No-one was scared of Fenrir Greyback. Why would they be? He was eighteen years old, lanky and awkward-looking, freckly and stubbly. He'd been trying to grow a beard for three weeks, since summer had begun, but hadn't had much success. His mother had said it looked like a baby rabbit was nesting in his chin and told him to shave it. But he was sticking with it, because he was moving out anyway, and thought the beard would make him look impressive, particularly to potential employers.
He stood in the living room of his new house, looking at his reflection in the cracked mirror and stroking said 'beard'. The mirror hung above the fireplace, and was just about the only thing in the house. It had been left by the previous owner – a little bonus. The rest of the walls, and the floorboards, were bare. Every surface was covered in dust, aside from the footprints perspective owners and the estate agent had left when they'd taken The Tour. It wasn't a fancy place, just a little one-bedroom house tucked away in a corner of London, but to Fenrir it meant everything because it meant freedom. It meant getting away from his parents and doing Whatever He Wanted.
And it was great weather for it, too, he thought. The sun was high in the sky, beaming through the window and, even though it highlighted the excessive dust floating through the air, it also filled the room with light and made it difficult to care about such trivial things as grime. It made it difficult, in fact, to care about anything at all, except spending the rest of the day stretched out on a patch of grass absorbing the sunbeams. Fenrir promised himself he would do just that, after he'd unpacked.
With a little groan (a sign of protest; everything seemed to be an effort in weather like this) he knelt down and flipped open the locks on his suitcase. "Accio," he muttered, and a bookcase flew from the case and smacked him on the nose. His eyes watered, and the bookcase toppled over, sending fresh dust flying into the air. Fenrir whimpered, and reminded himself that, when unpacking, it was sensible to stand well back, and not get hit in the face by flying furniture.
He pointed his wand firmly at his nose, and tried several times, with several hand motions and pronunciations, to get that spell right. What is it? You know the one. The one for fixing noses and things. Fenrir had never mastered that particular spell. It would have been useful, no doubt, but hey, he sure could turn a hedgehog into a great pincushion. Finally getting the spell right ("Episkey!") he stood up and away from the case, and levitated the bookshelves into the corner. Next up was the armchair. At least it's soft.But he didn't injure himself after that, although there was a close call with the dinner plates. He just ended up a bit shell-shocked, covered in dust, and, if he was honest, fairly happy with the way the decorations had turned out.
"Well," he said, to no-one at all, looking around cheerfully. "That ought to do it." Proud of his handiwork though he was, he decided he'd have to admire it at a later time. There were only six hours of daylight left, after all, and who knew how long the sun would stick around? He closed his suitcase and set it next to the sofa, then reached into his pocket in order to count out the money he kept stowed there. Five Galleons and fourteen sickles. That ought to be enough to get him a couple of Firewhiskeys, at least. He'd head to the pub after he'd taken in a bit of sun. Get to know the locals.
The street on which he'd chosen to live consisted mostly of red-brick dwellings that Fenrir was sure had once looked pleasant and comfortable. Certainly there was nothing wrong with them from the inside (unless you counted the wonky water heater in Fenrir's attic), but several of the windows of the uninhabited houses had been put in and it was hard to find a wall that wasn't covered in graffiti. Jonesy is a wanker. Fenrir made a note of it. He walked slowly along the avenue, taking in the smell of the barbecues in the back gardens. His stomach growled slightly. Children were kicking footballs and playing with Frisbees outside their houses, screaming and laughing. Someone down the road was planning a water fight. A gaggle of excited children scurried past Fenrir, giggling excitedly about how Peter was planning on using a bucket instead of a pistol. Treacherous.
As he rounded the corner at the end of the road, the estate opened onto a larger road, which in turn opened up onto what looked to be the beginnings of the town. Ah, the suburbs. Aside from the houses, there were rows of shops – the kind of Muggle shops that sold things that no-one would need, ever, like 'windscreen wipers' and 'bubble wrap'. Wondering if he should be glad, or feel foolish, that he didn't know what Magic Sand was, Fenrir strolled past the sprawling windows.
The wizard who had sold him the house (short, grizzled, and dressed in an orange jumpsuit as a Muggle disguise) had given him directions to the Hippogriff's Head, which was, apparently, a wizarding pub, and located just beside the bowling alley. The sun made it hard to think. Fenrir couldn't tell where the bowling alley was. All he was hoping for now was a bench, somewhere to sit and rest.
There was a park in the town; he could hear it from where he stood in front of Barry's Burgers. Well, he could hear the children in it playing. The town seemed to hold many families. Fenrir wasn't used to it. He'd grown up in the countryside. His closest neighbour was a tree, his closest human neighbours were a mile off, and the closest neighbours with whom he could sustain a conversation (wizards; his parents didn't permit him to socialise with Muggles when he was a child) were five miles away. The park didn't seem to be exclusively for children, though. As Fenrir approached it, he could see Muggle parents keeping an eye on their offspring from the benches alongside the play area, Muggles walking their dogs, Muggles running on the expanses of grass that ran for half a mile to the fence, marked "No Ball Games". There was a ball game happening a short distance off, but it seemed that the sign was more a suggestion than anything else.
Settling himself on an available patch of grass and reclining, Fenrir shielded his eyes with the crook of his elbow. Lovely. How could anything in the world possibly be wrong?
As the sun crept away, the park emptied. The cries of the children lessened. They were reduced to the odd screech from somewhere behind the terraced housing.
Fenrir had left when the rays had first begun to fade. The clouds had obscured the light and there was no point, he decided, in shivering on the grass when he could be in a cosy pub with a Firewhiskey and a pie. He had gotten up and left the way he came; it would be easier to find his way home from a street that he already knew.
The bowling alley wasn't hard to find. It was a giant, white bricked building, embarrassingly American-esque, with a sprawling car park empty of cars and inhabited mostly by discarded fish and chips wrappers. A large red sign above the door read "BOWLING. MUSIC. FOOD." It was shut for the night, the neon lights turned off and the music silenced. Fenrir cautiously walked behind the building.
A dark alley, home to many skips and wheelie bins, greeted him. The opposite wall held what appeared to be the back door to several businesses. Fenrir counted five. As he watched, a sixth door, between the second and third, appeared, pushing them aside. This new door was older than the others. It had been worn with the years, but mystical creatures of all description were carved with care into the frame. The brass plague above the door read "Hippogriff's Head". Fenrir entered.
The pub was alive. Fenrir got the feeling that the entire local community used this place as their retreat. Everything in the pub was worn, in a homely sort of way: it showed signs of usage, but that just meant it was well-loved. Music played from the wireless behind the bar, which was crowded with witches and wizards. One had what Fenrir could have sworn was a dripping Grindylow on his shoulder, and was feeding it sliver of raw fish. Everyone was trying to place their orders, and the two barmaids were bustling constantly up and down, trying to accommodate.
A bewitched dart zoomed past Fenrir's head, sending a shower of gold sparks flying. He ducked just in time to avoid loosing an ear. "Sorry, mate!" he heard a voice cry. The pub was crowded and difficult to manoeuvre in. Fenrir shuffled sideways, trying to make his way past the cloak tails (and one living, furry tail) that surrounded the bar without stepping on anyone. He found a free spot at the end of the bar, just next to the toilets door, and rested his elbows on it, quite prepared to wait his turn, for a few minutes anyway.
"Alright?" said a large man standing to his left. Fenrir nodded. The man was at least a foot taller than him, with a broken nose and very little hair. "You're not local, are you?" asked the man, apparently not fazed by Fenrir's less-than-enthusiastic response. Judging by his breath, he'd already had a few drinks.
"I just moved in today," said Fenrir, deciding it would be best to answer the man rather than brush him off. He seemed harmless enough, despite his bulk, and his little eyes, although pale and watery, seemed kind enough.
"Ah, 'sthat right? Where to then?"
"You know that house on Half-Moon Street?"
"Ah, that one. That one's been on the market forever, that has. Glad someone took it."
"Why is that?"
"I'm in the office for the Floo Network Registration Committee, at the Ministry, you know? That fireplace has been givin' us plenty of trouble. One day it's in, the next it's out, never two days in a row, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Not really. "I think I do. You'll be glad to finally connect it, then?"
"That's a bit of an understatement, there." He lifted his tankard and drank deeply.
"Can I take your order?" The barmaid had approached, an empty tray balanced on one arm. She looked young, too young to be working in a bar, at any rate, Fenrir thought, but he ordered a Firewhiskey just the same.
Taking a sip from the glass, Fenrir felt the burning sensation spread through his body and shuddered slightly – but it wasn't unpleasant at all. He hadn't had much experience with Firewhiskey before this. He'd tried it in his fifth year at school, entirely illegally. His friend Lestrange had bought a batch off of a shady-looking wizard in Hogsmeade, and they'd drank it in their common-room at one in the morning. It had felt as though their lungs were on fire and left them with pounding headaches the following day. They'd also attempted to climb the drapery, but they'd agreed never to mention that. As such, Fenrir had been a bit apprehensive about trying the stuff again on his seventeenth birthday, but he'd only had a couple and that wasn't so bad. He was getting better at controlling himself when under the influence, he thought, and tonight, he didn't have any qualms about celebrating his new address.
"Ernest Clish, by the way," said the bald man, offering Fenrir a hand.
"Fenrir Greyback," said Fenrir, taking it. "Whereabouts is it that you live?"
"The thatched cottage by the church," said Clish. "The Muggles think 'sjust a burnt-out ruin. You know how many times I have to scare their kids away? They come 'round wantin' to have a look around. I keep asking the Ministry to let me put Muggle-repellin' charms on, but there's some sub-clause in Section D49 that… well…" He huffed and drained his tankard.
"Very frustrating, I'm sure," said Fenrir politely, regretting asking, and he slowly attempted to shuffle away from Clish and the bar. His movements must have looked like an awkward dance, because by the time he was a couple of feet away from the bar he found himself in the middle of a bunch of witches, who were staring at him and giggling. "Ladies," said Fenrir, tipping an imaginary hat. It must have been the Firewhiskey. It had seemed charming as he was doing it, but as soon as he let his hand drop to his side, he cursed himself inwardly – he'd looked a fool, and he knew it.
But at least one of the witches seemed to appreciate what she must have taken for humour. As her friends turned and went to get seats, she broke away from the group, and moved towards Fenrir, smiling. "Hi there."
"What? Er, oh, hello, hi," Fenrir spluttered; he hadn't been expecting that at all. The girl was pretty, very pretty indeed, with golden hair and clear green eyes. They were sparkling, playful, and reminded Fenrir of the sea. "What's your Fenrir? I have a name, er… Ah." He stopped talking then, and raised a hand to cradle his face in embarrassment. The girl giggled. "Let me start again. I'm, ah, Fenrir. What's your name?"
"I'm Malvina," she said.
"That's nice," nodded Fenrir.
Malvina shrugged. "If you say so. I reckon you'd say that even if my name was Agnes or something."
"My mother is called Agnes," said Fenrir suspiciously.
"Oh," said Malvina, and a tinge of pink crept into her cheeks. "That's… sort of embarrassing."
"Never mind," said Fenrir, "would you like a drink?"
"Please," said Malvina with a shameful smile.
Malvina took a seat while Fenrir made his way back to the bar and again prepared to wait it out. Eventually collecting the elf-made wine (he'd never had it before, but it was blood-red and smelled delicious) he found Malvina sitting towards the back of the bar, where it was darker, and quieter. The sounds of the conversing customers were reduced to a low hum. The music was softer here, a gentle murmur rather than a throbbing assault on the ears.
"Here you go." He set the glass in front of her and took a seat opposite.
"Thank you," she said, raising the glass to her lips and taking a sip.
"So, are you from 'round here?" asked Fenrir as casually as he could. Inside, he was celebrating. Oh yeah!
"I was born in Scotland. I moved to Lancashire with my mother when I was two. That's where I grew up. I've only lived here for two months. And yourself?" She took another sip of her wine.
"Nah, I just moved here today. I've… just left school, you see."
"Oh, really? I'd no idea you were so young."
"Ah." Fenrir looked into his Firewhiskey. Perhaps he should have felt embarrassed, but, taking another sip, he felt himself filled with fresh courage. "Well, I'm of age, so I hardly think it would matter. Also," he added, gesturing at her with one finger, some Firewhiskey sloshing over the brim of the glass, "I got three O's in my NEWTs, so if it's someone with good career prospects you're after, I'm your man."
Malvina chuckled. "That's very admirable. I didn't take NEWTs myself. Didn't have the drive. I wish I had now… I would have applied to the Ministry if I'd the chance, I'd have loved to have been an Auror. I just love the whole sense of adventure, you know?"
"But instead, I've been working as a barmaid for five years," she sighed. "Still, I've gotten a job at Madam Malkin's, you know the robe shop in Diagon Alley?"
"I do. Lovely place. Must be nice to have someone else serving you, then, eh?"
"I'll say!" she laughed. They both drank again, and she asked, "So you went to Hogwarts?"
"'Course I did. Where else?"
"Were you there when I went? I must be at least five years older than you; I don't remember you at all."
Fenrir shrugged. "I don't think you were. I would have remembered you, at least. You're bloody beautiful." Curse that Firewhiskey.
But she laughed, and blushed again. "That's sweet. So what house were you in? No, wait, let me guess." Fenrir smirked and sat back, spreading his arms in a gesture that said, Come on then. "Well," Malvina said, "I know you're clever because you've told me about your NEWTs, so unless you're lying…" She narrowed her eyes. "You've been very nice to me, but, again, you're either lying or maybe you just fancy me. You seem pretty confident, but I'd blame the Firewhiskey for that." Fenrir licked his lips, where a couple of drops still lingered. "I'd say you were in… Ravenclaw?"
"No." He lent forward and picked his glass up again. "I was in Slytherin."
Malvina wrinkled her nose. "I thought you seemed nice, too."
Fenrir laughed into his drink. "What were you in? Hufflepuff?" He meant it as a joke, but Malvina straightened up and gave him a stern look.
"I was, actually."
Fenrir spluttered into his Firewhiskey. "Blimey." Malvina smiled in a good-natured sort of way – most Hufflepuffs were used to being teased – and traced her fingers around the base of her glass. "Hey." Fenrir had caught out of the corner of his eye a flash of bright red that didn't quite match the wine. "You're bleeding."
"Oh." She looked down at her hands. There was a cut on the knuckle of the middle finger on her right and, and it was bleeding angrily. "Yeah, that's… that's an old cut." She lifted her hand and cradled it. "I got it a couple of weeks ago. I've no idea why it hasn't stopped bleeding yet. It doesn't hurt, though."
"How did you get it?" asked Fenrir with concern. "Maybe you should visit St. Mungo's. They're very good with wounds and things."
"Oh, I know," she said, "but this isn't anything like that. It's not a wound, it's just a funny cut. I think it must have hit a particular vein or something."
I doubt it. "How did you get it?"
"I was bitten by a puppy." She gave a small laugh. Fenrir made a puzzled face. "I know, it looks worse, doesn't it?"
"Yes," frowned Fenrir. "Are you sure it doesn't hurt? What happened? Did the puppy assault you?"
She gave a bark of laughter. "Well, not exactly. I was heading home from work one night and I saw this little puppy hiding behind a Muggle's car. It looked frightened, and I just thought, well, maybe I'll give it a pet, make sure it's okay, take it home, or whatever. When I started getting near to it, it was shrinking away from me, but it didn't run, so I tried to scratch behind its ears. But, it nipped my finger. Then it ran off." She paused, and sipped her wine again. "Funny-looking dog, though," she mused. "Weird, long legs."
Fenrir raised his eyebrows. "Well, you should try Episkey," he shrugged. "It's always worked for me."
"I have. I'll just have to wait for it to clear up on its own, I suppose," she sighed.
"Hm. At least it's not bothering you, that's something to be grateful for."
"Yes," she agreed. "We must look for things to be grateful for."
Fenrir nodded. "Friends, family, our health, the weather, magic, music… Can I buy you another drink?"
"I'd like that." She gave him a smile. Fenrir returned it. It looked like it was going to be a good night.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Fenrir met Malvina in the Hippogriff's Head almost every evening. Fenrir came to know her well, and appreciate the little things that made her – her smile, her laugh, the way the skin around her eyes crinkled when she did so, the way she held herself. The little imperfections – her slightly crooked nose, the bleeding knuckle that still hadn't healed, the fact she was a Hufflepuff… that didn't matter. He'd found, as far as he was concerned, the perfect woman.
That particular night, she was wearing robes of a deep blood-red. Her lips were painted scarlet and Fenrir couldn't take his eyes off them. They were drinking Butterbeer – after all, it was a weeknight. The pub was just as crowded as ever, and the music seemed louder. Malvina began to tap the table in time to the music. Fenrir looked at her with amusement.
"I love this song, don't you?" she asked him.
"I don't know," he said. "What is it?"
"Blood Moon, by Dragon's Tale."
Never heard of it. "Oh, yeah. I like this one." He began to bob his head.
Malvina chortled. "You look ridiculous when you do that. Do you want to dance properly?"
"What?" Fenrir stopped his head-bobbing immediately. "No, I can't dance at all."
"Oh, come on," she said, standing up and putting a hand on his arm. "I'll lead."
"No, I'll… I'll look stupid."
"Of course you won't," she said. "Look, loads of people are dancing, they won't even notice you, and…" She leant in and whispered in his ear. "They're not very good anyway."
Fenrir smirked and got to his feet. He wasn't good at it, but if Malvina wanted him to dance, then dance he would. He held his arms out, and Malvina placed them in the appropriate position – one on her back, one on her hip. There wasn't a lot of room, so mercifully the dancing wouldn't have to be too extravagant.
The tune sounded to Fenrir like much of the other music the wizarding world was producing at that time – a slow rock 'n' roll tune, with heavy guitar and lyrics about dark magic. The lead vocalist rasped, as though he was part goblin. But all the same, thought Fenrir, as they waltzed to the odd beat, there was something likable about it. Perhaps it was just because he was in Malvina's arms, but regardless, he knew he wouldn't forget this moment for a very long time. He buried his nose in her hair, kissed her red lips, kissed her neck.
They spent that night at Fenrir's house. He'd cleared the dust from every inch of it, and now truly thought of it as home. It was well-furnished – he didn't have a lot of money, but he'd made sure the house was comfortable. The bed was a large four-poster that dominated the room. Beside the bed sat an antique oak cabinet (it had belonged to his grandmother) and a heavy bronze candlestick. He'd let the candle burn itself out that evening; he had fallen asleep without realising it, content, with Malvina by his side.
But he was woken late at night (or was it the early morning? The light was grey and watery) by a strange groaning sound.
"Hmm?" He slowly blinked his eyes open. Nothing in the room looked different, but he was facing the door. The noise seemed to be coming from behind his back, towards the window… He rolled over, squinting in the dim. "Malvina? You alright?" Because the noise was coming from Malvina; she was under the duvet, which was visibly shaking. "Malvina, are you alright?" he asked again. There was no answer, but the groaning became louder, more violent. Frowning, Fenrir pulled the blanket back, and what he saw would remain imprinted on his eyes for the rest of his life.
Malvina was curled on top of the sheet, her body in a twisted, inhuman position. From every part of skin Fenrir could see, grey fur was sprouting. Sharp fangs protruded from her mouth, which was lengthening into a snout. Her eyes were bulging, and changing from the sea-green Fenrir had loved to a dull yellow. Her ears grew into tufted funnels, and her hands were becoming paws, her nails claws.
Fenrir screamed. The warped animal, barely resembling Malvina anymore, caught sight of him, and let out a pitiful whimper. Fenrir didn't know if it was trying to speak or just making animal sounds, but that didn't matter, because the next moment the whimper became a snarl, and the beast lunged for Fenrir. He barely had any time to react. The creature's paw collided with the side of his face, knocking him to the floor. As it stood above him, peering down, Fenrir did the only thing he could think of and aimed a kick at its face. It was momentarily stunned; blood trickled from its chin and its eyes became unfocused.
Fenrir scrambled to his feet, but that wasted precious time; the creature had already regained its form and was crouched on the bed, preparing to pounce. Fenrir knew he had only a few seconds. He scanned the room, looking for anything he could use as a weapon. His wand was on the windowsill, behind the beast, and he knew he'd have no chance of outrunning it. Besides, he didn't know any spells that would defend him against something like this. He didn't even know what it was. His mind was in shock, and he couldn't place it. He knew he'd seen something like it before, years ago, in a textbook, but as to its name he had no idea. It didn't matter what it was called when it wanted to kill you. The only thing that would have helped him was the accompanying text: How to kill the beast. But he couldn't recall it now, and seized the only weapon he could think of – the bronze candlestick from his grandmother's cabinet.
With a howl, the werewolf lunged, and Fenrir remembered – "the werewolf responds only to the call of its own kind" – it had been a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson he'd read about them – he hadn't paid attention in that class – was there a proper defence? It didn't matter. As the werewolf sprung at him, he swung the only defence he had. He missed, and the werewolf's jaws clamped onto his upper arm and it began to tear him apart with its teeth. Shrieking, Fenrir swung the candlestick again and again, and eventually it collided with the werewolf's skull. The werewolf opened its jaws and yowled in pain and fury, but Fenrir didn't hear it. All he heard was the blood pounding in his ears. He swung the candlestick again, until the blood began to flow from the werewolf's head, and it collapsed. Fenrir gathered all the energy he could – he only had one good arm but the adrenaline made him feel stronger than he ever had in his life – and brought the base of the candlestick crashing down on the werewolf's head. It didn't move.
The pain was like nothing he'd ever felt before. The fangs had seared his flesh and felt as though fire was spreading through his body. It wasn't warm, it wasn't comforting, it wasn't Firewhiskey – it was a forest fire, and he was sure he was going to die. The blood seeped from his arm and spread over the carpet. He felt woozy as he lost it; the adrenaline was gone now. The world swam before his eyes. It was hazy. It was fading.
He saw one thing before everything went black. Even in his woozy state, he could understand it, and it made what had happened infinitely worse. The werewolf's body was changing. The fur was receding. The paws were shrinking. The claws were withdrawing. The fur turned from grey to gold. Its snout shrank and became a nose. And what was lying on the floor was no longer a werewolf, but the body of Malvina, and her skull had been crushed by the candlestick, and it was her blood that stained the carpet too.
"No," Fenrir whimpered. He tried to speak louder, to deny what had happened, to wake up, but he couldn't. His voice faded, Malvina faded, everything faded. "No… no… no…"