The Werewolf from Foss
Monday 25 July 1983
Hogsmeade, the Grampians; Pitlochry and Foss, Perthshire.
Rated PG-13 for violence, lycanthropy, lycanthropophobia and general nastiness.
It was blindingly bright when Remus awoke in the Shrieking Shack, and warm, so that he thought at first that he couldn’t have transformed back properly. But the hands on the ends of his forelimbs were definitely human hands, and his bones ached, and he appeared to be thinking verbally, so he knew the warmth was simply the continuation of the good weather.
It was altogether too early in the morning for the sharp knock on his door. Sturgis Podmore was calling, “Remus! Are you awake? I’ve unlocked this door and I’m leaving your wand here for you. We need to be back at base, fast.”
Remus’s first panicked thought was that something had happened to Ariadne, or to one of the others. He was out of the door before he realised that Sturgis was probably only referring to the need to return to Pitlochry before they were missed. He swayed downstairs cautiously, holding on to the banister, and feeling about two hundred years old.
Sturgis was waiting in what had been the sitting room before the schoolboy Moony had ripped and shattered all the furnishing. He looked terrible, as if he hadn’t slept all night, but he only said, “Can you Apparate?” and when Remus shook his head, said, “Fine, hold on to me. I’ll take you there Side-Along. But I need to warn you first that we’ve had a bit of an emergency. The girls are quite upset.” He was aware of Sturgis grabbing him around the waist, and the loud pop! of Disapparition exploded in his ears before he had time to protest.
They landed in the sitting room of the cottage in Pitlochry. Remus’s first thought was that none of them looked as if they had slept. He wondered why they were all up; but Ariadne was making porridge over the hearth (not in the Muggle kitchen bar), and Kingsley was playing with the Muggle toaster. Then he noticed a ninth person among them, a haggard young man, no more than twenty years old, with grey streaks in his dark hair and hair growing all over his face and huge black rings around his eyes. This person looked as if he hadn’t slept for a week.
Remus shook off Sturgis and sat on the sofa. No one seemed very interested in his “appointment”, or in why Sturgis had brought him back from it at six o’ clock in the morning, so he kept quiet and waited for the others to talk.
“Look, it flashes real sparks if you stick a fork down it,” Kingsley was explaining to Emmeline.
“Con, this is Remus,” Emmeline said to the stranger, who looked too wild-eyed to be absorbing the information. “Remus, this is Connell Dewar.”
Connell Dewar continued to glance around the room with all the terror of a trapped wild animal. Even when Ariadne brought him a dish of porridge, he sniffed suspiciously and asked, “Is it poison?”
Ariadne also brought porridge for Remus and told him, “Emmeline was sitting with Con all night. Nobody here has had any more sleep than you have.”
He was too exhausted to work out what was odd about this statement. He registered that her eyes were red, far redder than could be explained by a sleepless night, but he only asked, “What’s going on?”
“When the full moon rose last night,” she said, “we heard howling. Sturgis and Emmeline went to investigate. They followed the sound for nearly seven miles, until… You’re not wanting to hear this, are you?”
He wasn’t. To anyone but Ariadne, he would have pleaded his headache (truthfully) and taken himself to bed. But Ariadne had spent four days of what should have been her holiday tolerating his guardianship – his intrusive, humiliating, authoritarian guardianship – with an almost saintly cheerfulness, and not the smallest hint that her friendship would be withdrawn in consequence. She was being friendly now, filling him in on the details of their common business without any enquiries into his personal secrets. And she had definitely been crying. This business, whatever it was, must have distressed them all no end. “Tell me anyway,” he groaned.
“They found a wolf chained to a tree. Do not worry about it, Remus. It was nowhere near Macnair’s boundaries, and the wolf turned out to be very safely chained. They were not needing to Stun it, or anything. They would have left it alone completely if it had not been a full moon. But Emmeline could not leave without checking its snout… ”
“Ariadne, it’s all right. Go on.”
“It was a werewolf.” She was perfectly calm. It must have been some time since she had stopped crying. “And, what’s worse, the chain around his neck was too short. Once he became human again, he’d not be able to lie down without being strangled. So Emmeline stayed with him. She Summoned a bowl of water – we had a real shock when we saw that flying out through the glass window – and she spent the whole night just twelve feet away from the length of the werewolf’s chain. Sturgis told us where she was. Then, of course, he had to go back to keep her company. And the rest of us were up the whole night, counting the minutes until moonset – anyway, we were up yet when they brought Con back here. So Sturgis went to fetch you, and we’ve been trying to convince Con that we will not hurt him. He’s a Muggle; he’s not used to the idea that other people believe in werewolves.”
Remus had never met a Muggle werewolf before. The majority of Muggle bite victims did not survive their first Transformation; the twisting of the bones, the distortion of the inner organs, was enough to kill most of them. Only a very hardy and supple Muggle – for example, a young one who had lived outdoors in the Highlands or a wizard, who had some automatic skill in Transfiguration – was likely to be still alive by that first moonset a month after the bite. Those who survived one Transformation could survive an indefinite number, but a Muggle community would never understand exactly what was happening to the victim. Muggle psychologists had even invented a name for the phenomenon, lycanthropic delusional disorder, meaning a person who believed that he became a wolf each full moon. But they would never accept that the lycanthrope really did transform.
Connell Dewar was now licking out his porridge bowl in a distinctly animal manner. He finally balanced it upside down on his head and asked, “Did I hurrt anybody?”
“No.” They all spoke with one voice.
Remus shifted his two-hundred-year-old bones off the sofa and crawled across the floor to crouch beside Con. He found that everyone else had moved to the floor too.
Kingsley took control, “You didn’t hurt anyone. It’s all right.”
Remus tuned in and out of the conversation as the others tried to soothe Con, feeding him toast (for some reason the Muggle toaster was malfunctioning, and Ivor had to Charm it to make it work) and reassuring him that they would take him home before he was missed. Ariadne brought Remus a cup of something that did seem to relieve his aches and asked, “Are you wanting to lie down?”
Of course he wanted to, but he replied, “I think we’d better look after the young man before we worry about me.”
Ariadne gave Con a cup of whatever she had given Remus, but Con managed to spill it all over the floor and then sobbed like a baby over it. Sturgis persuaded him to take a shower, and then to eat more toast, and it seemed a long and noisy hour before Con was sitting calmly in the centre of the floor, clear-headed enough to ask a question:
“But if yourrself believes in werrawolves, why are ye no goin’ tae take me away?”
“We have nothing to do with the Werewolf Registry,” said Emmeline calmly.
The word “registry” seemed to terrify Con. “Thae Rregistrry people will kill me,” he said. “A week after I got bitten, a men came… but nobody believes in wizarrds.”
“Let’s say the man was a wizard,” Remus choked out. He already knew who this man must have been.
“He worre a wizarrd’s hat, and himself was a wizarrd, as surrely as I am werrawolf. He came tae say that I was on the Rregistrry now. And that if I got chained up every full mun and made no trroobble, they wouldna botherr me. But if I made any trroobble they would come forr me and take me away. But they neverr said wherre they would take me away tae.”
Everyone else was stunned into silence, but Ariadne offered, “He sounds a very frightening man.”
“Never mind that, Con,” said Glenda. “It doesn’t matter where. We’re not Registry people. No one is coming for you.”
“But therre has been trroobble,” said Con. “Last tem they unchained me I did hurrt somebody. I’m no safe tae folks.”
Remus tried to ignore the significant glance that Sturgis shot at him.
“Last night you were chained up,” Kingsley explained patiently. “We only unchained you in the morning, when you were human again. You can’t hurt anyone while you’re chained. Who is it who chains you?”
“Grrendma,” he said. “She always chains me. Mum and Dad was no wantin’ me any morre, they dinna lek wolves. They left Foss and went tae live in Glasgow. So I live with Grrendma now. She hes tae chain me, tae be safe. She comes forr me when she ken. But it’s too earrly. She’ll no come until ten o’ clock, at least.”
Hestia gasped even before Ariadne had finished translating. “Doesn’t your grandmother check the times? You mean she leaves you chained while you’re human again?”
“Nobody sees. Nobody comes yon way. Sometimes she ken leave me a day, a necht, anotherr day, and yet nobody comes. So nobody finds out, and everrybody is safe frrom me. Therre hes been no morre trroobble. I only killed that one men. And they didna come forr me even then, because nobody told. That witch kept my secrret thrree yearrs lang.”
Remus did not like where this conversation was heading. Ariadne held Connell’s hands and said, “It’s your secret, Con. You do not have to talk.”
Connell seemed to relax at her touch without hearing her words. “It was thrree yearrs sen,” he said. “I dinna rrememberr it, but I woke oop and found… and found… I woke oop. And there was a body. A men, all covered with blood, scretched. And I hed dune it.”
Black bile churned in Remus’s throat. He nearly vomited onto the floor in front of them. Opposite him, Glenda had turned very white, but she was nodding slowly, as if to urge their guest to keep talking.
“Thet’s my secrret. I killed a men. And I canna tell anybody, neverr everr, or the Rregistrry men will come tae take me away. Nobody knows except that witch.” Connell Dewar glared defiantly at his audience. “Whatever anybody says, they arre all rreal. Werrawolves, wizarrds, and witches too.” Nobody questioned the existence of the witch, so Con continued. “She was standin’ there, with a megic wand pointed at me. Then she moved it tae point at the body. And she said a spell.”
“What spell?” asked Hestia.
Con raised his arm, as if holding out a wand, and annunciated, “Rrredoocto!” After a moment’s silence, he dropped his arm, and said, “It was a rreal spell. The body venished.”
“Just turned to dust and sank into the earth,” agreed Ivor. “Yes, that’s a spell all right.”
“And then the witch chained me oop again. She used a spell forr that too, but I dinna rrememberr it. I’m thinkin’ she had tae hae unchained me with a spell, whel I was yet being the wolf. And when I got loosed, I killed whateverr I found. But I’m thinkin’ it was only the one men.” Tears rose up in his eyes.
“The Registry people didn’t come for you then,” said Sturgis reasonably.
“The body hed gone,” sobbed Con. “Perrhaps the witch didna tell.”
“Perhaps she was a friendly witch,” soothed Ariadne, although none of them really believed this.
Remus held his head and tried not to look. But nothing could shut out Con’s voice, pouring out in full tirade, oblivious to his audience. “I dinna know if she was a frriendly witch. I didna rreally see herr face. Not oogly. Not even old. But I didna rreally see herr. I only saw the men that ded. He was stairrin’ with open eyes. Blud rroonnin’ down his face.”
Emmeline met first Hestia’s eye and then Glenda’s. Finally she said, “It seems cruel, but we will make sure he never remembers it.” She held out her photograph of Caradoc Dearborn and asked, “This man?”
Connell Dewar recoiled. “Therre’s no blud on that one in the picturre. But it’s a bit lek him. Maybe, beforre I killed him, he could hae looked lek that. I dinna know.” He burst into tears. “I killed… I killed… I killed… ”
Emmeline put away the picture, and Hestia and Glenda moved over to put their arms around Con. Remus looked up to find Ariadne’s gaze focused on him while everyone else was looking at the other werewolf.
Kingsley conferred a moment with Sturgis. Then he announced, “We’re not going to learn anything more from Mr Dewar. Now that we’ve interrogated him to the limit, we ought to put him out of his misery. Stand back, girls.”
It took them a moment to recognise what Kingsley was saying. “Stand back,” he repeated. “Out of the way.” Hestia and Glenda moved away.
Kingsley aimed his wand. “Obliviate!”
“Kingsley, that was a very dangerous spell,” said Emmeline half-admiringly.
“No more dangerous than sleeping six feet from a werewolf or deliberately Apparating in the direction of Macnair territory. That’s it. He won’t remember anything about Caradoc. I’ve moved that whole night and morning from his memory, from midnight until noon. It was three years ago, so he won’t miss it.”
“It’s all right,” said Ivor, “Kingsley is the best in the class at Memory Charms.”
Con, who had stopped crying, abruptly realised that he had stopped. “What heppened?” he asked. “Was I creyin’?”
“I expect you’re worried about your grandmother,” said Kingsley glibly. “We should get you back to her. Hold my hand, and I’ll take you back to Foss the quick way.”
When Con did not move, Kingsley took his hand, and with a loud pop! they both vanished. Remus took himself to the bathroom and was able to be sick properly. When he staggered back to the sitting room, Kingsley was still absent. He was away for about twenty minutes in all, just long enough for Sturgis to talk of going after him, but in the end Kingsley returned smiling.
“We had to land outside the village so that no one would see,” he explained. “Then we had to walk through Foss to find his grandmother’s house. The old lady was home, and very shocked that Con had been released by a stranger. So I had to Memory-Charm her so that she would forget that she hadn’t gone herself, which meant wiping out her whole morning. Then I had to Charm Con to forget all about his meeting with us – wiping out his whole morning too – and both of them to forget about seeing me in front of them. But I forgot that they could both still see me, so of course they thought I’d sprung up out of nowhere, and they wanted to know who I was and what I wanted. So I had to step outside their threshold, and try again from a hidden angle. A neighbour saw that spell, so I had to Memory-Charm him. And then I had to walk all the way out of the village until I was far enough into the trees to Disapparate.”
“Kingsley,” said Emmeline admiringly, “did you know that you can go to Azkaban for abusing Memory Charms?”
“The only place I want to go now,” said Kingsley, “is bed. Because I didn’t last night.”* * * * * * *
It was several hours later when Remus awoke in his bunk in the cottage outside Pitlochry. His bones were only mildly aching. There was a faintly sweet smell of vegetables in the air and there was a clinking noise from the sitting room. The other bunks were empty. It seemed to be mid-afternoon.
Ariadne was alone in the sitting room, hovering over a pot on the hearth. It was a distinctly wizard-like pose, but she looked so Muggle in her too-new jeans and tidily plaited hair; for a moment he nearly laughed aloud. She heard him come in and ladled something into a cup.
“Here. It’s only a soother, I’m afraid, so it will not do much for you. It’s the best we can do on the ingredients we have.”
His heart plummeted. Without Connell Dewar’s plight to distract him, Remus now remembered Ariadne’s every look, every word, every gesture from this morning. He swallowed a mouthful of the potion; it did dull his perception of the aches in his muscles, and even seemed to soothe his hoarse throat, but nothing could numb the chilling dismay that tore at his soul. “You know where I was last night,” he said.
“You went to Hogsmeade,” she said casually.
“And you know why.” He gulped at the potion again and dropped heavily onto the sofa.
She sat down next to him. All she said was, “The others have gone out to Blair Atholl for the afternoon.”
“Why aren’t you with them?”
“We were not liking to leave you alone. And I’m the one who promised my parents never to let myself out of your sight.”
“That was for your protection, not mine,” he protested. Reality was swinging into a crazy inversion; she was meant to be his protégée, not his protector; she was giving him soothers, when she was the one who had obviously been weeping for hours. And she ought to be terrified of him, but instead…
“Why are you frightened of me?” she asked.
He jolted; it was fortunate that his cup was now empty. He put it down on the floor.
“I’m not daft enough to tell my parents about any of this,” she said. “Ivor and Hestia have not worked it out yet. Nor Kingsley nor Glenda. They were too busy with Con to take much notice of you this morning.”
Oddly, it hadn’t occurred to him that she might betray his secret; her power over him was of a very different kind. The fear was a familiar one, but it took him a moment to place it.
It was the same fear that had stabbed at the pit of his stomach when he was twelve years old, and James Potter had cornered him in the Gryffindor dormitory to say, “Remus, we know what your illness is.” It was the absolute terror that had seized him when James – horrifyingly flanked by Sirius and Peter – had announced that they all knew he was a werewolf. And for a full minute he had stared them in their faces, thinking that this was the last time his friends would ever speak to him, believing that he was about to be cast into outer darkness…
And Ariadne could do that to him too. If she shrank from him now… avoiding his direct company for the rest of their holiday… keeping to the opposite corners of the farm, making polite excuses to her parents for why she did not choose to associate with the farmhand more than she must… then fleeing back to school in hopes of never seeing him again… His vision of isolation was too appalling to be contemplated.
“I’m not afraid of you,” he said. “I’m afraid of what happens when you become afraid of me.”
“But I’m not afraid of – ” she began. “Oh. You mean you’re caring about my good opinion of you. But I knew that anyway.”
That was putting it rather too bluntly for comfort, so he changed the subject and asked, “Why have you been crying?”
“I’ve stopped crying now,” she said. “I promise I will not cry again.”
“But what’s been upsetting you?”
“Last night we were dealing with Caradoc’s nightmare death,” she said. “And it’s seeming that our worst imaginings turned out to be true. This morning we had to deal with the nightmare life of that poor boy from Foss. And he might have been you. I know you’re used to the nightmare, but I was looking at it for the first time.”
“But it isn’t your nightmare,” he said. “It’s mine. Why distress yourself over someone else’s problem?”
She misunderstood this. “But I did not,” she said. “I was so selfish. Glenda thought I was crying for Caradoc and kept saying what a wonderful, caring friend I was. But I’d only met Caradoc a few times, and I was hardly thinking about him at all. I was really crying for you. And now Glenda thinks I’m some kind of angel, and I’m not knowing how I’ll convince her of the truth without destroying her.”
“Ariadne, there are some truths that are not worth telling.”
When she smiled, he almost basked.