In most fanfiction, it seems to be a given that our dear, sweet Remus is always part wolf, and that he wages a constant battle to keep his wolf side under control.  I was intrigued by CLS's story "Fallen" (both the original and alternate versions) because it explores the idea that the lowered inhibitions associated with sex might allow Remus's wolfiness to come out.  Might the lowered inhibitions of alcohol do the same?

            Are werewolf bites contagious all the time, or only when he is in wolf form?   I don't know, but for this story at least, let's go with "all the time."

            Dedicated to Lori Dashuta Quick, my favorite English literature teacher and the person who helped me fall in love with Shakespeare.  (Read the story for the reference.)

Painting the Town Red

Chapter 1- Saturday Night

"…is most fierce in the hours just before dawn, especially if it has failed to find a meal.  The best defense against this small but dangerous creature is a bright light, which may fool it into thinking that the sun has risen and force it into running for its burrow.  If no source of light…."

            "Enough, Moony.  Put down the damn book."

            Remus Lupin looked up in surprise to see his friends James Potter and Sirius Black standing on either side of him.  A glance around the room revealed that the library was otherwise empty.

            "What time is it?"  Remus asked.

            "Seven-thirty," Sirius said as he made a show of looking at his bare wrist.  "You said that you were just coming up here to get one book and then you'd meet us in the common room.  That was an hour ago."

            "Sorry.  I started flipping through it, and the library was so quiet that I thought I'd read for a few minutes before I went back."

            "What is it?"  James pushed the book closed and tipped his head to read the title.  "Oh, critters."

            Sirius grabbed one of Remus's arms and pulled him to his feet.  "Come on, birthday boy.  We can't celebrate without you."  James tucked the book under his arm and grabbed Remus's other arm.  Soon after they left the library, Remus realized that they were not headed for Gryffindor tower.  He felt a sliver of apprehension about where they were taking him.

            "It isn't my birthday for two more days, you know."

            "We know," James replied, "but your actual birthday is a school night, and you don't want a hangover while gutting horned toads in Potions class, believe me.  Yuck."

            "Hangover?" 

            "Or in Transfiguration.  McGonagall just knows," Sirius added. 

            "Hangover?"  Remus repeated as he stopped dead in his tracks.  James and Sirius were forced to stop as well.  They grinned wickedly at each other and kept hanging onto his arms.  Remus was stronger than either one of them, although not stronger than both. 

            "Yes, dear Remus," Sirius said.  "You are about to turn seventeen and we haven't gotten you drunk yet.  Tonight is the night."

            "So you can either come with us willingly," James added, "or you can make a fuss, in which case we'll probably get caught while we're trying to smuggle you out of the castle—"

            "—and we'll all spend your birthday doing detention," Sirius concluded.

             "Who am I to argue with logic like that?" Remus said with a smile, and he began to walk again.

            James laughed.  "You always give in.  Why do you even bother to argue?"

            Peter Pettigrew was waiting for them just inside the tunnel behind a mirror on the fourth floor.  He had changed into muggle clothes and had a bag full of muggle clothes for the other three. Four broomsticks leaned against the wall, partially obscured by James's invisibility cloak, which Peter had used to hide the broomsticks on the walk from the dorm to the tunnel.

            "Brooms? and muggle clothes?" Remus asked.  "Where are you taking me anyway?"

            "Well, we can't very well take you to the Three Broomsticks, now can we?"  James replied, his voice muffled by the robe he was pulling off over his head.  "Not after last time.  Imagine if one of the professors decides to stop by for a nightcap?"

            "A nightcap?" Sirius said in a voice that clearly indicated his annoyance with James's word choice.  "I'd smack you if you were in reach."  At that moment, Sirius was sitting on the floor putting his short black boots back on after pulling on a pair of jeans.

            "Where are we going? and how far is it?" Remus asked. He didn't care for flying as much as James and Sirius did, and the thought of flying back while drunk was not appealing.

            "A pub that James and I found," Sirius replied.  "It's about, what?  Ten minutes away?"

            "Fifteen," James replied. 

            Remus groaned as he pulled a sweater over his head, but he didn't argue.  James was right, he usually did give in, especially if, like tonight, they asked when the moon was waxing gibbous and those parts of Remus's mind that he thought of as the wolf were growing stronger to match.  The wolf was not one to miss an adventure, even a very human adventure such as this.

            "Everyone ready?" James asked as he grabbed two brooms.  He held one out to Remus and said, "Here's your broom."  Remus had to smile to himself as took it from James.  "Your broom," when they all knew perfectly well it belonged to James.  Remus merely borrowed it, as he didn't have one of his own.  James referred to it as Remus's broom at every opportunity; he was determined to make Remus accept the gift.  It may have been just an old broom to James, but it was still a better broom than most of the students in the school owned.  Remus felt uncomfortable accepting such an expensive gift from his friend, but he suspected that James would win in the end.  "You always give in.  Why do you even bother to argue?"

            After a short walk through the hidden hallway, they came to the long spiral staircase that would bring them to the underground tunnel to Hogsmeade.  As they neared the head of the stairs, James suddenly flew past the other three and down the stairs in a tight spiraling dive.

            "Dare you!" he called back.  Sirius tightened his grip on his own broomstick, obviously tempted to follow.  It went against his nature to ignore a dare, and he hated to admit that James could do something that he couldn't, but—he couldn't do that, could he?

            Remus put a hand on his shoulder.  "Don't.  Peter and I won't, obviously, and you'll just end up waiting impatiently for us at the bottom."  Sirius nodded, staring down the staircase.  "Or you'll break your neck," he added.  Sirius nodded more emphatically and grinned at Remus.

            "He is amazing, isn't he?" Sirius asked.

            "Um-hm," Remus and Peter agreed.   They began the long walk down the stairs, serenaded by the echoing sound of various Quidditch team fight songs as James sang to pass the time, and to rub it in that he had reached the base of the stairs first.

            The flight from Hogsmeade to the muggle town took closer to twenty minutes than fifteen as James and Sirius had to slow down to accommodate Remus and Peter.  Remus actually found himself enjoying the flight.  The early spring air was warm enough to be pleasant and full of wonderful scents.  The sky was clear.  The stars and the glowing moon lighted the way.  "I might have to go flying at night more often," he thought.  Sirius, who had been flying ahead, suddenly swooped back to the others. 

            "The town is just ahead.  James and I know a good place to land, so follow us down," he directed.  They led Peter and Remus to a dark field just outside a large town.

            "We can leave the broomsticks here.  No one else will go through this field at night.  It's not on the way to anywhere.  The pub is just down the road there," James said as he gestured.

            "Just hope we can find the brooms again in this tall grass," Peter muttered.

            "We can summon them," Remus said.  "Although I'd recommend that at least one of you stay sober enough to perform that chore and to guide us home."

            Sirius threw an arm around Remus's shoulders.  "Yes!  Moony has accepted that he is going to be a drunken sot by the time we leave.  Our work is half done."

             "Thanks for volunteering to stay sober, Padfoot," James said as he set off toward the pub laughing.  The other three followed, Sirius keeping an arm around Remus's shoulders as if to prevent his escape, and Peter nearby on Remus's other side.

            "Nice try, Potter.  I did no such thing," Sirius called to James.

            "I heard him say, 'Yes.'  Didn't you, Remus?" Peter asked.

            "I certainly did, Peter.  Don't bother arguing, Padfoot.  Either you volunteered, or you just got elected." 

Sirius shook his head, but he was smiling.  "I know when I'm beat," he said.  "Happy birthday, Moony."

At the end of a lane of darkened shops, the pub's sign, The Sword and Shield, and the front step of the pub lay in pools of yellow light, beckoning them onward.  A sudden thought occurred to Remus as they approached the lighted door.

"One of you geniuses did think to bring muggle money, didn't you?"

"Oops!"  Sirius exclaimed and then laughed.  "Don't worry.  James got some from Lily."

Remus raised his eyebrows and smiled slightly.  "Really?  And just what did you do, James, that the lovely Miss Evans felt it necessary to pay you?"  Sirius and Peter started to laugh at the suggestion.

James turned and glared at Remus.  "Very funny.  Lily was nice enough to exchange muggle money for wizard money, and if you embarrass her by—"

"O.K., O.K.," Remus said as he threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Touchy, isn't he?" Peter asked still grinning.  Remus and Sirius both nodded, matching grins on their own faces.  James threw each of them one final glare before pulling open the door of the pub and gesturing for his friends to enter.

"Birthday boy first!"  Peter said cheerfully, and Remus went in. He could see immediately why James and Sirius had liked this place.  In some ways, it reminded him of the Three Broomsticks.  A large fieldstone fireplace dominated the far wall.  The other walls were covered with wood paneling, dark from age and from years of smoke.  Most of the pub's patrons were at the brass railed bar that stretched almost the entire length of the longest wall, and the remainder at the small scrubbed wood tables or in one of the four booths opposite the bar.  The only windows, hung with red curtains, flanked either side of the door.  The whole room had a snug feel.

"Where do you want to sit, Moony?" Sirius asked over Remus's shoulder.  Several people at the bar were smoking, and Remus hated the smell of tobacco smoke.  It reminded him of small, crowded spaces.  Wood smoke, he didn't mind.  It reminded him of his mother's warm kitchen or of camping in the summer.

"Let's get a booth—farther from the smokers," he replied and led the way to the booth nearest the fireplace.  Peter slid into the seat opposite Remus.  Sirius glanced back at James, who was already at the bar ordering four pints, and then leaned down to speak quietly to his two friends.

"How long can we torment James before he kills me?"  Remus noted Sirius's very accurate pronouns.  All three of James's friends could, and would, take part in teasing him, but Sirius would inevitably be the one to push just a bit too far.

"An hour, tops," Remus replied.  Sirius grinned and went to the bar to help James. While waiting, Remus and Peter listened to several loud discussions taking place throughout the room—football and a small scandal in local politics seemed to be favorite topics.   Sirius soon came back holding two glasses, one still quite full, and sat next to Remus.  James was just behind him with glasses for himself and Peter. 

"Thanks, James," Peter said just before he took a sip and made a face.

"Yeah, thanks, Gigolo—I mean, James," Sirius said and then snorted with barely suppressed laughter.  James glared at Sirius briefly and then looked at Remus.  Remus was still eyeing his glass.

"Oh just take a big gulp of it, Moony.  It isn't that different from butterbeer," James said.  He took a large sip as if to prove his point.

"Not that different at all," Sirius added.  He was already half way through his.

Peter looked at Sirius's glass.  "You'd better slow down, Sirius.  We did elect you to stay sober."

"I'll slow down long before we leave, so don't worry about me, Mother."  Meanwhile, Remus had taken two small sips.  He hadn't made a face like Peter had, but he didn't really care for the taste either.  It was bitter and made him feel thirstier than he had been before he tasted it.

"If you two think this tastes like butterbeer, you have very deficient taste buds," Remus commented, but he took another larger sip.  It reminded him a bit of sourdough bread; a sort of wild yeast flavor.

"We never said they tasted similar," Sirius replied with a smile.  "We said that they weren't that different.  After all, they both have 'beer' in the name."

Remus took another large sip.  Yes, it definitely reminded him of sourdough bread.  His parents had once traveled in the United States before he was born, and his mother had acquired a taste for sourdough bread there.  She often baked it at home.  Remus had detested it as a child, but had grown to like it as he grew older.  He decided that beer would probably be the same way; he could acquire a taste for it if he wished.  And since his friends were determined to see him get drunk, he'd better acquire a taste for it quickly.  He emptied the glass with three large swallows. 

"Happy?"  Remus asked.

"That's my boy!" Sirius responded and finished his own.  "Hand over some of your ill-gotten money, Loverboy, and I'll go get more." 

James glared at Sirius but pulled a fistful of crumpled notes out of his pocket and put them on the table.  Sirius was soon back with three more pints, this time something dark brown.  He put them in front of James, Remus, and himself.  Peter was still just getting started on his first.

"Awfully dark.  What's it taste like?" Remus asked.

"Try it," Sirius commanded. Remus took a large sip to start.  It was even more bitter than the first, but the bitterness wasn't unpleasant.  It was bitter the way dark chocolate could be bitter.  It added complexity to the taste. 

"You know," Remus said thoughtfully, "this could turn into an interesting experiment.  Tasting something different each time."

Peter smiled broadly.  "Leave it to Remus to turn getting drunk into an educational experience." 

"Well, if Remus really wants to try as many new tastes as he can," Sirius said with a wicked gleam in his eye, "there's an entire bar full of choices.  And most of them will get him drunk faster than this stuff."

Remus took another large sip.  "Let's stick with this for now, thanks," he said. 

"So, anything special you want to do during the full moon this month?"  James asked Remus.  "Only two days after your birthday—I suppose that means you get to be in charge."

Remus shrugged.  "You know I'm content just to be in the forest and to see where my nose takes me.  You three are the ones who like to plan something in advance."

Peter started to giggle.  "Plans we can't always carry out, because we have to take off after you when you smell something interesting."

"It's decided then," James said.  "This month, we follow Moony's nose."

"To Moony's nose," Sirius said as he raised his glass for a toast.

"To Moony's nose," James and Peter agreed.

"Drink up, Moony.  We'll see what you think of single-malt whiskey next," Sirius said.  He slid off the bench and headed for the bar.

 Two and a half hours later and everyone was, to a greater or lesser extent, feeling the effects of the project to get Remus drunk.  And since no one had had more to drink than Remus, no one was feeling the effects more than Remus himself.  He felt uncomfortably warm, as if he had his fur as well as clothes, and his ability to think was clouded.  Most of all, he felt claustrophobic sitting in the booth.  "Surrounded by walls.  Surrounded by humans.  The air is too warm."

James and Sirius were hatching a new plot.  "What if we got some grindylows from the lake—"

 "I need to get out of here," Remus interrupted.

"Another trip to the bathroom?" Sirius asked with a chuckle as he pushed himself up and out of the booth.

"No," Remus shook his head and followed Sirius out of the booth.  "Just feeling trapped in there."

Sirius glanced around at the room.  "That table's empty.  Will you feel better there?"

"Maybe."  "Probably not."

"We could go back to school," Peter suggested.

"Oh, Wormtail, it's still early," James grumbled.  He looked up at Remus, waiting for a decision. 

The wolf wanted out.  Out of the booth.  Out of the pub.  Outside.  But Remus didn't want to give in to the wolf and disappoint his friends.  He didn't want to give in to the wolf.  "We'll try the table," he said.

"You sure, Remus?"  Sirius asked.  Remus hesitated for only a moment before he nodded.

"And I'll get another round while I'm up," James said.  "Except for you, Padfoot."

"Fine."

The empty table was in the center of the room.  Remus took the seat closest to the door.  "Still surrounded.  Humans.  Too many humans in here.  They're driving the wolf crazy."  He couldn't sit still.  He stood up suddenly.

"Leaving, Moony?" Sirius asked.

"Yes."  "No, I'll go help James carry the drinks."  He threaded his way past a few people and stood near James's elbow. 

"—has the best goalie in the league."

"Not since he banged up his knee.  If it's on his left, he just can't move fast enough.

"Stupid humans."  Snarling and growling were filling Remus's mind.

"Bullshit.  Nothing's gotten past him in the last three games."

"My five year old could have played goalie in those games and done--"

 "Sweaty, noisy humans."  Hatred and hunger threatened to overwhelm his thoughts.

James turned holding a beer.  "Here, Remus.  I'll grab the other two."  Just then, the man nearest Remus took a step back, bumping into Remus's arm and causing him to spill some of the beer.  Remus growled.

"Sorry, mate.  Didn't see you there."

James turned back from the bar to look at Remus.  He hadn't heard Remus growl in years.  The look in Remus's eyes as he stared at the man made James very uncomfortable.

"C'mon, Moony.  Let's go back to the table."  James felt relief when Remus walked away.  He followed Remus to the table and handed Peter his beer.  "I think you were right, Peter.  This is the last round."

"Don't tell me you have a late night rendezvous planned with the lovely Lily," Sirius teased.

"No."  James glanced nervously at Remus and was relieved to see that he appeared to be calm again.

"Concentrate on the conversation.  Block out the wolf," Remus thought desperately.

"Because if you do," Sirius continued, "you should know what Shakespeare said."

"What?"  James asked, dividing his attention between Sirius and Remus.

"Drink adds to the desire, but takes away the performance."

Peter chuckled.  "Leave it to Padfoot.  Probably the only Shakespeare he knows, and it has to do with drinking and sex."

 "Macbeth," Remus said quietly.

"What?"  Peter asked.

"The porter says it in Macbeth," Remus explained.  James relaxed; Remus seemed to be himself.  "Comic relief after murder." 

"You know, I've always wondered what would happen if someone followed the potion recipe in that play," Sirius said with a gleam in his eye.  "What would it make?" 

"It's been done," Remus replied.

"What was it?"

"Can't remember." 

Remus was half way through his beer without even noticing.  The scent of humans, of prey, was becoming overwhelming.  In his mind, the wolf snarled and growled his desire his hunt.

"Well, that's helpful, Moony," Sirius said sarcastically.

"Bugger off, Sirius," Remus said in a low, steely voice.

"What's wrong with you?" Sirius snapped back.

James felt very nervous.  Remus was staring at Sirius the same way that he had stared at the man near the bar. 

"C'mon, Remus," James said as he stood up.  "Let's go outside."

"Don't tell me what to do," Remus snarled at James.  Even now, he still recognized his three companions as his friends, as his pack.  But they were his pack; he was in command.  His packmates needed to know their place.  Remus's eyes were hard and angry.  James didn't dare look away; he felt frozen in place.

"Look away, James," Sirius said quietly.  "Looking him in the eyes is a challenge."

Remus's eyes fixed on Sirius again.  "And you're the fuckin' expert on wolves, are you, Padfoot?"  His voice was contemptuous and a sneer was on his face.

"No."  Sirius shook his head and dropped his eyes to the table.  "You are, Moony.  I'm just telling James what you told me."  James looked nervously between them.  He suddenly realized how much a human sneer resembled a wolf snarling to show its fangs.

"Remus?" Peter began cautiously.  "You wanted to leave earlier, when we got up from the booth.  Do you still want to leave?"

"Clever boy," James thought.  "Moony won't go unless it's his idea."

Remus didn't answer immediately.  The wolf had a room full of prey, and he no longer saw a reason to leave before he killed someone.  Some small part of him wanted to leave before that happened, but it was losing the battle. 

As they waited for Remus's answer, James became uncomfortably aware that another argument was heating up in the pub, this one just behind him at the bar.  "Two idiots fighting over money.  Maybe if I throw a few galleons at them, they'll shut up."  They sounded close to coming to blows.  James wanted to move away from them but didn't want to startle Remus with any sudden movement.

James was suddenly knocked off his feet as one man shoved the other backward into him.   At the same instant that James fell into the table, Remus lunged at the two men who had been fighting behind James.  He grabbed the one nearer the bar by the hair and slammed his face into the bar.  The man bellowed in pain as blood began to pour out of his obviously broken nose.  Still holding the man by the hair, Remus turned toward the man who had fallen into James.  He was sitting on the floor where he had fallen and struggled to get to his feet as Remus turned toward him.  A growl came from deep in Remus's throat. 

"No, Remus!"  Sirius threw himself between Remus and the man on the floor.  "No!  James is fine. You don't have to protect him.  Don't hurt them anymore." 

Remus growled at Sirius, showing his teeth in a snarl, but he stopped advancing and let go of the first man's hair. The second man managed to get to his feet, and James pulled him behind himself.  Another man, uninvolved in the original fight, suddenly pulled Remus's arms behind his back in an attempt to hold him.  Remus twisted and lunged back trying to bite him, and the man fell back in fear.  James and Sirius leapt forward pinning Remus against the bar as Sirius threw his leather jacket over Remus's head.  He struggled against them, growling and trying to bite as they held the jacket tight and pulled him toward the door.  Peter held the door open, his face pale with fear and his wand in his hand.

"Lock the door," James urged as they passed Peter.  They pulled Remus down the street, away from the windows of the pub. Remus shook himself free of the jacket and lunged at Sirius.  

"SHIT!"  Sirius yelled as Remus bit his upper arm.  "Stun him, Peter!"  Peter ran forward, holding his wand outstretched.  Remus broke free and ran down the street.  His friends ran after him, all with wands in hand.

"STUPEFY!" Red light burst from James's and Sirius's wands, striking Remus in the back.  Remus crumpled to the ground.  James and Sirius stood staring down at him.  Peter ran up beside them. 

"You O.K., Sirius?" Peter asked. 

Sirius put a hand inside his shirt and felt where he had been bitten.  All were relieved not to see blood when he pulled his hand free.  "Just bruised," he said, grimly.  "He's done worse to me as a dog."

"All our fault," James said quietly.  "We never should've gotten him drunk."
            "What do we do now?" Peter asked. 

"They're probably calling the police right now.  It isn't safe to stay here," Sirius explained.  "Let's get him back to the field where the brooms are.  We can hide there while we decide what to do."  James conjured a stretcher underneath Remus and they set off toward the field.

Yes, I know that MWPP are under age to be buying alcohol, but I have no doubt that James and Sirius have fake I.D.'s to prove they're 18.  Please read chapter 2!

Disclaimer:  Hogwarts and all characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and her publishers.  I'm just borrowing them because I'm obsessed.