Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story are mine, except for Andrew. Well, he isn't exactly mine either; I merely named him.He still belongs to JKR.
"Between Werewolves" was originally published on FictionAlley on 26 July, 2003.
Molly and Arthur were at it again. Obviously, thought Remus with a smile, she did not think him sick enough to be beyond reproach. The twins and Bill, not particularly keen on sitting through this argument, were making their way toward the door as quietly as possible, under the pretense of going for a cup of tea. Judging by the looks on the faces of the other four, Remus guessed that they wouldn't be far behind.
He himself was on the verge of joining them and leaving the guard duties to Mad-Eye (who took the hospital watch much more seriously than Remus felt was necessary), when he suddenly remembered the man in the other bed, Arthur's temporary roommate. Arthur had mentioned the poor fellow having been bitten by a werewolf, hadn't he?
Affording one last glance at defensive husband and furious wife, Remus deemed it quite safe (perhaps even quite necessary) to let them alone for a few minutes. As the three older Weasleys slipped out the door, Remus turned his attention to the man across the room, who immediately averted his eyes and pretended that he hadn't been watching the scene around Arthur's bed.
"Happy Christmas," said Remus.
The man, who looked decidedly green, flicked his eyes toward Remus. "'Lo," he mumbled in a very pity-me sort of voice.
Remus was unsure of how to broach the subject tactfully. "Erm," he said. "How are you?"
The other man's eyes narrowed somewhat suspiciously. "How am I?" he echoed, his voice gaining a bit of an edge. "I'm in a hospital. I'm sick."
Sitting down in the wooden bedside chair, Remus gave him a thin smile. "That's just the bite taking effect. It'll go away after the first full moon."
"And what are you, another Healer?" he said. "I know all this stuff already. Everyone in this damn place has explained the process to me twenty times over." Remus looked at him, not saying anything, and the man sighed resignedly. "I'm sorry. The whole business is just terribly frustrating, and I can't imagine it gets much better." He raised himself into a sitting position and extended a hand. "Andrew. Pleased to meet you."
Remus shook Andrew's hand. "Remus. Likewise."
Andrew glanced over at Arthur's bed, where he and Molly were still arguing in lowered tones. (As Remus had predicted, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had all managed to sneak out.) "Are you with Weasley's crowd?" he asked, resuming what Remus figured was his normal voice, somewhere between the edgy and the pitiful.
"Yes. Well," he corrected himself, "I should be. But Arthur seems to be having a little moment with his wife, so… I thought I'd come over and say hello."
Andrew, who had seen for himself what sort of moment they were having, grinned. "Probably a wise move."
"Besides, I wanted to see how you were getting on. Arthur mentioned that you'd been feeling quite a bit, er, distressed about the bite."
"Why on earth would he mention—?"
"I'm a werewolf too," said Remus simply.
In a matter of about five seconds, Andrew's expression changed from shock to terror, then he immediately realized the irony of his own fear and burst out laughing. "Right, right. Weasley did mention having a like… er, loco – lyco… what's the word?"
"Lycanthropic?" suggested Remus.
"Right. He mentioned having a lycanthropic friend. I thought he was pulling my leg," the man added wryly.
"Not at all."
A dark expression flitted across Andrew's face, and he regarded Remus with a frown. "You aren't… er… you're not the one who bit me, are you?"
Remus' eyebrows shot up, and he couldn't hold back a snort of laughter. "Me? I should think not!" But Andrew still looked quite wary, so Remus forced himself to stop laughing. "Alright," he said seriously, "do you remember what he looked like? Or she? The wolf that bit you?"
"Huge," said Andrew immediately, and Remus waited patiently for something that would actually narrow it down. He didn't personally know any other werewolves in the region, but huge was a word that could probably describe every single werewolf in the world. After a thoughtful moment, Andrew added, "Black fur. Or very dark brown."
"There you are," Remus said with a smile. "I happen to be gray."
"Mostly gray, that is. With a few sort of reddish-brown streaks."
"How do you know?"
Remus blinked. "Mirror."
Andrew looked abashed. "Oh."
"Besides, I do think I'd remember it if I'd bitten someone. It's just not very polite, you see," he said, grinning.
"Well," Andrew grumbled, "someone obviously doesn't share that view with you."
Remus' grin faded. It was quite easy for him to forget that there were still a great number of werewolves out there who hadn't been as fortunate as he. Werewolves who hadn't been educated by Albus Dumbledore and his staff, who couldn't find even the measly amount of work on which he'd been able to scrape by, who had been forced to live on the streets or among Muggles… who couldn't afford the Wolfsbane Potion.
"Have they told you about the Wolfsbane Potion?" he said suddenly.
"What? Oh. Yes. Sounds a bit fishy, if you ask me. Wolfsbane is deadly to… to, er, our kind, isn't it?"
"Not when it's mixed with the right ingredients," said Remus confidently. "Believe me; I use it every month. That's how I know that I haven't bitten anyone."
"No one? Ever?" said Andrew rather incredulously.
"Ever," said Remus firmly. "I used to keep myself locked up before I started using the potion, but now I don't even have to do that. It's the wolf's mind that wants you to run wild and howl at the moon and do, well, wolfish things. Bite people, chase rabbits, that sort of thing. If you eat enough during the day before the full moon, the potion lets your human mind recognize that your body isn't hungry, especially for blood. Unless you're the type of person who drinks blood already…?"
Andrew made a disgusted noise.
"I thought not," said Remus.
"If it isn't rude to ask… how long have you, er…"
"Been a werewolf?" Remus finished for him. Andrew nodded. "Thirty years in April."
Andrew let out a low whistle through his teeth. "You must've been only a teenager!"
Remus looked affronted. "I was six." Andrew froze, unable to take back the insult, and Remus shrugged it off. "Don't worry about it. A lot of people make that mistake. In fact," he added, with a little glint in his eye, "you might want to get used to it yourself."
It wouldn't have seemed possible for Andrew to look any more crestfallen than he already had, but somehow, he found a way. "Does that always happen, then?"
"The change takes its toll on you," said Remus plainly, and smiled at Andrew's worried face. "Don't worry. Just take good care of yourself, and you'll be fine – oh for Merlin's sake, I sound like somebody's mother!"
"Heh," said Andrew, without humor.
"I'm serious, though," said Remus. "It'll be annoying and tiring for the first few months, but once you learn how to deal with everything that happens, it becomes routine. You get used to it."
Andrew looked nonplussed. "Turning into a wolf every month becomes routine?"
Remus laughed, remembering when he himself had had similar doubts. "Yes… so does paying attention to the phases of the moon, having exceptionally good senses of smell and hearing, and keeping secrets." He smiled to himself at this last, but Andrew suddenly looked sober.
Leaning forward and lowering his voice, Andrew said, "People don't like werewolves, do they."
Remus' smile faded into a wry expression, and he looked intently at Andrew. "Did you like werewolves before you were bitten?" he said quietly. Andrew looked sharply at him, but didn't reply. "Of course you didn't," Remus continued. "And you're right – most other people don't, either. They think only of the wolf's nature, not of the fact that you can't tell a werewolf apart from any other human being for twenty-eight days out of twenty-nine."
Andrew managed to look indignant, embarrassed, and confused all at the same time. "You can't tell the difference?" he said.
"Not at all."
"But aren't you supposed to have, I don't know, hairy fingers?" Remus held out a hand, which was no more or less hairy than that of a normal man. "A moon symbol on your neck?" Remus pulled down the collar of his shirt, revealing unmarked pale skin. "Yellow eyes?" Remus just blinked. "No wonder I've never met a werewolf before," muttered Andrew.
"You may have done and never even realized it," Remus smiled.
"So much for superstition, eh?" said Andrew, chuckling half-heartedly.
Remus suddenly looked serious. "Don't dismiss all superstitions that easily. You'll soon find out which are true and which aren't. But let me tell you right now that you should definitely pay attention to the ones about silver and wolfsbane."
Andrew blanched. "What about garlic?"
"Oh. Right." He looked thoughtful for a moment, then said softly, "But we're Dark creatures too, aren't we."
Remus looked at Andrew. He had pondered this simple question time and time again, but with very little success. He didn't particularly feel like a Dark creature, but the fact remained that transformed werewolves lusted after human blood, which automatically placed them in the "Extremely Dangerous" division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
"I don't know," said Remus honestly. "If we don't have the Wolfsbane Potion during the full moon, I suppose we are – but the rest of the time…." He trailed off, spreading his hands with a meaningful shrug of his shoulders.
Andrew nodded slowly, letting the uncertainty of this information sink in.
"Remus?" came Molly Weasley's voice from the other side of the room. Remus turned; Molly and Mad-Eye were gathering their things, and Arthur was wearing a very sheepish expression.
"Are we leaving, then?" said Remus, rising from his seat.
Molly gave Arthur a disapproving look. "We are, but my fool of a husband will have to stay for a few more days, thanks to his stitches."
"I would have had to stay anyway," Arthur began to say, but Molly wouldn't hear him.
"We'll just go and collect the children, then," she said loudly. Moody rolled his eye.
"Molly, Alastor – this is Andrew," said Remus.
Molly crossed the room and shook Andrew's hand. "Ah, yes, Arthur said you were bitten by a werewolf. Terrible shame, that. Er. No offense, Remus."
"None taken," said Remus, stifling a laugh.
"It's not all that bad, I suppose," said Andrew in a resigned tone. "Remus here says that I can look forward to an exceptionally good sense of hearing."
"And smell," Remus reminded him brightly.
Mad-Eye chuckled gruffly. "That's the spirit. You'll be just fine. Now, the children said they were going for a cup of tea…."
Molly and Mad-Eye headed for the door, but Remus turned quickly back to Andrew. "It was very nice to meet you – it's not often that I meet other werewolves in the area. Keep in touch, won't you?"
Andrew smiled. "Where can I reach you?"
Remus hesitated; he wasn't about to tell the other man his current address. "By owl," he replied after a moment. "Just send an owl to Remus Lupin, and it'll find me."
"Remus Lupin," Andrew repeated. "Right. Well, good to meet you too."
"And now if you'll excuse me, I have seven children to track down," said Remus, and he performed a dramatic bow that was more than a little reminiscent of a school-aged Sirius. Feeling somehow lighter of spirit, Remus said goodbye to Arthur and left the room, catching up quickly with Molly and Mad-Eye.
"He seemed like a nice fellow," said Molly.
"Yes," agreed Remus. "I asked him to keep in touch."
Molly looked at him in alarm. "You didn't tell him where you're staying, did you?" she said in hushed tones.
With a roll of his eyes, Remus replied, "For Merlin's sake, I'm a werewolf, not a complete idiot. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference."
Two passing women shot him wary looks as he said this, and Mad-Eye burst into hoarse laughter. Remus just smiled.