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The Deadliest Dare. by MargaretLane
Format: Short story
Chapter 2: Consequences.
Almost immediately, however, it became clear that making the best of life with his great-uncle would be easier said than done.
Unlike so many other people, Uncle Ivar didn’t back away nervously or avoid his nephew’s eyes, but he did fix him with one of the coldest glares Fenrir had ever seen.
“Now that you’re living here, I expect your cooperation, understood?”
“Yes, Uncle Ivar. I’ll do whatever you say.”
“If you knew how to do as you were told, you wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. I always warned your parents they were too soft on you. Some discipline would have prevented all this.”
It wasn’t so much his words that sent a shiver down Fenrir’s back as the tone in which they were spoken. It was as if his great-uncle truly despised him, but if that were the case, then why would he have allowed him live with him?
That question haunted Fenrir over the next few weeks and months. Sometimes, he thought the answer was simply that his Uncle Ivar wanted somebody to do all the chores he couldn’t be bothered doing himself. Fenrir did the cleaning, degnomed the garden, gathered ingredients for his great-uncle’s potions.
Sometimes he thought his uncle delighted in created work for him, work he could easily have done himself with one wave of his wand or by sending his owl to one of the Apothecaries, which could surely supply him with the ingredients Fenrir searched so hard to find. Especially since he didn’t always succeed.
Oh, he tried his hardest. Something gave him the impression his great-uncle wouldn’t tolerate failure. Perhaps it was his utter lack of sympathy whenever Fenrir’d had difficulty with any other tasks. On Fenrir’s second day in his home, he’d stood behind him, watching with cold eyes as Fenrir had lit match after match, trying to get one to light the fire.
“Can’t you just show me?” he’d pleaded.
“Expecting me to do your work for you now, are you?”
“No, Uncle Ivar, it’s just…”
“I go to the trouble of giving you a home; who else would do that, eh? With your present condition?”
Fenrir hadn’t answered.
“I asked you a question.” His voice rose angrily.
“N..nobody, Uncle Ivar.”
“Quite right.” He sounded quite self-satisfied now. “So you’ll do what you’re told if you don’t want to end up out on your ear.”
“Yes, Uncle Ivar.”
“I’m glad that’s settled. Now, get on with lighting that fire!”
“Yes, Uncle Ivar.”
He eventually got it to light.
“About time,” was Uncle Ivar’s only comment.
Fenrir doubted he’d be any more sympathetic about the potions ingredients.
“Didn’t I tell you to get me a basket of leaping toadstools?”
“Em…yes, Uncle Ivar, but I couldn’t find any.”
“That isn’t my problem! You don’t come back in this house until you’ve filled the basket. Understood?”
“But Uncle Ivar, it’s getting dark outside now.”
After what had happened in the Forbidden Forest, he could no longer bear being outside in the darkness
His uncle leaned in closely, until his face was mere inches from Fenrir’s.
“Are you arguing with me?”
It would have been less frightening if he’d shouted it. The quiet matter-of-fact way he spoke gave Fenrir the shivers.
“No, Uncle Ivar; I’m only saying…”
“Then get back out there and GET ME MY LEAPING TOADSTOOLS!”
“Yes, Uncle Ivar.”
He couldn’t cry. He was thirteen years old, for goodness sake. In less than four years he’d be a man. Grown men didn’t cry, at least they didn’t in the Greyback family.
Lacking any other choice, he gritted his teeth and headed out into the terrifying darkness.
He couldn’t be bitten again, he reminded himself. It wasn’t a full moon anyway and even if it had been, the damage had already been done.
But werewolves weren’t the only creatures that lurked in the darkness. There were plenty of others, some they’d already covered in Defence Against the Dark Arts, others that he’d no idea whatsoever how to defend himself against.
He was a Dark Creature himself now, he supposed, but somehow that didn’t make him feel any safer.
If only it were the full moon. Then, he supposed, he’d be able to protect himself against most threats. Werewolves were fearsome creatures. But right now, he was only a young boy who hadn’t even completed his magical education, terrified of what lurked in every shadow.
It was the scariest night of his life, even more frightening than the night he’d spent in the Forbidden Forest. Back then, he’d been naïve, innocent, never believing anything truly harmful could ever happen to him. He’d thought himself invincible. Hadn’t he jumped from a windowsill onto his broom and flown to the ground without injury? He no longer believed any of that now, no longer believed the world a safe place. Now he knew just how vulnerable he was, how easily his life could be turned upside-down.
And he was currently completely unprotected.
It was hard too, trying to find Leaping Toadstools in the pitch darkness. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to wait until the morning, when he could see properly what he was doing?
But deep in his heart, he knew the Leaping Toadstools weren’t really the point. His great-uncle was punishing him for his failure, making it clear he’d accept no excuses for failure to complete a task.
Was this how his life would be from now on? Skivvying for his great-uncle night and day, knowing that no matter what he did, it would never be good enough, sleeping in an outhouse with a padlock on the door so that he could be locked in on full moons, knowing he was trapped, that there was nobody else who’d take him in, nowhere else he could go.
The thought of running away was almost constantly on his mind, but he feared it’d mean spending every night like this, out in the darkness, prey for any monster that might choose to pass.
Panic seized him with every sound, a panic so severe that he could hardly breath.
He had to keep going, he reminded himself. The sooner he found them, the sooner he could return to his great-uncle’s house.
But that was easier said than done.
“I’m doing my best, Uncle Ivar.” He spoke aloud to the darkness. “It’s not that I’m not trying, but I can’t concentrate on collecting toadstools with God knows what going on around me. I really don’t think I can do this.”
And then, finally, when he’d almost given up, he found a field of Leaping Toadstools and gathered them quickly into his basket.
The sun was coming up, so at least the return to Uncle Ivar’s would be less terrifying than the search had been.
“Took your time, didn’t you?” Uncle Ivar remarked when he finally handed over the basket.
“Sorry, Uncle Ivar,” he said through gritted teeth.
Never before had he so resented having to apologise to anybody. He’d had to apologise to his great-uncle before and each time, it had felt unfair, but this was on a different level altogether. He could not bring himself to forgive him for the torture he’d put him through that night. Just having to speak to him was unpleasant enough; having to apologise was utterly unpalatable.
And yet, he knew he’d no choice. Uncle Ivar had him in thrall. He had to try to please him, even if the task seemed completely impossible.
But there was worse to come.
Fenrir had never really thought about the transformation itself. If anything, he had, in his angrier moments, looked forward to it. There were times when the idea of being transformed from an ordinary thirteen year old boy, completely under his great-uncle’s thumb, into a terrifying monster even Uncle Ivar must fear was actually quite attractive.
He knew he couldn’t use his werewolf form against his great-uncle. Or Professor Dippet. Or Janus. Or his family. Or anybody else who angered him. He’d be locked in the shed, after all.
But the thought of feeling a strength he’d never felt before and of those who’d rejected him fearing to come near pleased him. It made him feel less vulnerable, less of a target.
What he hadn’t even dreamt was just how painful it would be. He couldn’t really remember the pain of being bitten; he’d sunk into unconsciousness too quickly, but the pain of his first transformation would remain with him forever. It tore through every muscle, causing him to scream in pain.
He wished he hadn’t. The thought of his great-uncle hearing it from the house and smirking tormented him, or it would have if he could have thought of anything for longer than a second, without the pain drawing his thoughts back to itself again.
And then, after what felt like an age, all consciousness disappeared and he was just a beast.
He awoke the following morning, aching in every muscle.
The light coming in the barred window told him it was later than he’d been allowed sleep since arriving in this place. He doubted, though, that that was indicative of any kind of sympathy on his great-uncle’s part. More likely, he was simply afraid to enter before he was absolutely certain Fenrir would have returned to his human form.
Sure enough, shortly before midday, Uncle Ivar entered the outhouse.
“Get up. It’s time you made dinner.”
For a moment, Fenrir thought of protesting, then realised it would do no good. Uncle Ivar didn’t care.
He struggled to his feet and headed into the kitchen to do as he was told, seething with resentment. How he wished he could add some unexpected potions ingredients to the food. The thought of Uncle Ivar unknowingly ingesting something harmful made him smile for a moment, then the pain overtook him again.
Cooking wasn’t the worst task to have to perform after a transformation, though, he realised as the day went on. Cleaning and degnoming hurt far more. His great-uncle made no concessions to the pain he was in, yelling at him if a task took longer than usual.
“Sorry, Uncle Ivar.”
“I should hope so. Now, get on with it.”
“Yes, Uncle Ivar.”
He had to get out of there, he realised, but he didn’t know how. Nobody else would take him in. His parents seemed to have washed their hands of him completely. Society saw him as a monster. He was trapped between two equally unpleasant alternatives – running away to face a world that mirrored the Forbidden Forest or remaining to face his great-uncle’s callousness and constant demands.
Neither option appealed to him.
Surely, there must be an alternative, some other option that would allow him his freedom while giving him some protection from all the dangers that threatened a thirteen year old, unqualified wizard, who wasn’t even allowed his wand.
Almost two years passed before he finally accepted that there wasn’t, two years in which his anger at his great-uncle, at his family and at the entire wizarding world continued to grow, two years in which he got older, taller and stronger, two years in which his constant forays, searching for potions ingredients taught him to conquer his fears of being alone in the dark.
At fifteen, he could no longer stand being treated like a child, constantly dismissed and disregarded. And he knew that as long as he remained with his great-uncle, that was how he would be treated.
Escape wasn’t difficult. So long as he completed the tasks his great-uncle demanded of him, Uncle Ivar really didn’t care where he was most of the time.
He timed his escape for early morning, just before a full moon. That way, the first night he spent alone, he’d be a werewolf, powerful, strong, dangerous. As a werewolf, he had nothing to fear. It was others who had to fear him.
And fear him, they should. His treatment at the hands of the wizarding world had left him with a desire for revenge. If he could repay them, harm them as they had harmed him, they could be certain he would.
For the first time in two years, a smile crossed his lips. Freedom lay before him. He could almost taste it.