Chapter 17 : Monster Unleashed
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“Happy birthday to you!”
Who dared disrupt Sirius Black’s slumber? Celebration or not, people should respect and practice common courtesy, especially when it came to something as precious as sleep. Sure, whatever he was sleeping in was far less comfortable than the four-poster bed he was accustomed to but nevertheless -
“Happy birthday to you!”
Godric’s Garters! If they must sing so off-key, did it have to be at such a high volume? It sounded like it could fill the entire common room. Still floating in his hazy stupor of sleep, Sirius reached out to grab something to muffle the sound.
“Happy birthday dear…”
There was a break in the singing, filled with confused silence.
“Hang on, who’s birthday is it anyway?” someone shamelessly asked.
“Read the sign, cauldron-head!”
“Who the hell is Dollie?”
“Isn’t she that miserable drip that’s dating Black?”
“Alright, who’s that feeling up my bum?” a suspiciously familiar voice yelled. “Padfoot! Is this where you’ve been hiding?”
The newly-christened nickname roused Sirius like a jolt of lightning. Pushing aside the cloak that enveloped him, he blinked to adjust to the dark and James’ strangely illuminated face. Behind him were several dark, faceless figures, one of whom was holding what looked like a cake topped with a cluster of candles. If he had bothered to count, he would have gotten thirty-two total.
“What’s going on?” said Sirius. His mouth felt like it was full of sand.
“Looks like someone had a bad mix of Honeydukes and spiked Butterbeer,” James laughed. “Oi! Someone turn back on the light and get some java, stat!”
The room suddenly flooded with light. Sirius winced as he rubbed his eyes, black dots obscuring his vision. Someone, James he assumed, pushed a mug into his hands. He quickly and greedily downed the coffee, relishing the rush of blood to his head. Remus would surely disapprove, he would have suggested hot cocoa for such an occasion. As it were, the caffeine allowed him to fully digest James’ words.
“We were wondering where you were, mate. You missed a lot of what was on the itinerary but we naturally assumed you were off somewhere with Kent having your own private party.” James winked. “You sly dog.”
Sirius ignored the innuendo and scanned the crowd for her. “Where is she?”
“I thought she was with you.”
“Does it look like she’s with me?” Sirius replied sarcastically, stretching his limbs.
The room began to buzz with the news that one of the guests of honour was missing. However, since most of them didn’t even know her name, never mind what she looked like, the search was short-lived as someone turned back on the wireless to resume the party. As far as they were concerned, as long as there was still food, drinks and music, it was still a party and they were determined to have as much fun as humanly possible.
“Remus, what’s wrong?”
Remus had released Dollie and was backing away from her, shielding his face. His sudden change in behaviour both worried and puzzled her.
“Dollie, listen to me. You have to go back to the castle.” His voice was strangely strangled.
Was it something she did? Had she crossed some invisible line that she wasn’t supposed to? Or perhaps, had everything before been just a cruel trick of the light, a figment of her wild imagination. Impossible, there was hardly any when they came outside, just what the moon was able to provide. But then, it was entirely plausible as well. She wouldn’t put it past her mind to conjure the scene by itself, a coveted concoction fuelled by sugar and desire. What was one more fantasy in what seemed like an endless stream?
“Okay, we can go back if you like,” she said, trying not to sound too wounded, defeated by reality.
“No, not we. Just you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t just leave you here alone.”
Even though the clouds were slowly making way for the full moon’s light, she could barely see him through the night’s heavy cloak of darkness. But she could hear him, a deep panting that sounded chillingly abnormal. His back was to her, like he couldn’t bear to look at her. She reached out to touch him but he recoiled, as though she would scald him.
“Get away from me!”
Blinking back tears, she willingly ignored the snarl and went to him. She felt the moonlight shroud her like silk, sharpening the goosepimples on her arms. It was cool to the touch, much like sunlight burned. Had she been a fool to believe that what happened before was more than it really was?
“Remus, please...” she pleaded, tentatively touching his back.
He spun around with ferocity, startling her. As she tottered back, her heel sank into a soft patch of dirt, causing her to lose her balance and fall back. Something hard cracked her head and with a quick flash of light, she felt herself plunge into blackness.
“She isn’t here.”
Just to be certain, Sirius climbed atop the fireplace mantle. James and Peter helped him down when he couldn’t spot her. Wading through the crowd, Vivian approached Sirius, followed closely by Lily. “She isn’t in any of the dormitories,” said Vivian. “I took the boys, Lily the girls. No dice.”
Sirius shook his head, unwilling to give up. “She’s got to be somewhere. She can’t have just vanished.”
“Why the fuss? Dollie’s a big girl, she can take care of herself,” said Vivian, shrugging.
“Look, Costa, if you want to go back to the party or more accurately, back into Reynolds’ trousers, be my guest,” Sirius said with more harshness than he intended.
“Yes, I think I’ll do that. Thanks, Black,” replied Vivian with indignation, storming off.
“That was entirely uncalled for,” Lily added as an afterthought before joining her friend.
“Yes, thanks so much.” It was James’ turn to be frustrated. “And here I was about to ask Evans if she’d like to prowl the passages with me. Err, strictly looking for Kent, obviously,” he quickly added when Sirius shot him a look.
“This is no time to be a prick, Prongs.” The lack of help and concern was starting to irritate him. Though there were no clear cause for alarm, Sirius couldn’t ignore an unease stir in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why the instinct warranted such anxiety. He just knew he would feel better knowing Dollie was there, sulking but safe. “Wait here, maybe she stepped outside. The Fat Lady may have seen her.”
Just then, the portrait entrance opened, revealing one of the most unlikely guests they could have encountered.
“Miss Pomfrey! What, err, a pleasant surprise.”
With the doorway nearly blocked by snogging couples, the school matron stepped over a trio of passed out seventh-years, shirtless and graphitised, her eyes widened in shock at such blatant debauchery. Although barely out of St. Mungo’s and therefore the youngest member of the Hogwarts staff, Poppy Pomfrey had nevertheless lived in quite a different era from the students, hence incapable of fully empathizing with the raucous youth surrounding her. She looked almost relieved when James had called out to her.
“Potter, Black and Pettigrew, just the boys I wanted to see,” she said as she shook confetti out of her hair.
“We can explain this -”
She held up a hand to silence Sirius. “Although inappropriate and entirely against school rules, this is a matter best left to Professor McGonagall. As it were, I’m here for a very specific reason.”
“Well then, I’ll just leave you in the capable hands of Messrs Potter and Pettigrew. I’ve got something I simply must ask the portrait outside...”
“This will only take a moment, Black,” she said, cutting him from escaping. “Have any of you by chance seen Mr. Lupin?”
The three boys exchanged looks, puzzled. To be honest, none of them really knew where he’d gone, assuming his absence was due to an early nightcap. Thus, they answered in the negative.
“You are quite certain?”
Sirius detected a note of rising panic this time.
“What’s this about?”
Visibly flustered, Pomfrey feigned composure. “Oh, it’s nothing really. He was supposed to have an appointment with me, to undergo some check-ups his parents requested.”
The feeble lie was pointless. The Marauders knew better, knew exactly what she meant; that it was that time of the month. As though a cold hand was gripping his heart, Sirius left without a word and went to the window. Sure enough, a full moon stared back at him, a disembodied eye missing its iris. His own grey eyes fluttered downwards when something on the grounds caught his notice. A familiar shock of white-blonde, attached to tiny pink stars. She was not alone.
A sharp intake of cold air made his throat ache. He hurriedly rejoined the group, casually as though he never left. Pomfrey was a few feet away, attempting to talk to a student who was swaying too much to be coherent.
“Prongs! Wormtail! We have a situation and I need you to do something for me.”
Even in his hushed tones, they felt the urgency.
“We’re all ears.”
“I need you to distract Pomfrey.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Peter asked.
“Leave it to me,” said James. “What about you?”
“There’s something I must take care of.”
“Alone?” James was all for reckless abandonment but he wasn’t too fond of solo pursuits. His massive ego aside, James was surprisingly team-oriented when it came to the Marauders. Most likely it was because he didn’t like being left out and Sirius for the most part humoured him. Not this time though.
“Yeah.” Sirius replied, licking his lips and tasting the beads of salt that were trying to form on his upper lip. “Watch for my signal.” Turning tail, he deftly made it through the door but not before overhearing one last snippet of the conversation he left behind.
“Oh Miss Pomfrey! We’d very much like a medical opinion please. You see, Pettigrew’s got an unsightly wart on his -”
“I do not!”
“No... Oh God, no, please...”
It started in his limbs, stretching his skin over his extending bones like rubber. Then his body began to contort into shapes unachievable by a normal human being. A sharp pain resonated through his back as his spine elongated to supply his tail. His clenched fists curled into clawed paws, his feet doing the same. His jaw expanded to make room for his sharpening fangs. The worst was the hair, which felt like a million needles tearing through his skin to form the fur that would cover every part of him. He snarled when he meant to cry, falling to his knees in anguish. But all the prayers and pleas in the world couldn’t save his soul now.
He had become the Wolf.
It was the beast that threw back its head and unleashed a bloodcurdling howl. Oh, how good it felt to be free once more. Being trapped in such a weak human body was so stifling. But what’s this? Its snout twitched in the air. Could it really be..? Yes, it was certain. The strong, unmistakable scent of fresh meat. Perhaps the human was good for something after all. For there, lying prone before it, was the most delicious meal the Wolf could have asked for.
The Wolf smiled, venomous saliva dripping from its fangs. The human was still alive, it could hear her breathing. How fortunate, the Wolf was partial to tender meat. It advanced towards her, slowly but deliberately, savouring the moment as he had never been allowed human meat until now. It raised its paw, claws out and ready to feast.
Startled, the cry caused the Wolf to mistakenly slash her cheek instead of her throat. The Wolf turned around in place, searching for the source of the voice. It couldn’t see, smell or otherwise sense anything nearby. Shaking off the feeling of unease, the Wolf made to resume its intended savagery when again...
That’s when the Wolf realized the truth. The voice was coming from itself, ringing in its ears.
Not her. Please, not her.
The Wolf roared. It was the revolting human, the one he was forced to succumb to for most of the month, lying dormant from within like a common dog. This was highly irregular. When it was the Wolf’s time, the human curled up in the corner of his mind, pathetic and helpless, trapped in the cage that usually imprisoned the Wolf. Why was he interfering now, after all these years? The Wolf swatted its ears, trying to rid himself of the noise.
Anyone but her.
Her? What was so special about this human girl? She looked ordinary enough, not that it knew any better. It didn’t encounter enough humans to know the difference. But she must mean enough to the human to cause him to display such uncharacteristic grit. Just then, an idea struck the Wolf.
Do you not want me to devour her?
But she looks so... delectable.
Very well. If you like, I could just bite her instead.
I can. It is only a bite. She won’t feel anything, I promise. It will bind her to us for the rest of her life. One small bite and she will become exactly like us.
The hesitation made the Wolf smile a terrifying smile. It could feel the human’s resolve weakening. If there was one thing a werewolf craved more than meat, it was a mate.
The Wolf raised its paw once more, claws out and teeth bared, to seal the girl’s fate. Just then, a black shadow flew through the air and ambushed the Wolf. They both tumbled to the ground and when the Wolf recovered, it realized that it was a black dog, almost as large as itself, that had attacked it. Its yellow eyes dilated as it fixed on the newcomer. They both took a stance of offense, staring the other down with bared teeth.
Snarling, the Wolf charged first but the Dog was more agile than it realized. The Dog deftly dodged it and pounced. The Wolf howled in pain as the Dog’s teeth sank into its back. The Wolf tried to shake the hound off it but the more it tried to do so, the more the Dog held on. The Wolf finally managed to reach over and grab the Dog, throwing the hound to the ground. A ripped patch of fur and skin was still in the Dog’s mouth. The sight enraged the Wolf, using his snout to lift the Dog from the ground and throw it into the air. While suspended, the Wolf struck it with devastating force. Though it could have just as easily killed the hound right then and there, the beast had more important matters at hand.
The Wolf turned to get back to the girl, confident that the Dog had been put down. But it was mistaken. It had underestimated the ferocity of the animal’s love. Even in its apparent weakened state, the Dog snuck up behind it and bit into the Wolf’s tail, trying to pull and keep the beast away from its prey. The hound released the tail only when the Wolf returned its attention back to it.
The Dog then picked up its trophy, the beast’s back patch, and taunted the Wolf with it. It swung its head and propelled the back patch right into the Wolf’s face. A seemingly suicidal move as the Wolf hunted the hound with vengeful purpose. The Wolf momentarily lost sight of the animal as it ducked behind some boulders. However, it resumed chase as the hound, now glowing strangely silver, headed into the Forbidden Forest. The Wolf followed closely behind.
As the Wolf disappeared into the thicket of trees, the hound emerged from behind the boulders, clutching a wand between its teeth. Battered and bruised, the Dog limped towards the figure it risked its life to protect. She hadn’t moved since it first leaped over her. The Dog whimpered at the sight of the glinting crimson on her face, nuzzling its nose in her hair and sniffing her delicately. Bowing its head to set the wand down, it began to lick her wounds. It was then that the hound felt her stir, though she remained unconscious.
At this sign of life, the Dog picked up the wand and pointed it towards the sky, which suddenly burst into an explosion of fireworks, red and gold being the prevalent colours. With that, the hound disappeared into the castle, hoping that James and Peter would lead Pomfrey to the girl before the Wolf could come back and finish what it had started.
“... on the grounds, the poor dear.”
“... couldn’t find him, Sir... searched everywhere except the Forbidden Forest... safest alternative for everyone...”
“I agree... once dawn breaks. A regrettable oversight...”
Dollie wished they wouldn’t talk so loudly. Every painful syllable was swimming around her head in a pool of confusion, so muddled up that she couldn’t decipher their meaning. The words were like flies, buzzing noisily around her and out of her reach, the incomprehensible pests.
“What are her injuries?”
“Concussion, an absolute miracle... No broken or fractured bones or internal injuries.”
It hurt too much to think. The more she tried, the more it felt like a hand was squeezing her brain into a fist. Her hands felt too large for her body. She felt the room spin, even though she knew she was laying flat down. Her stomach churned uneasily.
“The wounds on her face?”
“Claw marks are too large to be anything else.”
When she tried to open her eyes, all she could see were flashing lights, which brought on a wave of nausea. It was easier to let her eyelids fall and shield her eyes. The air held a distinctly pungent sterile smell. Both her pounding head and numb face felt heavy.
“Any signs of infection?”
A hesitation. “I can’t say for sure, I’ll have to keep her under observation. The claws do have some damaging magical properties. I had to apply extra-strength Murtlap essence paste and wrap her face with gauze to stop the bleeding. But what I found in her wounds was most peculiar.”
“Hmm, yes, that is quite curious.” A wearied sigh. “But she is safe, that is all that matters. One cannot contract lycanthropy from anything other than infected saliva. Her parents will have to be notified, of course.”
The familiarity in the voices was apparent, though not immediately recognizable. There was something especially comforting about the man’s voice, like being enveloped in a warm blanket. It made her feel protected, like nothing could hurt her. Where had she heard it before? In a dream perhaps? Though she couldn’t be so sure that this wasn’t a dream in itself. As she drank in his words, they seemed to become like water, clear and fluid.
“Are you going to tell them –?”
“The truth? Certain facets of it, yes. I’m afraid parents are not in their most reasonable state of mind when it comes to the interests of their child. They do not respond well to truth in its purest form. It is a burden all educators must go through.” A pause and some shuffling. “Well, Poppy, I will not detain you from your duties any further. Mr. Lupin will be sent here to your care as soon as he is found. Please do keep me informed of Ms. Kent’s condition as it develops. ”
“Of course, Sir.”
“Good night, Poppy.”
“Good night, Professor Dumbledore.”
When silence finally reigned, Dollie felt herself drift away to dreams of dark silhouettes, indistinguishable murmurs and perhaps strangest of all, the sensation of warm honey tickling her cheek.
A/N: So this came out a lot shorter than I envisioned. Do you like the shorter length or would prefer more?
I've been super-excited to write this part for ages! The werewolf & dog fight was especially enjoyable, my first written action scene yay!
Please hit me with a review on your way out, thanks. =)
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