A/N: No writing prompts for this chapter. Ha! There's hope for me yet.
Part 4: The house of wolf
You should never walk into a house full of werewolves.
Werewolves can not be trusted. They're fearsome, soulless, evil beasts who only masquerade as humans for the majority of the lunar month. Upon transformation, they entirely lose their sense of right or wrong and can kill their family and friends when given the opportunity.
That's what everyone said.
Remus's heart pounded as he stood at the entrance of the large rustic Tudor-style house - home of a werewolf pack. Green vines climbed the red bricks and the brown timber which decorated the windows and the gables.
His hand hesitated on the crescent-moon shaped knocker. He agreed to this. It was a part of the deal.
'Don't be an embarrassment to Gryffindors, Remus,' he told himself.
It was time to be brave and meet the pack.
He tightened his grip on the knocker and lifted it, but the door opened at that moment and he was pulled inside.
"You can't catch me," a young shirtless boy shouted while holding the door handle and looking behind him.
He squealed, ran outside and was soon followed by an older shirtless boy who jumped over the stairs and pursued him.
Remus watched them as they chased each other in the yard and could feel a smile building on his face. He wished he had siblings.
"You must be Remus!" a pixie-sized woman was suddenly in front of him with her hands on her hips. "You like our knocker?"
Remus checked, and sure, he was still holding the crescent moon. He let go and tried to chuckle the embarrassment away.
"It's nice workmanship."
She leaned her head outside, yelled, "STAY OUT OF MY GARDEN!" at the laughing boys and closed the heavy door.
She was one of the shortest women he's ever met, not even reaching up to his armpits, but she seemed to make up for her small stature with the strength of her voice.
"They pull the carrots out too early and then I have to replant them," she explained and pushed the stupored Remus into the house in the direction of wherever the delicious aroma of baked chicken was coming from. "It's not good for the carrots."
A stocky but short, balding man stood behind the stove in the small kitchen and sampled whatever was in a pot with a spoon. Remus recognized him. It was Mort, the owner of Mort's Hard-Were Shop.
Mort turned around. His "Kiss my snout" apron must have been shop merchandise. "Do I know you?"
"That's Remus, Marta's running mate."
What did she mean by that?
"Why didn't anyone tell me?" Mort complained.
Remus didn't even get a chance to look around before more people walked in.
"I can't find my glasses," a frail, elderly man said while rummaging through the drawers. "It's that darn dog again."
"How much longer, mom?" said an older teen, a head taller than the woman, though still shorter than Remus, and walked up to the stove where several pots were on the burners. He dipped his finger into one and she smacked his hand.
He noticed Remus and narrowed his eyes on him.
She turned with a smile. "Remus, meet my eldest, Oliver. Ollie, it will be ready in five minutes. Get everyone here."
Oliver walked out and slightly leaned in as he was passing by Remus. Did he just sniff him?
"It's nice to meet you," Remus said weakly, wondering if this was some strange werewolf greeting. Would all of them start sniffing him? He did not like that idea.
Oliver said nothing but walked away.
"Don't just stand there, boy," the old man addressed Remus and gesticulated loudly. "Help me look!"
Remus looked to the short woman for help but she was focused on helping with the meal right now. The old man nudged him and so he looked around the kitchen.
There was so much stuff everywhere. The counter was filled with plates, pots, food ingredients, abandoned utensils, jars and boxes of various sizes. Trying to find anything among the mess would be next to impossible.
Then, Oliver came back with two large dogs, which started barking at Remus, and the shirtless boys who shoved each other.
"Luca, Johny, wash your hands NOW!" the pixie woman yelled at the youngsters over the noise and they fought for who could get to the sink first. She pushed Remus into a chair and continued giving instructions. "Ollie, would you feed Sam and Boss? Where's Marta?"
The teen loaded two large bowls with food from another pot. The dogs left Remus and ran over to the food.
Marta joined the overcrowded room, helped set up and sat down next to Remus.
"Hi," she said and stuffed her mouth with bread.
"Did you remember your teeth, gramps?" Oliver asked.
"Jumping gizzards, my teeth!"
The old man left and the rest of the family sat down and talked over each other, arguing who was serving which dish.
"Who's that?" the youngest boy asked after sitting across from Remus and biting into a chicken leg.
"That, dear Johnny, is Marta's new boyfriend," Oliver said and gave her a little shove.
Not this again. Remus could feel his cheeks start to burn.
The other boy, who had to be Luca, stared at Remus with a strange intensity, making him look away.
"He's terribly awful at finding things," the old man was back, sat down next to Remus and put his prosthesis in.
"Evelyn," the old man addressed the pixie woman, "you're not giving your only daughter to him, are you? He can't even find my glasses."
"Have you checked your pockets, pa?" she asked.
He slipped his trembling hand in the pocket of his cardigan and pulled them out. "That's where you put it," he said accusingly. "I'm telling you, it's these dogs."
"When did Marta get a new boyfriend?" Johnny asked with his mouth full.
"He's just a friend," Marta said but then she turned to Remus with a wicked smile. "Although, our wolves hit it off so we should just get this over with and complete the Sacred Mating Ritual."
"Oh, that changes everything," Mort said. "The Sacred Mating Ritual needs to be completed immediately."
Remus had a hard time keeping up with this conversation.
"What do you mean by 'our wolves hit it off'?" he asked Marta.
"I knew it. You don't remember. Why do you think you were in such a good mood when you woke up?"
Remus' breath caught. He whispered, "Our wolves… did it?"
She chuckled and nodded. "You're my running mate now."
She ignored his shocked expression and bit into her chicken leg. "Since our wolves are mated for life now, we should just seal the deal. We can do it today."
"You two look so sweet together," the mother said with a sigh and added in a chirpy voice, "I got your room ready, Marta. You can go up whenever you're in the mood."
"Your taste is questionable, Marta," the old man said.
Remus wished they would all shut up so he could think straight. Were they implying what he thought they were? Did his wolf sign him into some contract? Did he have a choice?
"Watch out," Oliver said. "She bites."
"I do not!"
Johny threw a small piece of bread at Remus to get his attention. "What is it like?"
"You're too young!" Luca said.
"Am not! I want to hear it. No one wants to talk about it."
Luca shook his head at Remus. "Don't tell him."
The old man leaned in so closely, Remus could smell the moth-repelling pellets strongly wafting off of his cardigan.
"It's your big day," he whispered and laughed heartily. "Are you excited?"
Remus wanted to hide under the table. This wasn't happening. What was wrong with these people?
"I've had enough of waiting," Marta said while getting up. "Let's finish what our wolves started."
He swallowed loudly and felt as if he was permanently glued to his chair. Did she mean now?
She looked at him expectantly and raised her eyebrows. "Are you coming?" Then, she leaned down and whispered in his ear, "Or do I have to do this on my own? Because I'd rather have company."
He shrank down in his chair. This wasn't fair. He wasn't even sure if he liked her that way yet. Now he was forced to be bonded to her for life? And this ritual. He wanted to know what mess his wolf got him into.
"You better take good care of my daughter," Mort said while shaking a finger at him.
"Why is he waiting?" Johnny asked. "I thought he would want to do it."
"I'm telling you. Poor choice," grandpa complained.
"If it were me, I'd just drag him to my room," Luca said enthusiastically.
"Maybe he doesn't like her so much," Oliver said.
"Oh, Marta. Did you do something to turn him off?" Evelyn scolded.
"If you don't like her, I'm available," Luca winked at him.
"Luca! You're fourteen!"
"And three quarters!"
"How old are you anyway, Remus?" Mort asked.
"That's enough talking." Marta pulled Remus out of the chair. "I swear, it will be fun."
He felt absolutely lost. Maybe if he just spoke with her he could clear this up. She was reasonable, right?
"He doesn't say much, does he?" grandpa said. "Is he a mute?"
"He's so tall," Luca said, his head in his hand. "I want a tall boyfriend."
"This one's mine," Marta snapped.
He was conflicted. He very much wanted to leave this chaos but did not feel safe to stay alone with her. There had to be a way out.
"Have fun, kids," Evelyn and Mort said together while waving from their chairs.
Marta looked him in the eye, sucked in both of her lips, held her breath and exploded in loud laughter. The rest of the family immediately joined. Oliver hit the table with his fist repeatedly.
"The look on your face!" Marta said, among the giggles.
"This was priceless," Johnny said and high-fived Luca.
"He looked like he was ready to bolt," Mort joked.
Evelyn put a hand on her husband's. "We got him so good."
Remus looked to Marta for help.
"It was a joke," she said, holding his arm with one hand and rubbing it with the other. "You can breathe again. No need to panic. You're not getting lucky tonight."
Remus' head throbbed. A joke? It didn't seem funny.
"He looks rather disappointed," Oliver said.
"We were joking?" grandpa asked.
The family continued replaying each of Remus' reactions and he felt ridiculous. He couldn't believe that he fell for it. But which part of it was a joke?
"Can I speak with you?" he asked Marta quietly. "In private."
The family was still laughing at his expense as she pulled him through a door on the other side of the house that opened up to the backyard.
"Dibs on the swing!"
She ran across the grass in her bare feet and jumped onto it. He leaned on the swing's metal post and rubbed his forehead.
"Are you okay?" she said, kicking off and swaying slightly.
"Just a headache."
The old metal squeaked slightly. Dogs barked in the distance and the dogs in the house replied. Mort's house was on the outskirts of town and so they didn't have immediate neighbors, just trees swaying to the wind.
He wasn't sure how to ask her, it was all so ridiculous, but at this point, he just wanted to know what happened.
"Marta, when we were wolves, did we really…"
She giggled. "No. That was part of the joke."
He felt a huge weight lifted off of his shoulders. He rarely remembered anything past the transformation nowadays and he'd think something like that would be memorable. When he was younger, he used to remember his transformations well but with time, it all became more and more blurry. He thought it was an age thing but it seemed to not be the case for her.
"But our wolves did like each other." She kicked the earth while swinging, creating a small dust cloud. "I knew we'd get along."
He looked at her sideways. "But there was still the risk of our wolves not getting along, right?"
She pursed her lips and looked down at the ground. "I used to run with Mort and Oliver when we were younger. He's the only of Mort's children to have inherited the magic and the wolf, by the way. As we got older though, we started to clash. My wolf got pretty territorial."
Remus sighed, remembering an earlier conversation with his friends. "You're an alpha."
She shrugged and shook her head. "Mort is more an alpha if you look at it from that point of view but my wolf has become rebellious. So, Mort and Oliver run together now, they're like a pack I suppose, and I run separately to avoid that conflict."
This didn't exactly make him feel any better. As soon as she met him, she sensed that he wasn't an alpha, that he wouldn't fight her for dominance and would therefore be safe to run with. Wasn't that peachy that she thought so lowly of him when she didn't even know him?
But then, she was right, wasn't she? They didn't fight. His wolf was a submissive wuss.
Remus pushed those thoughts aside. He didn't care what type of wolf he was. He didn't want to be any wolf.
"Your family is nothing like what I imagined."
"What did you imagine?"
He shrugged, unsure of how to say it without offending her.
She leaned back on the swing. "Did you expect a bunch of big, burly, aggressive hot-heads who growl at each other?"
"Your brothers do have an aversion to clothes."
She was going to say something but then burst out laughing. "You're not wrong there but that's just them being silly. The rest of us like our clothes on, thank you very much. Besides, they're not even wolves."
"I'm pretty sure that Oliver sniffed me in greeting."
"And? That's how wolves get to know each other." She pointed a finger at him. "You sniffed me very thoroughly when we shifted."
"That doesn't count!"
"Just because you refuse to remember, it doesn't mean it didn't happen."
He wanted to argue that they shouldn't act like wolves when they were human but bit it back, not wanting an argument.
The dogs finally stopped barking and Marta relaxed on the swing, letting the momentum slow down.
Only now he remembered what she had said earlier. "Did you say that Oliver is the only one that inherited the wolf? You're not Mort's daughter?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm adopted, Sherlock."
He smiled, feeling stupid for not figuring that out. She didn't look like any of them, though she did fit the height requirement.
She jumped off the swing and rubbed her hands.
"Let's go back. I'm still hungry."
After a very filling dinner, the family sat down to play Monopoly. Luca won and celebrated by showering them all with his paper money. Remus helped clean it up with a spell - he was rather surprised that neither Mort, Oliver or Marta thought of pulling out their wands - and Luca looked in awe at the bills neatly arrange themselves as if he'd never seen magic before.
In the evening, they lit a bonfire and roasted sausages on sticks. They never seemed to quiet down, there was drama and laughter throughout the entire day, to the point that Remus started to get used to the chaos.
When the time for bed came, Remus was shown to Oliver's room where a sofa-bed was prepared for him.
He slept like a baby after that busy day and woke up in a good mood, wondering what Marta planned for today.
He used a spell to fold the sheets and blankets, wanting to be a neat guest when he heard Oliver's comment.
"Luca's not here to cheer you on. You can stop showing off now."
Remus turned to him, wondering if he misheard.
"Unless you enjoy rubbing it in."
"What am I rubbing in?"
Oliver scoffed and turned away, leaving Remus very confused.
Marta opened the door and hung in the doorframe, chewing gum again.
"You dressed yet? Let's go!" She pulled him out of the room without waiting for a response. "Wolf Games await."