"An English Werewolf In New York"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: What can I say? I got bored with playing with George Lucas's characters and decided to play with J.K. Rowling's for a while instead. I'm not making any money from this. Any rumors you may have heard about a secret bank account of mine at Gringotts are entirely false.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since Ms. Rowling didn't tell us what color Remus Lupin's eyes are, I took it upon myself to give him eyes befitting someone with his unusual condition. The healing spell is also mine - can you guess its derivation? (Trust me, it's not tough!).
ADDITIONAL: I've just changed a couple of things due to feedback in reviews, which involved modifying the Reducio spell for my own purposes.
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
- From The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
There is an old expression: Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can do neither write papers for scholarly journals, Remus Lupin reflected wryly, putting down his quill and rubbing his tired eyes. He sighed. No rest for the weary, he thought, and picked up his quill again.
In the months following the now-infamous debacle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and his ignominious departure from same, Lupin had found himself at loose ends. It's not that he wasn't a highly skilled wizard; he was. It's not that people didn't like him; they did. At least, until they learned his secret, which invariably they did. Whether he divulged the information or they figured it out for themselves, the results were always the same. It was the rare wizard or witch indeed who was prepared to befriend a werewolf. And so, feared and shunned as he was by his own kind (wizards and witches, that is, not werewolves), he had decided to take his chances among the Muggles. He had wanted to find a place where he could simply disappear, where people wouldn't look twice at a person no matter how strange, bizarre, or outlandish he might be. Where, as long as he paid his rent on time and minded his own business, people wouldn't bat an eye at a guy who received most of his mail via owl and who happened to have a rather odd affliction that made him turn into a slavering, ravening, uncontrollable beast once a month.
Much to his astonishment, such a place actually did exist. It was called New York City. And as he would soon learn, there were monsters in New York too. Oh, they may look human enough, and they may behave normally most of the time, but underneath it all, they were monsters just the same. And in their own way, they were far more monstrous than Remus Lupin at his worst, for the evil they did was deliberate, their victims specifically chosen for their inability to defend themselves.
Demonic Possession or Mental Illness? Remus wrote. The Controversy Continues. He hoped that The Journal for Advances in the Defense Against the Dark Arts would be interested in publishing his article, though he was no longer desperate for money. His financial situation had suddenly improved considerably with his move into the Muggle world. Wizard money was solid gold, and the rate of exchange posted by the American branch of Gringotts was based on the price of gold in U.S. dollars. Remus had walked out of the NYC branch of Gringotts with enough money to live quite well by Muggle standards - and he hadn't even emptied his bank account. As long as he kept cranking out the journal articles, he could continue to live very comfortably indeed. In a way, he felt like he was thumbing his nose at the wizarding world, living so well, living among Muggles. Though he was not a man given to holding grudges, it was a feeling that he rather enjoyed when he thought about it.
There are five important signs to watch for in cases where possession is suspected, Remus wrote. The first and perhaps most important is -
There was a crashing sound from the apartment across the hall, followed by a female scream, high-pitched and full of panic. Remus looked up, distracted.
"No, please," the female voice pleaded, her voice choked with sobbing. "John, don't - " Her voice broke off abruptly, as though she'd been forcibly silenced.
"You thought you'd walk out on me, BITCH?" A male voice roared. "I'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget!" This outburst was followed by the sound of something solid being repeatedly thumped against a wall. Without thinking, Remus dropped his quill, grabbed his wand, and charged out the door.
Amanda lay sobbing on the floor where John had dropped her. She could feel hard little things in her mouth, like pebbles. It was only when she spat them out that she realized they were teeth. She could hear her ex-husband pacing the floor, probably considering what to do to her next. A new and terrifying thought entered her mind; He's thinking about how he'll get rid of my body.
"Excuse me," a new voice said, polite, pleasant, English-accented. "Is there a problem here?" Through slitted eyes that were already beginning to swell shut, she saw a man standing in the remains of her demolished doorway. She recognized him as her neighbor from across the hall. John stopped his pacing to stare at the man in disbelief.
"Well, well," he finally said. "Is this your little boyfriend, Mandy?" he sneered, stomping over to the new arrival. Though John (a former football player and professional bodybuilder) towered over the man and outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds (probably more), her neighbor met his gaze unflinchingly. She tried to speak, to tell John to leave him alone, but she found that she couldn't move her mouth properly; her jaw was probably broken.
"No," the man was saying pleasantly, "I'm not her boyfriend, I'm her neighbor." The man's eyes shifted from John to her, taking in her condition, then back to John again. "I believe it would be best if you would leave now," he continued in the same polite voice. Oh no, Amanda thought. Now he's done it.
"You believe, huh?" John sneered. "Well, I believe you better get the hell out of here while you can still walk!"
"All right," he agreed. "But she's coming with me." He raised his arm, and Amanda saw he was holding a long stick.
"What's that, a magic wand?" John asked mockingly. "I only guessed 'cause you're such a fucking fairy!"
"Sorry, neither," the man replied wryly. Enraged, John lunged for him. "Impedimenta!" John immediately collapsed to the floor, a stunned expression on his face. The man looked down at him. "You're half right," he said. "This IS a magic wand, but I'm not a fairy, I'm a wizard."
"FUCK YOU!" John roared.
"I don't think so," the wizard replied calmly, watching as John tried in vain to make his legs work. He raised his wand again and used it punctuate his words as he spoke. "Right then," he said, his cheerful voice suddenly hardening. "IF I ever see you anywhere in this city again, I'll turn you into a toad and set you loose in Central Park. IF you ever harm her again or indeed, come anywhere near her for any reason at all, I promise you that you will regret it. Do we understand one another?" Eyes narrowed, John nodded. "Fine. Prior Incantatem!" John hauled himself to his feet, looking shaken. "Oh, and one more thing, John," the wizard continued. "I think next time, you should try picking on someone your OWN size." He pointed his wand at John. "Reducio temporari!" Amanda watched in astonishment as, right before her eyes, John shrunk so that now he was smaller than she was! John looked down at himself in shock. "IF you behave yourself and think only nice thoughts, there's a slight chance that this spell will wear off and you'll return to normal size. If not, well…" Though he left the rest unspoken, his meaning was crystal clear: Be nice or stay like this. "Now," he continued, "are we quite finished here?" John glanced up at the wizard, nodded briefly and then, looking terrified, pushed past him and raced out the door. "Remember," the wizard called after him, "NICE thoughts!" Sighing, he walked over to Amanda and crouched down on the floor next to her. "Right then," he said, his voice softening "I'm Remus Lupin. I live across the hall." She couldn't help staring at him. She had never seen anyone like him before. Though his tousled, graying hair, his jeans, and his flowing gray shirt were all normal enough, his eyes were not. They were intense, startling even, with sky blue irises ringed in darkest blue. He's got eyes like one of those Alaskan dogs, she thought. Maybe because he's a wizard. She had no doubt that he was exactly what he claimed; she'd seen the proof not moments ago. I wonder if he's ancient like Merlin?
Remus stayed where he was, giving her time to study him while he assessed her injuries. What little he knew of Muggle medical techniques told him that even with immediate medical attention, she would probably never again have a face that she would want to look at in the mirror. Both of her eyes were blackened, her jaw was broken in several places, and all of her front teeth were missing. Her nose was bent at an odd angle, and one of her cheekbones was broken. There were several angry, bleeding slashes across her right cheek, probably made by a razorblade. A sliver of bone was protruding out of the skin beneath her lower jaw. He searched his memory for the healing spell that Madame Pomfrey had taught him right before he'd left Hogwarts. Hoping he remembered it correctly, he raised his wand. "Hippocraticus!" He watched as her injuries mended themselves and the slashes in her cheek disappeared gradually, like time-lapse photography. Slowly, gingerly, she sat up. He surveyed his work critically. Her face looks good, he thought. As for her teeth - "Densaugeo!" She raised her hands to her face, startled. Then she burst into tears. Remus sat back on his heels, looking dismayed. What have I done to make her cry? He wondered. "Are you alright?" he finally asked, concerned. She sniffled, wiping away tears.
"Yes," she replied weakly. "I'm just a little bit freaked out, that's all. I mean, it's not every day that…" Her voice trailed off and she waved a hand expansively. Remus nodded.
"I'm sure it's all been a bit much for you," he agreed, smiling faintly. She looked down at her shirt, which was spattered with her own blood.
"Gosh, look at this," she said, tugging at the stiffening material. "I should go change." On cue, Remus stood and offered her his hand. Always oversensitive because of the way his lycanthropy was looked upon in the wizarding world, he feared that he had already overstayed his welcome.
"I really should be going," he said apologetically as he helped her to her feet. I've got - "
"Oh no," she interrupted, surprising him with her next words. "Stay, please. At least let me offer you a drink or something, after all you did."
"All right," he agreed, suddenly sounding rather shy. Smiling happily, she turned and went down the hall towards her bedroom. He turned to sit on her sofa, and that's when he saw the blood all over the wall. He must have smashed her face into the wall, Remus thought. My God, what sort of monster...? He shook his head, appalled by the violence of the Muggle world. As much as he enjoyed living among them, there were some things to which he would never become accustomed. To distract himself from the unpleasant sight of the bloody wall, he walked around the living room, taking in his surroundings. There was an entertainment center with a widescreen television, DVD player, and huge speakers. On either side of that, built-in bookshelves housed various books and knickknacks. On a lower shelf, he spied something that he took to be a crystal ball, and walked over to investigate. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a water-filled globe with the New York skyline inside. He picked it up and shook it, and it rained iridescent glitter in New York. Smiling, he put it back on the shelf. I must find out where she got that, he thought. It looks like something Harry and his friends would like. On the wall opposite the blood that he was trying so hard not to look at was a large window, giving a breathtaking view of the real New York skyline. He went and stood at the window, gazing out at the cityscape below. It was dusk, and already the city was beginning to come alive with lights, the top of Empire State Building was glowing like a jewel. There's nothing that compares to this in the wizarding world, he thought.
"Is the view in your apartment better than mine, Mr. Lupin?" Remus turned to see his neighbor walking into the living room. She had changed into a gray sweatshirt and matching sweatpants.
"No," he replied, shaking his head. "I can't see the Empire State Building from my apartment. And please, call me Remus." She smiled and walked over to him, extending her hand for him to shake.
"And I'm Amanda Richards. Call me Amanda." As he released her hand, he noted that his healing spells had worked wonderfully. It had been hard to tell before, but now that she had washed the blood off her face, it was clear that no signs of her injuries remained. In fact, she was quite lovely, with long copper-blonde hair, emerald green eyes, creamy porcelain skin, and high cheekbones. A gentle person by nature, he simply couldn't comprehend why any man would wish to harm such a beautiful, delicate-looking creature. He suddenly realized that he had been staring. "You know, you're better than an army of Park Avenue plastic surgeons," she told him, raising a hand to her formerly slashed cheek.
"Thank you," he replied modestly, thankful that she seemed to think he had simply been reviewing his handiwork.
"Would you like a glass of wine or something?" she asked.
"Yes, I'd like that very much," he said, surprising himself.
Her kitchen was ultramodern; all brushed metal and flat surfaces. Even the huge side-by-side refrigerator had a brushed metal finish. The stove was a glass top stove, sleek and shiny. The kitchen table was a piece of retro kitsch with slightly splayed legs, its top repeating the brushed metal theme. It was there that Remus sat with Amanda, watching as she sipped her wine and idly turning his own wineglass around and around between his hands, the ruby liquid sloshing against its crystal sides.
"Remus," she said contemplatively. "What an unusual name. Like in the story."
"What story?" he asked curiously.
"It's an ancient Roman myth. Romulus and Remus were twin sons of the god Mars. Their mother put them in a basket at birth and sent them down a river. They were found by a female wolf who suckled them as her own." How appropriate, Remus thought wryly. "Romulus went on to become the founder of Rome, you know."
"And what happened to Remus?" he asked. She shrugged.
"Well, in one version, Romulus killed him. In another, he simply disappeared. So I guess it depends on which version you like."
"And which do you like?" he asked, taking a small sip of wine.
"I don't know I mean, I never really thought about it before, you know?" She was silent for a moment, thinking. "I like happy endings, so I suppose I hope he disappeared and lived happily ever after."
"Perhaps he did," Remus said softly. She leaned forward in her seat, studying him intensely from across the table. Such close scrutiny made him nervous, and he took another sip of wine.
"You know," she said, emboldened by the wine she'd drunk. "You have the most extraordinary eyes. I've never seen a human being with eyes like yours."
"Oh, I wasn't born with them," he said offhandedly. Her eyebrows went up; a silent question that he wasn't sure how to answer. Mentally kicking himself, he thought for a moment and decided on an edited version of the truth. "According to the literature," he said slowly, "it sometimes happens to people with my condition." She blinked.
"Oh," she said, not knowing what to say. Now that she thought about it, he did not look to her like a well man. He was very thin, verging on gaunt, his skin was unnaturally pale, and he looked tired. Also, there was a haunted look in those unusual eyes, as though sleep did not come easily, if at all. "Look, I'd better go," he said suddenly, putting his glass on the table and standing.
"I hope it wasn't something I said," she worried. He gave her a tired smile.
"Not at all," he assured her. "It's getting late though, and I have a lot of work to do tonight." Though he hadn't finished even half the wine in his glass, he swayed a bit unsteadily on his feet.
"I'm very grateful for everything," she said as she walked him to the door. "If it hadn't been for you he probably would have killed me this time." Remus winced at the "this time", implying as it did that there had been other times.
"I don't think he'll be back," he said.
"No," she agreed, smiling. "I don't think he will. And if he does come back, I think I can handle him now - unless he actually manages to think enough nice thoughts to get himself back to normal size!"
"Um," Remus said guiltily, "I'm afraid he'll go back to normal size regardless. The spell is only temporary. I couldn't leave him like that forever; someone was bound to notice and we wizards aren't allowed to do things that will draw attention to ourselves." Amanda looked apprehensive at this news. "Don't worry," he told her reassuringly, "HE doesn't know that. Imagine him sitting somewhere with his eyes shut tight trying like hell to summon up a nice thought!" At the mental picture, Amanda giggled. "That's better," he said, smiling. "I'm sure he won't be back. I don't think he wants to spend the rest of his life hopping through Central Park!"
"You're probably right," she conceded. They stood in the demolished doorway. There was an awkward silence. "Well, I guess I'd better call the super about this door," she said, sounding like someone who was steeling herself for an unpleasant task. "Wait 'til he sees THIS. He's gonna be pissed". Remus smiled.
"Good night, then," he said.
"Good night," she replied. She really wanted to lean forward and kiss him on the cheek, but something stopped her. There was a reserve about him, a reticence in his manner that made her feel he would not welcome such contact, especially from someone he barely knew. So she settled for shaking his hand again instead. She watched him walk across the hall to his own apartment. He intrigued her; he was an enigma. And there was nothing Amanda liked better than a good mystery.
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 2