Author's note: This is more or less a follow-up to "The Holly And The Hawthorn," incorporating a few of its original characters, but it can be enjoyed entirely on its own.
The Moon And The Wolf
Luna's Himalayan expedition had already yielded rich rewards. She had collected the larvae of the Fiery Apollo butterfly (storing them in special containers enchanted against their tendency to combust), convinced a Tibetan blue bear to let her clip some hair from her cub (after waiting patiently for two weeks, removing a splinter from the mother's paw, poor thing, and healing the inflamed wound with Essence of Dittany), taken urine from a Pallas cat (even she had found that distasteful!), and gathered up feathers from the abandoned nest of the fabulously beautiful Impeyan Pheasant. Muggles hunted the pheasants, she thought indignantly, and had no idea of the many magical uses of their brilliant feathers. She had nothing against hunting, but at least don't waste the most valuable part!
This afternoon she had left her camp and Tibetan guides behind to climb up the wooded slopes to see if she could find any late, wild Himalayan dragon's egg berries. She'd heard that they grew in these parts of the foothills but had not yet found any, and in a few days she was leaving Tibet. Autumn was coming on quickly and could bring snows as fast as pretty leaves. She had all the supplies she needed for the berries: dragonhide gloves against the mother plant's burn, a warm container to keep the berries in, a little hammer to open one up and see if the flesh inside was usable. When she'd told Regulus Moonshine by Floo Network that the Tibetans had told her where to find some, he'd seemed doubtful, said they were extinct. Maybe they really didn't exist, she thought—and then consoled herself that that was no reason not to look for them.
Climbing the slope through the trees, she paused in a clearing to catch her breath and saw a very peculiar sight. A large metal cage sat under a tree, and in the cage leaning his elbow on a wooden box sat a man reading a book. He had shaggy light brown hair and a neat, pointed, light brown goatee in the imperial style, a long, curving scar from the corner of his left eye to the left corner of his mouth, and a light brown tweed hunting suit, and he was reading The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. That at least meant he understood English.
"I say, you wouldn't happen to have seen any dragon's egg plants about, would you?" Luna asked.
"Further up the slope, near a cave. Hope you have gloves with you. They're particularly nasty this year." He spoke absently in a perfectly normal south-of-England accent, not looking up from his book.
"Thanks." She was about to continue on but stopped. "Do you know that book's completely lies?"
"Of course I do. Why do you think I'm reading it?"
"I have no idea why you're reading it. I read it, and it was very interesting, but not useful. Legends are useful, but not lies."
Suddenly he seemed to realize he was carrying on a conversation in a previously deserted Himalayan clearing and snapped his book closed, staring at her with light blue eyes. "Go away!"
"Go away! What are you doing here? Who brought a little girl here? Go away!"
"I'm not a little girl! I'm twenty-one years old, and I brought myself here."
"I don't care! Go away!"
"Why?" She came closer to the cage and saw that it was locked with several large locks. "Who locked you up in here? Have you been kidnapped? Do you need help?"
"No!" he shouted. "I don't need anything! Go away! It's dangerous!"
"Oh, I don't mind dangerous things. Once you've been kidnapped by Voldemort and dueled with Bellatrix Lestrange, I can't imagine you'd be afraid of much."
He stopped shouting at her and stared instead.
"There is a set of keys hanging in that tree. Do you want me to get it for you?"
"No! Don't touch them! Would you please go away? It's going to start soon."
"What is?" She caught him looking up into the sky, where faint stars were showing up against the sunset, and suddenly understood. "Oh. It's the full moon. You're a werewolf."
"Of course I am!" he snarled. "And I was doing just fine with this book until you distracted me."
"I don't see how a book by Rita Skeeter could possibly be of any help. Why don't you just take Wolfsbane Potion?"
"Because I ran out! And no one around here can make any properly. And the book doesn't help. It just gives me something to address my aggression against, until my mind is gone." He went slightly red. "I'm normally a very mild sort of person, actually, but at this time of the month I get extremely bad-tempered. My father said he wasn't going to take the brunt of it all the time when I was a teenager, so he found things for me to attack that weren't living. I've read just about every idiotic, badly-researched book and article in existence. Gilderoy Lockhart's books were good for that, for a while, until he stopped writing, as was The Qibbler, until the War, when it actually became sensible, and now Rita Skeeter's books serve the purpose."
Luna's own temper was very seldom ruffled, but aspersions against her father and his precious journal could always do it. "I'd like you to know—" she began, but she was interrupted by a blood-curdling yell.
It didn't look like much had changed, except maybe his beard was longer, and maybe his fingernails were sharper. He was crouched on the floor of his cage, panting.
"Are you sure you really are a werewolf, and that someone hasn't just enchanted your cage to hypnotize you into thinking you are?" she queried.
"What? Of course I'm sure! Are you crazy?"
"Not that I know of. Well, it was just an idea. From an old Muggle book, come to think of it, though in that case it was a serpent, not a werewolf, and a chair, not a cage."
She could see the beautiful moon rising overhead. The man in the cage screamed again and twisted violently. When he was quiet again, his hair long and brown, with black points, she said softly, "I wish I could do something for you, but since I can't, do you mind if I watch? I've never seen a werewolf transform before."
His eyes, still blue, glared at her. "You are crazy."
"No, I just had a teacher once who was a werewolf, but the only people who got to see him transform were Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I always thought it would be interesting. But Professor Lupin died, and I never got to ask him."
"Lupin? Remus Lupin?"
"Yes. Do you know him?"
"I think he did this to me." Then he started shrieking again. He was shuddering when he said, "Fine, stay. But stay out of my line of sight, and stay downwind of me, or it'll practically kill me to see you there and not be able to get at you. Do you understand?"
"Then go." He slid the lid off the wooden box with clumsy claws, and a number of rabbits hopped out.
"What—what are those for?"
"For me to eat," he said with a snarl. "Maybe the smell of blood will cover your smell, because I won't be able to care about them if I can smell a human. That's why my guides are gone. That and because they're afraid. They never dueled Bellatrix Lestrange, apparently. Oh, Helga," he spat like a curse and clawed at his chest. "Go! Hide! Don't let me see you! And don't watch me killing these poor things."
She hid, but she did watch. While he was still mostly in human shape he used his claws to neatly dispatch one of the rabbits and smear its blood all over himself. Luna shuddered, but she realized he was doing it to make the rabbit-smell so strong he couldn't smell her. Perhaps she should have left, but it was too late now.
It was a harrowing night. She had had harrowing nights before. Most nights in Malfoy Manor, the night after her mother died, the night her father rescued her from what they both suspected was a Jabberwok. She added "Watching a fairly nice man turn into a werewolf" to the list and wasn't sure which was worse, watching him eat the rabbits or watching him claw and howl at the cage and tear his own skin when he couldn't get out. Still, it was interesting. Not everyone got a chance like this.
Only once she couldn't bear sitting still and not helping, when raging got him nowhere and he was sitting and howling disconsolately at the moon moving inexorably slowly across the sky. She shared a name with the moon and felt that her old friend ought not to be so cruel to her new friend. She pulled out her wand and silently nudged clouds over the moon's face. Then she whispered, "Expecto patronum" and sent a small, silver hare in the direction of the cage. The moon gone, the wolf stopped howling and seemed to see the hare, since he couldn't smell it. With a snarl, he jabbed his paw through the bars and tried to sink his claws into it, but he couldn't do that either. He sank down on the floor of the cage with his head between his paws, his nose almost touching the bars, his blue eyes fixed on the hare, which sat unmoving next to the cage.