Moonlight reflected off the curious eyes of a silver-grey wolf as he approached his target, examining it closely. He had never seen a unicorn up close. Its long horn appeared iridescent, and its mane glowed gold under the full moon. The wolf approached it slowly and silently, trying to see how near it would allow him to come. As gold eyes locked with black, the two creatures heard, loud as thunder in the stillness, the sound of paws crunching the snow as a large midnight-black shaggy dog playfully bounded to join his wolf friend. Moony growled in annoyance. Padfoot had scared off the unicorn for good, but his tail was still wagging in pleasure. They continued to make their way through the forest.
Moony dared to venture closer to the school than ever before, knowing its emptiness provided him with safety. It was very early Christmas morning, when children all across Britain were snuggled into their warm sheets, dreaming enthusiastically about the gifts they would discover after dawn. However, there were always exceptions. At the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland, these two students were spending a long and cold Christmas Eve night in the Forbidden Forest, eagerly awaiting sleep at dawn.
Remus Lupin had been dismayed to find that the full moon fell on Christmas Eve and even more dismayed to find that James, Peter, and Lily had all planned to go home. Sirius Black loyally promised to find a way to stay with him, no matter how disappointed his family would be. So Padfoot and Moony were now nearing the end of a long winter night romping through ice-encrusted snow when Moony suddenly stopped to listen and to sniff the air. They were being stalked, and it smelled like another wolf.
Moony slowly turned back to the forest's border, sharp lupine eyes searching for movement between the dark trees. Padfoot stayed where he was, unwilling to interrupt another mock hunt. The wolf creeped nearer to its goal, which stepped before him boldly, locking its eyes with his in challenge. He discovered that it was no more a natural wolf than he was. Moony bared his teeth and growled viciously. The form before him was unfamiliar, but the smell was that of an enemy. He instinctively poised to lunge at it, despite what his human mind commanded, and the other werewolf backed off before escaping at full speed.
Padfoot investigated the violent sounds and found himself the new target of Moony's aggression. His friend advanced on him without recognition, snarling and snapping. Padfoot wanted to help but knew that he was in serious peril. He ran to the castle, thankfully unpursued but feeling guilty at abandoning his friend.
Remus struggled to control himself. The blood pounding in his ears had desperately urged him to attack the werewolf, then it had turned on his companion upon losing the enemy. He had turned into a dangerous and vicious beast with an urge that was intensely painful to resist. He forced his adrenaline to use, running in a wild blur to enter the Whomping Willow, deftly avoiding its branches, and wriggling through the long tunnel back to the safety of the Shrieking Shack.
Moony smashed everything around him in blind rage, busting a hole in the wall and chewing the furniture to splinters. Finally, his violent impulses still unsatiated, he turned on himself, agitatedly biting and clawing at his own limbs. The wolf was still furious at being denied his enemy and demanded release. Just as he sank to the floor in exhaustion, the agony of transformation came upon him, and he became a bloody, battered human. Christmas dawn had come.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Sirius hesitantly entered the Shack, looking brave but feeling terrified at what he might find. The cottage was demolished with huge holes and claw marks in the walls and bits of splintered furniture everywhere. Sirius had never seen such damage in his life. He had never seriously considered the gory fate that could await him if something went wrong with the werewolf and admitted to himself it was too terrible for even Snape. He'd never thought Remus would try to hurt him and never believed him capable of such destruction. He steeled himself and called his friend's name as he climbed up the stairs. He was answered by a human cry of pain.
He found Remus curled up in a corner on the floor, shaking. He was in worse shape than Sirius had ever seen him before. His naked body was covered in dirt, and blood oozed from tattered skin on all his limbs. Sirius started to hyperventilate. No, stay calm. I have to help. He needs me. He touched Remus's shoulder, which jerked violently in response.
"Please," he rasped, "help me."
Sirius forced down his fear. "I'll get you to the nurse. It'll be okay. Can you move?"
"No! Don't want... anyone... to see me." Remus failed to get to his feet, collapsing back onto the floor.
"Er... Good thing I've been practicing." Sirius's hand shook as he pointed his wand at the worst wounds on the werewolf's left arm. Golden light enveloped the arm and faded. The bleeding had stopped, and the wounds had become mottled red scars. "I hope you haven't broken any bones."
Remus shook his head, then grabbed it in painful regret, so Sirius healed the deep cut on the side of his head next. After a few minutes, Remus was stiff, sore, and very cold, but he was no longer bleeding. "I really don't know what I'm doing," his friend admitted, "but you look much better. Please go to the nurse if I screwed up."
Remus smiled a little and got to his feet. "I'm ready to go back now." He draped himself in Sirius's proffered cloak, looking much more human.
It was a long, slow journey, but they managed together. Remus was never so glad to have his packmate as he sunk into his bed, still dirty and hungry but exhausted.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Remus was so tiny, and the wolf was so huge. It pinned him in an instant, crushing his chest with his paws after only a single shriek of terror. The razor-sharp teeth were inches away, and the boy threw up his arms, trying as hard as he could to fend off his attacker. He beat futilely at the giant animal in a blind panic. "I'll never go into the woods again!" he tried to scream, but he couldn't draw breath. The monstrous teeth lanced his shoulder swiftly, then ripped at his left arm, and the claws tore at his chest. A white blaze of agony fogged his vision as Remus heard a shot from a wand crack the air nearby. The wolf sprinted away, leaving a crumpled dying heap of a bloody child on the grass, in too much shock to cry, who wanted only for the pain to end.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Remus awoke screaming with arms flailing before he realized he was safe in bed in his dorm at Hogwarts. Sirius gasped. "I-I brought you some food." He held out a napkin with a steak sandwich in it. "If you don't get up, you'll miss dinner too."
Remus's eyes seemed out of focus as he assimilated his surroundings. "You helped me."
Sirius grew really nervous now. Something was still wrong with Remus. "Yes, I brought you back this morning. Do you remember what happened?"
"There was another wolf... Enemy! I have to find him. I know him." Remus shot out of bed, still only half coherent.
"Slow down! Get cleaned up, and go eat something. That wolf probably lives in the forest. He isn't going anywhere."
"I have to leave!" Remus shoved him out of the way.
"Will you tell me what's going on? What's wrong with you? And it's Christmas, did you forget?"
Remus's eyes became more human. "Christmas? I missed Christmas."
Sirius gave him a hug. "It's not over yet. Now, come on."
Remus was silent at the dinner banquet, eating but looking only at his food in deep concentrated thought. He was bundled in a high-necked sweater with his brown hair covering his face so no one at the table could notice his new scars. Sirius watched over him protectively, smiling at Dumbledore when he began to scrutinize Remus. "Hard moon," he whispered, and the ancient professor relaxed a little.
That night, Remus opened his Christmas presents happily, but he still seemed preoccupied. Finally, he stared at Sirius, trying to read his emotions. "I am so sorry about last night. I was out of control. I think... that I need to stay in the Shack alone from now on. I could have killed you... or bitten you." His tone indicated that he felt that the latter possibility was much worse.
Sirius took a deep breath. "You can't be alone. I don't want to EVER see you like that ever again, so I'll take the chance. Are you ready to explain to me what happened with that wolf? I've never seen you react that way to anything."
Remus fell back into silence, and Sirius gave up. He wasn't going to get any answers today.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Remus waited until Sirius's soft snores filled the empty dormitory before he got out of bed. He knew that werewolf, and he had to find him again, and he wasn't exactly sure why. James's invisibility cloak proved useful once more, as he hunted his prey in the forest. His senses were still alert, but not nearly so much as if he were still a wolf. After several hours with no sign, he was beginning to wonder if his pursuit was useless. In human form, the werewolf he sought was unlikely to be wandering around the woods at night. No, he had to know the truth. He had to find the werewolf. He was unwilling to give up, a strange hatred driving him faster. Soon, he spotted a dilapidated old shed at the far edge of the forest, and the hairs on the back of his neck let him know that he'd reached his destination.
His heart pounded, and his vision blurred with both fear and fury. He threw open the door and threw off the cloak to see a blond longhaired teenager in tattered robes sitting on a crate near a bonfire, absorbed a book. His wolf senses told him to attack, but Remus was confused. He seems perfectly normal. As incensed as Moony had been, he had been expecting the werewolf to be a wild-looking madman, not this pleasant-looking young man with fair skin who looked up in shock and sputtered, "What are you doing here?"
They stared at each other in silence for a moment. "I know you. You're the one who bit me," Remus blurted out stupidly, his human side just realizing it. His brain felt numb from surprise both from the discovery and the appearance of the werewolf. He was only a few years older than Remus. Only the wolf had recognized him, because he'd never seen his human form before. He wasn't evil, and he wasn't even familiar. Moony's desire to destroy his enemy began to fade.
"Bit you? How could you--" The man dropped his book and stared at him. "You mean... when I was a kid... You're the one. And you saw me last night and came to find me, didn't you?." He looked like he was about to flee.
Moony's wolf rage resurfaced. He wasn't about to lose his prey again until he got the answers he needed. Wand forgotten, he physically restrained the older man, grabbing his arm, and forcing him close. "You admit it, then! You were in England! How did you get here? Why did you let it happen? ANSWER ME!" he screamed into his face.
The young man whimpered involuntarily. "It was an accident. I'm so sorry. I was just a kid, and it was my first full moon. I didn't know I was a werewolf yet. I was just looking for other kids to play with, and then I changed. I was on the run for a long time after that because the Ministry found out about me. Then I heard about a man named Dumbledore who let werewolves stay here, in the forest. I haven't been here very long. I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. Let me tell you about myself. I've been so alone. We can talk."
All his life, Remus had wondered who attacked him, who had dared to try to kill a young child so close to his own backyard. The werewolf had only been a little older than himself, an ignorant child. It wasn't part of an evil plan; it was just a meaningless accident. And it left him feeling so empty.
Remus recognized the difficult life this boy had lived, but he didn't care. He felt selfishly certain that he had deserved it. He had destroyed Remus's entire future on the night he bit him. There would be no comfort in his life. No wife, no family, just a few fleeting friends until he reached his rapidly approaching adulthood. This man had taken everything from him. Remus would always live hunted and hungry, striving futilely for normality. No, he didn't care to talk to the werewolf any longer, didn't even care to learn his name. He raised his eyes, steadily meeting the other's, masking his pain. Slowly and clearly, he replied, "You should have killed me." He released his arm and walked away, never to return in idle pursuit of empty answers, leaving the other man alone in his miserable existence. Werewolves are always alone.
* * * * * * * * * * *
(A/N: This is set during the Marauders' seventh year at Hogwarts. I didn't check the lunar cycle for that December, so just please overlook that discrepancy. Remus hasn't quite matured into the professor he'll become. Originally, this was supposed to be a bit more of a mystery, but I figured I'd better make it clearer.)