THE BEAT OF A
"Stop being so bloody proud
and let us help you, Moony."
A small, wry grin touched the corners of Remus
"I'm not being proud, Padfoot. I'm trying
to maintain some modicum of self-respect." He smiled gratefully up at
Lily as she placed a steaming mug of tea before him at the Potters' new
kitchen table. She returned his smile, adding an encouraging wink.
"You know," said James loudly, with a
quelling look at Sirius, "you're more than welcome to stay with us. We'd
appreciate it, actually. Lily and I have been so busy lately, we barely have
enough time to collect the post, let alone read it."
"Prongs, we've discussed this," said
Remus quietly. "I'd sooner take up permanent residence in the Shrieking
Shack than move in with you and Lily."
"Well isn't that friendly," James
"It's only common sense," said Remus,
trying to suppress a broad grin at his friend's expression and failing
miserably. "You and Lily will need the extra space in a few months. Not
to mention that I don't imagine a werewolf would be the best choice in
"Bollocks," said Sirius angrily,
sitting backwards in a kitchen chair with his arms folded over the wooden
"Your damned 'self-respect' is going to see
you dead in a ditch somewhere, and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit
here and let it happen. You won't live with James and Lily because of the
baby; fine. You won't live with Peter and his mother; totally understandable.
But you and I both know there isn't a reason in the world why you can't live
with me. I've got a whole bloody house to myself. You're being an obstinate
ass." "No reason besides the one, you mean," said Remus,
nodding genially in Sirius's direction.
"We figured out how to deal with that in
our fifth year at Hogwarts!" Sirius yelled in exasperation.
"That's the whole point, Padfoot. I don't
want anyone to have to 'deal' with it. A situation like that wouldn't be fair
to either of us, not to mention that I flat-out refuse to take any chances when
it comes to safety. I'll be happy to pay you long, exploitative visits
whenever you like, all of you. But live with you? No. I won't be doing that
"Then tell us what your plans are,
Remus," said Lily, sitting down in the empty seat next to James.
"You must have something in mind."
Remus sighed, staring down at his mug of tea.
"The Hill House," he said, after a
pause. No one spoke for a few stunned moments.
"I thought your parents sold that
house," said Lily.
"So did I. After all the horrible things I
said to them when they told me they'd bought it, I'm surprised they didn't.
But Mum wrote to me just before graduation to say that it would be there if I
ever wanted or needed it."
"You've never even seen that house, and you
want to live there?" asked James.
"As long as it has a roof, and as long as
the nearest neighbor is a good 20 kilometers away, it'll be perfect," said
Remus to his tea.
"I thought you said hell would freeze over
before you lived in that house," said Sirius darkly.
"Yes, well, I've said a lot of things I now
All four of them sat in silence for several
"Well, regardless of where you're living at
the moment, you're going to stay here for dinner tonight, and I won't take no
for an answer," said Lily, patting Remus's arm as she stood and pulling
James up with her. Remus smiled up at her again and then turned to look at
Sirius, who was still frowning.
"I expect you'll be thanking your lucky
stars that I turned your offer down soon enough," he said,
"Yeah? Why's that?" asked Sirius, his
"An incorrigible ladies' man like me?
You'd bring them home and I'd steal them right from under your nose. You'd
have kicked me out within a month."
Remus watched with deep amusement as the muscles
in Sirius's face worked furiously to maintain his scowl. It was only a matter
of seconds, however, before a loud, bark-like laugh burst from his mouth.
"You wanker," Sirius sighed, grinning
and shaking his head as he stood up from his chair and walked out of the
kitchen. Remus followed him into the dining room to help set the table,
indulging in a wide, self-satisfied grin.
Despite his resolve, Remus stared at the knob on
the front door for several long minutes before he could bring himself to take
hold of it. A cloud of dust swirled up from the floor as he pushed the door
open. Every flat surface in the cottage was covered with a layer of grime
roughly five years thick, and Remus set a new personal record when he sneezed
violently six times in a row. The cottage had only three rooms. The living
area had an ancient wood-burning stove in the far corner on the left side of
the room and a threadbare armchair next to the stone fireplace on the right.
Clenching his jaw against a fresh wave of depression, he made his way to the
little hall. He paused only to glance at the tiny bathroom on the left before
entering the bedroom, which contained nothing but a bare bed and a door-less closet
standing woefully open to the room. He tossed his suitcase onto the bed with
perhaps more force than he usually would have done and went back to the living
room. It was then that he spied a letter sitting in the middle of the
small table near the stove, half-concealed beneath the dust. He picked it up,
shook off the dust, and saw that the envelope was addressed to him. With
another spectacular sneeze, he tore the envelope open and read the letter
I know that this is not the home you
always dreamed of, and it's not the home you deserve, either. Your father and
I love you so much, if we cannot have you with us, then we at least want to
make sure that you are somewhere safe. If you ever need anything, you have
only to ask. You know that. Never forget that we love you.
Remus’s throat tightened
uncomfortably as he read the letter, written so many years ago. He had said
some cruel things to his parents when they’d told him about the Hill House, and
to his mother in particular. It had been the first and only time he’d made her
cry on purpose. The memory still filled him with shame, regret and
self-loathing whenever it came to him. He left the letter lying open on the
little table, and set out to clean his new home.
It was very slow going, and it took
him the entire day to clean the living room to his satisfaction. He found a
large family of mice living in the old stove. The shaggy curtains on the kitchen
window had the usual complement of doxies making themselves at home. It took
him forever to dislodge the bundimun from the under the rug near the
fireplace. He was so exhausted by the end of the day that he took only partial
notice of the mud all over the floor in the bedroom, the scratched wood around
the window, and the bare spot in one corner, which his sleepy brain recognized
as signs that a wild animal had somehow figured out how to come and go as it
pleased. The room had a faint smell that was vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t
decide which animal it might be. He didn’t even have the energy to start a
fire in the grate. Telling himself that he’d worry about the bedroom in the
morning, he went back to the living room, collapsed on the armchair, and
drew the shabby crocheted afghan on the backrest over his arms. He fell asleep
quickly, for once able to shut out the worries and guilty memories that usually
kept him awake.
He slept poorly, his dreams turning as they so
often did to nightmarish visions of eerie, distorted shadows and garish
moonlight, ghostly echoes of inhuman screams and the all-too-familiar smell of
blood. One particular nightmare tormented him at least once a week with the
image of the spidery branches of bare trees bending and snapping beneath the
weight of an enormous full moon that threatened to come crashing down on his
head, the deafening pound of a rapid heartbeat driving him to the very brink of
madness. It wasn’t the sights or sounds, or even the smells in this nightmare
that inspired the most terror when he woke. It was the exhilarated feeling
that consumed him afterwards that he feared, though he wasn’t exactly sure
why. It visited him again as he slept in the armchair, and he woke with a
start, grateful to have escaped the worst of it. His hands shook as he wiped
the cold sweat from his face, taking deep breaths in an attempt to slow his
He was startled again when a short,
loud bang rang out from the bedroom. It sounded as if something had slammed
into the window. He shoved the afghan off his lap and hurried cautiously to
the little hallway that led to the bedroom. He drew his wand as he neared the
bedroom door, hoping that it was only a post owl. As he neared the bedroom, he
heard soft scraping noises, a dull thud as something landed on the floor, and
another short bang as the window slammed shut behind whatever had invaded his
cottage. Peering around the doorframe, he saw a thin, shadowy figure straightening
from a crouched position on the floor. Its back was to him, and Remus could
just make out a long, scraggly mane of dull brown hair. The creature turned
around, and he saw that it was a girl, not so many years younger than he but
much the worse for wear. She was absolutely covered with dirt; every
square inch of her bare skin was black with filth. Bits of leaves and twigs
stuck out from her long, unruly hair. Her clothes were barely recognizable as
a pair of jeans and a jumper, now hanging in shreds from her painfully-thin
body. She wore no shoes.
Remus had just opened his mouth to
address her when she noticed him. Without warning, she began to screech at the
top of her lungs, whirling around and scrabbling desperately for the window
“Petrificus Totalus!” he
shouted in alarm, his wand pointed at her back.
Instantly, the screeching stopped
and her entire body went rigid. She balanced on her feet just long enough for
Remus to catch her as she fell, and he lowered her gently onto the floor. He
moved around to kneel beside her so that she could see him, and was
greatly troubled by the animalistic panic raging behind her wide, pale eyes.
He was so close, and she so frightened, that he could almost hear the frantic
beat of her heart.
“It’s all right,” he said
soothingly. “I won’t hurt you. Don’t be afraid. You surprised me, that’s
all. Here, I’ll remove the spell.”
He lifted the body-bind curse, and
instantly the girl scrambled away from him, using her arms and legs to slide
along the floor on her back until her head met the wall near the closet with a
loud thump. At least she’s not screaming anymore, thought Remus. But
her eyes were still wide, and even through the dirt he could clearly make out
an expression of wild terror.
“It’s all right,” he repeated. “My
name is Remus Lupin. My parents own this cottage. Have you been living here?”
he asked, thinking of the mud on the floor and the scratches around the
window. The girl continued to stare at him, wide-eyed and motionless.
“What is your name?” he asked,
using the most calming, pleasant tone he could muster.
Still, she neither moved nor
spoke. Remus sighed, having no idea what to do and realizing quickly that his
brain was much too tired to make any kind of rational decision without at least
a mild stimulant. He pointed his wand at the window.
“Defigo,” he muttered, and
the lock on the window snapped closed. He used the same spell on the windows
in the bathroom, the living room, and on the front door. He didn’t wish to
cause the girl any more distress, but he needed some answers. In the meantime,
however, he was going to make himself a cup of tea.
He was already on his second cup
when she finally emerged, skulking in the hallway with her eyes flickering
between him and the front door. He smiled kindly at her.
“The door is locked,” he said in a
low, friendly voice. “I don’t mean to keep you captive, but if we’re to be
roommates, I think we should get to know one another, don’t you?” He nodded
toward the chair across the table from his own. “I could get you a cup of tea
if you like. And I have a tin of biscuits here. Please help yourself.” He
prodded the tin across the table in her direction and sat back, sipping his tea
in what he hoped she might take for a nonchalant, carefree manner.
From the moment he began to speak,
the girl had fixed him with a piercing stare. He couldn’t tell if she had
looked at the tin of biscuits or not, but she made no move toward it until he
had finished his tea and inched his chair even farther away from the table. He
heard her sniffing the air and quickly suppressed a grin. He feigned a sudden
interest in the ceiling. She crept slowly toward the table, and then, quick as
lightning, snatched the tin from the table and retreated to the little
hallway. Remus watched her sink to the floor, devouring the biscuits with a
ravenous fervor. His heart suddenly ached for this girl, who obviously went
hungry on a regular basis.
He stood slowly from the table,
wincing as she hurriedly rose to her feet, clutching the empty tin in front of
her like a shield. He went over to the sink, pulled a drinking glass from the
small shelf above it and conjured some milk into the glass. He walked back
into her field of vision, placed the glass on the table, and prodded it toward
her like he’d done with the tin. Then he withdrew to his chair to watch. It
took much less time for her to decide to approach the table. She grabbed the
glass, spilling milk onto the floor, and this time she took only a few steps
back from the table. Remus was heartened enough to speak again.
“I know I’ve mentioned this, but
you might not have heard me in all of the excitement. My name is Remus. Remus
Lupin. My parents bought this house five years ago, and I’m going to be living
He watched her for the smallest
reaction, but aside from staring at him over her glass of milk, she gave no
sign that she’d understood him. She finished the milk, licking the rim of the
glass as far as her tongue would reach. When she’d cleaned it to the best of
her ability, she inexplicably let it fall from her hand onto the floor, where
it shattered into tiny pieces. Automatically, Remus drew his wand, pointed it
at the glass shards at her feet, and murmured, “Reparo.”
Even animals know the significance
of a suspicious-looking object pointed in their direction. The girl took one
look at Remus’s drawn wand, let out a loud yell, and threw the empty biscuit
tin at him. The tin caught him on the forehead, and he reared back in pain,
tipping his chair over and landing on his back, feet in the air. By the time
he had righted himself, the girl was tugging furiously at the doorknob, kicking
with her feet and screaming as if she had been the one hit in the head with a
biscuit tin. He rushed over to her, not knowing what to do but wanting to calm
her down somehow.
“It’s all right,” he said again, adopting
the relaxed, soothing tone from before. “I just wanted to fix the glass. I
should have warned you about my wand, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Nothing he said seemed to make much
difference. The girl continued to pound angrily on the door, her screams
slowly turning into sobs of frustration.
“Look,” he said, bending down to
retrieve the repaired glass. “Look, I fixed it. That’s what I did with my
wand. I can do lots of things with my wand. Watch, I’ll show you.”
In desperation, he made sure she
was watching, if only out of the corner of her eye, and quickly conjured some
more milk. As though he’d flipped a switch, the girl stopped screaming and
pounding. She turned to face him, staring open-mouthed at the full glass of
milk, and then at the wand in his other hand.
“Here,” he said softly, holding the
glass out for her to take. “I promise I won’t hurt you. You don’t need to
worry about that.”
She took the glass from him, but
did not guzzle it down like she’d done with the previous one. She stared at
him, and he was very gratified to see the unmistakable light of comprehension
in her pale eyes. He walked back to his upended chair, set it back on its legs
and sat. He pushed the other chair toward her with his foot, and she sat almost
“So,” he said conversationally, as
if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, “we know my name is Remus. How
about you? What’s your name?”
The girl adopted a look of mild
confusion, as if he’d asked her a difficult and rather unpleasant question.
Remus waited patiently, dabbing at his slightly bloody forehead with a
handkerchief from his pocket. Then, she spoke her first intelligible word of
“No,” she said quietly.
“No?” It was Remus’s turn to be
confused. “Do you mean that ‘No’ is your name, or that you don’t remember what
“No,” she repeated simply. Remus’s
brow furrowed. This was going to be even more difficult than he’d anticipated.
“Where is your family?” he asked,
trying a new tactic.
“No,” she said.
“Where did you come from?”
“How long have you been staying
“So I take it you’ve been alone for
quite some time, since you seem to be a bit rusty with your conversational
skills,” he muttered, dabbing his forehead ruefully with the handkerchief. The
girl was silent for a moment, watching him. Finally, she said,
Remus stared at her dumbly for a
moment. Then his face broke into a wide grin.
“Do you remember my name?” he
“Yes,” she said.
“Can you say it?”
She regarded him in silence for
another moment, and Remus couldn’t tell if she really was trying to remember
his name or if she were playing with him, making him wait.
“Remus,” she said, and though the
consonants were a little garbled, it was indeed his name. Remus couldn’t help
himself; he let out a triumphant little whoop, smiling from ear to ear.
“Well, you speak English; I think
that much is clear. If I had to guess, I’d say your memory seems to have
suffered some damage. You must have a name, so I suppose it’s only a matter of
time before you remember it. That’s quite all right. Plenty of time for all
of that. In the meantime, however,” he said, standing from his seat, “do you
remember what a bath is?”
“No,” she said, watching him with a
slightly apprehensive look.
“Then please allow me reacquaint
you. It’ll make you feel much, much better, I’m sure. And while you’re doing
that, I can find you something more substantial to eat than a tinful of
biscuits. More substantial, and less dangerous,” he said, winking cheekily and
saluting her with a flip of the handkerchief.
Remus spent the next two days teaching some of
the finer aspects of human interaction to his unusual guest. He discovered
quite quickly that her sense of humor was remarkably unpredictable. She would
sit in total silence through jokes that had once had his friends howling with
mirth, only to burst out in hysterical laughter at the silliest of his remarks
or gestures. As far as he could tell, her comprehension was as good as any
teenage girl’s. Yet, for whatever reason, she was either unable or unwilling
to say more than a few words at a time. From what he could glean during their
initial conversation, the girl had been routinely breaking into the Hill House
for many months to use as shelter while she slept. When he asked where she
spent the rest of her time, she would only point vaguely in the direction of
the huge forest that bordered the cottage on one side. She could not tell him
why or how she came to be alone in the world, and after two attempts to ask her
about it met with nothing more revealing than a blank stare, he dropped the
subject. But the question was answered for him, at least in part, when she
took her second bath.
From the sloshing, banging and splashing
sounds that came out of the bathroom during her first experience in the
chipped, clawed-foot tub, Remus gathered that bathing was much like language
for her, in that she remembered it well enough but was simply out of practice.
He had shown her how to use the taps, laid out a towel and some of his own
clean clothes, handed her a fresh bar of soap, and left her to it. When she
emerged, clean and smiling, Remus had marveled that the girl beneath all of
that dirt and grime was actually rather pretty.
She had disappeared into the
bathroom of her own volition early the next morning, and Remus grinned to
himself when he heard the running water. He went into the bedroom and laid out
a towel and another set of clothes on the bed for her. And then he received a
shock when he turned around to find her standing in the doorframe, dripping wet
and as naked as the day she was born. Once he had sufficiently quashed the
flutter in his stomach that sprang violently to life at the sight of a naked
young woman only a few short steps away from him, he received another shock
when he dared to venture a closer look. Nearly her entire body was covered
with scars of all different shapes, sizes and severities. The worst ones by
far were in a large crescent shape extending from her collarbone to her right
shoulder. There were similar scars, and others that followed a different
pattern, scattered all over her slight frame. And in a suffocating rush, Remus
understood a number of things all at once.
“You’re a werewolf,” he breathed,
the words nearly catching in his throat.
The girl stared at him impassively
for a few moments, apparently quite unconcerned about standing
completely naked in front of a man she’d just met. She crossed the room toward
him, reaching out to take the towel that was sitting on the bed just behind
him. He instinctively shrank away from her as her bare skin brushed his arm,
turning his eyes to the wall and hoping his face was not burning as red as it
He risked a glance at her a moment
after she’d moved away, and his eyes snapped back to the wall when he saw that
she hadn’t covered herself, but was using the towel to vigorously rub the
dripping water out of her long hair. He took a step back when she brushed by
him again to take the shirt he’d left for her on the bed, still carefully
scrutinizing the wall over his shoulder. He waited an extra-generous amount of
time before turning slowly to face her once again. She was wearing one of his
old white oxfords, her hands hidden in the sleeves and the hem brushing her
knees. Remus swallowed and took a deep breath.
“You’re a werewolf,” he said again,
and the girl’s brow furrowed slightly, clearly expressing her mild confusion.
Remus reached down to roll up the left leg of
his baggy trousers as high as it would go. There, just visible beneath the
bunched fabric, were the unmistakable marks of a severe animal bite buried deep
into his upper thigh. The wound was still an odd pinkish color, despite its
obvious age. The girl stared down at his leg, and then looked up at him,
confusion still lingering behind her pale eyes. Remus pointed to the scars on
his leg, tracing their crescent pattern, and then pointed to where her own
scars lay beneath the borrowed shirt. There were subtle differences between
his scars and hers, but they had unmistakably been caused by the same thing.
“I was bitten as well; I have the same scar. I
am a werewolf also.”
After a moment’s silence, the girl bent down,
reached for the rolled leg of his trousers, and roughly shoved them further up
so she could get a clearer view of his scars. She traced the pattern of them
slowly with her fingers, her eyes mere inches from his skin. He shivered
involuntarily as she touched him, clearing his throat in embarrassment, but he
did not move away. When she finally released her grip on his trousers, he let
the cuff fall back to the ground, and she stood to face him. Her confusion had
been replaced with a knowing look, and though she betrayed no sense of
happiness or amusement, he thought he recognized something like satisfaction in
the corners of her mouth.
“What is it?” he asked, intensely curious.
The girl pointed to the window, her one-word
answer so much more enlightening when he met her meaningful gaze.
“You’re right!” Remus exclaimed softly. “It’s
tomorrow night, isn’t it? Strange, I’m usually much more…aware of it by
understood her expression. The knowledge that, for the first time in his life,
he would spend his monthly night of torment with someone who knew exactly what
it was like was grimly satisfying to him as well. Three of his friends at
school had gone above and beyond the normal bonds of friendship to learn the
difficult animagus transformation, violating a long list of wizarding laws in
the process. Transformed into animals, they had been able to accompany him on
the nights of the full moon. He owed them so much; his good humor, his sanity,
his battered and bruised, but functioning sense of self-worth. They were
amazingly empathetic; they loved him, and he them. They were dearer to him
than anyone else in the world. And yet, they would never be able to fully
understand. This girl, however, could.
Their relationship evolved quickly after that
one brief exchange. For reasons he could not articulate, Remus no longer felt
the need to ask her any questions. He still spoke to her at length, telling
stories and giving her information about the world that had apparently
forgotten she ever existed. He explained more about his wand and that it meant
that he was a wizard. She seemed to absorb this information with
complete indifference; she listened to him intently, and yet her
expression did not change in the slightest from the moment he started
speaking. He wondered if she might be a witch, bitten as a child and somehow
separated from her wizarding family. Without magic to help them, most Muggles
didn’t live long enough after receiving a werewolf bite to truly become
werewolves themselves. Judging from the severity and viciousness of her old
wounds, he also wondered if she might be another victim of the werewolf who had
bitten him so long ago; Fenrir Greyback. He thought it very likely, since
she had obviously been bitten when she was quite young, and Greyback’s
trademark was brutal attacks on young wizarding children. He knew there was no
way he could possibly learn the details of her transformation, at least not
until she grew more comfortable with the English language, so he put all of
these musings out of his mind. He focused on making her feel comfortable,
safe, and most of all, on making her laugh.
He fixed them a large lunch, heavy
on the potatoes, knowing that they would both need their strength for the next
day. They were just cleaning up when there was a knock on the door. Without a
word, or even a glance, the girl slipped silently into the little hallway and
disappeared into the bedroom. Remus felt a slight twinge of apprehension as he
opened the door, but sighed in relief and smiled broadly when he discovered
Sirius Black standing on the other side of it.
“Thought I’d bring you your housewarming gift,
and maybe join you for a little romp in the woods tomorrow night,” said Sirius
to Remus as he stepped inside. “It’s as boring as death in that house all by
“Well you know I’d normally welcome
the company,” said Remus, smiling. “But I’m afraid your presence might disturb
my new houseguest.”
Sirius froze. A devilish grin
crept slowly over his face.
“Well, maybe about welcoming your
company,” said Remus with an exaggerated wink.
“Oh really? So do I get to meet
this phantom houseguest?” asked Sirius, scanning the living room for evidence
of another inhabitant.
“If you’re lucky. She’s a little
“Don’t tell me,” said Sirius, the
grin still thick on his face. “You’ve adopted a stray cat.”
“Well…I suppose you could say that
I’ve taken in a stray. But a cat? No. For some odd reason, most cats don’t
seem to enjoy my company very much.”
“Well, then, where the hell is sh--?”
Sirius broke off mid-word when he
caught sight of the girl, who was staring at him from the shadows in the small
“It’s all right,” said Remus,
smiling reassuringly at her. “This is my friend, Sirius Black.”
It suddenly dawned on him that he
still had no idea what to call the girl. Turning back to Sirius, he said,
“We’re still having some trouble
figuring out her name. I’m sure she could tell us both what it is, but
unfortunately, it seems a mild case of amnesia has damaged her ability to
speak. As far as I can tell, anyway.”
Sirius continued to stare at the
girl, looking surprised, and curious, and almost as uncertain as the girl
“Hello,” he said tentatively.
The girl did not respond. She
inched out of the hallway, and then quickly moved into the living room,
standing behind Remus so that she was all but hidden from Sirius’s view.
Sirius raised his eyebrows questioningly at Remus.
“It’s all right,” Remus repeated,
hoping he sounded much more confident than he felt. “Once we’ve all had a cup
of tea and a good chat, I’m sure it will be fine.”
Sirius gave a little shrug and
walked toward the kitchen table. Before he’d taken two steps, however, the
girl let out a little whimper, streaked back to the hallway, into the bathroom,
and slammed the door shut behind her. The two men heard the distinct click of
the lock as they sat opposite one another around the kitchen table.
“Remus…” Sirius began, his eyebrows
“She’s just skittish. She’s been
through a lot.”
“Like a werewolf attack,” said Remus darkly.
“No,” Remus answered quickly. “No,
it wasn’t me. It happened many years ago, though she still can’t tell me
exactly how old she was. She’s been breaking in here for a while now, to sleep.
I shouldn’t wonder she reacted the way she did,” he said on a sudden
inspiration. “It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she’s had some bad run-ins
with the Werewolf Capture Unit.” Both his voice and expression gained a hard,
bitter edge. “They’ve always been trigger-happy, and her lack of fluent speech
would be all the proof they’d need to label her as feral and treat her
“How do you know she hasn’t
gone feral, Remus?” asked Sirius soberly.
“You’ve only been here four days.
I’m not sure that’s long enough for a proper evaluation, mate.”
“It’s long enough for me to know
that her humanity has survived intact,” said Remus shortly, trying to rein in
“Look, you know my opinion of those
sick, werewolf-killing gits in the Department for the Regulation and Control of
Magical Creatures. You want to keep the Ministry out of it; best decision you
could make, I’d say. But if she’s lost part of her memory…you’re going to need
some help, Remus. You know we’re all here for you, but you might consider
talking to Dumbledore about this. He fixed it so you could go to Hogwarts.
Maybe he could help this girl the same way.”
Remus frowned, staring crossly at
nothing in particular on the tabletop. The fact that these implied admonitions
were coming from Sirius, who was usually the one in desperate need of some
rational guidance, galled him horribly. The truth was that Albus Dumbledore
could probably help the girl in ways that would never even occur to Remus.
Undoubtedly, Dumbledore could help her regain a command of the English language
faster than anyone else. He might even be able to discover her origin;
she might have a family out there somewhere, ready to welcome her home with
open arms despite her affliction. But Remus didn’t want anyone else involved
just yet. This was the first chance he had ever had to take care of someone
with needs that far surpassed his own. He was tired of always being the one to
receive help. For once he was able to really give it, and he burned with shame
at the realization that he was being selfish. But Dumbledore would always be
there, he reasoned. He would try to build up the girl’s strength and
confidence himself, and then seek some further assistance with the more
difficult aspects of her rehabilitation. Surely a few more days at least would
do no harm. And really, he thought angrily, who is more qualified to
help a werewolf than a fellow werewolf?
Sirius stayed just long enough to
give Remus the gift that he, James, Lily and Peter had selected for his new
home. It was a wizard’s wireless; a very nice one with all the latest bells
and whistles. With another pang of deep shame, Remus thanked Sirius for the
gift, asked him to heartily thank the others on his behalf, and assured Sirius
that he’d be ‘round to visit them all very soon. Sirius did not say anything
else about Dumbledore or the girl’s condition, but Remus could not miss the
sullen look of disapproval his friend wore as he left.
Remus and the girl spent the rest
of the night listening to the wireless. She sat on the floor before it,
transfixed, as he did his best to ignore the doubts that weighed his thoughts
down to the floor and knitted his brows together. He’d been sleeping in the
living room armchair since she’d arrived, leaving the bed for the girl. But
that night, he sat awake for many hours after she’d gone to bed, trying to
convince himself that he’d made the right decision. You want to do what’s
best for the girl, don’t you, his conscience asked him in earnest. What’s
best for her? As reluctant as he was to admit it, once he had decided to
ask Dumbledore for help, the shame and doubt he’d felt earlier evaporated.
The next day would be his last alone with the girl, he told himself firmly. The
day after that, once they’d both sufficiently recuperated from the effects of
the full moon, he would take her directly to Dumbledore. With his conscience
satisfied, he sank back into the armchair and quickly fell asleep.
It was still dark outside when a
strangled scream jolted him awake. Instantly on alert, he jumped from the
chair and ran into the bedroom, pulling his wand from a pocket as he ran.
“Lumos!” he cried, shining
the beam of light from his wand onto the bed. The girl was tangled up in the
sheets, her limbs tucked into her body, her chest heaving as if she’d been
running and her eyes wide.
“What is it?” Remus asked
nervously, peering around the room as he aimed the light into the corners, the
closet, and at the window.
The girl didn’t answer. When he
shone the light at her again, she looked over at him, and he saw that her
cheeks were streaked with tears. He’d certainly had enough nightmares to
recognize the signs.
“Nox,” he whispered,
pocketing his wand and approaching the bed.
“It’s all right,” he soothed. “It
was only a dream.” He pulled the twisted sheet from between her limbs and laid
it over her carefully.
“They’re unpleasant, but they can’t
hurt you,” he said, bending to retrieve the blanket from the floor. He
spread the blanket over her as well.
“After our monthly ordeal tomorrow
night, I’ll take you to see someone who can help you. He’s helped me more than
I could ever repay. I know he’ll take good care of you too.” Remus smiled
“Try to get some sleep,” he said,
and turned to leave. He stopped when he felt her hand close tightly over his
wrist. He looked down at her in surprise.
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said,
guessing at the meaning behind the entreating look she gave him. “I won’t leave
you. I’ll be right there with you. You won’t be getting rid of me so
easily.” He indulged in a small grin. She stared up at him with the same
imploring expression. After a pause, she pulled his wrist down, forcing him to
come closer and stoop slightly over the bed.
“No,” he stammered, catching on. “I—I
don’t think that would be a good idea.”
She tugged his arm forcefully in
response, and he had no choice but to lean awkwardly on the bed, still trying
to keep his feet on the floor.
“I’ll be just in the living room,
in the chair, if you need me,” he said as he tried to wrest his arm from her
grasp, his voice a bit higher than usual.
“Please,” she whispered, quite
clearly. He stared at her, nonplussed.
“Sleep,” she said, lying back onto
her pillow. She wriggled away from him, only releasing her grip on his wrist
when she’d made a large enough spot for him on the bed. He sat gingerly on the
edge, carefully avoiding her eyes. His mouth rapidly grew very dry. He slowly
lay down next to her, staring at the ceiling, and suddenly very aware that he’d
forgotten to brush his teeth that night. She did not seem to mind, however, as
she inched closer to him. His whole body tensed when he felt her face nuzzling
into the side of his chest. She took a few minutes to situate herself,
snuggling up close beside him and sighing contentedly when she’d found a
comfortable position. It took him quite a lot longer to relax. But
once he’d gotten over the initial perplexity of the situation, he silently
reveled in the warmth of her body next to his, and the pleasant, undeniably feminine
scent of her hair just below his chin. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he
recognized her scent as the one he’d been unable to place when he’d first
encountered the muddy cottage bedroom, and he smiled. Once his own heartbeat
had settled back to its normal rhythm, he began to hear hers as well. He could
feel its steady progression through his hand, laid gently on her back. The
steady rhythm lulled him to sleep faster than he’d ever been able to do on his
own, and he soon joined her in blissfully dreamless oblivion that lasted well
into the next morning.
When Remus woke and found her still
cuddled close to him, fast asleep, he could not remember ever feeling happier.
She began to stir not long after, yawned extravagantly through his shy greeting,
and shuffled sleepily into the bathroom. Remus couldn’t help but feel a little
disappointed, though he chided himself furiously for it. He refused to
entertain any sort of romantic idea. She was so young, and though he might
have only been a few years older, he was barely twenty himself. She didn’t
need a lover, she needed a friend, and he was determined to be a good one.
Neither one of them felt up to
anything much more strenuous than lounging in front of the fire, drinking tea
and trying to force bits of toast into their weak stomachs. Soon after
lunchtime, Remus lost his appetite completely. He began to feel the familiar
urge to liberate himself from four walls and a ceiling, and it became slowly
overwhelming as dusk grew nearer. The girl was obviously having the same
experience; she was staring fixedly out of the window and biting her lower lip
with a look of increasing agitation. Finally, she stood and walked shakily
over to the window, her face bathed in the soft amber glow of the setting sun.
After a short while, she swayed slightly, trying to angle her head to get a
look at the forest. She made a little noise of impatience, turned, and walked
over to the door. Her hand extended to take the knob.
“Wait,” said Remus hesitantly.
In the more than ten years that he
had lived as a werewolf, he had never willingly given in to the
inevitable. During the earliest days of his lycanthropy, the day of the full
moon slowly sapped away his basic sense of self along with his strength. By
the time the moon had fully risen, the adolescent werewolf was no longer aware
of anything but the need to run, bite, and to sing out in hopes of meeting his
fellows. He did not have enough presence of mind to remember that he was not
always a wolf, much less to resist the change. However, as he aged and gained
more experience, he found that he could hold out longer and longer. Even with
the comfort of the companionship that his three best friends had brought
to him in their fifth year, he still did his best to fight against his
transformations. Each moment spent battling what he knew must come anyway cost
him dearly, and yet he did not care what it cost. It became a sort of morbid
game he played against himself. How long can Remus Lupin remain a man before
he becomes a beast? And now the girl was proposing that he leave the sanctuary
of the cottage before the moon had even gained the treetops.
She looked at him, her hand on the
doorknob and bewilderment on her face. He could tell just by watching
her expression that she had never resisted her transformation as he had
resisted his; perhaps the thought had never even occurred to her. He wondered
what it might be like to simply give in. How different would it be? But then,
not being alone would already make it different. He sighed in resolution, and
stood slowly from his chair. The girl turned the knob and yanked the door
open, stumbling a bit in her haste to get outside. She took a few quick steps
toward the forest, and looked back to make sure that Remus followed
her. The powerful, anxious, jittery feeling that Remus had fought to keep at
bay doubled in the moment the cool night air hit his face. He shuddered
forcefully. The girl waited for him to lock the cottage door and to find a
safe hiding spot for his wand. When he caught up to her they walked toward the
tree line in silence, shoulder to shoulder. Remus’s heart fluttered
uncomfortably beneath his breastbone and he took several deep breaths in an
effort to rein in his distress. He could not tear his eyes from the spot just
above the trees where he knew, at any moment, the moon would make her
appearance. But when he felt the girl’s small, lean fingers slip beneath his
own and squeeze his hand tightly, some of the fear that had threatened to
consume him since he’d stepped outside faded.
The girl drew a sudden sharp intake
of breath and released his hand. Before he could turn his head to look at her,
the moon broke over the horizon and bathed the earth in a bright, silvery
light. His body went rigid, and the first searing pains washed through chest.
He gasped, and staggered to one side as every bone in his body fractured and
reformed beneath his skin. He was only marginally aware of the
thrashing and agonized moaning coming from the girl next to him as his muscles
bloated and stretched, filling him with a burning sensation so intense that he
felt as if his internal organs were spontaneously combusting in unison. But
the worst came last, when his skull shattered into splinters and he feared that
his head would explode. As his nose and mouth lengthened into a muzzle and the
fur sprouted suddenly from every pore on his body, his brain began to grow
cloudy and muddled. But this time, instead of screaming in rage and terror,
the part of his mind that still recognized himself as a man named Remus Lupin
simply surrendered to the change. It sank into the recesses of his bestial
identity, instinctually aware that it would not be long before he was back in
control and reassured with the knowledge that he was not alone.
Remus could only remember that
night as he remembered every other night of the full moon; in flashes of
blurry, shadowy images and primitive emotions. He remembered running full-tilt
through the forest with the moonlight on his back. He remembered another dark
figure running beside him, and that his heart had rejoiced in the rhythm of
their combined footfalls on the forest floor. He also remembered the wild beat
of his companion’s heart, and how that one steady sound had intoxicated him,
filling him with euphoria and intense satisfaction. His brain slowly
registered these flashes of memory as he passed in and out of consciousness the
next morning. Once his debilitated body allowed him longer than a few waking
moments at a time, he rolled over onto his side and slowly sat up. He sighed
feebly at the sorry state of his robes, but knew from experience that it could
have been much worse. He looked around, searching for any sign of the girl,
but she was nowhere to be seen. He could, however, see the Hill House roof
peeking out at him from between the trees. It was mercifully close. He took
his time standing and carefully made his way up the gentle slope toward the
cottage, intent on his wand and on finding the girl.
By the time he had ferreted his
wand out from its hiding place and conjured himself some decent clothing, it
was almost noon. He gazed worriedly up at the sun, hoping that wherever she
was, the girl was whole and unharmed. She wouldn't have survived so many years
on her own if she hadn’t known how to take care of herself, but still, he
wouldn't be able to feel at ease until he knew she was safe. Thinking of
bringing her something to eat, he walked around to the front of the cottage.
He froze when he saw the door standing wide open, remembering very clearly that
he had locked it before concealing his wand. Wondering if the girl had beaten
him to the cottage and somehow managed to unlock the door, he entered
cautiously, his wand held firmly in his hand. The girl was not in the living
room, so he headed for the bedroom, hoping he might find her asleep on the
bed. The moment he entered the little hallway, however, a loud voice behind
him cried out,
His wand flew out of his hand and
slid across the floor to stop at the feet of a large man with wiry, lanky limbs
and a scraggly grizzle covering his head and face. The man was holding his own
wand aimed at Remus’s chest, and he placed a filthy bare foot with cracked and
yellowing nails over the wand on the floor. His mouth curved into an ugly,
lopsided grin as Remus met his eyes.
“Hello m’boy,” he muttered in a
low, raspy growl. “Can’t tell you how long I been waitin' for this moment.”
“And I’m sorry this moment had to
come at all,” said Remus in disgust. He knew the man’s name without having to
ask. It was Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf who had cursed Remus into a
pitiable, hellish existence years before he’d even reached puberty. Greyback
was one of the most feared and reviled figures in the magical world, and he not
only deserved this reputation; he reveled in it. His desire to inflict his own
brand of savage lycanthropy on wizarding children in particular was widely
known. Even being in the man’s presence filled Remus with hatred and revulsion
“To what do I owe this utter
displeasure?” he asked venomously.
“Just droppin’ in for a visit,”
said Greyback snidely.
“I wasn’t aware that you cared
enough about any of your victims to give them a second thought, much less force
a visit on them.”
“I don’t, usually,” he said,
leering at Remus in a most discomforting way. “But you’re special.”
“Then why wait until now?” asked
Remus, trying to buy some time as he frantically tried to think up a way out of
this abhorrent situation.
"Oh, I been keepin' a closer
eye on you than you might think," said Greyback with a sneer. "You
was one of my earliest successes."
"You have a very different idea of success
than I," said Remus through tightly clenched teeth. "If I were a
sick, evil bastard bent on creating an army of bloodthirsty werewolves, I
wouldn't brag about transforming a man who would rather die than harm anyone
and a girl who is so traumatized that she can barely even speak."
"You're referrin’ to the girl who's been
livin’ in this little hovel with you?" asked Greyback slowly, each word
sliding from his tongue as if he were reluctant to give up such delectable
treats. Remus glared at him, trying to suppress the surge of alarm he felt at
Greyback's detailed knowledge. "Yeah, I been watchin’ her too.
But that particular 'success' weren't mine, I'm afraid."
Greyback's face twisted into the most grotesque
smile Remus had ever seen.
"As much as I would love to claim responsibility,
I got to give credit where credit is due. Congrats Remus, m'boy, she is
The blood drained so quickly from Remus's face
that he became light-headed and stumbled backwards, only just managing not to
fall. His face contorted painfully.
"That's a lie," he breathed.
"YOU'RE A LIAR!"
Greyback began to laugh; a rasping, uproarious
laughter that ended in a triumphant bark-like shout. He stared at Remus, his
eyes twinkling with gleeful malice.
"I could hardly believe it m’self, when it
happened. Back in them early days, when you lost yourself completely to the
change. Back when your parents still didn't know how to handle your
transformations. You escaped them puny restraints they put on you on that loverly
summer night; and they was too scared to chase after you. Can't say that I
blame them. You was almost as bloodthirsty as me in them days."
Remus could barely contain the urge to retch.
The blood was throbbing behind his ears, and yet Remus could not hear every
single word. Greyback continued with his story, greedily licking his lips as
he watched Remus's agonized realizations.
"Still 'mazes me that you found her. A
little Mudblood right there, ripe for the pickin' and so blithely unawares. Her
scream was so satisfyin' when you bit her. I can still hear it; the beautiful
terror in her voice, and the rippin’ fabric, the snappin’ bones. But I think
the sound that I liked best was the lust in your howl when you raised your head
and sang to the moon. I went to look her over when you'd finished, and imagine
my surprise that she weren't dead. And then I smelled the magic in her blood.
You can always tell a witch. They taste especially nice."
Remus felt like he might faint and be sick all
at once. Silent sobs racked his body, contorting his face and hunching his
back as the muscles in his stomach convulsed. His mind was at war with
itself. It scrabbled desperately to hold on to the belief that Greyback
was lying, but his traitorous memory kept fitting pieces into the horrific
puzzle: his recurrent nightmares, the slight differences between her scar and
his, the strange familiarity of her scent.
"I reckon you could give me some credit for
how she turned out. She might not 'a done so well if'n her barmy Muggle family
had ever managed to find her. I took care o' that," Greyback said, slowly
licking his lips.
“It’s a lie,” Remus sobbed vehemently, falling
to his knees. The last thing he heard before he passed out was Greyback,
He heard it clearly, though it
had to be at least five kilometers away. As steady and strong as the beat of a
distant drum. He wasn’t hungry; he’d had the good fortune to bring down a deer
that had stayed in a forest clearing too long after sundown. But the beat
caught his attention, calling out to him provocatively. Seductively. Should
he announce himself? He might scare it away. And he wanted it.
Whatever it was, he wanted it.
He’d barely begun his journey through the
forest before he caught its scent. He still wasn’t sure what it was exactly,
but at least he could tell that it was female. With
renewed determination, he increased his pace, slipping between the trees and
through the bracken with barely a sound. Closer…closer…and then a new scent:
fire. New sounds: loud, chattering voices. Human voices. Softer, slower
beats than the one he sought. He veered away from the humans, intent only on
his prize. And then he saw her. She was a human as well; smaller and
younger. She wasn’t near the fire like the others. She was inside his forest,
looking up at his moon, and the beat of her heart throbbed in his ears like the
sweetest music he had ever heard.
But she was still too close to the other
humans. If he took her now, they would hear, they would come, and he might
lose her. So he waited. She moved slowly, picking her way through the brush
on the forest floor, gazing up at the sky with large, pale eyes. He crept
silently through the trees to circle behind her, cutting off her escape route.
It took all of his willpower to resist the urge to go after her right there,
but she was still too close. She found a little deer track, and her way
through the forest was easier. She walked at nearly a normal pace, following it
down a small slope to a little clearing in the trees and bushes. She stopped
to look up into the sky once more, mesmerized by the huge, brightly-glowing
moon hanging over the treetops. And then he leapt for her. Her scream was
cut short when he crashed into her, knocking the wind from her lungs. The beat
had grown rapid and almost painfully loud against his eardrums; loud enough
that the scream she made when he bit into her shoulder was strangely muffled.
Her blood was hot and sweet, and so different from the deer's. But the deer
had been his meal, and he had no desire to eat this small human. What he
wanted from her, his brain could not quite place. He bit again, deeper, and
felt the satisfying snap of her collarbone between his jaws. She let out
another blood-curdling scream, but he did not release her. He held her body in
his teeth, careful not to tear too far into her flesh but unwilling to loosen
his grip. And then, through the insistent pounding in his ears, he heard other
screams that were not coming from the little human beneath him. The bigger
humans had heard, and they were coming.
He dragged the girl, who instantly passed out
from the pain of being moved, to the edge of the clearing, hoping to escape
with her. But her extra weight slowed him just enough that he knew it was no
good; the other humans would catch up. He could fight them off. Just kill them.
Then he and his prize would be free. But for reasons he could not comprehend,
he did not want to kill any humans that night. He’d had enough experience with
large animals and their progeny to know that if this girl was the offspring of
the bigger humans, they would not stop until they had taken her from him. If
that happened, he would have no choice but to kill them. Reluctantly, he
released the little human from his grip, gently licking her wounds. At least
he had managed to mark her. Nothing the big humans did could change that now.
She was his. He threw back his head and howled in triumph.
He retreated a short distance away and
watched the bigger humans enter the clearing. There was a lot of screaming and
loud noises when they found his prize. The biggest male, their alpha, scooped
her up into his arms and ran with her back towards the fire. The bigger female
followed close behind them. The other male, younger than and not as large as
the alpha, peered around the clearing, pulling from a pocket something that
glinted menacingly in the moonlight.
His prize was gone, and there was nothing
else to hold his interest. He bounded away through the forest, howling again
to the moon in thanks and gratitude. The scent of her body clung to his fur,
and the taste of her blood lingered in his mouth. His own heart beat violently
in celebration of the evening’s success. He would find his prize some other
moonlit night. There was nowhere she could go that he would not find her. He
would never be alone again.
Remus woke and immediately retched, emptying the
meager contents of his stomach onto the cottage floor. He scanned the living
room, half-expecting to see Greyback in the armchair or at the kitchen table,
watching him with the same malevolent grin. But he was alone. He
spied his wand still lying on the floor where Greyback had stepped on it.
Coughing painfully, he crawled along the floor to grasp it in his hand. The
feel of the smooth, hard wood reassured him and provided him with enough
strength to stand. His beleaguered mind focused onto one singular purpose:
find the girl. Nothing else mattered. He stumbled out of the cottage, not
even stopping to close the door, and pelted down the hill toward the trees.
“Invenio girl!” he cried as he entered
the forest. He let out a shuddering gasp of relief when the spell took effect,
knowing it meant that she was not more than a kilometer or two away. A
faint tugging sensation behind his navel pulled him deeper into the forest,
leading him on a course through brush and heavy thickets. Abruptly, the
sensation disappeared. He turned around on the spot, searching for the girl,
but there was no sign of her.
“Where are you?!” he called out despondently. “Invenio
The spell didn't work this time, and just as he
cried out in frustration and worry, he heard a loud, rasping laugh from off to
his right. He whipped around, his wand held high. The curse he sent hurtling
at Greyback’s face as he emerged from behind a large tree met and clashed with
the one Greyback sent flying at him. The two spells deflected off one another
into opposite directions. The men held their wands aimed at each other,
Remus’s face full of fury and hatred while Greyback regarded him with a
smiling, almost hungry expression.
“Where is she?” Remus spat. “What have you done
“Much less than you’ve done to her,
m’boy,” said Greyback, grinning nastily.
“Shut up!” Remus was shaking, though his wand
was still steadily aimed at Greyback’s head. “Where is she?!”
“Not far,” said Greyback airily. “She and I had
a little chat while you were sleepin'.”
“Bastard,” Remus whispered contemptuously.
“What did you tell her?”
“Only the truth, m’boy, only the truth,” said Greyback. “But she
might also be under the impression that you killed her family as well as turned
her to our kind. Dunno where she picked that up.” Greyback flashed Remus
another lurid grin. Remus was so furious that he couldn't speak. Greyback
took the opportunity to continue with his tale, obviously enjoying himself a
“We’re old friends, she and I, didn’t you know?
It was me what turned her to this forest, and then when I knew you were comin’,
to your little shack. But then, it was me what made sure your parents bought
it in the first place. Sent them an advertisement, ‘specially. I considered
it my duty, I did, reuniting you and your chosen mate. Figures it had to be a Mudblood,
but that’s you, isn’t it m’boy? Just like your Muggle-lovin’ father.”
Greyback smirked, baring his canine-like teeth.
“You didn’t know no better, I
reckon, since back then, you couldn’t keep any part of your human brain on
during the full moon. Not like I could. I knew you’d be wantin’ her again
soon enough. What else could I do for my favorite? I got rid of her filthy
Muggle relations for you, and kept the others away too, when they came lookin’.
Made sure she stayed alive, but not too comfortable, mind. Had to keep her
pure. She forgot all about her life before, quicker than I thought she would
too. It might a’ been those first few transformations what did it. Hit her
pretty hard, they did. She didn’t have no parents gettin’ in the way, neither,
like you did. It’s a beautiful thing, when Nature can take her own course.
She was good n’ ready by the time I let slip to your landlord what you are.
Guess I owe you an apology for that. Knew you’d get kicked out, and I did it
anyway. But see, I only wanted to do my part to bring you two lovebirds back
together. Hopeless romantic, s’what I am.” He began to cackle loudly again,
very amused with himself. Remus’s head was reeling. He hadn’t thought it
possible to hate any one person as much as he hated Greyback at that moment.
“Azkaban is too good for you,” he
growled, with a voice so unlike his own that he surprised himself. “An
eternity burning in hell is too good for you. But I suppose it will have to
Remus sent another curse at
Greyback’s head, but the older man was ready for it. He ducked, laughing maniacally
as he disappeared behind another tree. Remus ran after him, blasting shrubs
and bushes out of his way. Greyback moved amazingly quickly through the
forest, bounding easily over obstacles and weaving through the trees. Remus
silently marveled that the transformation didn’t seem to have left Greyback as
weakened as he felt, but then, he was so intent on ridding the world of this
monster that his own strength had unaccountably returned en force. Even so, he
couldn't keep up with Greyback, who appeared to have an intimate knowledge of
the forest and its hiding places.
Remus plowed his way through the
underbrush, seething with fury. He paused to check the ground for
footprints and heard a twig snap just a few yards in front of him. He shot up,
wand at the ready, just in time to see the girl staggering in his direction,
looking over her shoulder as if she were being chased by something terrifying.
Lowering his wand, he saw that she was in a sorry state; the clothes she had
borrowed from him were ripped and frayed, and she was once again covered with
dirt and bits of forest debris. But when she turned around and saw Remus
standing there, she stopped dead. The look on her face pierced him like a
sword through his heart. She wasn’t only afraid of him, though her fear was
plain. Her eyes, shining with unfallen tears, held him in conspicuous disdain.
“It isn’t true,” he said in an odd,
strangled voice that still didn't sound quite like his own. “I didn’t kill
your family. I swear to you, I didn’t.”
He took a small step toward her,
and she quickly backed away, her hand clutching the spot on her neck where the
torn fabric concealed the wound he’d given her so many years ago. She regarded
him with an almost demanding expression, the tears finally spilling down her
cheeks. He understood her all too well. She wanted to hear him deny the other
part of Greyback’s accusation. For a moment, he was tempted. But he knew
there was no way around it; regardless of the consequences, she deserved to
know the truth.
“That part,” he said, his voice
breaking, “is true. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
The girl let out a grief-stricken
wail, but instead of running away from him as he’d expected, she rushed at him
with her hands clenched into tight fists. She began pounding his chest and
slapping his face, shouting in incoherent anger. He took her abuse without
defending himself, at first out of shock, and then because he refused to rob
her of the right to punish him for his crime. She kicked his shins
repeatedly, and he fell on his knees, not even allowing himself to grimace in
pain. When he fell, she stared down at him angrily. Slowly, he looked up at
her, watching her tears as they trailed streaks through the dirt on her
cheeks. She smacked him hard on the face, and his head twisted to one side
with the force of the blow. When he recovered, he looked back up at her, and
she smacked him again. He righted himself once more, looking up in stolid
anticipation, and found that her expression had changed. The rage and scorn
had given way to an intense sorrow that Remus had seen in the mirror many
times. She sank down to her knees before him and threw her arms around his
shoulders, muffling her sobs with his robes.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated, his voice
heavy with anguish. “I didn’t know until today. I couldn’t remember. I
didn’t want to remember. I’m so sorry.”
She continued to cry into his chest
as if she hadn’t heard him, though he knew that she had. He desperately wanted
to hold her, to comfort her, but it would have felt too good to put his arms
around her, and he told himself coldly that he didn’t deserve to feel good.
After a few minutes, she pulled away from him, staring up into his eyes.
“It’s all right,” he said dully, as
if answering a question. “I won’t ever be able to forgive myself, so you
needn’t worry about forgiving me either.” He stared above her head,
determinedly avoiding her eyes. He only looked down when he felt her lips
gently graze his with a soft, timid kiss. Tears were still falling down her
cheeks, though her expression had changed yet again. Compassion had mingled
with the sadness in her bright, pale eyes.
“I forgive,” she whispered. “I
And with those two simple words,
Remus completely broke down. He drew her into a fierce embrace, weeping
uncontrollably into her hair. She closed her arms around him again as they
rocked together slowly, unified in identical grief and understanding. How long
they held each other like that, neither one could tell, but they broke apart in
alarm when a sudden voice startled them from very close by.
“Ain’t you just a pair,” said
Remus made to stand, but froze when
Greyback fixed his wand at his chest. Instead, he interjected himself between
Greyback and the girl.
“Looks like you two have kissed and
made up just fine,” said Greyback, who didn’t seem very pleased with the turn
his grand manipulation had taken. “That puts a little damper on my plans, I
guess. I was lookin’ forward to having a mate again. Last one didn’t suit me
so well.” He bared his pointed teeth and spoke to the girl, who peered at him
from behind Remus’s shoulder.
“Up you get, dearie. A few memory
charms, and you and me will be thick as thieves.” When the girl did not
immediately comply, he stalked forward to get a better shot, and said,
Remus moved again, but stopped when
Greyback growled in warning.
“You try it, and I’ll make her
crush her own pretty throat.”
He could only watch helplessly as
the girl stood and walked over to Greyback, came to a halt next to him, and
turned slowly to face Remus. She swayed slightly on the spot, and Greyback
regarded her out of the corner of his eye for a moment before he once again
pointed his wand at Remus.
“Figured I’d win her fair and
square once she knew the truth, but I guess it makes sense she’d pardon you,
she bein’ yours an’ all. But it’s true what they say; all’s fair in love and
“Like hell!” Remus shouted, glaring at Greyback
in disgust. Both men were so absorbed in the conversation that neither of them
saw the girl swaying again, a deep crease between her brows.
“You think she’s ever gonna be happy, livin’
like you do? You want her to hide in that pile of rocks with you, pretendin’
like you’re nice, normal folks? Like you’ve been so happy that way. I
can show her how to live like our kind was meant to live. With me, she can run
free and go where she pleases without no one lookin’ down on her or tellin’ her
what she can and can’t do. Who knows, she might even like my way better. Only
one way to find out.”
“Over my dead body,” Remus muttered savagely,
slowly rising to his feet. Greyback sighed.
“Yeah, I thought it might come to that. It’s
too bad, really. I weren’t lyin’ when I said you was my favorite. But if it’s
between you an’ her? Sorry, m’boy, but I ain’t had a woman in way too long.”
He took aim at Remus’s chest, and
Remus steeled himself. But as Greyback drew a breath, the girl moved almost
imperceptibly to one side with a slight shake of her head. Remus’s eyes widened
when saw her move, but Greyback hadn't seen it. His lips were just forming the
first syllable of his curse when the girl’s hand shot out, her nails clawing at
Greyback’s face. Astounded, Greyback turned as he spoke, and the spell caught
the girl full in the chest. She collapsed onto the ground at his feet, her
features frozen in an expression of fury and defiance.
“NO!” Remus screamed in horror. He
stood rooted to the spot, still not fully believing what he’d just seen. He
wrenched his eyes from the girl to look at Greyback, who was staring in shock,
slowly retreating from the girl’s supine form. When Greyback met Remus’s gaze,
however, his confounded expression melted into a broad, jeering smirk. Remus
went for his wand, but was too late; by the time he’d freed it from his robes,
Greyback had already disapparated with a small pop.
Remus sank to the ground beside the
girl’s body, his misery absolute. He was well beyond tears. He lifted the
girl into his arms and carried her back to the Hill House. He washed the dirt
from her body, and cleaned and repaired her clothes. He laid her on the bed,
and gently coaxed her eyelids closed. Then he went into the living room, sat
in the armchair, and waited numbly for exhaustion to claim him.
When Albus Dumbledore’s knocks on the Hill
House’s front door repeatedly went unanswered, he decided there was nothing for
it, and let himself in. The smell of death accosted his nostrils the moment he
opened the door. He closed the door behind him and immediately spied Remus
Lupin, staring intently into the black grate of the fireplace, his face dark
with stubble and his eyes glazed over.
“Remus?” Dumbledore murmured in concern.
The younger man did not respond or even
acknowledge his presence, which only increased Dumbledore's trepidation. He
walked over to the chair and saw that Remus’s wand was sitting on his lap, held
tightly in both hands.
“Remus, what happened?” he asked softly.
“She’s in the bedroom,” answered Remus in a
Dumbledore turned and disappeared
into the bedroom. He reappeared shortly, his gentle, wizened face drawn into a
“Emily Harris,” said Dumbledore
sadly. Remus finally tore his eyes from the hearth to look at Dumbledore.
“Was that her name? Emily?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore answered,
conjuring himself a squashy armchair and sitting down across from
Remus. “She was due at Hogwarts when you were starting your fifth year, I
believe. I read of the attack on her family in the Muggle newspapers, and I
went to investigate myself. The remains of her parents and her elder brother
were found in their campsite, but she wasn't there. Both the Muggle
authorities and the Ministry representatives concluded that a wolf, or a
werewolf in the case of the latter, had simply dragged her off and eaten her.
I was not so convinced, but for all of my searching, I couldn't find her. It
appears that I did not try hard enough,” he finished somberly.
“Greyback hid her,” said Remus
jerkily, turning his head to stare into the fireplace again. “He kept her away
from other humans. He wanted to make her wild, brutal, like he is.”
“I suspected it was Fenrir
Greyback’s handiwork,” said Dumbledore grimly. “One could hardly doubt his
involvement after witnessing the gruesomeness of that campsite. No mere wolf,
and very few werewolves, can even approximate his particular brand of ruthless
barbarism. The only reason I had to doubt was the fact that she was
Muggle-born. Given Fenrir’s abiding belief in pureblood propaganda, I didn't
think he would target a Muggle-born witch.”
Remus was silent for a moment,
before the confession burst out of him with a dry sob.
“He didn’t,” he croaked, his face
contorting in exquisite suffering. “I attacked her. I bit her. It was me.”
Dumbledore waited while Remus took
a few gasping breaths.
“I was not aware that you’d
ever had the opportunity to bite anyone.”
“I didn’t remember until Greyback
told me. I blocked it out. I couldn’t bear to face the truth, so I conveniently
forgot all about it." He spat out the words venomously.
“I think, perhaps, you do yourself
a disservice, Remus,” said Dumbledore, after a pause. “It is my understanding
that most individuals who are inflicted with lycanthropy retain very little
memory from the times they spend in their wolf-like state. You cannot hold
yourself responsible for failing to remember something that you did when your
mind was not working at full capacity.”
“But it was there!” exclaimed
Remus, glaring at Dumbledore as if they were having an argument. “The memory
was there, in my mind, the whole time! I saw it for myself after Greyback told
me, right after I passed out.” He emphasized the last two words with a
contemptuous wrinkle of his nose.
“Yes, it was there, all of the
memories are there. But just as your wolfish persona cannot access your human
memories, you cannot delve into your memories of the full moon at will. It
takes a great deal of concentration and meditation, or sometimes, very rarely,
a memory will surface after a stressful ordeal. I would certainly categorize
any confrontation with a man like Fenrir Greyback as stressful, myself.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Remus in
a hollow sort of voice. “Greyback wouldn’t have had anything to do with her if
it hadn’t been for me. He killed her in the end, and I hope he rots in hell
for it. But I killed her first. She’s dead because of me. She was worse than
dead because of me.” Remus’s hands clenched his wand reflexively. “I can’t
let this happen again.”
When Dumbledore didn't say
anything, Remus looked over at him, staring rebelliously into his blue eyes.
“Suicide is not a very fitting way
to honor the memory of Emily Harris,” Dumbledore said quietly.
“I can request a termination from
the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures,” said
Remus, betraying to the older wizard just how much he’d reflected on his
death-wish. Dumbledore regarded him over his half-moon spectacles.
“I imagine Sirius Black, Peter
Pettigrew, and James and Lily Potter might have something to say about that.”
“I don’t care,” said Remus
“Of course you care, and so do
they, very much,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Sirius cared enough to tell me
about your mysterious guest, despite his concern that by doing so he was going
against your wishes. There are many people who love you, Remus, and would be
very upset with you indeed if you were to be so rude as to engage in assisted
“They’d get over it,” said Remus
“True, with time, their pain might
lessen. But why force it onto them if it is not absolutely necessary?”
“Because it is necessary,”
said Remus loudly, standing from his chair. “I can’t go through this again,
and I won’t. I’m too dangerous to stay alive. I could try to find a place where
no one else is around to stray across my path, but there would always be that
chance. And I’m not willing to take that chance anymore.”
“So, had Emily lived, would you
then expect the same of her? From the description Sirius gave me, she was
quite unstable as a human. Surely such a human would be twice as dangerous as
Remus glared at Dumbledore as if
the older wizard had slapped him in the face. “That’s not fair. Emily never
bit anyone else.”
“Assuming for a moment that you are
correct, though we have no way of knowing, there was still the chance. The
same one that you are no longer willing to take.”
Remus sat back in his chair,
thinking in silence. When he finally spoke, his tone was hopeless and full of
“How can I live with this?” he
asked, barely above a whisper.
“Simply by choosing to live,” said
Dumbledore gently. “To die in the stead of those he loves is an action worthy
of a good man. But to die in the hopes of relief from guilt and regret is not.
Positive action can come from past mistakes. Think of all the plans you must
have had in store for Emily, and you will see what I mean. She was not the
only troubled young person in the world that could very much use your help.
Make the choice to live, and every choice you make from that moment on could
benefit others in ways that you cannot even begin to fathom.”
Dumbledore left Remus to think this
over, and busied himself at the ancient stove with the kettle and the teapot. Remus
began to pick absentmindedly at the pills on the old afghan, staring once more
into the sooty fireplace with glazed eyes. After many quiet hours, and a few
very strong cups of tea, he felt enough like himself to offer Dumbledore
something to eat.
“Thank you Remus, but no, it would
spoil my appetite. We’ve both been invited to the Potters for dinner. I would
beseech you to accept. Lily Potter gave me the most dazzlingly threatening
look when she made the invitation, and I fear for my personal safety if I
should arrive on their doorstep without you.”
Remus actually managed a weak
smile. During his visit, in spite of the dread he felt when Sirius finally
broached the subject of his strange houseguest, Remus found that it was
actually a relief to tell them all about his experience with Emily. He told
them about her unusual sense of humor, and the tin-throwing incident, although
he kept the memory of their one night in each other’s arms for himself. He
told them about Greyback’s elaborate scheme, and Emily’s triumph over the
Imperius Curse, and how she had died trying to save him. Together, they
planned her memorial service. They were there for him through the funeral and
the burial. Remus found himself still mulling over the things Dumbledore had
told him as he stood beside her grave. Sirius stepped up beside him, staring
sadly at the freshly-overturned earth.
"Wish I'd gotten the chance to
get to know her," he said quietly.
"I think you would have really
liked each other," said Remus. He marveled at the small smile that came
to his lips at this idea. Sirius looked over at him, his brow furrowed
"I won't say I know what
you're going through, 'cause I don't. But I do know what she must've meant to
you. And I'm really sorry, mate."
"It's all right,
Padfoot," said Remus, offering the small smile to his friend. "It's
always going to hurt, I know that. The only thing I can do is to see that
something good comes out of it."
"What do you have in
mind?" asked Sirius.
"I have no idea," said
Remus. "But I'm looking forward to finding out."