Truth under a Waning Moon
Tuesday 2 November 1982 – Saturday 2 July 1983
Kincarden Croft, Inverness-shire; Invergarry, Inverness-shire.
Rated PG for implied lycanthropy.
After his encounter with Ariadne, Remus found himself brooding less on the past. She had blazed into his dilemma like a beacon of light. Finding an ally, however briefly, marked the end of his grieving period. Instead, he found himself wanting to be cheerful, and he often succeeded simply by thinking of her. The image of Ariadne MacDougal entering the shepherd’s hut in the cold dawn, trusting him enough to mind her own business, yet trustworthy enough to make it her business to guide him to safety, became a kind of talisman. Friendship had not died with James and Peter; new friends were always a possibility.
He did not seriously expect to see Miss MacDougal again, let alone to make a real friend of her. His thoughts of Ariadne were more symbolic, to remind him that the cosmic system was not all bad, that humans were not always hostile, that a rescuing angel (albeit with Gaelic eyes) had sought him out in his hour of need.
The next full moon fell on St Andrew’s Day, and Mr Kenneth MacDougal offered to take Remus and William to the Muggle celebrations in Invergarry. That meant another night of slinking off to the forest, of searching out a tree far enough from the reaches of adventurous village drunks yet close enough to allow an easy journey home, of chaining himself with a Conjured chain that he desperately hoped would last the night, of casting warming charms and Silencing Charms before the moon finally rose…
He escaped from Invergarry undetected. After he staggered the two miles back to Kincarden, the family noted that he had been out all night and they noted that he was unfit to work; therefore, they assumed he had drunk too much at the revels (even though neither Kenneth nor William remembered seeing him in the hotel). He was told that he might consider his “hangover day” his day off, and there was an end to it.
Ariadne, of course, would have recognised that it was not a hangover. He wondered if the real Miss MacDougal would have worked out by now that he was a werewolf, and how angry she would be that he had imposed on her. But the ethereal Ariadne who comforted his dreams, the one who did not objectively exist, probably did not take much interest in wolves. On the contrary, he decided, he would imagine her as a person who would always open doors for him, month by month, and continue to sweep away every lurking disaster…
The following full moon coincided with Hogmanay while the family was away in Glasgow. That gave Remus time to spy out the local area unquestioned, and he found a disused barn between two villages. He Apparated there for the next six months, casting a sound-proofing charm on its outer walls, a mild heating charm on its inner walls, and a locking charm on its double doors, then throwing his wand to the high ceiling with an Adhaero Charm timed to end five minutes after moonset. It was very safe, and morning escapes were relatively easy, but it still left the problem of staggering back to Kincarden (as often as not, when he didn’t have permission to be away) and then explaining his illness.
In January, he said he had flu. Mrs MacDougal believed him because they all had the flu.
In February, he said he had flu. Mrs MacDougal believed him because it was obvious that he really did have the flu.
In March, he attributed it to the cold – it was still snowy. Mrs MacDougal believed him, but she gently suggested he take better care of himself, because becoming ill at lambing time was not really allowed, and it seemed that he became ill rather often.
In April, he didn’t have a convincing excuse. Mrs MacDougal began to talk about how “regular” his illnesses were, how non-responsive to traditional medicants they were, and asked if he had consulted a Healer about the possibility of a “body rhythm allergy”. He said that he had, muttered something about the tests being inconclusive, and apologised for the wasted time.
“Remus, we are concerned,” Mrs MacDougal repeated. “It’s not that your disorder has cost us very much time, for you’ve had hardly any days off, except to be sick. You’re a good worker, and we’re worried about you – that if your illness is not treated, you’ll become a great deal sicker.”
He apologised again. It seemed that he was in no danger of being sacked; the real danger was that his employers would diagnose the true cause of his malady. And they didn’t want to lose a good worker, but of course they couldn’t harbour a werewolf, especially not one who had tricked them into believing he was a normal person.
He pushed the thoughts away. It hadn’t happened yet. It wasn’t going to happen for at least a month. He made himself think about Ariadne, a Pict with Gaelic eyes, the product of such an ancient magical heritage that she wasn’t even afraid of werewolves. Not in his dreams.
In May, he managed to beg a couple of days off. He spent them lying in the barn.
Early in June, his convenient, sturdy, isolated barn was demolished. “Of insufficient historical interest,” the Muggles had decided, and “of no current use.” That full moon, Remus had to Transform in the shepherd’s hut, which was lashed by such a violent thunderstorm that he need not even have bothered to lay the Silencing Charm. But the trick of sticking his wand to the ceiling wouldn’t work in the hut, because, with a vigorous leap, the wolf could reach the ceiling and might snap the wand. So he had to leave his wand outside, knowing very well that it could be lost in the storm, and, once again, he spent most of the next day lying in the hut. It was late afternoon before he mustered the strength to smash the window, clamber out, locate his wand, throw a Reparo at the window, and take himself down to the farmhouse kitchen.
Mrs MacDougal said nothing, for it had officially been his “day off”, but he saw Mr and Mrs Kenneth exchange significant glances. He wondered what they speculated about his poor health.
That evening Mr MacDougal summoned him to the parlour and began, “Remus, I believe you are acquainted with a lady named Emmeline Vance.”
It was the last topic that Remus had imagined. “Yes, sir.”
“My wife called on her this morning. Imagine her astonishment, Remus, when she saw your photograph on Miss Vance’s chimney-piece!”
“Sir, that astonishes me, too.”
“It was a group portrait,” Mr MacDougal clarified, “of the Order of the Phoenix members. Miss Vance keeps a large print on her mantelpiece. My wife saw at once that you were sitting next to her on the photograph and quickly learned that you, too, had been a member of the Order.”
“That is highly commendable; I cannot think why you did not mention it to us. But to business. The reason my wife was in Sheffield is that our daughter wishes to go on a walking holiday that this Miss Vance is organising.”
Remus had no idea why this might be his business, but he nodded.
“I confess to you, Remus, that my wife and I are quite torn. Miss Vance seems a very respectable lady, who has planned the route carefully, made all suitable provisions for food and shelter and safety, and is intending to chaperone the young people very carefully. In short, it’s difficult to imagine what could go wrong.” The father, however, was obviously imagining all kinds of things that might go wrong. “But it seems to us that Miss MacDougal is yet very young to spend as long as a fortnight so far from either home or school. There are two other lasses in the party, and we wonder whether Miss Vance will really have time to give each of them the focussed care that they all deserve.”
The next pause was so long as to demand a comment. “I quite see the dilemma, Mr MacDougal.”
“Remus, we have decided to send you to join the young people on this holiday. It will be part of your employment contract with us; you will be the particular protector of Miss MacDougal.”
Remus was amazed that Mr and Mrs MacDougal did not see the obvious flaw with this plan. Perhaps, given his social labels of “farmhand” and “half-blood”, they did not consider him to be a man at all.
“Professor Dumbledore himself vouches for your character, Remus,” said his employer. “He says you were especially skilled in Defence Against the Dark Arts. I believe we do not encounter many of the Dark Arts nowadays, but there are other evils in the world – snakes, flies, dogs, rain, sunburn, late nights, unbalanced meals, rash over-spending, harebrained schemes to climb dangerous mountains, over-familiar young men, forgetting to owl home. You have to understand that the only adults involved in this scheme are Miss Vance, who cannot possibly do everything herself, and a man whom Miss MacDougal has never met. I know my daughter has met you only briefly, but we would feel her to be safer if you would accept the task of being her guardian.”
Her guardian or her guard? sprang inevitably to mind. There was no choice, of course; Remus was obliged to obey. It was, he knew, a sign that his employers trusted him enormously and were a thousand miles away from guessing the true nature of his monthly illnesses.
Now Remus had to re-order his thoughts swiftly. Miss MacDougal would be coming home in less than a week. And she wasn’t some kind of angelic spirit. She was a real child, who officially needed his protection. Unofficially, she was likely to become very irritated by the way he had been installed to guard her, report on her, and invade the leisure time that she had hoped to spend with her friends.
But he didn’t remember much about the real child; there had been so many fantasies that he no longer recalled what was true memory and what was merely a figment of his imagination. He knew there had been a Hogwarts school uniform, and a Transfiguration problem, and a lit wand beamed on a dark path. But she wouldn’t be wearing uniform, or calculating Transfiguration either, not in the school holidays, and she wouldn’t light her wand by daylight.
There had also been a nebulous feeling of collusion, an assumption that she was on his side… an assumption that couldn’t possibly transfer over to new situations all these months later. It was he who had to try to be on her side this summer, to do his job without ruining her holiday.
He mulled over this a hundred times, while he scythed hay, while he packed fleeces, while he applied fly-repellant to the shorn sheep. And when he looked up from the final sheep, Ariadne was standing in front of him.
This time she wasn’t a figment of his imagination. She was carrying a lamb and speaking very prosaic words. “Can I take your clipboard? Kenneth’s wanting all the records.” She placed the lamb in the pen and held out her hand.
He passed over the clipboard. “Good afternoon, Miss MacDougal. I didn’t see you enter the field.”
“You were concentrating on the sheep. Or was your mind engaged with some Transfiguration problem?” She was looking right at him, as if their last encounter had been yesterday.
He had remembered her smile correctly after all.
A new friend was always a possibility.