Chapter 1 : That Night
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Walter pulled his wife closer to him and the two of them gazed down upon the sleeping form that was their son. It had been over a month since he was born and they had just now been able to bring him home. Matthew Conan had been born two months premature. Walter had spent many sleepless nights watching the night sky from that same balcony, thinking about his tiny son who was at a hospital miles away.
"He's perfect," Julie whispered.
"He is," Walter agreed, "This night is perfect."
"Indeed," Julie smiled, "I don't think I've ever been happier as I am now."
"Me, too," Walter said, "Matthew's home. Our family is perfect."
And it was. The Eckertons had two beautiful children. Amy, their six-year-old, was a handful on a good day and downright unruly on a bad. Yet, they loved that about her. She had a spark in her that never seemed to dwindle. Now, they had a little boy. A tiny baby who had fought for his life the moment he was born. Walter was happy. He had a beautiful wife and two wonderful children. It was the family he and Julie had dreamed of from the moment they were married.
"Dad, are you going to light the campfire again?" Twelve-year-old Amy asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
Walter smirked, remembering the previous night where he had tried unsuccessfully to light the campfire, Muggle-style, with matches.
"No, Amy," Walter laughed, "We'll let your mother handle it."
"Do you need me to help you with the fire, Walt?" Julie laughed.
"Yes, dear," Walter grinned.
Laughing had been the first thing Walter did when his wife announced that she wanted to go camping, Muggle-style, over Amy's Christmas break from school. He immediately remembered back to the time he first discovered what Muggles did when they camped, way back in his first year of school. A Muggle-born friend had explained it to him and he remembered laughing about it and thinking it was silly. What could be fun about sleeping in a ten foot by eight foot radius with three other people? What could be fun about cooking your food slowly over a fire?
It could be a lot of fun, Walter soon discovered. He had agreed to Julie's idea because it had made him curious. Plus, he imagined his children would enjoy it. There were some things both magical and Muggle kids alike enjoyed, and camping seemed to be one of those things.
So, a few days after Christmas, Walter and his family packed up a few days' supply of food, some clothing, and a tent, and took off to a Muggle campground. Both him and his wife agreed not to do anything by magic, although both of them did bring their wands. Growing up in a pureblooded wizarding household and then working at the Australian Ministry of Magic had taught Walter never to be without his wand. And so it resided in his pocket, despite the fact that they were surrounded by Muggles.
"Daddy, I'm hungry," Five-year-old Matt walked over to where Walter was watching his wife light the fire.
"C'mere," Walter pulled Matt up onto his lap, "We're eating soon."
"Good," Matt said, "'Cause I'm so hungry, I could eat a hippogriff."
Walter laughed, "I don't think it would taste very good. Just wait a little while and we'll have sausages."
"But I'm hungry now," he whined.
"Well, we're doing things the Muggle way again, so you'll have to wait," Walter explained.
"I don't wanna wait," Matt crossed his arms on his chest.
"Someone needs a nap," Amy smirked.
"Both of you, give it a rest," Walter said.
Amy and Matt stopped squabbling and Amy began to relegate a story about something that had gone on in school. Matt loved hearing stories about Amy's school. He was so excited to go despite the fact that he still had six years to go. In fact, he was just going to start at the Muggle school Amy had gone to before she started attending to the Australian School of Sorcery.
The happy chatter died down once dinner was ready. Everyone sat at the picnic table and enjoyed another fire cooked meal. Walter had to admit that the food tasted particularly good when cooked over an open fire. There was a taste to it that just couldn't be replicated by magic.
Walter sat around the camp fire with his family after dinner. They talked and laughed and roasted marshmallows on sticks over the fire.
They sat around the fire until the sun set and the flames died into embers. Matt was half asleep, but no one seemed to want to get up and go into the tent. Walter picked up a bucket of water and doused the fire, with a fleeting thought that it would be so much easier just to use a quick 'Aguamenti' charm.
After the fire was out, Walter picked up Matt and then they walked a short distance to a hill just beyond the camp ground. Amy had mentioned that it would be an excellent place to go stargazing. Amy had always enjoyed looking at the night sky, but her love for it had blossomed since taking Astronomy at school. She could name most of the stars and kept track of which ones would be out which nights.
Julie spread a blanket out on the hilltop and they sat down on it. Amy began to point out a bunch of different stars as they watched the full moon rise.
It was a large, round, shimmery orb. Walter watched as it slowly rose into the sky, blocking out some of the nearby stars. It was the second moon of December; a blue moon. It was beautiful, yet Walter couldn't ever look at a full moon without thinking of the dark side of it.
Walter had been working at the Werewolf Control Unit for most of his adult life. He became the head of that department a few years ago. It was a tough job. He saw things that he would prefer not to have seen. Looking back, he wasn't even sure why he had gotten into that department. All he knew was that he had loved Care of Magical Creatures in school and somehow wound up with a menial job in the Werewolf Control Unit, once he finally settled down after gallivanting all over the world with his brother. Then, he simply never left. He worked his way up to head of the department, but couldn't say that he enjoyed it.
The days leading up to and following full moons were the busiest in his department. In fact, during the rest of the month, there wasn't a whole lot of work to do. It had been hard to get days off for the camping trip due to the fact that it took place during a full moon. But the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures was an understanding man and gave Walter the days off to spend time with his family.
It always amazed Walter that something so beautiful could bring so much anguish into people's lives. Walter had an immense amount of sympathy for those who were plagued with lycanthropy and thus always felt a bit of anger when he saw a full moon. Yet, he still saw the beauty in it.
"We should go back to the tent," Julie whispered.
Matt was sound asleep on the blanket and even Amy's eyes were drooping. Walter nodded, picked Matt up, and rose from the blanket. Julie nudged Amy and then the three of them walked slowly back to their campsite.
"Don't leave the tent by yourself, Amy," Walter said as he laid Matt into his lilo.
"I know, you told me that last night," Amy yawned as she climbed into her own lilo.
"Can't hurt to say it again," Walter replied, "Good night, Amy. I love you."
"Love you, too, Dad," Amy said, "'Night, Mum."
Walter crawled into his own lilo and closed his eyes. Despite his reluctance about the Muggle camping, he had had fun during the trip. It was going by fast, too. It was already half over.
"This was a good idea," Walter mumbled to Julie right before he drifted off to sleep.
"Glad you think so, Walt," Julie whispered.
"Mum!" Amy shouted frantically, "Dad! Get up!"
Walter grunted and rolled over, opening one eye. Amy was standing above him. Walter fumbled for a torch and turned it on. There was fear etched in Amy's face. Walter sat up in a flash. There wasn't much that scared Amy.
"What is it?" Walter asked anxiously.
"It-it's Matt," Amy cried, "He's gone. And something's going on outside!"
Walter rubbed his eyes and got out of his lilo. He paused and listened. People were shouting outside. He could hear footsteps running past the tent and a few car engines starting. The noises weren't normal for a Muggle campground in the dead of night.
"Julie, wake up!" Walter nudged his wife, "Matt's gone!"
Walter slipped his feet into his shoes as Julie got up. His heart was beating fast and he was more afraid than he had been in his life. Where was Matt? Why hadn't he stayed in the tent? He had a sinking feeling in his chest that he tried to keep at bay, but he couldn't. There was chaos outside and Matt was gone. Walter swallowed hard and opened the tent flap. He climbed out, followed by Julie and Amy.
Muggles were running around and shouting so loudly that Walter could hardly make out anything. They were all running in one direction, though. Away from the hilltop Walter and his family had been just a few short hours ago.
"Matthew!" Julie shouted and started running towards the field in front of the campsite. "Matthew Conan Eckerton! Where are you?"
"Matt!" Amy shouted and followed Julie.
Walter shined his torch around and started running towards the bathrooms. Where else would Matt have gone in the dead of night? He didn't shout, though. He was trying to listen to what the Muggles were saying.
"Someone better call the cops!" one of them was saying.
"Is everyone in the car? We'll come back for the stuff tomorrow," one man said to a woman.
Another Muggle was on her mobile phone, shouting frantically into it. "Yes, it was some sort of animal! A huge dog or something! Like a wolf, only bigger!"
Walter's heart sank. He stopped in his tracks and looked up at the bright full orb in the sky. Full moon. Some sort of animal. Like a wolf, only bigger.
Walter turned around and started running as fast as he could in towards the direction all the Muggles were coming from. He saw Julie and Amy on his way there and they followed him, still shouting Matt's name.
"Biggest damn animal I've ever seen!" a young bloke shrieked as Walter ran past him, "Don't run towards it! Run away from it!"
Walter ignored him as he ran past. Biggest damn animal. Huge dog. Wolf. Walter hoped, prayed that he was wrong. But his years in the Werewolf Control Unit contradicted that. He had dealt with Muggles who witnessed werewolf attacks before. They always described the werewolf in the same way. Big dog, huge wolf, enormous creature, never seen anything like it.
It couldn't be, it just couldn't, Walter thought as he ran faster. Even if it was, it couldn't be Matt. He had enough knowledge of werewolves not to go near them. But he was only five years old, and small for his age at that. He wouldn't stand a chance.
There were so many people in the campsite. What were the chances that it was him? Walter shook his head to clear it and pressed on. A small voice from the back of his head told him that no one else seemed to be looking for family members or friends. They were the only ones. If that werewolf had someone....
"Matthew!" Julie shouted louder.
"You looking for a kid?" a man on a mobile phone stopped Julie.
"Yes!" Julie nodded.
"There's something attacking a kid back there. I'm getting an ambulance," the bloke replied.
"Matt!" Julie shrieked, "Matt!"
Walter's heart plummeted. This was it. His suspicions were confirmed. He had to get to Matt and fast.
"Where?" Walter shouted at the bloke, "Where is he?"
"Back there, a little way into the bush," the man pointed to an area of trees a few metres away.
Walter nodded and ran on. He pulled his wand out of his pocket on the way. The Statute of Secrecy meant nothing now. Not when Matt may be being attacked. The only thing that mattered was getting that werewolf away from him.
Time seemed to slow down as Walter approached the secluded area of bush. The amount of Muggles drastically decreased as he got closer. By the time he approached the first few trees, only two or three Muggles remained.
The werewolf was only a few metres into the bush. Walter pointed his torch at it and immediately confirmed that it was indeed a werewolf. His stomach dropped even though he hadn't thought it could drop anymore. The huge furry beast was on top of a limp form. Walter could see blonde hair on his head and knew at once it was Matt.
Walter didn't have time to scream. He didn't have time to notice what Julie or Amy were doing. He didn't have time to think about what this meant. To acknowledge the plethora of emotions that were carousing through his body.
A few brave Muggles were throwing rocks and branches at the werewolf. Walter was amazed the werewolf wasn't going after them. It seemed keen on ripping at Matt's back.
"Get back!" Walter said to the Muggles as he pointed his wand at the beast, "Stay away!"
The Muggles took one look at Walter's determined face and retreated. Walter was relieved. He hadn't been sure the Muggles would leave so fast.
Walter went into complete work mode as he shot spells at the werewolf. He was vaguely aware of Julie joining him and sending her own hexes at the werewolf.
"Bloody hell!" one of the Muggles gawked at the spells.
"Just stay away!" Walter barked.
"You don't have to say it twice, man!" he shouted, "That's some freaky shit you're doing!"
Walter continued sending spells at the werewolf. It usually took a good ten minutes to successfully sedate a werewolf. Plus, it was difficult to hit the werewolf and not hit its victim.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the werewolf finally slowed and then collapsed onto the ground.
"Keep away!" Walter shouted to the Muggles as he ran towards Matt.
Walter and Julie knelt down on the ground and stared at their son's limp form. Walter carefully pressed his fingers against Matt's neck and felt for a pulse. It was faint, but still there. Walter felt a huge sense of relief, but the worry and fear was still there.
Matt was unconscious. There was no doubt about that. But he was still breathing. It was shallow, but he was breathing nonetheless. A huge gash was ripped across his back and was bleeding profusely. The rest of his small body was covered in various cuts and Walter could see a few bruises beginning to form under the light from his torch. Walter performed a few preliminary healing charms to stop the bleeding, but healing spells had never been his strong suit.
"Apparate him to Eastworth Hospital," Walter whispered to Julie.
"A-aren't you g-going to come?" Julie's voice wavered.
"I'll meet you there. I have to take care of things here," Walter sighed.
Julie nodded and carefully picked Matt up. She spun on the spot and the two of them disappeared with a crack.
"What the hell?" one of the Muggles shouted, "What is going on here?"
Walter squeezed his eyes shut and then stood up. He had to work. All he wanted was to go to Eastworth with Julie. To make sure his son was going to be ok. But he couldn't.
He shot ropes out of his wand and bound the werewolf. He gazed down at its still form and glared. Why? Why Matt of everyone at that campground? The anguish and pain that Walter knew was going to come, was starting to inch into his consciousness. He tried to shake it away, but it didn't work.
His son, his youngest child, had been attacked by a werewolf. Brutally attacked. Mercilessly torn at by the creature that Walter had spent his entire adult life working with at the Ministry. The irony of it. The irony that the head of the Werewolf Control Unit's son was bitten by a werewolf and who would now be one himself.
Walter tried to push the pain into the back of his mind as he looked away from the werewolf. He pulled a bit of parchment out of his pocket and muttered to himself as he wrote on it, asking for backup and Obliviators. He pointed his wand at it and it disappeared.
Walter noticed Amy, standing in the shadows with a look of utter shock and disbelief on her face, but couldn't bring himself to say anything. There would be time to talk after. The two of them would Apparate to Eastworth and begin the long journey that was the recovery from a werewolf bite.
The backup and Obliviators arrived a short while later, followed by Muggle police. Walter briefed them on the situation, although he didn't reveal that it was his own son who was bitten. There would be time for that later.
He went through the motions of the aftermath of a werewolf attack. He was there physically, but not mentally. He felt like he was in a fog or was watching the ordeal from a distance. The Muggles were interviewed and then Obliviated. They would go on with their lives, only remembering that there had been an animal attack in the bush that night. The Muggle papers would publish a story about an escaped wolf from a local zoo that had bitten a child, who had made an excellent recovery. The wolf in the story was put down. The Muggles wouldn't remember anything of spells, wands, or Apparition. They would soon forget the whole situation, only to think about it when they returned to the campground.
The Obliviators and Werewolf Control Unit people (with the bound werewolf) left shortly after the Muggle police drove away and the campground returned to normal. They bid Walter a good night and told him to enjoy the rest of his holiday, without any knowledge that the attack had been on his own son.
Soon, Walter was alone again amongst the trees, except for Amy, who was still standing in the same position she had been earlier. Walter slowly walked over to her. She took one look at him and buried her head in his chest, where she sobbed like she hadn't done in years.
Walter stood there and said nothing. He rubbed his hand on his daughter's back, but couldn't think of any words that would comfort her. There weren't any words. Nothing anyone could say would make this better. Matt had been attacked by a werewolf and none of their lives would be the same again.
Once Amy's shaking sobs turned into silent tears, Walter quietly told her they were going to Apparate to the hospital. Amy nodded and Walter tightened his grip on her. He looked up at the sky and the last thing he saw before he Disapparated was the bright, full moon. A phase of moon which had, as it had so many before them, changed his and his family's lives forever.
A/N: Thanks to my sister, Dancer_of_Starlight, for betaing for me!