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Chapter 1: Lullaby
May you find solace in the gentle arms of sleep
Despite the wolves outside your door
In time you will see them all as harmless
And their idle threats easy to ignore
And if ever fate should choose to smite you
Stand your ground, never walk away
Please don't ever let the world defeat you
Don't get buried in its decay.
Assemblage 23 – Lullaby
He should never have gone so far from the house. His mum had always warned against going out of sight, and even more so of going out of hearing range. But all his friends had been there all ready. They had all been brave enough, even though they weren’t allowed in the woods either. They had laughed at him and said he was too scared, which he wasn’t. He just wasn’t allowed and he knew his mum would be angry if she found out. But when they had jeered and laughed at him he had wandered there anyway. It didn’t look so scary, just a bunch of trees and bushes, no different to the other woods his mum sometimes took him too. And besides, if he did this then everyone would leave him alone and be his friend again.
It had gotten dark very quickly, and he hadn’t realised how far he had walked. And all of a sudden it did seem a lot scarier, and he realised perhaps his mum had been right not to let him come here. He didn’t know where he was and the trees looked bigger now, he could hardly see the sky between them. And so he started to run, shouting for his mum, his dad and his friends.
He had screamed when the wolf had jumped out at him. Screamed and screamed but still no one had come. He had gone to far for his mum or dad to hear him, and the sun had gone down too quickly for him to get close enough to the nearest house. It had bitten his leg, he never forgot how much it had hurt. And then for some reason he had found himself alone, the wolf had disappeared just as quickly at it had come.
His parents had started looking for him. He remembered the tears in his mothers eyes when she first saw him, even more so he remembered the first sob that had escaped her when she reached him. He felt bad for her. She should have been angry with him, not sad. He tried to wriggle away when she went to hug him, but the scratches on his stomach hurt and his leg was throbbing too much. He had tried to say he was sorry, sorry for running away and for going too far but she had just stroked his hair and told him how much she loved him and how glad she was he was still alive. He had felt really bad then.
They had carried him back to the house and to the fireplace. Normally his mum wouldn’t let him travel by floo. She kept telling him he was too little and he might get lost. He guessed that since he had already gotten lost without the floo it was all right for him to use it now, especially since she kept telling him how much of a big boy he was for not crying as he leant against her shoulder and closed his eyes, the smell of her jumper comforting and familiar. He felt too tired to cry anyway, his eyes drifting closed as his parents talked quickly in hushed whispers.
He hadn’t liked the hospital. The lights were too bright and a tall man kept poking him in all the places it hurt. He wore funny gloves that were cold and rough as he looked at the bites on his leg with a frown that scared him slightly. He had tried to smile afterwards though, and even given him a lolly for being so good. It had been red and the taste made him feel a little sick, but he hadn’t wanted to upset the doctor too so he had sat and sucked on it slowly.
The doctor wanted him to stay in the hospital, but he didn’t want too. His mum didn’t want him too either. She had talked to the doctor for a long time, then she had talked to his dad. They shouted for a bit which made him want to cry, but he remembered that he was a big boy now and big boys didn’t cry. So he instead sucked on the lolly he didn’t like and stayed quiet.
‘He should stay here,’ the doctor spoke in the same sort of voice his mum did when telling him to go to bed or take a bath. He never disobeyed that voice and hoped that his mummy would. ‘You don’t have the facilities to cope with him, he may need medical attention.’
‘No,’ his mum said firmly, which let him relax a little as he scratched one of the newly healed scars. ‘What he needs to be with people who love him. He’ll be terrified.’
‘He’s dangerous,’ he sucked even harder on the lolly. He didn’t like what the doctor was saying. He was still only a little boy and didn’t think he was dangerous, but perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps the doctor wanted to punish him for wandering too far from home, to make sure he didn’t do it again. He wanted to go and tell the man that he wouldn’t, he’d promise it if he would just let him go home. He was starting to get tired and cold since no one had given him his jumper back, and he didn’t like the way people kept looking at him.
‘Are you scared?’ The young boy shook his head firmly drawing a smile from her as she smoothed his dirty blonde hair from across his face. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes,’ he replied, nodding his head just as furiously. ‘I’m a big boy now and big boys don’t get scared.’
‘Of course they don’t,’ his mother chuckled, pulling the bedsheets further up to his neck and tucking in the sides. Leaning over to plant a kiss on his cheek she felt something hard underneath her hand, pulling the corner back slightly to see what it was. She hadn’t seen the teddy bear in years. Remus had declared himself too old for it a couple of years ago and the tatty toy had been thrown into the back of the cupboard. She could almost have sworn she’d thrown it away, although that was obviously not true. One of the eyes was hanging on a thread of faded black cotton and there were patches where the fur had disintegrated completely. She turned to Remus but he just stared at her defiantly for a few moments until she lifted the bear to her lips and gave it a gentle kiss on the forehead. ‘Wouldn’t want him feeling left out, would we,’ Remus grabbed the bear from her hands, holding it tightly to his chest so that it bulged around his arm. He chewed apprehensively on his bottom lip as his mother pulled the curtains.
‘Will it hurt?’ He piped up nervously, eyes wide in the dim of the room.
‘I don’t know,’ she replied honestly, sitting back down next to him and reaching for his hand. He didn’t pull it away, allowing her to rub the back of it gently. ‘But just think…you’ll get to be a wolf for the night, not many people can say that,’ she tried to smile brightly in spite of her worry.
‘I guess,’ Remus did not look convinced. ‘I don’t see why I can’t be with you and daddy though.’
‘I know love,’ his mother sounded sad, releasing his hand and gently guiding him to lie back down. ‘But its better this way, you must trust us.’
‘I wouldn’t hurt you,’ there was an edge of pleading in his voice as she tucked the sheets in again.
‘I know you wouldn’t.’
‘Then why can’t I stay with you?’ His eyes were filling with tears.
‘Try to go to sleep,’ she said gently, leaning down to flick on the small night-light. ‘It’ll be morning before you know it,’ she paused in the doorway and blew him a kiss, smiling when he lifted his teddy up in the way.
‘He needed it more,’ he explained easily, rolling onto his side with the bear curled under his chin as the door was closed and the sound of the lock clicked into place.
‘We can’t leave him alone,’ his mother paced the room frantically, stopping periodically to twitch the curtains aside and watch the slowly fading sunlight. ‘He’s only six, he doesn’t understand. It’s not fair.’ Her husband stood behind and put his arms gently around her waist, breathing in the smell of her hair.
‘He has to do this alone,’ he whispered softly in her ear. ‘We’ll be here for him in the morning.’
‘The morning will be too late,’ she pushed him away angrily and stormed across the room, her hands rising to her hair as she clutched her head. ‘Why can’t I do anything for him?’ She let her husband embrace her again, leaning on his broad shoulder as he traced small circles on her back with his fingertips.
‘Remus will be fine,’ he reassured her. ‘He’s a strong boy,’ his words trailed off as he looked to the window, the last flickers of sunlight playing on the hilltops in the distance before they faded out. ‘He always has been.’
They flew apart at the first scream that came piercing down the stairs, his mothers eyes widening with fear as she looked desperately to her husband. At the second scream she was half way to the door.
Her husband grabbed her arm as she struggled against him.
‘You can’t go up there.’
‘He needs me.’
‘Mummy, help me. It hurts!’ The third scream came shriller and more desperate as his mother fought against his fathers tight grip, clawing his arms as she tried desperately to get him to let her go. ‘MUMMY!’ She was crying down, huge racking sobs as she gasped for air, collapsing into her husbands arms as they both sank onto the sofa, trying to calm her as the screams died down and the house was silent. Almost silent.
They must have fallen asleep at some point, although neither could exactly remember when. Curled in each others arms on the small sofa they stretched uncomfortably, minds still foggy from the restless sleep. The sun slanted through a gap in the curtains as the peace ended and they jumped from the sofa. His mother raced for the stairs, followed closely as she almost slammed into the door in her rush, fingers fumbling on the tiny lock until she all but screamed with frustration, forcing the door open.
The room was destroyed, shelves knocked over and their contents smashed across the floor in tiny shards. Feathers floated gently back to settle after having been disturbed from the draft on opening the door, the bed pulled to shreds and the delicate patterned sheets torn into unmendable pieces. And in the middle of the destruction a small blonde head laid huddled in a tiny ball, trembling from head to foot as she crouched down on the carpet next to him. Reaching out she ran a gentle hand through his matted hair, gasping with shock when her fingers came back streaked with red. She pulled her son carefully into her lap, taking care not to hurt him as he winced slightly.
‘Honey,’ she muttered soothingly as her husband returned with a damp cloth and a bowl of warm water. ‘It’s all right, it’s all over now,’ he shifted slightly in her arms, eyes opening slowly to look at her sadly.
‘I want teddy,’ he managed to mumble. ‘I don’t know where he went, I think I lost him.’
‘No,’ his mother reassured him. ‘I’m sure teddy’s round here somewhere,’ she reached to the side to look under a pile of fallen books. ‘We just have to find him,’ Remus uncurled reluctantly, eyes scanning the room desperately as he crawled off her lap and started rummaging through the remains of his bedding, gaze fixed with single minded determination. His eyes lit up when he spotted a single brown leg under half of one of his pillows, hand reaching out to snatch it. It came away too easily, stuffing protruding from the frayed and ripped end as his eyes filled with tears. He turned back to his mother, holding out the broken limb sadly.
‘I hurt teddy,’ he whispered as his hands started to shake, still clinging tightly to the remains as his father lifted him carefully.
‘I’m sure mummy can fix him,’ he said gently, wiping away his sons tears as his wife nodded in agreement. Remus just sniffed loudly as he shook his head.
‘I don’t want him fixed,’ he said stubbornly. ‘I want him to not be broken. I don’t want to be a wolf anymore,’ he hit his father in the chest to make him let go, his legs wobbly beneath him as he ran to the furthest corner of the room and curled back up with his knees beneath his chin, silent tears streaming down his face as his eyes flashed towards the window with fear. ‘Please make it all go away.’