Chapter 2: Remus: “You may have tricked them into thinking you’re asleep but your heart is beating much too fast, unless you’re having a night mare of course, but you don’t seem to be sweating. But anyway, enough of me rambling, roll over ‘cause I know you’re awake, we need to talk.”
I rolled over and sat up, making room for him to sit on the couch facing me. “How..?” I wasn’t exactly sure how to ask how he could hear so well.
He smiled, it was a nice smile, genuine, then he pointed towards himself, “Heightened senses, especially around the time of the full moon. Sometimes its bothersome but it can really come in handy.” He didn’t give me a chance to talk, instead holding up a hand as if to shush me then his expression changed and his tone became much graver. “Now I know my friends really glossed things over, made it seem as if this situation isn’t so bad but they don’t truly understand. So I want to tell you the truth and how I’m so, so sorry about what I did. I sincerely wish that this was something we could reverse, but we can’t.
“So for the rest of your life, each night of the full moon, you’re going to undergo a very painful transformation. When you become the werewolf you’ll have no control over what you do, you won’t even remember what you do. Before James, Sirius, and Peter started helping me out, I had no way of knowing what I did the night before. I would wake up miles from my house weak and worn out. I’ve never been in proximity with another werewolf before, so I really don’t know how it’s going to be next full moon.”
He really seemed to be struggling with what to say. Along with listening to his words, I tried to capture his emotions through his facial expressions. From what I could glean, he was very much disgusted with being a werewolf. He also seemed very confused with what to say. Finally he stood up and walked over to the bookshelves and began to pull volumes off. He came back over with a stack and set them down on the coffee table. “Here, this is how I learned what I haven’t found out from personal experience. I really have never gotten to tell my point of view on lycanthropy to my friends. They’re always hushing me and telling me it isn’t my fault and how I’m the same as they are. James will refer to it as my furry little problem even, but its not a little problem. It’s huge. Their words are comforting yes, but just, umm, ask me any questions you want, ‘cause I’ll tell it like it is.” He handed me the book off the top of the pile, Fantastic Creatures and Where to Find Them, and grabbed another for himself. “Read the chapter on werewolves, I’ll just be right here trying to research lycanthropy in muggles.”
We spent several hours sitting in the sitting room, poring through the books. Remus was getting really frustrated as he threw down book after book. And I voraciously sped through each successive chapter, trying to figure out just what I was now. All these books seemed to contain information on identifying and killing werewolves, the bloodthirsty habits of these murderous creatures, and how cursed they were in general. I set down the last book, CreaturesMoste Darke and Dangerous, I had, which detailed the transformation of a werewolf, the book was much to maliciously gleeful about how painful the elongating and cracking of bones was, and frankly it turned my stomach. I hadn’t asked Remus any questions so far, he was very immersed in his books as was I, but I was curious. “Are there many of you, I mean, us?”
He looked up from his book and sighed, “No, but I really don’t know, it isn’t like there are conventions. I mean, there was a Registration Act passed a decade or so ago, but my parents never let anyone know, so I never signed. It’s hard enough to find a job where I can take sick leave each month that I don’t need my name on some list that keeps me from getting anything but the lowest of positions.” He paused and was looking out at nothing in particular then turned back to me. “Find anything interesting?”
“Nope. Each book is successively more gruesome. I can’t help but wonder how I’ll even survive a transformation.”
“Don’t worry, Lily’s a excellent hand at potions, she always makes me things to help me endure the aches and pains afterwards, but if you haven’t read this yet, there are no potions or spells that can lessen the pain of the actual transformation. And really, we’ve tried just about everything. There’s a firsthand account from a werewolf in that pile somewhere called Furry Snout, Human Heart that’s really pro-werewolf. Apparently when it first came out it really helped lighten wizard-werewolf tensions, but not much seeing as the Registration Act was still passed.”
He tossed me a small book out of the pile. “Thanks, any luck in your research?”
“None, but there are enough muggle horror films about werewolves to show that it’s happened before, right? I just can’t figure out if there will be any differences, not as if there should be, it’s just, I really don’t like trial and error. I’d much prefer to read up on something, understand it and then give it a try. But next month we’re going to be just completely winging it with you.”
“Well, let’s put it this way, at least I didn’t crawl home somehow and end up massacring my family and the rest of the neighborhood. That’s one thing we’ve done right so far. And, well, with you, you had to just wing it- right?”
He set his book down and I could tell he was wracking his brain. “I don’t remember much from then, I just remember the pain of the transformation and moving here.”
“How old were you when, you know...?”
“Five. So it’s barely within my span of memory. All I know is my dad offended someone at work and they arranged to have Greyback set on me. They didn’t take me to St. Mungo’s, afraid that I would be completely ostracized from the wizarding community, as most werewolves are. But we moved here almost immediately. I’m sure it upset them to leave, my parents were pretty old, even then, and they had lived in that home all their lives together. But to keep the neighbors safe they moved. Ever since then I’ve been here.”
“Wow, you were so young, so you’ve been like this forever basically? And your parents sound like good people. But- what’s a greyback? And St. Mungo’s?”
“St. Mungo’s is our hospital and Greyback is a very foul werewolf, he purposefully transforms near someone who offended him’s property so that he can bite someone in their family- it’s usually children. It’s horrible, there is no offense great enough to earn this kind of life.”
He seemed distraught once again. I could guess why, he hated this Greyback guy so much for biting him and probably plenty others but then he had bitten me. “You’re not like this Greyback, you didn’t set yourself up to attack me. I don’t know you too well, but first impression- you seem okay, and I can’t hate you for this, by the time I fully understand the repercussions of this bite, I’ll also understand how out of control you were.”
“Thanks. Really.” Remus looked thoughtful, now. A more relaxed expression was on his face than before. In a tone lighter than I expected, he continued speaking about Greyback, “You know, before I knew the circumstances, I used to totally pity the werewolf who bit me. I thought that like me, he had no idea what he had caused. Before my dad passed away, he told me it was his fault. That he had refused to misreport numbers or something, some business jargon I did not understand at the time, and it infuriated some man and, well, it was taken out on me. I wasn’t an accident. I was intentional.”
“Well, I was an accident. And we’ll try not to make it again, shall we?” I smiled, trying to lighten the mood. Remus’ story had practically cast a grey cloud atop of the cabin. He looked back at me, a smile close to appearing on his lips, just not quite.
Remus stood up and walked towards the kitchen and when he returned a tea tray was floating beside him. “I hope you aren’t weirded out by the magic, I assume it takes a while to get used to, but I’ve never been good at balancing the tray and would rather not spill it. Tea?”
“Yes, thank you. It’s okay, I’m actually kind of intrigued by it all. I mean, those numbing charms James are fantastic, I can still move my legs but they don’t even hurt- not even sore. And by the looks of these bruises they should really hurt.”
Remus was looking at my bandaged leg with an expression of despair. I knew then that he was going to blame himself for all of this, and that each reminder would tear him apart. I doubted whether anything I could say would help, so I just snapped my fingers in his line of sight which snapped him out of it.
“Sorry! I was just a little lost in thought.”
“No worries. And please, don’t be so obvious in blaming yourself, you didn’t do it on purpose.”
“It’s not just that, I was just thinking, well, it’s stupid really.”
“No, go on, what?”
“Well, I was bit on my leg too, but being a guy, it’s a lot easier to hide the mark. You’re not going to be able hide it, you know?”
“Well, by the looks of it, I’ll be in this house with you and not many places else. So I don’t think I’ll have to hide it much.”
“It’s really for your own good, keeping you here. Maybe sometime down the road you can go home, but for now, Holly, I really think you’re best off here with a bunch of people experienced in this kind of thing. And I don’t mind the company.”
I smiled and went back to sipping my tea. I picked up Furry Snout, Human Heart and started to read. Normally I was quite the chatterbox but the only questions I could think of might be construed as invasive. I really wondered whether or not he worked or even if his friends did. I was pretty sure it was a Saturday so I figured I would find out tomorrow night or Monday morning. I also was very curious about magic but James had something about a statute of secrecy, and I really didn’t want to get them in trouble.
As I read more of the novel and the author spoke of his former family, I began to worry about mine. I had no belongings here- no clothes, no shoes, nothing- but I didn’t know how to get them back without bumping into my parents. They were away this weekend, thankfully, so they wouldn’t discover my disappearance until later tomorrow. I thought about just letting it be just that, a disappearance, but I had no money to even buy new things. If I went back and packed some things up then it would look like I ran away. Either option would break their hearts, which was better a daughter who disappeared or a daughter who ran away?
If I didn’t go back to get my things, then they may come looking for me. They could search the woods and discover Remus’ cabin and then there’d be so much more trouble. So many things could go wrong, did they all discount the fact I had a family?
Without looking up from his book he gave an affirmative “Hmm?”
“I was wondering, well, what exactly are we going to do about my parents?”
“I’ve been wondering that, too. It really is up to you, because well, you’ve already been gone all day and they-“
“Oh no, they were away, visiting my mother’s family, I begged to stay home though because I really don’t know them well, and it’s just so awkward there. They won’t be home until tomorrow.”
He closed his book and stood up, pacing a little. He came to a stop and pivoted back to face me, “Do you want to have run away, been killed, or completely forgotten?”
“What?” I was taken aback by his thought process… forgotten?
“Well, if you had run away, we could just pack up a lot of your things and leave a note. If you had been murdered, we could make it look like that, I’m sure James and Sirius would get a right kick out of staging a murder scene. And the trickiest would be if we removed everything that has to do with you from the house and then erased you from their minds, but there’s way too many loose ends there. Any friends or neighbors stopping by would ruin everything.” He walked back towards the couch and plopped down. “What’ll it be?”
“Well I had only thought of making it look like I had run away or like I had disappeared. But if it looked like I disappeared then they would come looking for me, and find this place which could be disastrous.”
“Oh no, they can’t find this place, it has a couple charms around the boundaries that would keep muggles away.” Seeing my confused look, he explained further, “Lily did them, she’s really good at charms you see, and I’m not exactly sure, but if anyone comes near they’ll feel the need to go in another direction, I’m not exactly sure what she had it look like from the outside, though.”
“Lily did them? Well, why didn’t your parents have protection on it before?”
Remus squirmed a bit in his seat before answering, “Well, they had but when a wizard or a witch dies, some of spells they’ve cast die with them. I had no way of telling whether the anti-muggle charms were still working so once she could, Lily put some up for me.”
“Oh… I’m really sorry about your parents, Remus.”
“No, no, no, it’s been ages, my dad died when I was almost sixteen and my mum three years prior. I only had a year or so before I came of age and I spend most of the year at school anyway, so I wasn’t here all by myself for too long. And I knew how to cook, which really helped.”
“But didn’t you have family to take you in?”
“I think I have some cousins and aunts, but no one that could take me in. Could you imagine? I’d go off to live with an aunt and then they’d have to find out the hard way what I am. It could have had disastrous repercussions. My father made it clear in his will that I was to live alone, he left the house to me and put it something like ‘I raised my boy right and his mother taught him to cook and clean and I taught him to take care of himself, so let him have the house to himself.’” Remus had a reminiscent smile about him.
“He sounds like a good man.”
“Oh, that he was, just a little old, and the stress of me didn’t really help either of them…” He trailed off a little, fidgeting with a string in the side seam of his trousers. “So did you think of how you want to handle your situation?”
I knew I preferred to just make it look as though I had run away, a murder would be much too harsh on their nerves, but I was rather curious about the forgetting thing. Almost as curious as I was vehemently opposed to it. “You said that you could make them forget me?”
“Well, yes, it’d be a rather tricky memory charm, seeing as you’re their daughter. And then there would be all the papers and photos to get rid of. Then, of course, everyone else that knows you too. I must admit, I’d really prefer a different option.”
“Oh me too, is it selfish to rather be remembered as the daughter who left than never known at all?”
“Maybe it is, but I don’t think so. So you’re going to be a runaway then?”
“Yep. Well, no time like the present. Can we go now?”
Remus managed to find an old pair of jeans of his I could wear (mine were destroyed and no amount of patching could save them) but I had to belt them off and quadruple cuff the bottoms. He gave me a cloak to wear over everything and my appearance was really quite silly. The cloak was strange to me, it was like wearing a very long and light jacket, but actually very comfortable.
We had to walk through the woods for a while before we got to my house. The only lights on were the ones that I had left on the night before and none of my neighbors were outside. We crept through the tall grass and then I dashed up onto the back porch, Remus walking calmly behind me. I opened the screen door and waved him on, “Hurry up, Remus!”
He continued walking nonchalantly, then took the door handle from me, and waved me inside, “You’d be surprised how much less likely one is to get caught if one just acts calmly.”
I rolled my eyes and started down the hall towards my room. I pulled out all my duffel bag and started to empty my top drawer. I heard Remus pause as he came to the doorway and I looked up from my packing and gestured him in. “I don’t know how I’m going to get all my clothes into this bag.”
He pointed his wand at my bag and I looked at it, waiting for it to grow or duplicate or something but nothing happened. “Just fill it, ok? Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Umm… in my closet, yeah right there, just take everything off the hangers and throw it in this bag here.” I didn’t look up from emptying my other drawers but I heard him ask what was next. I threw the rest of the socks in the bag and looked over at him and the emptied closet and all the clothes packed up neatly in the bag. I didn’t bother to ask how they all fit or how he did it so fast when I noticed his wand in his hand once again. “Well, if its that easy, why don’t you just pack the rest of it then, all I have left is my shoes, I think. I’ll start writing a goodbye.”
I pulled out a notebook and grabbed a pen off my bedside table. Sitting down I tried to think of what my story would be. I looked around the room, as if looking for inspiration when my eyes settled on Remus. Well, at least it’d be more true than any other mumbo jumbo I could come up with.
Dear Mum and Daddy,
Please always remember that I love you so so much and I am grateful for all that you’ve done for me. I wanted to wait to you came home to tell you in person, but I cannot wait. I’m moving into the city, I’ve been saving up and have enough to sustain me, I’m going to find work and a new life there. I promise I will visit and write you once I am settled in. Please don’t worry about me, you raised me right and now you have to let me prove it. I will miss you so very much and I love you always,
I put my pen down and shrugged my shoulders, it wasn’t my best effort, but it’d have to do. I folded the paper up and looked at Remus, “Ready?”
He nodded and picked up my bags and slung both of them over his shoulder, I protested that I could at least carry one of them, but he wouldn’t hear it. I set the letter down on the kitchen table and locked the back door after we left. Remus led the way back to the cabin but I straggled behind him, trying my best not to cry. It was strange, for never having much change in my entire life to completely changing everything. I didn’t know for sure whether I would be able to return and I didn’t want to ask. I didn’t want to hear more details on my gruesome new life today.
I could see Remus walking ahead of me, but then I knew I just had to turn right and keep walking. The back of my head was screaming at me to keep following him, but my instincts insisted I go this new direction. I couldn’t seem to stop walking away so I shouted for Remus. Seeing me walking away he jolted into a run and grabbed my shoulders. “Where are you going?”
I shook my head and kept crying, eventually I managed to say that I just knew I had to go this way. Realization dawned on his face as he said “Remind me to ask Lily if we can make an exception for you in these charms. It won’t do any good if you can’t even get to where you’re supposed to stay.”
He led me all the way back to the cabin, but I didn’t see it until we were on the front stoop. All this magic was beginning to intimidate me but I knew I had to trust Remus. I vaguely remember him saying he’d cook us some dinner, but I curled back up onto the couch and cried myself to sleep.
Whatever I had just been dreaming about I completely forgot because the pain that woke me up was unbearable. I grabbed my leg where it felt as though I was being electrocuted as jolts of pain emanated from my bite. Clearly, James’ numbing charm wasn’t permanent.
I glanced out the window and could hardly see the trees it was so dark, I really did not want to wake up Remus so I hopped towards the refrigerator, not daring to put any weight on my foot and clenching my jaw so that I wouldn’t cry out. I pulled the freezer door open and glanced inside, hoping for a bag of frozen vegetables. I rummaged through and found some frozen peas, hopped over and grabbed the dishtowel, I wrapped them up. Not having the energy to hop back to my couch I sat down on the cold tile and put the frozen bag on top of my bite.
At first, I couldn’t feel any difference the electric shocks still pulsing out from the bite. It hurt like hell. I pushed the frozen peas more forcefully onto the wound and as the cold numbed my leg the pain subsided, kind of. I sighed and leaned back against the cabinets only to look up and find I wasn’t the only one awake. Remus was standing near my feet just looking at me, at least I think so, it was still dark and hard to see. “Are you okay?”
“Well, now I am, I think the numbing charm wore off. Thank goodness wizards still need freezers or else I wouldn’t have found these-“ I gestured towards the bag of peas, “to numb my leg.”
“Mm… I see, I do think that the shooting pains will go away after a day or so. Let me know if you want me to repreform the numbing charm.”
I really wished that I could see him, but it was just too dark. It was hard to tell how he was feeling by his voice alone. “I think I have it handled for now, thanks. Does, er, does it ever hurt like this again?”
I heard him sit down and could feel that he was on the floor somewhere near me. He sighed, “I really don’t know how to describe it. Before the full moon, its as if the bite mark is just tingling with anticipation. And the wolf starts to affect you too, you get more, let’s say, animalistic. Then there’s the pain of the actual transformation, of course. But after? Afterwards, there’s a mix of exhaustion from not sleeping at all and soreness from the transformation. But is it ever that electrocuting pain again? No, that’s just the pain associated with your body changing from human to werewolf- not what you become during the full moon- but the state I’m in and you’ll be in.”
“It’s hard to explain really, it’s as if inside you there is another thing, that gets more present the closer it gets to the full moon. Basically it’s my excuse for when I’m quick tempered and edgy the few days before. But it’s not entirely an excuse, in a couple of weeks, you’ll understand.”
I didn’t want to find out in a couple weeks, I didn’t want to find out ever. I looked over at him and realized that I could see him, my eyes must have become accustomed to the dark. He wasn’t looking directly back at me though, instead his eyes were once again locked on the scars and bruises on my legs. I glanced down and realized that the frozen peas had slipped off but my leg didn’t feel as though someone had jabbed a downed power line into an open wound on it. Remus spoke again, “I’m sorry.”
It seemed like every conversation I had with him included him apologizing at least one time. Frankly, it made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure how to forgive him directly and also I worried that he was pitying me, something I really did not want. “Seriously, Remus, stop apologizing. This seems to be kind of a done deal and I’d rather hear something else out of your mouth, okay?”
He shrugged slightly, “If you say so, how about we go back to bed now though. Knowing my friends, even though I said not to come back for a couple of days, they’ll be here bright and early tomorrow.”
He had stood up and was standing above me, arm outstretched to help pull me up. I was really wary about putting weight on my bitten leg still and rather than bend both legs into a kind of tuck to make it easier to stand up, I left that leg limp and grabbed Remus’ hand. He didn’t pull me up like I expected but bent down and slung me up into his arms, carrying me like a child. I squirmed a little and whined “You didn’t have to do that! I can walk all by myself!”
He smiled as he walked me back toward the couch, “Oh really? I see you favoring your one leg, so I decided to favor the other. Keeps things even, can’t have one getting jealous, you know?”
I laughed at his joke and then laughed even harder when instead of setting me down gently he just let me drop on the couch. He smiled and said “We’ll add a room for you tomorrow, can’t have you living out of a duffel bag forever. But tonight you’ll have to deal with the shabby old couch.”
“Shabby isn’t a bad thing, it just means it’s been broken in.” He didn’t say anything as he walked back towards his room, but through the dark I could see his happy expression. I snuggled beneath the blanket and made myself comfortable and after a few minutes I heard a voice come from the other room, it was quiet and I was surprised I even heard it.