Bedside Chat

Disclaimer: The following is not purely original fiction, but rather characters, settings, and situations as created by J.K. Rowling. I will return all characters in fairly decent condition. No money is being made of this piece of fanfiction and can not be reproduced for any purposes but strictly private entertainment.

A/N: I seem to have a fling for 'hospital visit' stories as of late, especially ones where at least one person isn't quite right in the head. So here's a shameless sponsor plug for my original short story, 'An Elephant Never Forgets', found at It's storyid: 1322085

            It was both Arthur Weasley's blessing and curse that he had married a woman sharp and straight as an arrow.

            Of course, it was solely Molly Weasley's blessing that she was so observant. Between her seven children and her husband, that particular trait was much needed, and the sort of voice that could occasionally quail the Weasley twins, even when not raised, never hurt.

            'Well – now don't get upset, Molly – '

            Bill winced dramatically. He knew well enough that those were some very ominous words. Remus and Moody exchanged a glance, and Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody, who had devoted his whole life to dangerous things that threatened to end it, backed a few steps away from the bedside.

            ' – but Augustus Pye had an idea… He's the Trainee Healer, you know, lovely young chap – '

            There was an idea, Remus thought, remembering the quick words he'd exchanged with Pye. Opportunity was knocking.

            ' – and very interested in… um… complementary medicine – '

            Hermione raised an eyebrow.

            '… I mean, some of these old Muggle remedies…'

            Bill started eying the door. Ron had gripped Harry's arm and pulled him back. No one dared glance at Molly to see her reaction.

            '… well, they're called stitches, Molly, and they work very well on – '

            Molly started vocally reacting.

            Arthur went on, faltering: ' – on Muggle wounds – '

            Those words were temporarily the end of him, as his wife let out a horrible noise, half-scream, half-snarl.

            'Cup of tea – didn't have much for lunch – ' Bill muttered distractedly, hurrying toward the door.

            Remus decided that opportunity had stopped politely knocking and was now pounding on the door. Not only was Molly in a rage a sight that struck fear into the most Gryffindor of Gryffindor hearts, but obviously Arthur was going to have all the company he needed for a few moments. Their vows of induction into the Order didn't include standing by when Molly was about to give her husband the works. Even discussing the Werewolf Code of Conduct lost some of its distastefulness as compared to that.

            'Yeah,' George agreed, he and Fred being the only ones with enough nerve to grin. 'Good for growing boys and all…' They bounded to follow Bill out.

            The patient next to Arthur seemed to be the only one in the whole ward who wasn't preparing for a thunderstorm. From the corner of his eye, Remus had seen him watching their small crowd vaguely, although he seemed totally unaware of the brewing trouble. Too apathetic to notice; Remus knew the sort.

            He didn't look much past forty, at least, if you took away the fact the results of having neglected his grooming and life in general for about a week now. Was on the ashy side, to be expected; but what Remus hadn't wanted to see, he saw. The man's eyes were flat and dull.

            Pye had mentioned a little about the patient to him. Remus hated talking to other werewolves just on that pretext; it seemed so contrived and always felt very uncomfortable. On the other hand, there was a shot at redemption. He knew very well his greatest fault – cowardice in speaking up when he knew speaking up was the better course of action. And the man really did look painfully alone.

            'Merry Christmas,' Remus told him, more quiet than cheerful – just loud enough to not be drowned out by Molly.

            The patient looked up and eyed him with severe distrust. 'Haven't you read the clipboard?'

            'Oh, absolutely not. I know from experience that reading St Mungo's clipboards is fairly depressing, especially considering you've been here a week, which means it's serious.'

            'Read it and get the hell out of here.'

            From the corner of his eye, Remus saw Harry jump from his seat, and Hermione, Ginny, and Ron joined him in a half-run to the door. He smiled to himself; he'd known it wasn't just favouritism that made him insist that the four were intelligent.

            He pulled himself back to his task. 'Might as well know – '

            'WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THAT'S THE GENERAL IDEA?' Molly shrieked, making everyone in the ward (including the recent werewolf) jump.

            'What's with her?' the patient asked, wide-eyed.

            Remus took a moment to mentally shower Molly with benedictions. Curiosity was good, much better than apathy. Then he smiled. 'Mrs Weasley has her ways of keeping her husband in line,' he said mildly, turning obediently back to the clipboard. 'It's worked for some years now, so she must be doing something right.'

            'But screaming like that – ' But his fascination with the scene ended and his face turned stony as he saw Remus examining the clipboard. 'Satisfied now?' he snapped.

            'Certainly. I know your name now, Mr Morphe.'

            'You know other stuff too, I bet,' Morphe growled under his breath. 'Like how I could bite you right now.'

            'I quiver.' Remus chuckled. 'Yes, I do. So the stitches actually worked on you?'

            'The bloke was able to try it, seeing as it was an emer – wait,' he cut himself off, frowning. Then he said, still sullen, 'I know who you are. You're the one that idiot Weasley mentioned, aren't you?'

            'That idiot Weasley?' Remus repeated, mildly, but obviously taking offence.

            Morphe jerked his head to where Molly was scolding Arthur, in a lower voice, but one that went on continuously. 'If they've been married that long, then he ought to know not to get her upset.' He kept saying her in a rather respectful, awed tone. (Remus could hardly blame him.)

            'They have their disagreements,' Remus shrugged. 'Arthur's a bit of a fanatic about everything Muggle – Molly usually doesn't approve.'

            'You're a – a lycanthrope,' Morphe said, accusingly.

            'Guilty as charged. But you really might as well saw "werewolf"; I know it sounds a bit harsher, but it's much easier to spell and pronounce.'

            Morphe's deep blue eyes were fixated on him. He had flinched at the word 'werewolf'. 'No,' he muttered.

            'Yes. It hurts a little, not a very pretty way of putting it. When I was first bitten, hearing that word was like receiving a knife wound. After a while it turned into a sting. Now it prickles, just the smallest bit.'

            'When were you bitten?' Morphe asked, curious in spite of himself.

            'I was six. Thirty-five now. That makes it twenty-nine years.' Remus spoke in an upbeat tone.

            Morphe looked anything but upbeat. He was scrutinising Remus, and Remus felt that he was failing inspection. Then he muttered something.

            'Sorry, didn't catch that.' Remus leaned in; Molly had temporarily calmed down, but Arthur had said something else – maybe estimating an unfavourable recovery period – and she was starting again.

            'You look older than me, and I'm forty-three. Thirty years and finally it just prickles, hmm.'

            That flat monotone was getting on Remus's nerves.

            'And in thirty more years, maybe I just won't care altogether,' Remus said cheerfully.

            'And maybe you'll be dead.'

            'A few months yet, and it'll be thirty years since I was told that if I survived adolescence it would be a miracle. Then I was told that seeing my thirtieth birthday would be an accomplishment. Listen, are you receiving any visitors at all today?'

            Morphe shook his head.

            'Surely you have family?' He said it in very practised tones, ones rehearsed on prideful teenage students. Concerned, but not worried or overbearing. Optimistic, but not overly so.

            'Sure. Sure, I've family.' Morphe brightened, and Remus congratulated himself on changing the subject. ''n fact – have to leave?'

            'No, not now.'

            'Nightstand drawer. Few pictures in there.'

            Remus retrieved them obligingly.

            'That one there's my son. Looks like a bright thing, don't you think? Working in Muggle relations now, Jack is... always an independent-thinking lad. We taught 'em to know their own minds. There's a picture of the whole family some ten, twelve years back – look how little they were. There's my wife next to me. Ex-wife. Divorced. Look at the next one – don't worry, there aren't many – but look at that.' He was proud, a proud father. 'That's my girl. Pretty, isn't she? And cleverer than anything.'

            Morphe obviously expected him to answer, used to admiration for his daughter. It took Remus a moment. Something – not quite bile, but something – had temporarily clogged his throat. Probably just sheer jealousy.

            Remus loved children, always had. The Werewolf Code of Conduct spoke loudly and clearly, though, the one this man had refused so far to sign. The Code that had sterilised Remus had an age before he knew what it meant, the one that had barred him after the first war. Harry wasn't the only child who had needed a home, and Dumbledore had already insisted on keeping him with his blood protection. But there were others. Others who were still in group homes – fancy term for orphanage; group home is to orphanage as lycanthrope is to werewolf. Of course, he could scarcely provide for himself – but that's why adopting one of the war babies had been so ideal. Many had been provided for. They just needed a home.

            He'd always trained himself not to look at a woman twice.

            And this man wallowing in self-pity had at least been spared insofar as that he already had his two children. There wouldn't even be a trial for suitably of custody; they were of age.

            Finally Remus found his voice. 'She is. And she looks clever.'

            'She is. Only Ravenclaw our family ever had. Mostly Hufflepuffs, we were, a Gryffindor or two. And a Slytherin on her mum's side, but of course we don't mention that much.'

            'You told them not to come, didn't you,' Remus said flatly. For a moment he hated Morphe. Only for a moment, and later he was ashamed of it, but he had felt it: hate, the genuine emotion, nothing less.

            Morphe started laughing a shaky, insane laugh, just as Molly started up again. 'Of – Of course! Why, Why, Jack, I used to tell him horror stories featuring werewolves. Running family in-joke.' His voice grew shrill. 'But I tell you he's – he'd never – Merlin! And – Rory – an, an Auror now.' He physically shook his head to clear pending mental torture. 'Aurors kill werewolves. Everyone knows that mantra.'

            'That so?' Remus asked lightly. He glanced up, wondering if Moody had sat through enough of the martial unbliss. Moody had heard Morphe, met Remus's eye with both of his own, and nodded. 'Mad-Eye,' he called casually. 'Just having a Christmas chat with Mr Morphe over here. Mind telling if you've any notion of killing me?'

            'I'm afraid not, Lupin,' Moody said irreverently. 'Not your friend either. Hope you both can deal with that.'

            Remus gave him a mock bow and turned solemn-faced to Morphe, who was eying Moody with respect. The man was a legend, after all. 'Well, there you have it.'

            Morphe shook his head. 'Alastor Moody hasn't been an Auror for about twelve years now.'

            Remus refrained – barely – from rolling his eyes heavenward. Most fortunately, Moody was clunking his way over.

            'Now you listen here, Mr Morphe,' Moody said in his low, gravelly tones. 'That's not fair. I'm more an Auror than many of your daughter's colleagues.  I knew Lupin fifteen years ago and didn't try to kill him then, either. Current Aurors Shacklebolt and Tonks haven't shown any homicidal tendencies either, have they, Lupin?'

            'No, I don't think so,' Remus said, still sardonically sober, shaking his head.

            'I don't know you, and I don't feel much like killing you. Not until you do something tom-fool at the full moon, and even then I don't kill lessen I have to.' Moody's eye was whizzing, and Remus got the impression that Morphe was paying more attention to that than to Moody's words. But then his daughter's name called him to attention. 'And if I know Auror Rorin Morphe the way I think I do, then she'll be thinking the same way as me. And I think she'd like to come see you.' Moody's eye stopped; both were fixed – temporarily – on Morphe. Then he straightened. 'Hope that clears a few things up.'

            'Thanks very much,' Remus said, 'I think it does.'

            'Lupin, tell me quick before I risk my neck again back there,' said Moody, pointing behind his shoulder at the Weasleys. 'How much damage will those gizmos Potter gave Weasley do?'

            'Arthur doesn't have any outlets, so about the only harm they'll really do is in how much Molly opposes them.'

            Moody rolled his real eye. 'Figures.' He went back over to Molly and whispered something in her ear.

            'We taught 'em to be pragmatic-like, you know,' Morphe was speculating wretchedly. 'What d'you think they'll think?'

            'Do they know?'

            'Yeah. Yes, healers sent them a letter.'

            'You haven't written them? They might think things are more serious than they are. And you haven't gotten a Howler? A letter saying how they're going to change their names?'

            Morphe laughed. Remus personally didn't think it that amusing. 'No.'

            'It'll be awkward. That's to be expected. But it'll be okay. If Moody says Rory won't mind, she won't.' He hoped this wouldn't prove to be inaccurate, and didn't think it would.

            Suddenly Morphe jumped again. 'Have you looked at the last picture?'

            'Oh – no, actually, let's see.'

            'Torn, isn't it? Had them on me when – you know – that's the witch I'm seeing.' There was a moan deep in his voice. 'I was going to ask her to marry me. Thought I'd propose today, Christmas, you know.'

            Remus set the picture of the young, pretty witch down along with the others on the top of Morphe's nightstand. 'You'll not be able to propose until you sign the Code,' he said, quite glad to find an opening for what Augustus Pye had mentioned.

            This time Morphe did moan. 'Oh, Merlin!'

            'It has been a week now,' Remus persisted. Four days after the bite his parents had signed the Code in his stead, and Remus, in turn and in his new status, had signed a parchment stating his subordination to his guardians in the matter of the Code in shaky, large, untidy six-year-old cursive. At sixteen and eighteen he'd signed again, the coming-of-age for wizards and werewolves respectively.

            'They have to give some time.'

            'A week's time, don't you think?'

            'I've been looking around!' Morphe said defencively, with a perilous desperation. 'There's treatments!'

            Remus laughed hollowly and spoke in a fast, low voice. 'Which treatments are we talking about? The one where they scour the bite with burning silver? I assure you that one didn't work and my heart nearly stopped. And the witch-doctor routine with the twirling and herbs at various times of the month was amusing, at least. The one where they chain you down and attempt to kill the werewolf at full moon without killing the person? Oh, there were plenty. None of those are allowed within St Mungo's, and that's because my father tried them all, and within four years I spent eighteen months in here recovering from those treatments.'

            They might have thought Molly Weasley had been a show, but she was nothing compared to what had occurred almost thirty years earlier. The faint spirit of his Annie Lupin's shriek probably still lived on in the Tassos Wilbury ward.

            It had been after his father had tried the silver-on-the-bite one. He had then panicked and sent Remus to his uncle, who had wasted all of five minutes before taking him to St Mungo's, a place he'd been all too familiar with by then. Meanwhile his uncle had also written his sister, Remus's mother, who was also in St Mungo's. She had suffered extensive injuries during the werewolf attack trying to protect her son. More serious was the psychological damage, wrought both by the trauma and by her husband. It was this that ensured that she never completely healed – except, perhaps, for when she died, in Remus's first year.

            Remus had not known either of his parents was in there. He hadn't known much of anything, really; he was in a lot of pain and a heavy stupor brought on by potions. He had just managed to fall asleep (the healers refused to give him a Sleeping Draught, adding to whatever else was mucked up in his system from the quack his father had taken him to) when he'd heard his mother – his mother, two wards away, who had never raised her voice in her life.


            Only the fifth floor had not heard every word of that. Overwrought mothers, especially witches, could twist all known laws of nature without even realising it.

            The only good thing to have come out of that was that his father stopped the mad search for a cure. From then on, his mother led the fight to find a sedative that both worked and didn't made Remus sick, which had proved elusive. Of course, when this blatant truth had hit his father, arrangements had been made to legally change Remus's name from his father's to his mother's – Lupin. To protect his siblings from extended prejudice – Solomon Niocles, the brother who had died before Remus had been born, and Althea, who moved to France.

            Remus was not a big fan of wonder treatments.

            Morphe's face had darkened. 'So that's why… they said it was because I hadn't gotten here wit'in the hour after moonset…'

            'Oh, the aconite one. Actually, that has been proved to work, but yes, it has to be within the hour of the first transformation.'

            'I told them to try it anyway – no one really knew what time moonset really was – but they wouldn't.' Morphe shot a look of loathing at Healer Smethwyck, who was wrapping up fallen bandages in a perfectly innocent way.

            'Healer Smethwyck was the trainee when my treatments were backfiring,' Remus said. 'I sympathise with his desire not to deal with it again.'

            'So I would have died,' Morphe shrugged.

            'Died, or been quite ill.'

            'Or it might've cured me.'

            Remus raised his eyebrows. 'And you'd really rather have taken that risk?'

            Morphe shot him an incredulous look from hollow eyes. 'If they'd known it when you were bit, you wouldn't've?'

            'I wasn't old enough to make the decision. But I would have missed out on quite a bit if I had died, that's for certain.'

            Morphe studied him. 'Lupin,' he muttered, and then, 'oh, all right, I place you now. You were the professor Dumbledore took on that one year. He apparently let you into school and everything. Much good it did, of course, you were sacked in the end.'

            'I resigned,' Remus said, not without dignity.


            'Resigned. Not sacked. In fact, I was quite afraid that Professor Dumbledore would not fire me, which would have resulted in quite a few children being withdrawn from the school, many of them refusing to admit my authority and learning nothing, and perhaps another incident where I endangered one – or more – of the students.'

            He was given a stare for his piece.

            'You're strange,' Morphe said at last, and Remus couldn't help a slight smile. There were few higher compliments to pay a Marauder, although of course Morphe couldn't know that. 'So you didn't want to die so that you would have the opportunity to resign from Hogwarts and sign away your humanity.'

            'Not necessarily in that order,' Remus corrected him. 'And no, neither of them were high points. There've been other things to enjoy. It doesn't have to take over your life, it really doesn't…'

            'Ha! Haven't you read that bloody Code of Conduct thingy lately?'

            'I know it well enough to not have to,' said Remus soberly.

            'I sign it, and I'm saying I'm a beast.'

            'You are anyway, if you want to go by Ministry classifications,' was Remus's bracing response.

            'I'm not, though,' Morphe said mutinously. 'Won't say I am, either.'

            'Not now, but unless you have the Wolfsbane Potion you will be every single full moon. There's no arguing that.'

            Morphe didn't like hearing that; his first transformation was heavy on his mind. Remus could scarcely remember his own. Perhaps he'd been fortunate in that.

            'What about this Wolfsbane Potion, then?' asked Morphe, grasping for any straw. 'You said there were no treatments.'

            'Perhaps I did. What I meant was anything you've come across so far – most of it is absolute bogus. But there's the Wolfsbane Potion, which does work if brewed properly, and several sedatives in recent years, and around '89 or so they created a Sleeping Draught without the use of aconite, very useful. Not effective as a sedative; good for recovery. But the Draught is the only thing that's been produced commercially; the rest is hard to come by.'

            Morphe waved the rest of it aside. He'd been in a hospital all this time; he'd never tried to heal himself after a transformation or set up his own prison or operate normally afterwards. When he did he'd be more interested in the rest. But he did zero in on the first bit. 'You've taken the Wolfsbane Potion then?'

            'It was the only way the school board allowed me to teach at Hogwarts.'

            Morphe was frowning with thought. Remus left him to it. Thinking was good, and it looked like something Morphe hadn't done in some time. 'Snape, then. He must've made it. Rory and Jack – my kids, you know – always had something to say about him. Jack hated him. Rory didn't; she always said that he was brilliant at potions at least, and that it was hard coming out of his class not knowing something.'

            'Professor Snape's classes have a very impressive ratio of students who pass standardised Potion exams over those who don't,' Remus agreed. That was the truth, whether or not he and Snape agreed on the means of achieving that ratio.

            'Who else makes it?'

            'Anyone at the Master level of the Potions Guild has made it successfully at least once. It's terribly expensive, though.' Morphe looked distraught, so Remus added gently, 'The price'll come down in a few years, it always does. And it will be worth the wait – it takes away the mindlessness, which is probably the worst part of it.'

            'I don't remember much of it,' Morphe said faintly.

            Molly had been so quiet that Remus was startled when she called him. 'Remus! The children've come down – look a bit peaked, I don't think they ate quite enough, so I think we'll go for an ice cream cone, Christmas treat.'

            'All right, Mol – '

            'No!' Morphe shouted, wild-eyed. He snatched Remus's hands; Remus, unused to much touch contact except from a select few, and never so abruptly, startled. 'No, please – Lupin – don't go, not yet, don't go!' The whole ward was staring at him, but Morphe didn't care. 'Not yet,' he said shakily, staring up at Remus, his grip on his hands tightening. 'I know you'll go, just please not yet.'

            Molly caught his eye with concern, glancing at Morphe with quite some hesitation. Remus could see why. Delightful. Now he had a raving madman on his hands – literally. He'd thought that was one of the pluses when he and his father had parted ways, no more of this.

            Then he looked down at Morphe again, saw how truly terrified he was, how little he knew – and felt terribly guilty for feeling impatient or disgusted.

            'I don't have to leave yet,' he assured Morphe, and looked up at Molly, Arthur, and Moody, his hands still in Morphe's. And then he felt impatience again for their wariness. The man obviously wasn't insane; he was just frightened, enough so to toss his pride to the wind, right now and all of the past week. 'I'll be along,' he nodded to Molly. 'Haven't even spoken to Arthur yet. By dinner at the very most, how does that sound?'

            'All right, Remus, we'll be looking for you.' She was still very worried, and Remus noticed that Moody's clunking stride stopped outside the door of the ward.

            It was incredibly strange how for over a decade he'd been painfully alone, and now, with the rise of Voldemort, he was again in the company of loyal (not to mention intellectually-stimulating) allies. And, of course, with Sirius.

            In that, he was much luckier than the soul in front of him.

            Morphe was still laughing rather nervously. 'I'll be a right proper host now, see?' he asked, sounding as if he were genuinely seeking approval and a pat on the head. 'Put up a chair, Professor Lupin, a very uncomfortable hospital chair. That's what I meant to say to my kids.'

            'They're always uncomfortable. Must be written in the law.' And Morphe wasn't lying, they were uncomfortable.

            'Best I can do,' Morphe said, with a last giggle. 'Where're you staying for Christmas?'

            Sorry, confidential information a la clichéd secret agent dime-dreadful paperbacks, Remus reflected.

            He was too long in answering. 'Oh, right,' Morphe continued, 'you're having dinner with that family. Whatever happened to that Weasley bloke, anyway?'

            'You've been here longer than he has, and he's been in here a week,' Remus said sceptically.

            'I haven't noticed.'

            'Well, Mr Weasley's not going anywhere very soon, so you can note it for yourself.'

            Morphe's seemed to have drawn a conclusion. 'Oh,' he said. 'Kept you, didn't I.' His face was turning stony and sullen again. 'I can see that, I guess.'

            'No, I'm not being brusque because I stayed,' said Remus impatiently. 'I could have left and I didn't. But you should notice for yourself. Is there any reason for you to stay in here? You look healed.'

            'I don't feel it.'

            'You never feel healed.' His voice was heavy and obviously honest. 'You'll never feel fully healthy again for the rest of your life.'

            He was talking to a child.

            Perhaps himself, just reincarnated in a strange way. And that strange way had been required because at six, Remus had never had the chance to be bitter, and he should at least know that the opportunity was there, which was perhaps why this Morphe had been thrown into his face.

            Remus grappled for his usual matter-of-fact pragmatism. Fatalism was not his usual belief.

            'So you're saying I should go?' Morphe asked, a little edgily.

            'I think you should start your life again, yes. It hasn't ended, it really hasn't.'

            Morphe stared at some point on the wall. 'No one's written me, children or parents. I don't feel… they – is that just another thing to get used to?'

            Irritation was coursing through him again, in ways Remus had never felt when dealing with his problem children. He kept reminding himself that this man would not be swallowing his pride if he didn't need answers. 'You'll always know who your friends are,' he said at last.

            Morphe considered this for a long moment. 'You'll always know who your friends are, eh.'

            'That's right,' Remus said seriously.

            'I can't go home unless I sign the Code.'

            'I know.'

            Morphe stared at him. 'You think I should sign it.'

            It wasn't phrased a question, but Remus answered it anyway. 'I think you should, and then you should go home. And then spend Boxing Day with your children and hopefully your fiancée, who will stand by you if that marriage is fated to be successful.'

            'You're so cold,' Morphe mumbled rebelliously. 'You never had a wife, did you, nor kids either.'

            'If you had been bitten before they were born you would've never had Jack and Rory.'

            'I can't promise Jessica children.'

            Jessica. The name of his father's second wife. The one who had given him respectable children. Remus wasn't sure that was a good omen.

            'There're children up for adoption.'

            'It isn't the same.'

            'No,' he agreed. He left it at that. It was tough, and that was something Morphe would have to experience and deal with was all. 'Shall I ask Healer Smethwyck to bring the Code?'

            Morphe's eyes narrowed. 'You knew! They sent you here to talk you into it!'

            'Trainee Healer Pye did seem to want that. He never asked.' He could feel himself losing all progress they'd made.

            'They want me out of here.'

            'I wouldn't be surprised. There's no reason for you being here.'

            'I don't need a testimonial. You can leave.'

            Remus stood and shrugged. 'I'll abide by your wishes – '

            'You'd best,' snarled Morphe.

            'Just keep in mind, Mr Morphe, that after a while the Ministry won't let you skirt signing it in here. They'll imprison you until it's signed, which is pretty similar to St Mungo's, now that I come to think of it, except there's no healers in prison and the meals are a lot less regular.' He paused. 'If you'd go back to your family now, I think you'd find it much easier than if you put it off. I really do.'

            'I will not sign my name to declare that I'm a werewolf.' Morphe was mutinous.

            Remus shrugged again. 'You're no more or less a werewolf after signing it than you are now.'

            Morphe considered him. 'I'm sorry,' he said contritely, although Remus knew hollow words when he heard them. 'Please. Just a little longer.'

            He turned back to Morphe reluctantly. 'Surely I'm a poor excuse for your family. Why don't you write them.'

            'I will, I will,' Morphe said hurriedly. 'I'll write them. I'll sign it, too.'

            Remus sighed. Now Morphe was signing it for his sake and not his own.

            'Ask Smethwyck to bring the bloody Code,' Morphe spat, eying the door Smethwyck had last disappeared through with distaste. 'I'm not – not going to tell him I've given in – '

            Smethwyck, always uncanny, appeared at Morphe's other side, and pretended not to hear a word of it. 'Even for Christmas, your visitor has stayed the whole half an hour,' he said, carefully neutral in tone. 'In a few minutes I need to ask Mr Lupin to leave.'

            God rest you merry, Smethwyck, Remus thought silently.

            Morphe glared at him. 'You know his name because you told him to come and get me to sign it.'

            'I know his name because I've treated him.' Smethwyck wasn't flustered as he made a note to Morphe's clipboard under the visitors' column.

            Morphe was glaring at Remus pointedly.

            'Yes, and trust me, I appreciate it. Healer Smethwyck – '

            'It's Christmas and you're not my patient. It's Crats.'

            'And then it's Remus. Would you mind bring out the Code? And a quill?'

            'I have my own quill,' Morphe interjected. 'An inkstand, though.'

            'I'll be right back in a moment, Mr Morphe – I'd like to speak with Arthur.'

            They did speak for a few moments, exchanging holiday greetings, hospital vs Grimmauld Place accounts. They pointedly avoided the subject of Molly's rant, the temperamental Morphe, or the Order – the last of which Arthur would have heard from Molly and Moody anyway.

            'M – Remus,' Smethwyck called. 'He needs two witnesses.'

            'Right.' Remus went over and, on the pretense of leaning over to see Morphe affix his signature to the bottom of the roll, murmured to Smethwyck. 'He read it?'

            Smethwyck shook his head. 'Later. Might back out if he does.'

            Morphe looked up, not entirely oblivious but ignorant of the details. 'All right. You first,' he said, handing the quill to Remus. 'Is this even legal?' he added as an afterthought.

            'Seeing as I'm not the one who bit you.' But Remus hesitated, and he and Crats Smethwyck exchanged a glance. 'But perhaps we'd best ask Arthur.'

            'You sign it,' Smethwyck ordered, 'and Mr Weasley will too.' Smethwyck was obviously going to any lengths to please Morphe. 'We might have one signature too many, but I'm certain they won't complain.'

            Morphe nodded. 'That's good.' He paused. 'Anything I should know of right away that I just promised to?'

            'I'll need to give you a few potions,' Smethwyck said warily.

            'Yeah, I saw those.'

            'The Department needs to see it before you're legally allowed out, but the Registry never does much, they'll have it legalised by tomorrow,' Remus assured him. 'Just – take tonight to read it.'

            Morphe was withering. 'I've read it.'

            Remus chose not to comment, and then brought it to Arthur. 'We need to have two being signatures for witness, just in case.'

            Arthur gave Morphe a wary sideways glance.

            'Go on, Weasley, I'm sorry what I said about biting you.' Morphe was in a disturbingly cheerful mood. 'Wouldn't want a mouthful of whatever you have anyway.'

            Remus was giving him a year before he reached full insanity. His optimism decreased with each of Morphe's mood swings. And it wasn't unusual. 'Insanity' was too strong a word, but Morphe would be far from the first werewolf to develop a moderately serious psychiatric problem. The only hope lay in his family, his independent-thinking boy, his clever, pretty girl, and his fiancée.

            'He seems brighter now,' Arthur mused under his breath as he signed it. Then Smethwyck did so as well, visibly sighing in relief as he realised that his problem patient would be gone within twenty-four hours.

            'Yes,' Remus muttered. 'Seems.'

            Morphe was humming a bit off-key. Through all of this, however, his eyes had still been twitching, wary, uncertain, focused on Remus. Scared, in short. Maybe Remus was wrong. He certainly hoped so.

            He said his goodbyes to Arthur.

            Now Morphe was holding out a hand. 'I suppose I can bring myself to wish you a happy Christmas too then, Professor.'

            'And again, you as well.' Remus nodded, meeting his eye, and moved on, bidding a farewell to Healer Crats Smethwyck, and then leaving with a sigh of relief.

            He nearly walked straight into Alastor Moody.

            'Oh.' Remus found himself rubbing the back of his neck, an old injury from a week ago, last full moon. Too much craning over Morphe's bed. 'Forgot you were here.'

            'More like you never knew.'

            'Yes I did. Didn't hear you walking down the corridor.'

            'Well, you do now,' Moody said firmly as they moved now the aforementioned corridor. 'Thought you'd take longer, tell the truth; that werewolf didn't look too stable, you know…' He pointed to his head. 'Up here.'

            'He's in shock,' shrugged Remus.

            'In shock? Lupin, don't feed me fairytales. Within one year he's going to have a personal Werewolf Support Unit shrink, a drinking problem, a divorce, at least one suicide attempt, and schizophrenia. We both saw him.'

            Remus shrugged. 'I would disagree and give him a fifty-fifty chance myself, but then again he'd already developed the schizophrenia bit by the time I left. Talking about refusing to sign away his humanity one moment, cheerfully asking for inkstands the second.'

            'Yeah, I saw. I saw that he did it for you, too, and he'll be starting a shrine in your honour next.'

            'Not very healthy for him. I think I did more harm than good in the long run.'

            'But it's not up to you to solve his problems, Lupin.'

            'I know, Mad-Eye,' he said, as they reached the door. 'That's why we're off to Christmas dinner.'

            'Good,' Moody said gruffly, and they found a spot to Apparate to Grimmauld Place in silence.