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Shades, Chapter Twelve: Interlude (3): Human, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter Twelve: Interlude (3): Human, pt. 2
Okay. Where were we?

Remus decided that he should get the campers out of the area of the forest where the werewolves are, so he corralled a ranger (are they called rangers in the UK? The people who work in parks?) and told her he'd been attacked by wild dogs and had outrun them. She's unable to get back-up, so she's been instructed to have the campers leave. Remus is relieved about this, but unfortunately, Greyback followed him and knows what he did. He's dragged back to the gathering, where he isn't fed (except surreptitiously, by Alderman), and told that he'll be staying with the pups. The adults beat him and Greyback bites him again, leaving him pretty bloodied, and Greyback instructs them to take him to the pups' cave, and not let him clean up.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




The men called Jamison and Stanfield and grabbed him under his arms and dragged him off toward the cave. He looked over his shoulder and saw Greyback watching, a coiled shadow among the remaining men.

The light had a distinct reddish glow when they reached the cave, and Jamison tugged Remus ahead. "Sorry, mate," he grumbled.

Stanfield kicked Remus. "I'm not. Who do you think you are?"

"They're human," Remus whispered.

"What's your point?" Stanfield stormed out.

Jamison stayed back. "You... you aren't to wash up."

"Right. Smelling of human blood in a cave full of werewolf cubs."

"You shouldn't cross Greyback."

"How long have you been here, Stanfield?"

He took a few steps back. "I'll see you in the morning."

Remus took a few deep breaths. The light was cut off as Stanfield and Jamison blocked the exit.

He pulled himself to his feet, using the wall for balance, feeling woozy from the beating and the blood loss. If he could make it to the lake, he thought that would be enough. Transforming in water would be unusual and he wasn't at all sure he'd be able to swim as a wolf, but--

He didn't hear the shuffling of feet, and nearly walked into the shockingly cold ball of wet cloth.

"Ugh, Lupin?"

"Blondin?"

"Yeah. It's me and Hamilton and some of the others. Come on." A small hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him along to a more open part of the cave, where they'd set a torch going. They were near the lake now. The boys were tense, waiting for moonrise. Each held his clothes, which were, for some reason, dripping wet.

Hamilton thrust his soaking shirt against Remus's shoulder, and the water spilled through the tacky blood from Greyback's bite. Remus looked at him questioningly.

"Well, wash then," Hamilton said. "I reckon I'd like to read that stupid book we started. And leave those clothes somewhere else, or they probably won't add up to much in the morning."

"Boys, Greyback..."

"What's he going to do?" Blondin asked. "Turn us into werewolves? Scaaary."

"He could hurt you."

Blondin shrugged and brought his own shirt over and started to clean the blood from Remus's back.

"I won't let you--"

There was a sharp kick against his side, and he turned to see Hamilton. "Yeah?" Hamilton said. "Stop us, then."

"Besides," Blondin said. "We'll just say you were unconscious, and all he told us was to not feed you. We can't very well follow orders we don't know about, now can we?"

Remus took the cloth from Blondin. "He'll know, Blondin. I don't know how he'll know, but he will. You stay back."

"We were talking. We don't want to attack you."

"Is there an island in the lake? Or even a big enough rock to lie down on?"

"Sure," Blondin said. "But you can't see the moon. Greyback says changing can kill you if you don't look at the moon right away."

"It's a lie. It hurts more, but you can put it off."

"Are you sure?"

"I've done it many times." And usually ended up sorry for it, he didn't add. "I'll tell Greyback I stole your clothes to clean up with if he notices."

"Only..." Blondin bit his lip. "If it takes you longer, won't you still be human when we turn?"

"I'll also be in the middle of the lake."

They looked unsure, but Hamilton eventually gave in and pointed to a shadowy rock formation, far in the water. It looked steep and uncomfortable.

Remus turned to them. "Thank you," he said uncomfortably. "I shouldn't have allowed you to be put in this position. I... thank you."

"What position?" Blondin asked. "You just stole our clothes and swam out to the rocks."

Remus smiled. Blondin would have made a perfect Slytherin, if it weren't for the fact that he was a Muggle.

He jumped into the lake--which was excrutiatingly cold on his bare skin--and swam for the rocks. When he got there, he pulled off his soaking trousers and pants and used them to at least try to clean his various wounds. They were still open and the smell of blood would still be on him. Far in the distance, he could see the boys walking away, going to the open area where they could see the moon when it came.

He braced himself.

For nearly twenty minutes, there was nothing but an ill-defined urge to look up, and the coiled tension in his muscles that had been slowly building all day. He could hear the boys' voices, still human, bouncing incoherently around the water and rock.

Then there was a scream.

It echoed, and Remus climbed further up onto the rock, ignoring the first cramp to rip through him. Another scream joined the first, and the eerie sound of it echoed through his mind. The need to see the moon was maddening, and the next cramp bent him double on his perch. He lost his balance on the third one, twisting his ankle and sending himself into the water. He clawed his way back up.

The screams broke into howls.

Remus willed the change to come, but it didn't.

More howling.

He saw the first of the wolves at the edge of the lake, crouched on his haunches, searching for the prey animals Greyback had released into the cave, sniffing. It paused at an indistinct spot where Remus realized that he'd left his bloody shirt, and let out an ear-splitting howl. There was a flurry of paws, and then they were all there, the pack of them, at the edge of the water, tearing at the shirt.

Another vicious spasm wracked through Remus's body. He screamed.

Whichever of the pups was Alpha here--he was willing to guess it was Blondin, but wasn't certain--lifted his head and let out four sharp barks. The others looked up.

Alpha jumped into the water, then scrambled back out of it, Remus guessed because of the cold, and it would have been funny in other circumstances, but he found it hard to be amused as his body twisted and writhed toward a moon he couldn't see, but which was so tantalizingly close that he could see its light reflected at the far end of the lake... and of course, it was difficult to be amused while being hunted by six wolves. The night Greyback had first attacked him came into his mind powerfully--alone in the garden, the great wolf leaping from the shadows, and he had looked up then, and the moon had become blood, and he saw it in his mind's eye again and

at last the change takes him. It takes him with a fire it has not had for many years, with agony, almost vindictive in its enforcement of the curse.

When it is over, the wolf lies on the rocks, panting, feeling the pain of the injuries, not understanding them. He is hungry, starving, and the maddening smell of True Prey is all around him, on his own skin. He rips savagely at his paw, but the scent is ephemeral. There is a pile of useless vegetable matter beside him, sodden and smelling of blood, but tearing at it brings no satisfaction. He howls.

The pups on the shore howl back. They have become interested in other prey. He can smell this as well--small prey, food, far away. He drops down to the water. It is stinging and cold and too deep to find purchase, and he scrambles back to the rock.

He doesn't know how long this goes on. He tries venturing into the water again, but he becomes disoriented and afraid. The hunger is stronger than the pain now, twisting his stomach and crying out for meat.

Far away, the pups begin to howl again, and there are answering howls in return. New scents come in. And meat. More meat.

He must eat. He
must. He leaps from the rock, following the scent of it, ignoring the spinning in his head, ignoring the smell of true prey on his skin. He loses his way as a current pulls him, but he can hear howling and yipping now and he swims toward it, fighting with the cold water, finally dragging himself on his belly onto the dry land. Alpha stands above him and the blow that drives him to one side is in earnest.

The wolf gets to his feet and takes a step toward Alpha, but he is put down again, and he knows... oh, yes, he knows his place, he knows where he belongs. He crawls on his belly again and licks Alpha's foot.

Alpha stands away.

One of the others brings meat and throws it down in front of him, and they circle around him as his stomach begs for it, and if there is a voice--he will tell himself later that there must have been--telling him not to eat, it is quiet and impossible to heed, because he is starving and the pain is like fire and he eats. He eats all that is given to him.

After, he sleeps, and there is no pain, and with sunrise


he awakened with barely a stray cramp as his body rearranged itself on the lake shore. The men were gathered around, the pups were further back. Everyone else seemed to have transformed back before he did this morning.

"Feeling better?" Greyback asked, smiling in a perfectly friendly way.

"Yes, actually."

"Funny how that happens when you get a bite to eat."

Remus tried to remember the transformation, but it was murky. "Thank you for bringing me something," he said.

"Oh, my pleasure." There was something sneering in Greyback's voice, and if there was a moment the morning's panic began, that was it. The sneer in his voice.

"Greyback--"

Greyback tossed him a set of robes. "Here," he said. "Your clothes are a bit tore up. Have mine. I'll get some others. Thought I'd spend some time down here anyway. You should go back to your place, get some rest."

Great braying alarms were going off in Remus's skull now, and the last thing he wanted was to go back to his shed... or even to leave the cave. He didn't want to leave the cave at all.

Stanfield was smirking. "Go on," he said. "We're all square now."

"But..."

"You've had your lesson, Professor," Greyback said. "We start back at the beginning after this. No hard feelings."

Remus backed past them, not trusting them, and finally turned and ran when he cleared the last of them. He stumbled up through the cave and tripped out into the sunlight, almost landing on top of something red and glistening.

They'd left enough of her face intact that he could recognize her as the woman he'd spoken to yesterday.

Behind him, Greyback started laughing.
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Comments
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harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: December 12th, 2005 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my goodness, I actually gasped aloud at the end there! I almost never do that. Yikes. Greyback is so evil, and creepy, and wrong, and he needs to die, but he can't yet, because we still have months to go before he is picking pieces of Bill out of his teeth! Good job.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
He really does need to die, doesn't he? No rehabilitation strikes me as likely.
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: December 12th, 2005 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh. Oh. Oh.

I just--oh. I'm sorry, because I know coherent comments are more appreciated but I have nothing. No wonder Remus insisted so strongly that it is over in regards to Tonks.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--nothing like cannibalism to put one's self-image in the sewer. Up until now, I think he's been taking it as a kind of academic position--"I really shouldn't be with her." Now, I think it's going to be more visceral.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: December 12th, 2005 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
[gasp][gag][gasp]
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll second the [gag].
From: bangcollision Date: December 12th, 2005 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
This is so terrifying yet so chillingly accurate to what Greyback is supposed to be like. I was anticipating the woman being it yet when it actual happened, gah, scary.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad that telegraphing it ahead of time didn't spoil it! (I thought about not focusing quite so much on the experience of eating to take the attention away, but I thought in the end that the actual consumption was more important than the nasty surprise.)
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: December 12th, 2005 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't see how you can stand to write Greyback, everything he does is so squicky. The last sentences come as something of a bombshell even after being suspicious of the meat.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I'd ever want to get inside Greyback's head. I have no special desire to find my inner monster.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: December 12th, 2005 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is so awful. (I mean, what happened to Remus and the ranger, not the writing!) Greyback ... I hope JKR shows him no mercy in Book 7. I know you can't rewrite canon, but it's killing me that this piece of garbage gets to live at least to the end of the school year.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
My ideal end for Greyback is being skewered by Peter's silver hand while Remus throttles him.
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: December 12th, 2005 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear heavens, that is so creepy. I just knew it was human meat the minute I read that he ate. *shudder* You can't update this story fast enough for me, you know.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I was worried that it had hit a rut. Glad to get out of it!
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Visceral reactions are good. I can get a little floaty and disconnected sometimes, so a visceral "ugh!" is great.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: December 12th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Gross, gross, gross, ew, gasp, wasn't expecting that, gag, gross, etc.

You're brilliant though, I hope you know that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 12th, 2005 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)

"Rangers"

I think we'd probably call her a park warden or a forest warden or something like that. We don't really have rangers. I'm also not quite sure how many campers there would be around in September/October - it can be pretty chilly and damp by then but great story and spine-tingling chapter ending.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: "Rangers"

Right--there definitely weren't many to get out.

Thanks. Warden, warden. I can keep that in mind.
caitie From: caitie Date: December 12th, 2005 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Eeek. :( How awful for Remus!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm-hmm. Probably not that great for the warden, either, but yeah--Remus goes from "I'm going to challenge Greyback" to being a cannibal in one night.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 12th, 2005 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh. Oh. Oh, poor Remus...he'll never, ever manage to forgive himself for that, you know. And Greyback...the moment he began acting friendly, I knew something had to be very wrong...but not that wrong. Oh. Pardon me, I just need a moment to collect myself...

Okay. Leaving my very visceral reaction out of this...I love the pups' interaction with Remus, I love their loyalty to him, I love Blondin's "What's he going to do, turn us into werewolves?" Thank you for the funny moment before the stomach-turning.

Thank you for another wonderful update!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--Greyback miscalculated pretty badly. The other adults don't pay attention to the pups. Remus does. The pups know who their friends are.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 12th, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm starting to wonder if any of your readers will come away with a new fear of wolves after reading this...

*shuddering* That ending just drove any desire for breakfast right out of me.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know I have a healthy respect for wolves after reading up on them.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: December 12th, 2005 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I figured that was where you were going, but it's dead creepy nonetheless. Urgh.

I adore Blondin, though -- he provides a nice touch of humanity and humor in what would otherwise be an utterly brutal story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
he provides a nice touch of humanity and humor in what would otherwise be an utterly brutal story.

Thanks. I did intend the chapter title ("Human") to refer to more than the menu.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: December 12th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Erk. Wrk erk ugh.

I agree with the anonymous commenter above that warden is better than ranger; 'ranger' screams 'Yellowstone' at me. Britain does have National Parks, but I don't have any first-hand knowledge of them.

Despite the name, national parks in England and Wales are quite different from those in many other countries, where national parks are owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and permanent human communities are not a part of the landscape. In England and Wales, designation as a national park can include substantial settlements and land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a national park remains largely in private ownership.

....
The idea for a form of national parks was first proposed in the United States in the 1860s, where National Parks were established to protect wilderness areas such as Yosemite. This model has been used in many other countries since, but not in the United Kingdom. After thousands of years of human integration into the landscape, Britain lacks natural areas of wilderness. Furthermore, those areas of natural beauty so cherished by the romantic poets were often only maintained and managed in their existing state by human activity, usually agriculture.


I can't remember if you were placing Greyback and his pack in Scotland or Emgland. any way, the campers would most likely be on a designated camp site, rather than just anywhere, but in October or so, you wouldn't need to worry about its being busy :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 12th, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yeah I noticed that when I was looking at the moors national park and it talked about villages!

It's definitely a camping area, and there aren't many people to evacuate at that point--and they're probably all crazy American tourists who shopped at L.L. Bean to get pup tents that could withstand blizzards. (The fact that such things exist makes my head hurt.)

"Ranger" didn't sound right to me (that's why I just referred to her as a woman or an employee), so thanks. Warden. That works if I need it again. The forest is in England. (It's actually loosely based in the Forest of Dean, though it's actually about as real a forest as Hogsmeade is a town.)
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