brown hair, and with two narrow, parallel scars slanting across his face. Just a bloke, Albert thought, quickly looking away from the stranger's gaze--was that pity he'd seen? Yes, damn it, surely it was. He grunted savagely, hoping the stranger would get the message to move on.

 

"I expect you're feeling bloody awful," said the stranger, sitting down in the chair next to Albert's bed. "It usually goes that way."

 

"What would you know about it?" muttered Albert, bitterly.

 

"Ah, you'd be surprised," said his unwanted visitor. "You've seen the big, red W on your hospital chart? They make it hard to miss, don't they? Well, if you pulled my old chart out of this hospital's files, you'd see another W just like it. My file would probably be thicker than yours. It happened a long time ago, for me, and I've been back here more than once, since."

 

Albert frowned suspiciously at the visitor's slightly smiling face. "You're a--you aren't the bastard that did this to me, are you?" The stranger's smile went away.

 

"No!" he said, quietly, but with great intensity. "In thirty years, I've managed never to pass on our condition to anyone else, and I take considerable pride in that." The stranger took in a deep breath and let it out again. "Not that it hasn't been a near thing, a time or two."

 

The stranger looked across the ward for a moment, his mouth twisting into something too wry to be called a smile. What was he seeing, Albert wondered--the visitors grouped around the snakebite victim's bed, or some bitter memory?

 

"Thirty years?" said Albert, letting a note of doubt creep into his voice. "You don't look old enough for that. Were you a babe in arms, or something?"

 

"Not quite," said the visitor, in matter-of-fact tones. "I might have been four, or perhaps six; I don't recall." How could anyone forget something like that, thought Albert? "A long time ago, in any case," the visitor went on. "Are you still in your first month ... since it happened?"

 

"Yeah," said Albert. "It's a right kick in the bollocks."

 

"That it is," said the visitor, quietly. "That it is. I expect you've had Healers giving you speeches about how it's not the end of the world, have you?" Albert nodded sourly. "Well, they're right, in a way--but I have yet to meet one of them who has, shall we say, sufficient personal experience to know how that sounds to the newly bitten." He sighed. "I suppose they do their best. It's better than some manage--I'll give them credit for that."

 

Albert winced. "Better than some? You've had trouble?"

 

"Oh, yes," said the stranger, quietly. "I've had some trouble. One just has to get toughened up for it. I'm lucky, though. Some people have stuck by me very well--far better than I ever expected. I hope that will be true for you, also."

 

"It won't be," said Albert, gloomily. "I remember one time, my mates and I were having a pint or two, and the talk got round to werewolves, I forget why. I've been lying here remembering the things they said. The things I said, myself, come to that."

 

"That's just it, though," said the stranger. "I imagine none of you had ever seen a werewolf outside the pages of the Daily Prophet, right? No idea a werewolf might be worth talking to, might be a good enough friend for 27 days in every month to make risking the 28th day worthwhile?"

 

"I guess we never thought of that. Hard to think that many people would. Most people just want werewolves kept out of their way, and they don't much care how it's done, as long as they don't have to worry about where the wolves' teeth are."

 

"Most people? I'm afraid you're right, there--most people don't care, or are too afraid to care. Some do, though. Most people have never heard of Wolfsbane Potion, and they wouldn't trust it to make things safe if they did hear. But if you're lucky enough to find a few people who do care, the Wolfsbane Potion can be a big help. They've told you about Wolfsbane, haven't they?"

 

"They've told me," said Albert. "Didn't sound like much good, frankly."

 

"Trust me, it makes a difference," said the stranger. "Even if you only take it to keep from doing yourself an injury." The stranger crooked the fingers of one hand into claws, and briefly gestured toward his own face. Albert shuddered as he realized how the two long scars had been made. Could something like that happen to him?

 

The stranger went on, "I recommend always taking Wolfsbane. Learn how to make the potion yourself, if you can, or find a good apothecary to bottle it for you, ahead of time. The apothecary in Diagon Alley will do it, and there are others. The Change is always hard, but without Wolfsbane Potion, it's worse. Believe me, I know--I've had years of experience with both ways. And if you find that you have some friends who want to stick with you, the Wolfsbane makes it a hell of a lot easier and safer for them, as well."

 

"The potion can even make a talking point with employers... Not always a conclusive point, unfortunately, but it does increase your chances of getting or keeping a position." A look of sadness passed across the man's face, just for a moment. Then the wry smile was back.

 

"Unfortunately, the taste of the stuff is disgusting. One just has to drink it down and get it over with. After all, the taste of the potion isn't very important, compared to its effects. But taking the potion is important! Will you ask them about it again, and give it a try?" The stranger fixed his gaze on Albert, eyebrows lifted inquiringly, half smiling.

 

Albert was still frowning. He said, "Well, I'll ask them, and I'll listen better, this time. I'm not such an arse as to want to make things worse for myself."

 

The stranger let out a breath, smiled a little wider, and said, "That's a start--thank you for considering it."

 

Albert spoke slowly, thinking things out as he went. "And I don't want to pass on this sodding curse to anyone, either. You said the potion makes it safer for those around you?"

 

The stranger nodded. "Much safer."

 

Albert was still frowning. He said, "Then I'd better take it if I can. I've no wife or kids to think about, but I do have a sister and a niece and a nephew. I'll tell Anne about the potion, if she comes to visit. Maybe I'll still be able to see them, sometimes."

 

The stranger's smile became broad and warm, and a hand was extended for Albert to shake. "Well done! I guess I should have thought of family first of all, but my friends have been my only family for so long-- Well. My name's Lupin--Remus Lupin. Pleased to make your acquaintance!"

 

"Albert Dittel. I mostly ask people to call me Bert. Dittel rhymes with all the wrong things."

 

"Call me Remus, then. Or, if you like, there are a few people who call me Moony."

 

Albert laughed for the first time in two weeks. It sounded rather hollow, but it was a laugh. "You're having me on! Moony?!  Why?"

 

"Oh, yes, Moony--it's a long story, though, and it looks as though visiting hours are almost over. I need to have at least a quick word with Arthur," he said, nodding towards the snakebite victim, "before the whole menagerie I came with gets kicked out of here. Maybe I can tell you the story another time?"

 

"Right," said Bert. "Come by again, if you have time. Or I'll buy you a pint when I get out. I owe you one for the advice, and I can't call you Moony 'til I hear the story, can I?"

 

"You're on--though I have to warn you that there are parts of the story I still can't tell. I don't want to get one of my friends into ... trouble."

 

"Nothing--bad, was it?"

 

"Let's just say that no one got bitten. Not seriously." Lupin smiled and stood up. "Well! I hope I'll see you again soon. If you get out before I get back to St. Mungo's, Owl Post will find me, and let's have that pint together."

 

"Remus Lupin, you said? Can I ask you one more thing?" Lupin nodded. "Those people over there, visiting--are they your friends? Do they know?"

 

"That I'm a werewolf? Yes, they all know. And they are my friends." Lupin smiled warmly, rested his hand on Bert's shoulder for a moment, and then turned toward the snakebite victim's bed. Bert saw them exchange a few low words and a friendly-looking handclasp, before a Healer shooed "the whole menagerie" of visitors out the door.

 

Slowly, Bert raised himself onto one elbow, and then sat up in his bed. He looked at his neighbor, the snakebite victim. The man looked a little tired, but cheerful. "Mind if I ask you something?" Bert said. "What do you think of that bloke who was talking to me? He said you were friends."

 

"Remus? So we are," said his neighbor. "A very fine fellow. Sensible and big-hearted--I wish I knew more people like him. He's a good teacher, too, from what my four youngest children tell me. My name's Arthur Weasley, by the way. Are these beds close enough for a handshake?"

 

They were, just barely. "Bert Dittel. Sorry I've been sulking over here."

 

"No problem. This isn't the easiest place to meet new people, eh?" A Healer approached, bringing Arthur's hourly dose of Blood-Replenishing Potion.

 

"No," said Bert, "not the easiest place, but it's time I made an effort."

 

"Healer," he said, "Tell me again about Wolfsbane Potion?"

//
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