“Your sponsor is here, filthy dog.”
Fenrir looked up disinterestedly as the guard rattled the bars of his cell.
“Sponsor? What are you on about, boy?” he asked.
“Your Ministry-issued sponsor. New programme, courtesy of Minister Granger.”
Huh. This was the first he’d heard of any sponsor. He figured those fools at the Ministry would have forgotten all about him the moment he was imprisoned, and couldn’t think why they’d send anyone to speak to the likes of him.
The guard turned to look at someone behind him. “Stay well back from the bars, miss. Remember that he’s a dangerous animal, barely even human.”
“He is human. Even if he did inhuman things.”
The guard snorted in disgust. “Should have just put him down like the rabid mutt he is, that's what I think.”
“Luckily for the prisoners, you aren’t paid to express your opinion on restorative justice,” the young woman said coolly.
“Ha! She put you in your place, boy,” Fenrir laughed. “Now move your fat arse so I can see the girly you’re shielding.”
With a grumble, the guard stepped aside to reveal his visitor. She had long red hair, sharp blue eyes, and wore a slightly apprehensive expression as she regarded him. Fenrir grinned at the sight. Lifting his head, he sniffed at the air, catching her scent. Sandalwood, musk, and a slight tang of feminine sweat. She both looked, and smelled, familiar. He just couldn’t quite place her; not yet. But it would come.
“Closer, girly. Let me get a good look at you.”
She didn’t respond, but didn’t move forward, either. Instead, she looked pointedly at the guard, who sighed and conjured a chair. With a quiet ‘thank you’, she sat, primly crossing her ankles and tossing her long, shiny hair over her shoulder. The guard moved back several paces, positioning himself so he was behind and slightly to the right of the girl, and folded his arms, glaring balefully at Fenrir.
“I take it no one has informed you of the sponsorship program, Mr Greyback?” the witch asked him.
Fenrir chuckled at being called Mr Greyback . It wasn’t even his real name, for Merlin’s sake! Then again, it might as well be. He couldn’t remember his real name, the one he had before he was bitten and his life changed forever. “Can’t say that they have, girly. Sounds like a load of bollocks though, whatever it is.”
She reached for the handbag hanging from her shoulder, lifting it into her lap and undoing the clasp. Pulling it open, she reached inside and withdrew a folded newspaper then started to stand.
“Hold it, miss. It’s best if I do that,” the guard cautioned, stepping forward to take the paper from her before she could move towards him. Fenrir snorted and rolled his eyes.
The witch sighed in exasperation as she eased back into her seat. “Go on, then.”
The guard stepped forward, withdrawing his wand as he went. With the weapon trained on Fenrir, he rested the paper on the crossbar. Fenrir didn’t move from his spot on the bed, instead regarding the man on the other side of his cell with detached amusement.
“Hurry up, dog,” he growled.
Fenrir waited a moment longer before slowly rising from his bed. Keeping his eyes on the witch all the while, he stretched languidly, letting his spine crack. He didn’t miss the way her eyes widened imperceptibly, her head tilting back to watch him. Next he moved his head from side to side and rolled his shoulders. Finally, when he sensed the guard was within moments of losing his temper, he strolled forward until he was close enough to snatch the paper from the other man’s hand.
Returning to his bed, he sat down, opened it up and shook it out. It was an edition of the Daily Prophet dated two weeks ago.
Minister for Magic Announces New Mentor Programme for War Criminals
Minister Granger, in an unprecedented move, has declared that all those tried and convicted of war crimes following the Second Wizarding War are to be assigned mentors, with the programme to begin within the next two weeks - as soon as volunteers can be screened and assigned to those who are incarcerated.
The tenacious Muggleborn, who is also the youngest Minister to serve in England in more than one hundred and fifty years, developed the programme based on methods used in Muggle prisons. At a scheduled press conference, she said, “For all but the most heinous crimes, people incarcerated in the Muggle world are encouraged to rehabilitate, to take the opportunity to improve themselves and earn the right to one day rejoin society. I believe it is possible to re-educate those convicted of war crimes, to show them that there is a path other than fanaticism and an obsession with blood purity. Bigotry and prejudice are learned; with time and hard work, they can be unlearned.”
Support for the programme has been mixed, with some members of the Wizengamot and the public being of the view that the prisoners should be forgotten about and left to rot. However, key figures including Kingsley Shacklebolt (Former Minister for Magic, who retired last year), Minerva McGonagall (Headmistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry), and the Minister’s good friends Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood, have all come out publicly in support.
The programme passed by the narrowest of margins in an Extraordinary meeting of the Wizengamot, following a heated debate which lasted for several days.
Currently, there are thirty-three former Death Eaters and Voldemort supporters incarcerated in Azkaban, including Thorfinn Rowle, Walden McNair, Lucius Malfoy, Corban Yaxley, Augustus Rookwood, Rudolphus Lestrange, and Fenrir Greyback - although it should be noted that the vicious werewolf was never granted the Dark Mark, due to his disease of lycanthropy…
Fenrir let loose an animalistic growl and crumpled the paper into a ball before dropping it to the floor, leaning over the bed to spit on it for good measure. Fucking bastards. ‘Disease of lycanthropy’, indeed!
He’d never asked to be bitten as a child. Never asked to be treated like he was less than human, an abomination. If not for that incident, perhaps he’d have had a chance at a normal life. Perhaps he would have travelled a different path, one not marred by dark magic and violent crime. But there was no use crying over spilt butterbeer. What was done, was done.
Looking up at the witch before him, he scowled. “So you’re here to reform me, are you, girly? To make me fit to reenter society?”
She nodded. “That’s correct, Mr Greyback. We’ll work together—”
“And what about my condition? My disease?” he spat. “Do you really think I’ll ever be released? Accepted as a reformed and upstanding citizen? Do you even know of the things I’ve done?”
“I know everything you’ve done,” she said quietly. “You bit Remus Lupin. Mauled my housemate and nearly killed her. Scarred my brother.”
Fenrir chuckled; he was finally able to place her. “I remember you. The youngest Weasley. How is your brother these days?”
“Wolfish,” she said. “He sends his regards.”
“I’m sure he does,” he replied. “Are you really here to reform me, or are you just here to put me down as an act of revenge? I’m sure your man over there wouldn’t stop you.” He nodded towards the guard, who continued to glare in Fenrir’s direction but otherwise remained silent and unmoving.
“No, I’m not going to attack you. And I’m not going to guarantee that you can be reformed. But I’m going to try.”
Fenrir huffed in amusement. “Are you really? I’m a werewolf, after all. A half-breed. Ordinary wizards hate my kind.”
The Weasley girl eyed him steadily. “Remus was a werewolf, and I didn’t hate him. In fact, I liked him very much, as did my friends and many of my fellow students, the professors, and the Order. He was a good man. His lycanthropy didn’t change that fact.”
“And how was Lupin managing before he resurfaced at Hogwarts?” he countered. “Was he happy? Healthy? Were his pockets full of Galleons?”
She fell quiet and looked at her hands, twisting her fingers in her lap.
“Well?” Fenrir pressed. “Answer me, girly.”
“It’s Ginny,” she said, looking up at him. Her eyes were sad. “And no, he wasn’t happy. When we first met him, he was malnourished, and exhausted. His robes were in disrepair and he owned very little. He barely had two Knuts to rub together.”
“And why do you think that is?”
The Weasley - Ginny - glared petulantly at him. “You know, I’m supposed to be asking you the questions not the other way around.”
“And yet, here we are,” he replied coolly. “If you want me to tolerate your presence, little Weasley, you’ll answer.”
She seemed to consider his words, then nodded, albeit reluctantly. Fenrir found himself mildly impressed, in spite of himself. She was being far more patient and accommodating than he expected. He waited for her to give him a reply to his previous question.
Finally, she sighed and lifted her hands in a half-shrug. “Because of his Lycanthropy. He found it almost impossible to hold down a job or even find somewhere to live, because of society’s prejudice against werewolves.”
“And do you think wizardkind has changed their attitudes towards wolves since the end of the war? Their attitudes towards me?”
“No,” she admitted, not meeting his eyes.
“So why are you here?”
“Because I want to be.”
Fenrir snorted in disbelief. “And what of your family and friends? What do they think? Didn’t the Potter pup object? You became his wife, as I recall.”
“They can’t tell me what to do,” she answered with a scowl. “I’m not a child any more. I fought in the war, just as they did! And I am not Harry’s wife.”
He grinned. He’d clearly struck a nerve, and quite a big one. It would seem that not only did the youngest Weasley feel undervalued by her friends and family, but her fairytale relationship with the Potter boy had crashed and burned. He could use those resentments to goad her, test her. To see if she was genuine, or just playing some sort of game.
“So your family doesn't approve of you visiting me?” he pressed. “I thought the brother I scarred sent his regards?”
“They weren’t kind ones,” she bit out. “But what he had to say was nothing compared to what his wife had to say about the matter.”
“Oh? And tell me, girly - what did she have to say?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “It was all in French. But whatever it was, it clearly wasn’t polite. One of our ancestors’ portraits is hanging in our sitting room, and she obviously speaks the language, because she was so scandalised that she fled with her hands over her ears.”
Fenrir threw back his head and roared with laughter, and noted that despite the topic under discussion, the young witch’s lips twitched, though she tried to keep her expression stern.
Silence fell between them. Although it didn’t bother Fenrir in the slightest - he’d never been much of a talker, anyway - he could tell the witch felt awkward and unsure how to proceed. After several minutes where neither of them said anything, he took pity on her and decided to speak. After all, she was the first proper visitor he’d had since his incarceration.
Clearing his throat, he said, “So tell me about this mentor thing. Not in the Minister’s words - in your own. Why are you acting as a mentor? And why would you agree to being assigned to me?”
The Weasley girl considered his questions, her tilting head slightly to one side as she formulated a response. After a few beats, she opened her mouth, closed it again, shook her head as if to clear errant thoughts, and finally sat up straighter in her chair. She looked unflinchingly at him and gave a small smile.
“Well, truthfully, I was opposed to the idea at first. We’d all suffered so much at the hands of Voldemort and his supporters, and I couldn’t understand why Hermione would think it was a good idea to give any of them the time of day, let alone treat them as if they were capable of redemption of any kind. I was one of the ones who thought you should all be left to rot.” She nodded at the crumpled paper on the floor of his cell.
“It took a lot of work on Hermione’s part to convince me to not only support her, but to become one of her mentors. I was angry for a long time; angry at Voldemort, at his supporters, the Ministry and their bumbling. Even myself. I kept thinking of all the things I could have done differently, all the ways I could have changed an outcome or prevented a death. In the end, it was that anger that worked in her favour. She said being face-to-face with his supporters would help me recoginse that they were just as human as I was. They had done bad things, terrible and monstrous things, but they were still human. She said it would be therapeutic. I said she was full of shit.”
Fenrir nodded slowly in understanding. He appreciated her honesty; it would have been easy for her to feed him a lot of pretty words about how she believed in the programme or had faith that it would succeed, that she saw the good in everyone, or some equally sickening and disingenuous bullshit.
“How did you go from thinking she was full of shit, to agreeing with her?” he asked.
“Strictly speaking, I didn’t completely agree with her, even though I agreed to be one of her mentors. I still don’t completely agree with her. I don’t think all of you can be reformed. But I was just so sick of being angry all the time, at everything and everyone. I lashed out a lot, pushed the people I love away. Drank too much.” She looked down at her hands, as if ashamed, then back up at him. “I hoped that she was right; that if I participated in the programme it would help me deal with and let go of some of my anger.”
“And you agreed to be assigned to me?” Fenrir prompted.
The Weasley snorted indelicately. “Hardly. I volunteered to be your mentor. Hermione wanted each of us to be completely in control of our involvement, and that included being free to choose who we mentored. She didn’t want anyone to feel obligated or pressured to deal with any particular prisoner. She said it could interfere with the process if the mentors didn’t feel like they had a say over who they worked with.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You chose to mentor me?” She nodded in response, leaving him even more surprised. And confused. “...Why?” he asked, once he remembered how to make coherent sounds with his mouth.
“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. Her face scrunched up, and she frowned. “Actually, that’s not entirely true. I think—I think I did it to get a rise out of everyone.”
“A—rise?” Fenrir stuttered, feeling even more perplexed than before, if that was possible. Here was this scrap of a girl - one he vaguely remembered as being a fair duellist, good with spells, and with a tenacity and fire to match her long, shining hair - sitting before him, one of the most feared and reviled men of all time, saying she was seeing him to get a rise out of everyone.
“Yes, I think so,” she replied evenly. “They all seem to underestimate me and treat me like an infant—well, except for Hermione—so…” Her shoulder lifted slightly and her lips did that quirk again, the one that told him she was trying not to laugh. He realised then that he liked this Weasley. Huh. Wonders would never cease. Her honest forthrightness was… refreshing. And she seemed not to fear him, despite all he had done. She had spark. He decided he would not object to her coming back to see him again, even if he probably was a lost cause.
Fenrir realised he had been studying her intently when she shifted in her chair, blushed, and then asked, “What do you think of that?”
He told her exactly what he had been thinking, and she blushed even harder. “You do realise that if I’m to come back, we can’t spend every meeting talking about me and my feelings?” she warned, attempting to look serious. “We’ll need to talk about you.”
“I’m not very interesting, or palatable, for that matter,” Fenrir replied. “But I suppose I can tell you a thing or two, if you ask me nicely. And if you promise to tell me a few more things about your life.” He gave her a wolfish grin.
She gave him an embarrassed smile and laughed nervously. “My life isn’t all that interesting, either,” she said. “Although, admittedly, far more… palatable.” Her quip made him chuckle and shake his head in resignation. Merlin, this girl was amusing.
She looked at her watch and sighed. “Our session for today is over.”
Fenrir felt a foreign sensation in his chest at her words. A tightness. It was uncomfortable. He didn’t like it, and frowned.
“You look disappointed,” she observed with a quirk of her eyebrow, as she stood and readjusted the strap of her bag.
“Huh. Is that what this feeling is?” he replied, tapping on his barrel chest with a closed fist. “Interesting.”
“Do you not remember what disappointment feels like?’ she asked curiously. “What about other emotions? Sadness? Fear? Love? Happiness?”
He laughed cynically. “Emotions are foreign to me, little Weasley,” he said. “At least, all human emotions. I feel what the wolf feels. Have for as long as I can remember.”
“Perhaps next time, you’ll tell me about the wolf.”
He shrugged. “Perhaps I will.”
His answer triggered another smile, a more hopeful one, this time. She was at the door when she paused and turned back to regard him. “And stop calling me ‘girly’ and ‘little Weasley’. I told you - my name is Ginny .” The guard escorted her out, and the steel clanged shut behind them.
Fenrir lifted his head and sniffed the air once again. Her scent still lingered. He found himself experiencing yet another foreign human emotion. He thought it might be hope.
He hoped she meant what she said. He hoped she would come back.