Time To Understand
- Story Summary:
- A story of what could have happened the day Remus Lupin became a werewolf, and first met Alastor Moody, thirty-odd years ago...
- Author's Note:
- This is actually a detailed arrangement of some vague ideas I had in my head for the backstory of "my" Lupin -- most of the stories I write about him, he has a similar background, though his presents may be different from each other. It was written for an LJ community, 15minuteficlets, and we don't talk about the fact that it went ten minutes over :D
Well, not anymore.
He used to, when he was a child. He lived on a farm and his mother kept chickens for the eggs -- fresh eggs, with shells so thick you had to really crack them against the pan to get them open. She never liked killing them, though, so Remus learned young from his father and brother how to hold it still, swing the axe, scald the body and pluck -- he can still remember the soft underdown floating through the air, his father's blunt-fingered hands pulling the feathers.
That night when he cocked the rifle it was like the sound of eggs cracking in the pan.
He'd only been eight but you learned to do a lot of things young, on a farm, and his father had taught him when he was six how to load and fire a Muggle rifle, in case, god forbid, he ever had to.
That night Rufus had thought it would be good practice for the lad; there was something at the chickens, and all it would take were some warning shots from the porch steps. Anything that'd pilfer chickens probably wouldn't come inside the houseyard.
Remus was so proud his father was going to let him do something all on his own -- though he knew he was being carefully watched from behind the back door screen.
He cocked the rifle -- crack! and fired it, over the roof of the henhouse, a warning shot.
The hens started screaming.
He saw a shadow -- he'd always had excellent night-eyes -- and expelled the empty shell, raising the stock to his shoulder to fire the other barrel. He saw it impact even as he heard his father gasp, and then the thing got back up papa it got back up and his father was coming forward to protect him as he ran up the steps to the porch but something burning hot and painful had him by the leg --
The rifle was pried out of his hands, swung again and again until the wood splintered and finally the thing that had him let go, and rushed off into the fields beyond the henhouse --
Joseph Catrail was woken from a deep sleep by the sound of someone pounding frantically on his door, and tumbled down the steps in his pyjamas to find Rufus Lupin, face pale, shirt stained with blood.
"Jesus God, Lupin, what the hell happened to -- " he saw the man's face, and his eyes widened. "Is it Anne?"
"Remus," Lupin croaked. "Werewolves."
Catrail grabbed the bag he kept by the door and followed Lupin outside, Apparating once they were on the porch.
The boy was still conscious, which was good, and Anne was doing what little country-magic medicine she could for him, a simple replenishing potion and a badly stammered attempt at a healing charm. She'd cut the trousers off, too, and was washing the wound.
A clean bite, no tearing, just jaws closing and then opening again -- he could save the leg. Anne followed his orders to the letter while Rufus and Richard did what they could.
When he finally looked up from the gore and blood -- werewolf bites resisted healing, and he'd had to resort to a couple of Muggle techniques -- he saw that none of them had been idle while he worked.
Rufus was loading bullets into his rifle, and Richard was packing the same into an antique but well-kept pistol. Anne was bent over the fire.
"What're you doing, Rufus?" Catrail asked cautiously. Rufus tossed him a bullet. Nearby, Remus moaned and tried to move away.
Silver, of course. That was what Anne was doing over the fire. Melting silver. Sickles; not pure, but once melted, pure enough to kill a werewolf.
"You can't mean to hunt it down yourself, Lupin -- you've got to call the Aurors -- "
"By the time they get here it'll be gone," Rufus answered ruthlessly, taking the bullet back and shoving it in his pocket. "You're welcome to come, but I'm going with or without you."
"Listen to reason, your wife's already nearly lost a child today -- "
"I'll kill it before someone else does."
"Your son's hurt, Rufus!"
Rufus looked him in the eye. "He going to live?"
"Yes, but -- "
"Some other man's son might not be so lucky. Richard." Rufus held out a hand, and his other son put the pistol into it. Rufus offered it butt-first to Catrail.
"I'm sorry, Rufus. I swore an oath," Catrail said softly.
"Your choice," Rufus answered.
None of them moved to stop him.
"The Aurors need to know, especially if this doesn't end tonight," Catrail said, when he was gone. "Anne, do you want me to -- Anne, come on now..."
Anne, who had been silent and grave before, began to weep, and Richard -- he was only twelve, for god's sake, and Remus only eight, clever, sturdy little boys -- Richard moved to comfort her. Catrail stood haplessly in the middle of the floor, Remus laid out on the table behind him.
"I'll fetch someone," he said softly. "Someone discreet," he added, knowing that for them this was not now a consideration, but would be one day. Werewolves were shunned in the Wizarding World.
He Apparated from the front steps, directly into the hallway of a boardinghouse that catered to Aurors, most of whom traveled extensively. Number nineteen had an old acquaintance of his...
When he knocked, a serious-faced young man answered the door.
"I'm sorry to take you away so late," he said. "I need you to come with me. There's been an attack. On a child."
Alastor Moody didn't ask any questions. He simply grunted, and reached for his traveling robes.
When Remus awoke, the house was quiet, insanely quiet; in the yard not a chicken clucked, not a goat brayed. There was no clatter of his mother's breakfast dishes, no roar of his father to get up, his sons couldn't be lazing abed all day when there were chores and school to get to.
He pushed himself up on his elbows, wincing as fire raced down his left leg. Something had attacked him -- oh, papa was going to kill him --
"Good morning, lad," said an unfamiliar voice. A man was sitting on the ottoman in his room, carving something with a wicked-looking knife.
"Good morning, sir," he answered, in his best polite-to-strangers voice. The man looked up, and two dark eyes regarded him seriously.
"Know where you are?"
"In my bed," Remus stammered. "A -- aren't I?"
"Aye lad. That you are." The knife snapped shut, and vanished, along with the carving. "D'you remember last night?"
Remus flipped the covers off his leg, examining the tight white bandages interestedly. "Something bit me."
"Does it hurt?"
The man stood and walked to the bed, looking down. "Lad, I need to show you something," he said. "May I pick you up?"
Remus nodded, confused, and felt thick, muscular arms around his body, lifting him. He winced as the fire in his leg flared again, but tried not to show it.
This strange man, with his dark eyes and scarred hands, carried him to the window. Down below stood his father, and Dr. Catrail, and his mum and brother, surrounding what looked like --
"What is it?" he asked, in a hushed voice.
"What bit you," the man said. "Yer father blew its head clean off," he added approvingly.
Yes, a headless body. Remus turned away, pressing his face into the man's robes.
"A person didn't bite me," he said shakily. One of the hands moved up to stroke his hair.
"No, my boy," said Alastor Moody, still looking down on the corpse. Anne was holding Richard tightly, and Rufus and Catrail were speaking in low voices. "A werewolf did."
The child shivered, in his arms, and he carried him back to the bed. There would be time for explanations later; there would be time for the boy to understand, but right now he had wanted him to see the body, to know that it couldn't hurt him.
Any more than it already had.