Moon Curse
by Your Cruise Director

"Twixt earthly females and the moon
All parallels exactly run."
-- Jonathan Swift, The Progress of Beauty

The witch's hut looked like something out of a Muggle fairy tale, dingy and dark, with cobwebs on the ceiling and rat bones piled in the corners by the huge black cat that stalked across the ragged woven rug beneath the table. And the witch herself was worse, from the oversized wart on her nose to the tattered black robes that hung from her bony, angular arms. Remus was half-afraid to drink the tea she offered him, not knowing what herbs she might have put into the noxious mixture; the fact that it was sweet and fragrant like a sleeping draught only made him more uneasy.

"Malfoy sent you," she guessed in her high, creaking voice, giving him a wide, gap-toothed grin. "Oh, don't look so frightened, boy, you don't have to tell me anything. I know why you're here...I can smell it on you." The smile turned calculating as she regarded him. "You're hoping it's true that there's an ancient cure for your condition. And there is, but like all things it comes with a price."

"My firstborn child?" suggested Remus in a quiet, ironic tone. She cackled at him, waggling a finger.

"Part of the price is that you will never bear a child." Remus shrugged; he had doubted that he ever would, and had not been certain that he could father children save with another werewolf, which was not something he intended to pass onto another generation of Lupins. "There will be pain, and great upheaval in your life. But those are only the physical effects. My price is something that will be harder for you to accept."

"What is it?" he asked.

The witch's eyes changed suddenly, and he could have sworn that for a moment her appearance did as well; he thought that he beheld a beautiful woman with vampiric fangs, fingernails like blades and cold, cold eyes. "I need you," she smiled, "to kill for me."

Stay calm, Remus told himself. He had no reason to believe that this witch had the power to do what he had heard, listening in the dim light of The Hog's Head. Thus he did not allow himself to react to her outrageous suggestion, instead turning the conversation to see if in fact she knew anything that might be useful to him.

"If there is really a cure for my condition, why doesn't anyone at the Ministry of Magic know of it?" he asked her.

The witch cackled again, screeching. "Boy, are you as childish as you look?" she demanded. "The Ministry of Magic exists to control the magical world, not to protect it. There's more ancient lore buried away in one room of their Department of Mysteries than you're likely to learn in a hundred years at one of those schools of witchcraft and wizardry. The Ministry of Magic," she spat suddenly, raking her fingernails across the splintered wooden tabletop, "would much rather control werewolves and vampires, keep you registered and numbered and locked away. That's how they treat people like you...and me."

Remus shuddered at her vehemence, taking a gulp of her tea to calm himself. "Why do you want me to kill for you? Can't you do it yourself?" he demanded.

"For one thing, I require blood to perform the spell that will cure you," she hissed. "It will only work with the blood from a virgin's monthly courses. As for the rest, it is not your business. You need know only that I can help you."

In all the books that he had read about lycanthropy, many of which contained noxious potions rumored to mollify or even sedate the beast within, Remus had never seen any mention or hope of a cure, from the blood of a virgin's monthly courses or anything else. There had been some experiments with bear and lynx urine to keep werewolf impulses in check, but with little success. The Healers seemed to strive for domination of the animal without any real hope that it could be banished entirely. "Why should I believe that you can help me?" he snarled. "Once a month I become a wolf. It doesn't merely possess me, it becomes me. I am bound to it. You can't break that..."

"You are bound," she interrupted imperiously, "to the moon. Once a month the moon possesses you; the wolf is merely the form it takes in you. The Ministry of Magic may have reduced the science of astronomy to charting the planets and studying the stars, but there are those among us who can still contact the spirits of power in the great celestial bodies. You are a fool, boy. Can you think of no other creatures whose bodies are enslaved to the cycles of the moon?"

Remus thought of mooncalves, swarming bats, howling dogs. He did not understand what any other creature might have to do with him. "Are you saying that you could turn me into a scorpion or a forest cat?" he asked contemptuously.

"Not a cat or a crawling creature, no," demurred the witch. "Though you may find that you are treated almost matter, you will still be human. Tell me, Remus Lupin, if I can convince you that it's possible, would you be willing to make the trade? The life of one person you don't know to have your own life back?"

All theory, Remus thought. No real spell, no real curse or counter-curse. He took another swallow of tea, tried to shrug nonchalantly to un-knot his shoulders, and nodded. "All right," he agreed, voice squeaking perilously. He forced his throat to cooperate. "Yes. But before you start talking about potions or blood, I want to know how it can be possible. From a practical standpoint. What will you do to me?"

And she told him.


After he received the third owl, Sirius defied his mother, took some of the money he'd inherited from his uncle and set out after Moony. After they'd received the first group of letters, he'd reluctantly agreed with James and Peter and Dumbledore and Remus' parents that the search for his friend was best left to Aurors. But when Moony begged him to come alone, to meet him in a remote town in the Bavarian Alps, Sirius decided to damn the consequences and took off. He traveled by day in the guise of a Muggle, by night as a large dog with a pack between his jaws.

Remus, it seemed, had snapped. "I'm not a werewolf anymore," his first set of letters stated. And, "I will not be returning to Hogwarts. I wish to live a normal life away from those who knew me as I was. Please do not look for me." Sirius had been shattered, and couldn't even explain the truth to his parents or to the Lupins: that the boy for whom he had become an animagus was his lover. James knew, and Sirius thought Dumbledore might have guessed as well, but they were both adamant that Sirius leave the search for Remus to trained adults.

He couldn't tell them that he knew his smell could help Remus -- that he was sure Remus had run away, at least in part, because they were separated for the summer, and he thought Remus might have panicked, feeling abandoned. Moony had seemed a bit depressed when he owled Sirius at first, but his last few messages had been downright strange...musing upon things they could do if only he hadn't been a werewolf, asking Sirius for items of clothing and keepsakes to remember him during separations.

At the time Sirius had simply thought his friend must be terrified at the idea of facing a full moon alone again, and had been working on illicit plans to Apparate Remus to freedom before he disappeared. Then it was Sirius' turn to feel forsaken, and he alternated between panic and hopelessness until he received the secret owl. He didn't dare use a broomstick or the Floo Network to try to reach Moony, even with invisibility spells; too much was at stake, despite the risk that slower travel would force him to arrive too late.

Remus seemed to be hiding out in a town that hadn't changed since the eighteenth century; soot from chimneys covered the roofs, reeking outhouses lined the alleys and the people dressed like caricatures from Muggle Halloween celebrations. Sirius had heard that there were enclaves of wizards and witches who followed an ancient dark path that didn't accept the use of illumination spells or restorative healing potions, but to actually witness an entire community living and raising children like that made his stomach turn.

He spent his first night in Bavaria in a dim, foul-smelling tavern that made The Hog's Head seem the height of culture. It was there that he found the person who had once been Remus.

Remus...was a woman.

"What have you done, Moony?" he whispered, horrified, staring at a face that seemed all wrong though it had hardly changed; the chin was too petite, the lips too plump, and though Remus had always had surprisingly long eyelashes, now they were curled from eyes that were brown rather than gold. His eyes moved down the body: delicate throat, swelling breasts, narrow waist, and the hips...

Sirius raced out of the tavern to be sick. This was his fault, he was certain; before Remus, he had only known girls, and even after Remus he had continued to look and flirt and make comments, unwilling to swear that he would never again imagine a woman spread around him, soft and fragrant. But that was imagination. To see Moony as this parody -- no, that was wrong, for Remus wasn't a man pretending to be a woman, he was a woman -- Sirius sank to his knees in the dirty yard, his retching turned to sobs.

He knew when Remus was approaching from the scent, though that too was distorted, perverted like a mockery of the boy he knew; and it was muted, watery. Sirius realized that he could not smell the wolf. Unable to meet Remus' eyes, he stared instead at sky, where the moon waxed gibbous and cold.

"Why?" whispered Sirius.

"I couldn't live like that any longer," came the reply in a quavering, feminine voice. "I can't live as an outcast..."

"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Anger flared hotly in Sirius; it was all he could do not to grab Remus by the shoulders and shake him, no, her, no...that new creature. "Queer wizards aren't treated much worse than Mudbloods by the old houses and a lot of the younger ones don't even care. It isn't like we're both not used to being outcasts among our own families! To go and do this, to change who you are..."

Remus made a small, confused noise like an obnoxious whimpering puppy, interrupting, sniffing, "You think I did this because I like boys? Because of us? I thought you knew me better than that!"

"Well, what in the world were you..." Sirius' nose tingled again, his Padfoot-sense, which sometimes intruded even when he was in human form. Suddenly he realized what it meant. And the implications were staggering. Sitting back, he finally took a good look at Remus.

Remus as a girl.

Remus not as a werewolf.

The feeling of loss remained as acute as ever.

The most pressing question, at least, had changed. "How?" asked Sirius in a very small voice.

Remus sat at a careful distance, smoothing ugly nondescript robes over rounded thighs. "I heard that it might be possible," he explained hesitantly. "I overheard a conversation. I think it was Lucius Malfoy. He knew something, Sirius; why would he have been talking about werewolves in The Hog's Head?"

"Why indeed?" Sirius whispered, swallowing. Malfoy came from one of the oldest and most powerful wizarding families in the world, more renowned than the Blacks, as famous for spectacular failures as for golden boys like Lucius whose legendary intelligence and handsomeness still haunted Hogwarts; there were many dark wizards in the family tree, too many secrets. "If he knew something, don't you think he wanted you to overhear? For reasons of his own?"

"Do you think that matters?" Remus hissed back. "There was a chance for a cure! Not to be a werewolf! What do you think I would have risked for that!"

"What did you risk?" It was getting easier to look at this-new-creature-who-was-Remus. Sirius wondered whether he had already gone through the first stage of grief, straight from mourning to anger, for it was obvious that his friend, the boy he loved, was gone. He supposed he had no right to judge; he had never had to live with the pain and terror that plagued Remus every month, that could not be evaded but had to be endured. Still, that knowledge did not stop his keen sense of betrayal.

For a moment Remus seemed unable to speak, gesturing at the unfamiliar body. Then, "I need help, Sirius. It's why I called you here, even though I knew you wouldn't want to...I didn't think you'd understand. She...the witch who did this, she wants...she expects me to kill for her."

"To kill for her?" The words weren't making sense. "But you're not a werewolf anymore."

"Not to kill as a werewolf. a woman. There's a man she wants to destroy, she wants him...seduced and betrayed, and..."

"And you said yes?" demanded Sirius incredulously. "You said you would, if. Oh. Remus." His anger was melting away, replaced by sorrow that made his stomach twist in knots worse than when he'd been sick a few minutes earlier. This was nothing, he knew, to the pain Remus must have gone through when he transformed -- he'd witnessed the change, he'd heard the cries, and as Padfoot he'd been able to smell Remus' horror and panic. Tears welled in his eyes and began to roll down his face, but when Remus reached out to him, he shoved the hand away.

"Don't. I can't. You don't smell right. I know you never wanted to be a werewolf and I know you thought being with me was just going to make everything worse, but that's you..."

"I don't understand!" Remus' voice was higher as a woman's and the anguish sounded theatrical, insincere. "You change into a dog at will, and I love you as both. I have loved you as both! I've touched you, as Padfoot, in ways I'd never touch an actual dog. Why can't it just be us?"

"Because you're not you anymore!" Maybe it was terribly unfair, but Sirius couldn't stop the words any more than he could hide the feeling. "I loved you as the wolf...I might never have realized I loved you if you hadn't been a wolf. Maybe if you'd always been a girl it wouldn't matter, or maybe if you'd never been a werewolf. But you changed, and you promised to kill...after you swore never to kill as a wolf and you endured whatever was necessary so that you wouldn't be a killer. You're saying that you didn't want to be the person I love!"

"Siri--" The look was imploring, the voice horror-stricken. But Sirius cut Remus off, unable to stand the lilting voice, the distorted smell, the hideous alteration. He stumbled to his knees, leaned onto his hands and changed into Padfoot, lunging forward to race away into the night.


"I won't kill for you."

Remus stood before the witch, wand held loosely in one hand, head slightly bowed. He did not expect either spells or deference to save him; he did not care.

The night before the previous one, the moon had been full. For the first time since childhood, when he had taken it for granted, Remus Lupin sat and stared up at the bright, round orb with human eyes until they filled with tears that spilled over, blinding him to its beauty. The transformed body was free from pain, free from the nauseating compulsion to metamorphose, but Remus did not weep with relief or happiness. He sat and cried and loathed himself. Without Sirius, it no longer mattered whether or not he was male or female, an outcast or a hero, a werewolf or a human being. Without Sirius, he did not care whether or not he survived the task he had sworn to do in recompense for the lifting of the curse.

Which meant, Remus had realized dimly, that he had no motivation to become a murderer. Whether the old witch killed him or used the Imperius curse on him, he would probably lose his life; yet he would not take life for her, not if he could help it.

He had thought at first that she had bound his debt into the spell and that he would be compelled to do her bidding, but his will had remained his own, even after the moon had set. For a few brief, glorious moments he hoped that perhaps his refusal to pay her price would reverse the charm and he would revert to his old form, his old self, but the body he wore remained female, heavy and unfamiliar in places, soft and smooth and strange in others. He supposed he might have grown used to it in time.

But Sirius was right; it wasn't only the form but the price for the form that made it hideous, unnatural, wrong. How could he have thought that Sirius would be happy? Instead of suffering as an outcast himself, he had asked his lover to share his exile. He had turned from his parents who had always tried to protect him, from Dumbledore who had fought for his rights. He had promised to commit the one act they had all worked so hard to prevent. He would not sacrifice so much of who he was.

All the next day, he searched for Sirius, sensing that his friend had not left the village even though he no longer had the heightened senses and metabolism of the wolf to hunt. It wasn't like Sirius to accept situations that upset him so deeply; they gnawed at him until he could concentrate on nothing, forcing him to take action, even if the action was rash or unwise. Remus found him at last in the tavern, drunk and bitter, with filthy clothes and bloodshot eyes as if he'd been sleeping on the ground, and not very soundly. Remus dragged him from the dingiest corner of the tavern out into the evening, though Sirius refused to look at him.

"I need your help," he said again. "I'm sorry I've hurt you, and you're right, this is a betrayal of who I was. If you don't want to speak to me after this, I understand. But I won't pay the debt I owe for my mistakes, and I don't know what will happen when I refuse."

"You haven't killed yet?" demanded Sirius brusquely.

"No." Sirius looked at him for a long moment, obviously struggling to see Moony in the unfamiliar eyes and body. Remus wanted so much to touch him, though he feared that any attempt to force contact would send Sirius fleeing again. Instead he said, "Please. It's me. Sirius, please."

Maybe it was only that he'd managed to appeal to Sirius' chivalric side, but his friend sighed suddenly and took a step closer. "We're going to get you out of this," Sirius promised grimly. He grabbed Remus' arm in a painful grip as he steered them toward the road. "I need to know what sort of spell she used on you. What did she chant?"

Remus did not know. Nor did he know where the witch had gotten the ingredients for the potion -- sap collected under a worm moon, sea water, frog saliva, cat's milk. And of course the blood, which he particularly did not want to think about. He would have vomited the mixture up, but she put an Immobilus spell on him and shouted, "Relashio!"

Remus had felt for a moment as though the wolf were about to burst through, as he felt at moonrise at mid-month; then it was as if a shadow had fallen across the moon, permanently, and the wolf shriveled and trembled, and he felt its death throes. At the same time he felt his own body stretching and transforming, just as agonizing as the transformation into the wolf, though less dramatic externally; muscles softened and stretched, skin tightened and smoothed, and his genitals, one of the few parts usually spared the ravages of werewolf metamorphosis, contracted excruciatingly into his pelvis until he passed out from the pain.

When he awoke, he looked like a woman, though he did not think he felt like a woman -- not that he really knew how it would feel. He was certain only that despite the absence of the werewolf, his body still did not feel fully his own. Perhaps, he had hoped, that would come with time, but he knew that he could not return to his family like this, nor to Hogwarts; his old life was over, as if Remus Lupin had died when the werewolf disappeared.

He knew that Sirius would come, and did not expect the adjustment to be easy or quick. It was hard enough for him to accept this new body, which he tried to avoid touching, shivering at the unexpected sensitivity of breasts and thighs, reaching unthinking for a cock he didn't have. Still, he was unprepared for the devastation of his lover running away, bringing to fruition all the vague nightmares that had led him to the unnatural, backward village and the vile, twisted witch. Remus had always assumed that Sirius would leave him -- if not for a wife and family and the semblance of normalcy in the wizarding world, then at least for someone who did not transform into a hideous, deadly monster at the full moon.

It had simply not occurred to him that Sirius might reject him for turning to the dark arts to free himself of the werewolf, let alone that he might prefer him male.

Sirius had sent frantic owls to James, Peter and various Hogwarts professors, asking veiled questions, knowing that they would have little time before someone alerted the Aurors and they tracked him and Remus to the village. In the end, however, he learned little that was useful -- only that there was likely a counter-spell, probably a simple one keyed to a single word, and that in all probability only the witch who had performed the original magic could utter it. And that if the debt had been bound into the original spell, then Remus would owe it whether that spell was reversed or not.

"She could kill you, Moony, or make you kill," Sirius said.

"I know."

"I don't want you to..." He stopped, shrugging helplessly. "Come back with me," he said instead. "Let's talk to Dumbledore. He'll understand. Your parents will understand. James and Peter too, once they get used to it. We'll help you block the witch. You know we won't let you be a killer."

But Remus couldn't, not now that he understood. "This isn't something the wolf drove me to do," he'd tried to explain. "I chose this. I have to undo it. Me."

And Sirius had nodded, and held his hand.

"I won't kill for you," Remus said again when the witch did not speak. He was unsure of the meaning of the triumph in her eyes. "If you name a different price, something I can pay without violating my honor, then I will gladly pay it. But I won't become a killer for you."

Once again he saw the face of the witch transform, so that for a second she was as beautiful and cold as a statue carved in stone. "You already have," she whispered.

"I don't..." Remus started to say, but the witch raised both her arms and cried loudly,


In a flash of light, accompanied by an instant of intolerable agony, Remus flew out of his body, through time and space. He saw Sirius falling. Saw James collapse in agony. Saw Sirius huddled against stone, a prisoner. Saw Peter as a rat, licking at a stump that had once been a toe. He saw Sirius falling. Saw Lucius Malfoy leading what looked like an army of wizards, wands raised. Saw Snape tearing at a mark on his arm. Saw a boy who looked like James but was too young to be James, fighting off a creature in a black robe. He saw Sirius falling...

"You will lose the one you love," the witch hissed, rising and coiling above him like a snake. "You will lose him twice. You will fight to protect your friends, those who care for you, and in the fight you will lose them all, one by one. You will always be a creature of the dark, werewolf, no matter what form you take, no matter where your loyalties are ours."

And then he knew nothing.


"Is there something you wish to tell me?" Dumbledore asked Remus and Sirius when they returned to school two weeks before the beginning of term, insisting that the full moon on the first day of classes made it imperative for Remus to get an early start on his studying, and Sirius having been driven from the house after admitting to his mother that he was in love and couldn't stand another month away from his beloved, even if it meant running away from home again. With Dumbledore's help, they had convinced the Aurors that Remus had gone in search of wild wolves to help him better understand his animal nature, that he had never been a threat to humans at the full moon and that he had owled Sirius to ensure that no one would worry but that Sirius had misunderstood his message as a summons.

Of course Dumbledore knew better, but Remus would never confess what had happened to him in the decaying Bavarian village, even though he felt that he had forgotten something vitally important. Dumbledore had put his school and his reputation at risk for Remus Lupin, and he intended to be a model student, to behave as the Prefect they had made him, setting aside his selfish worries and fears of being seen as a pariah. Sirius wondered for one moment whether he should tell Dumbledore that Lucius Malfoy had been in Hogsmeade and apparently knew that there was a werewolf at Hogwarts, but saw no reason to trouble the headmaster with what was, after all, not a secret from the Ministry of Magic.

"I'm glad to be back, sir," he said, mustering up a smile for Dumbledore, who only shook his head slightly and turned to study Remus. Dumbledore was kind, but, Sirius thought, he had no idea how it felt to live as a werewolf among humans. Nor, perhaps, how it felt to be so in love that keeping one's lover close seemed more important than anything else, more important than one's own life. Remus squeezed Sirius' hand as they returned to their dormitory, vaguely recalling a nightmare about Sirius falling, confident that he would pay whatever price was necessary to prevent it.


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