1 August 1996
When Remus opened his eyes, he was standing on the foothills of the small village of Beddgelert. This was the closest, he'd known already, that he would be able to get to the pack through apparition. The rest of the distance, he would need to travel on foot.
Before beginning the trek, Remus buried his wand and the rest of his meager belongings on the outskirts of the sleeping village; he would no longer have any use for them.
It was several hours of walking later that Remus found himself at last approaching a plinth of hawthorn trees, swaying in the light summer wind. Even from a significant distance away from the smattering of trees, Remus could feel the presence of werewolves in the air. His skin tingled and smarted as he grew nearer to the trees. It was magic—not the magic of wizards, but magic nonetheless. Werewolves were not known for being lax with the safety of their own.
At last, Remus reached a clearing in the trees, through which he could just make out several indistinct shapes. They looked like shadows, though they were very still. Taking a deep breath, Remus stepped into the clearing.
Remus stopped short in his tracks, his breath catching in his throat. A young man had appeared suddenly in the mouth of the clearing, his mistrustful gaze obvious, even in the darkness. Despite the fact that he couldn't be older than fifteen, he was long and lanky, his face sharp. His entire body was stiff, taut—ready to spring into action at the slightest indication of foul play.
Very slowly, Remus raised his hands, his palms facing outward. "I mean no harm," he said quietly. "I wish to speak to your Alpha."
The young man before him didn't move. He simply kept his firm, unyielding gaze fixed on Remus. Remus, for his part, didn't say another word, nor did he move a muscle. He simply waited, keeping his arms raised in front of him.
Then— "Stand down, Dima," said another voice, low and gravely, in the darkness. Remus blinked, lowering his hands a fraction, as a second figure emerged from the indistinct shadows of the trees.
The young man who had greeted Remus—Dima—bowed his head deferentially, before retreating back into the darkness. Lowering his hands, Remus turned to face the new arrival. He was tall and burly, and what Remus could see of his face through the moonlight looked carved and weathered; his long, dark hair fell around his face in matted locks. He was, without a doubt, the Alpha of the pack.
Remus bowed his head, exactly as Dima had done. "Alpha," he greeted the man steadily, never breaking eye contact. "I come in peace."
The Alpha approached Remus deliberately and with surprising stealth, given his size. For a moment, he simply stood in front of Remus, considering him unblinkingly. Then, he turned and walked in a slow circle around Remus. In the darkness beyond, Remus could see the indistinct shadows begin to move and breathe, alert and listening.
"A wizard wolf," the Alpha said in a low voice—it was a statement, not a question. He paused for a moment, then leaned suddenly toward Remus, stopping a hair away from Remus's face; Remus could feel the Alpha's breath on his neck. "Who do you spy for, Wizard Wolf?"
The shadows behind the Alpha tensed as one.
"I am no spy," Remus said evenly. "I seek only to understand—to live and learn amongst you."
"Understand," the Alpha repeated, very slowly. "And who is it that wishes to understand us? Voldemort?"
"No!" Remus exclaimed, before he could stop himself. Immediately, the Alpha stiffened—and behind the Alpha, the obscure shadows almost seemed to converge.
Several moments passed in silence.
Then— "You do not work for Voldemort," the Alpha said quietly.
"No," Remus said, as calmly as he could muster.
"You work against him."
Remus did not respond, scarcely breathing as he gazed at the Alpha. The Alpha gazed back at him for a long while, his piercing eyes reading Remus through the faint glow from the waxing moon.
"We have no interest in your wizard war," the Alpha said finally. "Contrary to what you wizard folk believe, we wolves crave only to be left alone in peace. If you stay here and live among us, you will be an observer, never a crusader. Otherwise, you will not be welcome."
Remus waited a breath's space before nodding. "Yes, Alpha."
The Alpha watched Remus for another moment, and despite the lack of light, Remus could practically feel his eyes boring into Remus's.
Suddenly— "Come forward," the Alpha called loudly, without turning away from Remus. "Receive our guest."
There was a moment's pause.
Then, slowly, the shadows behind the Alpha dispersed and rearranged; one by one, they moved forward through the clearing, toward Remus.
27 August 1996
Despite the fact that the Alpha had declared Remus a welcome guest, the majority of the other nine werewolves in the pack were not keen on his company in the slightest—nor did they make any effort to hide this fact. They weren't openly hostile, as doing so would constitute direct disobeyment of the Alpha's directive. But it was clear, in every sense, that they did not value Remus's presence, much less trust him.
At the moment, Remus was helping Nikka and Chaise—two male pack members in their twenties—collect wood for the nightly bonfire. All of the werewolves in the pack, Remus had learned quickly, were called only by the names the pack had bequeathed to them; their wizard names had been disposed of not long after their acceptance into the pack. Nikka was called so for his sharp mind, and Chaise was the pack's best hunter. Remus had not yet earned himself a new name; the rest of the pack merely called him "Wizard" or "Wizard Wolf," another constant reminder that he was not one of them.
"Catch up, Wizard," Nikka said sharply, from several paces ahead of Remus. "It takes time to make the fire—we don't have all day."
Remus's arms and shoulders were already aching under the weight of the firewood he was holding, but he knew better than to mention this. Gritting his teeth, he increased his stride, leveling with Nikka's and Chaise's ankles. The two young men were moving at a remarkable pace given the fact that they were both carrying twice the firewood Remus was.
"You're a skinny one, for your age," Chaise said in an amused voice, glancing at Remus over his shoulder. "You must be only a few years younger than Alpha, but you're as skinny as Dima."
Nikka snorted. "Dima isn't even so skinny," he said under his breath, and Chaise laughed.
Remus swallowed down the frustration welling inside him. All his life, he had been ostracized as a werewolf in Wizarding communities, and now, in this werewolf community, he was belittled for being a wizard. It was exhausting, the unfairness of it all.
"You dress strangely, even for a wizard," Chaise added, eyeing Remus's shabby, but formal wizard robes. "Almost like a…a—"
"Teacher," Nikka suggested.
"I am a teacher," Remus said mildly.
Nikka and Chaise exchanged a disdainful look.
"Out here, you are no teacher," Chaise said scornfully. "Out here, you'll do things our way, or you won't do them at all."
"That's Alpha's decision, not yours," Nikka reminded Chaise, glancing around warily, and Remus knew why. They had been bold about disparaging Remus out in the woods, but they were getting closer to the werewolf encampment, and they would not be treated kindly by the Alpha if he found out that they had been threatening Remus.
Within minutes, they had reached the encampment. Only three pack members were in the clearing, rather than out in the woods: Madonna, the oldest werewolf in the pack; Hope, the youngest; and Teiran, a female werewolf around Remus's age who seemed to distrust him more than all of the other pack members combined.
Madonna stood up as Remus, Nikka, and Chaise arrived. She was strikingly older than the rest of the pack—well over seventy, if Remus had to guess—but despite her withered appearance, she was as observant and involved as any of the younger ones. She watched them shrewdly as they made their way to the center of the encampment, where Teiran had almost finished digging the shallow, circular pit for the nightly bonfire.
Nikka and Chaise set their heaping piles of firewood down by Teiran's pit, then went to greet Madonna and little Hope. Remus followed suit, depositing his significantly smaller bundle of firewood next to theirs and earning himself a sneering look from Teiran.
"Well done, Wizard Wolf," Madonna said from behind Remus. He turned around to find the elderly woman smiling at him.
"It's a paltry contribution," Remus admitted, bowing his head to her respectfully.
"But a contribution, nonetheless," Madonna said wisely. "You have come some ways since your first week with us."
"I'm glad," Remus said honestly, and Madonna gave him another twinkling smile.
"It's getting late," Teiran declared in a flat voice, from the bonfire pit. "I need help starting the fire."
"I'll help!" chirped little Hope, hopping up from where she was sitting in Madonna's lap and scurrying over to Teiran. Remus found himself marveling, as always, at the girl's youth—she couldn't be older than five or six, and yet, she was already a full-fledged member of the pack, tasked with all the same responsibilities and expectations as the others. Remus watched Teiran's surliness disappear as she gave the young girl a look of genuine fondness. Chaise and Nikka joined them a moment later to help kindle the fire.
"You cannot help, Wizard Wolf?" Madonna asked quietly, walking over to stand by Remus.
Remus hesitated. Like many of the other laborious tasks Remus had tried his hand at over the last several weeks, kindling fires was one at which he'd failed miserably. It was rather staggering how much he had come to rely on magic for tasks like these. Though he'd left his wand back in the village, Remus had been able to cast a wandless Ignition Spell since he was eight—but he was fairly certain that the rest of the pack would not take kindly to his wizard magic.
Fortunately, Remus was saved the trouble of answering to Madonna by the sudden arrival of several of the other pack members to the encampment. Felisa and Drefan, both in their early forties, arrived with a large dead roe deer between them, while Pax and Dima, the teenagers, had scrounged up several fish, as well as a few baskets of mushrooms and berries. The Alpha arrived at the clearing last, empty-handed, but with the air of someone bearing good news.
"The full moon is tomorrow," he announced. His voice was quiet, but a hushed excitement fell over the entire clearing the instant he spoke. "We must dine well today, to give us strength and energy."
He gazed around at each member for a moment, stoic and solid. Then, his face relaxed into the closest thing to a smile Remus had seen on it in the weeks since he'd joined the pack.
"Let us feast," the Alpha declared in a ringing voice.
There was a great cheer and an outbreak of applause from the rest of the pack, and everyone immediately fell into a familiar rhythm—trimming and roasting the deer, cooking the fish and the mushrooms, washing the berries. Remus had assumed, when he'd first joined the pack, that there would be some pecking order to the way that food was rationed—but he'd been surprised. Each member of the pack supplied what they were able to and helped themselves to as much as they needed.
He had been forced to shed many of his preconceptions about werewolves in just the three weeks since he'd arrived at their clearing, but the largest one of all was with regards to their nature. These werewolves, they asked for nothing from wizards, nor did they want anything to do with them. It was going to be increasingly difficult, Remus knew, to convince this pack that they had anything to gain from a war in which neither side offered them the thing they actually wanted: freedom.
29 August 1996
"Wizard. Wizard, wake up…"
A gentle hand touched Remus's pulse point, and Remus thought inexplicably of Tonks…her brilliant smile…the way her soft, yet strong hands had molded his body back together, after the full moon in June…
Remus's eyes flew open, and he found himself staring up into the amused blue eyes of Felisa, a cheerful werewolf five or six years older than him. Apart from the Alpha, Madonna, and Hope, she was the only pack member who didn't turn her nose up at him on a daily basis.
"Ungh?" Remus mumbled, by way of greeting.
"Young Hope was worried you'd died," Felisa said brightly. "Glad to see she was wrong." She climbed to her feet, grinning down at Remus. "Come along—we're having breakfast."
And with that, Felisa turned and walked back over to where Remus could smell the bonfire going in the center of the clearing. Remus blinked several times, adjusting to his surroundings. Then, slowly, he began moving different parts of his body—his arms, his legs, shoulders, wrists, ankles—to check for injuries. It was a morning after routine he had practiced faithfully ever since his explosive Hogwarts transformations, when, more often than not, he'd awoken in the mornings with an impressive number of broken bones.
By the end of his experiment, Remus found that no part of his body felt much sorer than usual. Cautiously, Remus peeled back the stolen tablecloth under which he slept each night and climbed to his feet, flexing his hands and feet. He was feeling surprisingly strong and energized.
Approaching the bonfire a few minutes later, Remus saw that the pack was finishing up breakfast, which consisted of some leftover roe deer meat from two days previous, as well as some apples and bread—surely stolen from the neighboring village by sticky-fingered Pax, the finest crook of the pack. Remus felt slightly guilty taking a slice of bread and a serving of deer meat, as he hadn't been awake that morning to help the rest of the pack set up breakfast. However, no one showed him any contempt as he sat back on his haunches and munched quietly on his breakfast. Every member of the pack was deep in conversation—and it wasn't until Remus heard his own name being mentioned that he realized what they were talking about.
"For such a weak human, you're a surprisingly strong wolf, Wizard."
Remus started, looking up from his breakfast to see Chaise grinning at him across the bonfire; Nikka, seated on his left side, was nodding in agreement.
"Sorry?" Remus asked, bewildered.
"It's true," conceded Drefan; he was the reckless one, Remus had come to observe over the last month. Of all the pack members, Drefan most often landed himself in trouble with the Alpha. "You surely hold your own, for a wizard wolf." He smirked at Remus.
Remus blinked around at each of the pack members, utterly astonished. "I don't…" he trailed off, shaking his head slowly. "You…you remember how I…acted last night?"
"Of course," Dima said importantly, puffing his chest out—and winning himself a disapproving look from Madonna. "We were watching you closely, weren't we? We always watch new wolves closely on the full moons."
"But how could you remember how I acted?" Remus asked confusedly. "You—you were transformed, as well."
A ringing silence followed these words, and Remus felt the gazes of the ten pack members around the fire resting heavily on him.
Finally— "We do not forget our journeys when the sun comes up," the Alpha said in his low, rumbling voice. "The full moon is the most sacred night of each month—how could we not remember it?"
Remus didn't know how to respond. He simply looked from one pack member to the next in mingled shock and suspicion. The pack members stared back at him for several moments; then, gradually, they returned to their own conversations. Remus sat back, staring at the fire. It was impossible—it refuted every study that had ever been published about werewolves. It was the very basis of all understanding of werewolves, that they lost control of their mind while transformed. And yet…
Remus's mind was racing with different thoughts and theories. He didn't even notice as the different pack members began receding from the fire, toward their respective hammocks and blankets. There would be no hunting or scavenging today, the day after the full moon—only rest. One by one, the werewolves settled down in their different corners of the clearing; Remus watched distractedly as Teiran tucked little Hope beside her under their shared tarpaulin.
"Will you help me to my mattress, Wizard Wolf?"
Remus looked around. Madonna, the only pack member who was still sitting by the fire with Remus, was eyeing him with a shrewd expression. Remus blinked at her for a moment; then, he jumped to his feet, extending a hand toward the gray, tired-looking woman.
"Of course, Madonna," Remus said, bowing his head in respect. She held his hand tightly as she gingerly pushed herself to her feet, and Remus felt a sudden pang of guilt for not offering his help to her beforehand. He couldn't even begin to imagine surviving a full moon in the woods at her age…
Slowly, they made their way toward Madonna's mattress, tucked between two shadowy trees in the corner of the clearing. With a soft groan, she lowered herself into the mattress, wincing as she adjusted her limbs.
"Thank you, Wizard," Madonna said, her face relaxing as she found a comfortable position.
"My pleasure, Madonna," Remus said quietly. He hesitated for a moment. Then, slowly, he asked, "Is it…difficult, the transformations at your age?"
Madonna gave him a small smile. "My bones are certainly not what they used to be," she admitted. "But…I will never cease to appreciate the wonder of being alive with the moon."
Remus blinked. "The way you all speak of the full moon…it is with…reverence, almost."
Madonna's eyes became shrewd again. "You are still wondering, then, how it is possible that we do not forget our experiences after the moonset?"
Remus felt his face flush slightly with embarrassment, but he nodded.
Madonna let out a soft sigh. "You must remember, Wizard Wolf, that the majority of what is known about werewolves was publicized by wizards—not by werewolves themselves. Wizards would like us all to believe that we cannot access our memories of the full moon, so that the picture they have painted of werewolf savagery continues to be the accepted truth."
"But, Madonna," Remus shook his head; once again, they had arrived at the crux of the issue. "I myself have been transforming since before I was five years old, and never have I managed to retain more than a vague impression of the full moon—and much of this impression can likely be attributed to the pain or the injuries I woke up with, not to my actual memory."
Madonna smiled wryly. "You are confusing the human mind with the wolf mind, Wizard," she explained lightly. "It is true that we cannot retain our human mind during the moonrise, without the use of mind-altering substances such as Wolfsbane. But…with enough keen effort and practice…we can train ourselves to tap into the memories that we create with our wolf consciousness."
Remus blinked, considering this for a long moment.
"So…during the full moon, you are accessing your wolf consciousness, and afterwards…you are able to access it again in human form?" he asked numbly.
"That is correct," said Madonna.
Remus stared at her, unable to keep the disbelief out of his expression. "And all of the wolves in this pack are able to do this, every month?"
"Almost," Madonna smiled. "Little Hope's mind is still too young to have fully perfected it. And brave Dima, though he would surely like to pretend otherwise, also struggles with recalling his wolf experiences from time to time—he is the newest member of this pack besides yourself, and he still has much to understand and prove, though he is certainly an eager learner."
Remus glanced beyond Madonna's mattress, toward where Dima was reclined in the shade of his designated hawthorn tree. Though his eyes were closed, Remus could tell that he wasn't sleeping like the others, almost certainly because he wanted to be the first to pounce at the smallest hint of danger.
The thought triggered something else in Remus's mind. He faced Madonna again.
"Even if it is possible to access the wolf mind after the transformation," he said slowly, "how does that prevent us from harming and killing humans while the moon is up? While we inhabit our wolf minds, we have no control over our actions. And at the end of the day, that is why wizards have had so much cause to despise us—because we have killed and turned so many of their kind."
Madonna's expression hardened.
"Wizard, do you truly believe that we as a pack do not take every precaution to ensure that humans do not find us during our transformations?" she asked him sharply. "Do you not remember the first day you arrived at our clearing? We had sensed you coming from miles away."
"I know that," Remus said quickly, "but you were all in human form, not—"
"We have chosen this land and built this home, miles and miles away from any human settlement," Madonna continued firmly. "We have protected and isolated ourselves solely to ensure that we do not harm a single soul. If a human wanders into our clearing—our home—during the full moon and is attacked, then it could only have been an intentional intrusion." Madonna paused, her dark eyes burning in her wrinkled face. "If your kind truly despises us as much as they claim to, Wizard, then they should have the good sense to leave us alone."
2 September 1996
"Chaise says you're a teacher. Is that true?"
Remus looked up from the basket he was painstakingly attempting to weave without magic. Little Hope was kneeling in front of him, her large, green eyes wide and curious.
Almost immediately, Remus felt his face melt into a smile. Hope had that effect on everyone in the pack, he'd noticed—even the Alpha. Not for the first time was Remus inexplicably reminded of his mother.
"It's true," Remus told the young girl with a small smile. "I was a teacher."
Hope's eyes lit up with interest. In one fluid motion, the little girl swung herself down so that she was sitting cross-legged in front of Remus, her unruly blond locks bouncing about her face. "Can you teach me something?" she asked brightly.
Remus stared at her in astonishment. Then, swallowing heavily, he cast an apprehensive glance around the clearing. Fortunately, the rest of the pack was off hunting or collecting supplies; only Madonna was drowsing on her mattress on the far end of the encampment, out of earshot.
Shaking his head, Remus turned back to Hope. "I'm afraid that isn't a very good idea, Hope," he said in a soft voice.
Hope frowned. "Why?" she wanted to know. "I can learn fast—ask Teiran!"
Remus looked at her; her enormous, green eyes were now filled with an unwavering determination—and suddenly, Remus was reminded of another conversation, three years earlier at Hogwarts, during which a different individual with bright green eyes had asked Remus to teach him something that he wasn't strictly supposed to. That time, his resolve had crumbled, as well…
Mentally shaking his head at his own recklessness, Remus ventured, "What would you like to learn?"
Hope's face split into a beaming grin. "Can you teach me how you make fire with your hands?" she asked eagerly.
Remus's mouth fell open. He blinked at her for a long moment.
"What…what do you mean 'with my hands?'" he asked hoarsely.
"You know," Hope shrugged. "When we make the bonfire, you always use your hands—not the wood like we do."
Remus gazed at the little girl before him, highly unsettled. Here he'd thought he was being discreet with his magic, and yet, within weeks, he'd been found out by a six-year-old. And if she knew…
"I don't think Teiran sees," offered the young girl, as though reading Remus's thoughts. "I'm just good at seeing things."
Remus raised an eyebrow, now more impressed than anything else. Once more, he glanced furtively around at the encampment. Then, he pushed his shoddy, half-weaved basket aside, and cupped his hands together in front of him.
"Put your hands together like this," Remus said quietly. "Then, close your eyes."
Hope obliged, squeezing her eyes shut in concentration.
"All right, now, this is the difficult part—it'll take some practice," Remus warned. "I want you to imagine, very hard, that heat is flowing down your arms, toward your hands. Picture it in your head—a little bonfire is spreading to your hands and building in your fingers."
Hope squeezed her eyes harder, her lip jutting out. Then, suddenly, she opened her eyes and looked at her hands.
"It didn't work," she said, crestfallen. "I…I thought I felt it."
"If you felt something, then you're on the right track," Remus assured her. "It took me a year, almost, to get it perfectly—and I was a year older than you were." He paused for a moment, before adding, "These kinds of things are always easier with a wand."
Hope made a face. "Wands are for wizards," she said.
Remus's lips twitched. "I said it was easier with a wand—not that you couldn't do it without one."
"Can you show me how you do it again?" Hope asked him earnestly. "So I know how to practice."
"I don't think you should be practicing this around here," Remus told her at once, his voice coming out sharper than he intended. "I shouldn't even be teaching—"
"I can keep it secret," Hope insisted, and her bright green eyes blazed with so much certainty that Remus was once again transported back to the past. He blinked, and this time, Lily's young, indignant face flashed across his mind.
Shaking his head at himself, Remus extended one of his hands in front of him and closed his eyes. Incendio, he thought—and with the familiar, fierce rush of warmth to his fingertips, orange-red flames crackled to life on his palm.
"Wow," Hope gasped, and Remus opened his eyes. She was gazing at the fire in stunned amazement. He grinned.
"Hey!" yelled a voice in the distance, and Remus looked up to see Teiran stomping down the encampment toward them, her eyes narrowed. In a flash, Remus extinguished the Ignition Charm—and in front of him, Hope expertly arranged her expression into one of complete innocence. Remus almost laughed; James or Sirius couldn't have done better.
"Teiran!" the young girl exclaimed joyously, beaming as Teiran approached them. "You're back!" She jumped up and squeezed her arms around Teiran—and for a moment, Remus saw the woman's face soften. But then, Teiran snapped her gaze back onto Remus, tense and suspicious.
"Hope, go wake Madonna," she told the girl in a brittle voice. "Tell her it's time to start the fire."
Hope nodded, scuttling off in the direction of Madonna's mattress. Remus rose to his feet, dusting his hands.
"No, you listen here. I don't know what game you think you're playing, or how you've managed to convince Alpha that you're worth even a second of our time," Teiran ground out, her voice low and fierce. "But stay away from Hope. She's young, and impressionable, and new to this world—and she doesn't need you whispering lies in her ear about wars and wizards."
"I wasn't," Remus said immediately. "She was just asking me about—"
"I don't care," Teiran snarled, stepping closer to Remus. "Leave her out of it."
Remus stared down at the woman for a long moment. Then, spurred recklessly on by the thought that he had nothing to lose—not if she already hated him so much—he asked her curiously, "Is she your daughter?"
For a moment, Remus thought she might hit him, as she stared at him in mingled shock and anger.
But then, she let out a derisive snort, shaking her head.
"You really don't know anything about your own kind, do you, Wizard?" she asked him in a scornful voice, folding her arms across her chest. "Werewolves do not breed."
Remus blinked. "Never?"
Teiran rolled her eyes. "It's not a matter of ability," she said scathingly. "It's a matter of desire. Pray, tell me, which self-respecting witch or wizard will ever want to have a child with a werewolf?"
Remus didn't have a response; he simply looked at her, feeling his stomach twist up in the most painful way, as he forced himself not to think of Tonks's determined, blazing expression.
He wasn't sure what Teiran read in his expression, but whatever she did, it caused her to raise her eyebrows at him for a moment. Then, to Remus's utter shock, she took a step away from him, averting her gaze in a manner that could only be described as embarrassed.
"Sorry," she muttered. "Didn't know."
And before Remus could begin to make heads or tails of this statement, Teiran turned and hurried off toward the pit in the center of the clearing, where Madonna and Hope had started kindling the fire.
28 September 1996
"So, tell us, Wizard. Have you come to enjoy the full moons with us after all?" Chaise asked, grinning.
A small smile tugged at the corners of Remus's lips, and Chaise let out a triumphant noise.
"He does," Pax said quietly. "I can see it. Look how relaxed he is."
"Very relaxed," Nikka agreed, smiling at Remus.
It was late in the morning after the September moon, and Remus was sitting by the fire with Chaise, Nikka, and Pax. The rest of the pack had already retreated to their corners of the encampment to recuperate.
Nearly two months had passed, now, since Remus had first joined the pack, and many of the pack members had cautiously begun to warm up to him. Remus suspected that most of them hadn't believed he would last this long.
"It makes sense, you know," Pax told Remus, his tone serious. "Werewolves are meant to live amongst each other, in packs—never alone. It makes sense that you would enjoy your time with us."
Remus glanced at the quiet, perceptive teenager, swallowing. It was true—Remus had not felt such contentment in the mornings after the full moons since his Hogwarts days, when he'd awoken in the Hospital Wing with Padfoot, Prongs, and Wormtail at his side. He knew that, if he truly wanted to, he could choose to stay in this pack—contribute to its livelihood and make his home here. He could learn to understand his wolf mind and access his consciousness, the way the others did. And for a moment, Remus was truly afraid of how appealing it all sounded.
Remus snapped himself out of his thoughts, looking up. The other three men were gazing at the corner of the clearing, where the Alpha had suddenly pulled Drefan aside for what appeared to be a sinister conversation. Remus watched as Drefan's face grew redder and redder under the Alpha's powerful stare.
When, at last, the Alpha left him alone, Drefan sank back against his tree trunk, glowering down at his knees.
"What was that about?" Remus asked under his breath.
The three men exchanged significant looks. For a long moment, nobody spoke.
Then, Nikka cleared his throat.
"Drefan has grown…increasingly unhappy with the way Alpha runs his pack," he explained in a low voice. "He believes we should be more demanding, more…aggressive."
Remus blinked. "Aggressive?"
Pax shook his head. "He wishes for our pack to join the ranks of Fenrir Greyback," he said bluntly. "He believes that we should be actively turning more wizards into our kind—creating an army."
Remus looked between the three of them, aghast. "But that would put this pack's existence at extraordinary risk."
"We know that," Chaise said bitterly. "Alpha has taken every measure to protect us all from Greyback's influence—to protect us from his bloodshed. It is a curious way to repay Alpha, I think, to preach on and on about joining him." He threw a furtive, angry look in Drefan's direction.
"And Alpha can't cut Drefan loose," Pax added quietly. "He knows too much."
Remus let all of this sink in, feeling his heart constrict in his chest. Then, closing his eyes, he swore under his breath.
When he opened his eyes, he found the three young men regarding him with a mixture of curiosity and wariness.
"What grievance do you have against Greyback?" Nikka asked suspiciously.
Remus looked at him, surprised by the edge to his tone. But then, almost at once, it clicked.
They were worried he was a spy for Greyback.
Remus hesitated for a moment. He had not intended on sharing anything about his past. But at this point, if he could ever hope to learn more about the others, he knew he would have to give up some of himself, too.
"It was Greyback who turned me," he told them. At once, he saw the mingled shock and understanding pool in their features, and he barreled on, not wanting to stop. "My father humiliated him, and Greyback was not forgiving. I was not yet five when it happened. It uprooted my parents' lives. They did everything they could to give me normalcy, but…well, they couldn't change what I am."
There was another silence as the three of them considered this.
"Well," Chaise said finally. "Your parents did more than mine."
"And mine," Nikka said darkly, glancing sideways at Chaise.
Remus frowned. "What do you mean?"
Chaise exhaled heavily, running a hand through his dirty blond hair. "My parents and Nikka's parents were best friends—probably still are," he added scathingly. "We were bitten together, on a vacation to a lakeside in Norfolk. They threw us both out before our first full moon—wouldn't even talk about it."
Remus gaped at the two of them in horror. "No," he breathed.
"Yes," Nikka said acidly. "That's dear old mum and dad for you. Anyway, we spent a few months roughing it in the midlands, before we finally made it to Wales and found Alpha, Madonna, and the others."
Remus rubbed his face, feeling sick to his stomach. He'd always known that most werewolves left their homes young to join packs, but he had naively imagined an element of choice to the whole thing. Shaking his head, Remus glanced at Pax, wondering if his story could possibly be worse.
Pax seemed to guess Remus's thoughts. "My parents died," he told Remus hollowly. "They might've tried to support me if they'd survived the attack, but I was the only one that did, so I'll never know. Of course, none of my relatives felt they could take in a newly turned, twelve-year-old werewolf, so I set off to find a pack that would."
Remus was lost for words, now. He stared into the flickering embers of the dying bonfire, feeling himself sink into old memories. He had never underestimated just how much his parents had given up to raise him—to support his condition, to send him off to Hogwarts—but he didn't think he'd ever appreciated their sacrifices more.
It would have been far, far easier to bid him goodbye and good luck, and shut the door on him for good. He would have understood, eventually. But they had never once looked at him without love.
"So, you went to wizard school," Nikka's voice interrupted Remus's thoughts, and he looked up to find the young man arching an eyebrow at him. "How did you manage that?"
Remus caught his eye. "Albus Dumbledore," he said softly. "The headmaster—he made it possible. He convinced my parents I would be safe—that I could attend school without fear of hurting anyone."
Chaise let out a scoffing noise. "And what good did it do you?" he asked contemptuously. "Were you suddenly treated like a wizard simply because you went to their school? From the looks of it, it seems not."
Remus swallowed heavily, stung by the words. "It wasn't easy," he conceded. "But…I will be forever grateful to Dumbledore, for the opportunities I have been given. They changed my life."
"Then, why leave?" Pax asked, scrutinizing Remus closely. "Why come here, to our pack? Why leave your fortuitous life behind?"
Remus gazed fixedly at the feeble remnants of the fire, pondering his answer. Why? Why had he left? On Dumbledore's orders, of course. Because he was the only one in the Order capable of this job. Because these werewolves deserved to know what they served to gain by joining the Order's forces. Because Greyback's influence needed to be curbed—immediately.
But even as these answers fought their way to Remus's lips, he knew they weren't the truth. There was only one reason he'd left—and as he said it, he thought of Tonks's blazing look—of Sirius's wasted, once-handsome face, his eyes growing wide with shock as he curved back into the veil—of James's lopsided grin—of Lily's soft smile—of his parents, beaming with happiness in their wedding photograph…
"Because it was easier to leave than to stay."
31 October 1996
As fall faded into winter, the weather quickly grew bitter and bleak. The pack busied themselves with stealing warmer clothes and sheets, as well as nonperishable foods they could store for the colder months. Additionally, the Alpha, along with Chaise and Nikka, spent weeks constructing a surprisingly strong marquee from wood and leaves, which provided the clearing with some shelter from rain and snow. Remus supposed it was an annual project.
One evening in late-October, a gleeful Pax and Dima returned to the encampment with a heaping sack of stolen Wizarding sweets. Remus gazed at the boys in amazement as they shook dozens of Acid Pops, Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, and Sugar Quills onto the ground beside the bonfire pit.
Remus joined little Hope in sinking his teeth into the familiar treats with delighted fervor. His contentment at tasting something that reminded him so strikingly of magic—of home—even dulled the pain of realizing that the reason Pax and Dima had gotten their hands on the sweets was because it was Halloween.
Not until much later in the evening did it occur to Remus how odd it was that the two teenagers had managed to forage such a vast quantity of Wizarding sweets in the first place. The nearest magical community for miles was Godric's Hollow, in Somerset, and even that was a significant ways away—nowhere near the tiny Welsh village they lived by.
After nearly half-an-hour of pondering the situation, Remus's curiosity got the better of him. Slipping out of his tablecloth, Remus quietly stole his way over to where the Alpha was sitting, awake, on his customary tree stump at the mouth of the clearing.
"Alpha," Remus greeted the wolf, sinking to his knees and bowing his head in respect. "May I trouble you with a question?"
The Alpha didn't look up from the wooden beam he was sanding into shape. For a moment, Remus thought he was being dismissed. But then—
"You are wondering about the sweets Pax and Dima brought home today."
Remus stared at the Alpha, stunned—not for the first time—at how easily so many of the pack members were able to read him. At first, he'd been convinced that it was some articulation of Legilimency, but Madonna had told him that it was his body language, not his inner thoughts, that spoke so clearly of his state of mind.
Now, the Alpha looked at Remus, a wry expression twisting on his whittled features. "To satisfy your curious mind, Wizard Wolf, I will tell you that Pax and Dima obtained the sweets from Tinworth, in Cornwall."
"Cornwall?" Remus blinked. "But that's…" he trailed off, his mind racing. Cornwall was indubitably a days-long journey on foot. How could Pax and Dima have made it there and back in one evening?
"They set off for the town on the twenty-seventh, the morning after the full moon," the Alpha explained quietly. "They returned this evening."
Remus's eyes widened in shock. Pax and Dima had been gone four days, and Remus hadn't noticed. What on Earth had sent the teenagers so far to steal food, when the nearby village had proved more than sufficient? Unless…
Remus glanced at the Alpha, whose attention was still focused on the wooden beam he was shaving. The Alpha had surprised him before—first, when he'd accepted Remus into the pack, and then again with how well he was able to rein Drefan in when the latter was acting rashly. Remus considered his next words for a moment, wondering how to phrase his thoughts without sounding irreverent. But once again, the Alpha guessed his mind easily.
"These are perilous times we live in," the Alpha continued in his deep, rumbling voice. "Despite our quiet existence, I would be remiss not to keep close tabs on the events unfolding around us." He paused for a moment, then looked up at Remus, his gaze piercing. "Pax and Dima are young, adventurous, and keen to prove themselves. I'm happy to satisfy their desire to explore the world beyond these woods, in return for information."
"Information?" Remus breathed, hardly daring to believe the words he was hearing. "So you—you've chosen a side?"
The Alpha stopped in the act of sanding the wooden beam, pinning Remus with a fearsome look. At once, Remus dropped his head, horrified at his own impertinence.
The Alpha didn't speak again for a long while. And when he did, Remus felt more foolish than ever for opening his mouth.
"I told you this when you first arrived in the summer, Wizard Wolf," said the Alpha, with steeliness. "The conflicts of wizards are no concern of ours. You may have your identity confused, but the rest of us remain sure of ours. We are not wizards, and this is not our war."
Remus kept his eyes firmly downcast. "I understand that, Alpha. I just thought—Pax and Dima—"
"They left the pack on my orders, to collect information. Nothing more, nothing less," the Alpha said resolutely. "Information will allow us to remain protected and out of harm's way." Remus felt the Alpha's gaze bore into his forehead. "Nothing more, nothing less."
Remus felt a chill steal over his neck, prickling down his spine. He gazed down at his own feet for several moments, not daring to raise his head. Then, summoning every last ounce of courage he still possessed, he decided to try one last time. "What about Greyback?" he asked, keeping his head tucked down and speaking as meekly as he could. "What about his growing influence within long-standing werewolf packs such as this one? Is it not in the best interests of this pack to fight his growing domination, even if it must be done alongside wizards?"
Though Remus couldn't see the Alpha's face anymore, he felt the intensity of the werewolf's gaze swell. Remus sat stiffly on his knees, unable to move a muscle under the magnitude of the other werewolf's presence.
"What you fail to understand, Wizard Wolf," said the Alpha, his voice piercing every nerve in Remus's body, "is that no matter what happens outside the confines of this encampment, we have just as little to gain from opposing Greyback as we do from joining him."
30 November 1996
I do not wish to jeopardize your position within the pack, so I have told Fawkes to ensure that you are completely alone when you receive this letter. It has been nearly four months since you first went underground, which I hope is a sufficient amount of time to request an update on your progress. If you are able to leave the pack without arousing suspicion, let us plan on meeting in the private quarters above the Hog's Head Inn the afternoon of the 22nd of December to debrief your mission.
I hope that this letter finds you healthy and safe. Please remember what I told you in July, Remus. Your welfare and health are not worth sacrificing for anything. If at any point you feel that continuing with this mission will be a threat to your personal safety, please leave at once.
P.S. Molly insists that she will see you at the Burrow on the evening of the 22nd of December for the Christmas holidays. I have reminded her about your circumstances, but it appears that she will not be taking 'no' for an answer. I advise you to heed her request; Molly is not a witch I often feel inclined to cross.
22 December 1996
After his conversation with the Alpha on Halloween, Remus had not dared to utter another word about the war, instead throwing himself into his daily responsibilities with a new vengeance. He had already crossed one line; he knew he could not risk crossing another without rebuilding the Alpha's trust in him from the ground up.
But as the twenty-second of December grew nearer, Remus knew he couldn't delay seeking a second audience with the Alpha any longer. The night before he was due to return to the Wizarding world, Remus approached the Alpha at his stump on bent knee. With bated breath, he asked for permission to leave the pack for a few days, expecting the worst.
For several, long moments, the Alpha was silent.
"Travel safely," he said simply.
Too shocked to think up an appropriate response, Remus simply bowed his head deferentially and retreated to his corner of the clearing, his heart racing with astonishment. But then, he remembered what the Alpha had told him about sending Pax and Dima out into the Wizarding world for information, and he realized that the Alpha wasn't letting Remus leave for his own benefit. It was a test—a test of loyalty. He didn't expect Remus to return.
On the morning of the twenty-second of December, Remus bid the pack goodbye, looking the Alpha directly in the eye as he promised a safe return. And then, at last, he departed the clearing.
Remus walked the hours-long trek through the rugged terrain in numb excitement, his heart nearly beating out of his chest as he crossed the familiar rocks and fields. Finally, he arrived at the foothills of the little village, shivering with anticipation. At once, he found the bushes under which he had buried his wand, his wallet, and his other scarce possessions, a million years ago.
With trembling hands, Remus drew his wand from the shallow hole in the ground, feeling a sudden, fierce warmth spread through his fingers as he held it tightly. And for a long moment, he simply crouched on the grassy hill, gazing at his wand in deep reverence.
Then, Remus got to his feet, quickly pocketing his possessions and already thinking of the gloriously rickety sign above the Hog's Head Inn as he clutched his wand in his hand. Unable to contain the beaming smile that had spread across his face, Remus held his breath and turned on the spot.
Here's a list of all the members of the werewolf pack besides Remus. We saw them all in this chapter at some point or another, but I wanted to put the information in one place. :)
The Alpha, meaning strongest (age 46): Male leader of the pack
Madonna, meaning my lady (age 76): Oldest member of the pack, wise and highly respected by the other werewolves
Felisa, meaning good fortune (age 44): Bright and cheerful female werewolf, one of the first to accept Remus
Drefan, meaning trouble (age 42): Most reckless member of the pack, Alpha worries about him
Teiran, meaning strong-willed (age 35): Stubborn female werewolf, takes the longest to accept Remus
Nikka, meaning smart (age 21): Male werewolf, close to Chaise, very intelligent mind
Chaise, meaning hunter (age 20): Male werewolf, close to Nikka, pack's best hunter
Pax, meaning peace (age 16): Male teenage werewolf, very quiet and perceptive, good at stealing
Dima, meaning warrior (age 14): Feisty, young male, considers himself the fighter/protector of the group
Hope, meaning hope/faith (age 6): Female, youngest member of pack, magically talented
Thank you for reading!