Chapter 6 : Alpha
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“Yes, please, Headmaster,” Lily said. “And . . . would it be possible for us to have a shower? I’m beginning to feel a bit . . . grungy.” She wrinkled her nose. Her sense of smell seemed to have increased tenfold since being bitten.
“Of course, my dear. Forgive me for not suggesting it sooner. You may use my private bath.” He clapped his hands. “Winkin, Blinkin, Nod!”
Three house elves dressed in Hogwarts hand towels bearing the school crest popped into view. “Headmaster Dumbledore sir! What do you wish?”
“Blinkin, I need you to bring up some refreshments for Mr. Snape and Miss Evans. Nod, I need you to fetch all of Miss Evans’ belongings from Gryffindor Tower and bring them to the secret room. Winkin, do the same for Mr. Snape of Slytherin House, if you would.”
“At once Headmaster Dumbledore sir!” they chorused, then they blinked out.
“When you are done with supper, you may come down and use my facilities, just tap the three bricks to the right of the bookshelf and you will find a passage to my quarters. Speak the name “Willy Wonka” and the door shall open.”
Lily suddenly burst out laughing. “Professor, how do you know about Willy Wonka?”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I received the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as a gift from a Muggleborn student of mine some years ago. It is a lovely story. Have you read it?”
Lily nodded, wiping tears from her eyes. “Sev and I both have, when we were ten.”
“Your mum bought us both a copy,” recalled Severus sadly.
“I know. I still have mine.”
“Me too.” He turned to Eileen, who had been standing quietly in front of the fireplace. “Mum, I . . .I guess I have to say goodbye now.” His voice was hoarse and he struggled to maintain his decorum.
Eileen came forward and hugged him. “Sev, I wish I could come with you, but I need to be here. I’ll be working upon a cure for you. I refuse to accept the fact that there is nothing that can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Take care of yourself, son. Be safe.” She kissed his forehead. “I love you, Severus.”
He swallowed hard. “Love you too, Mum.” He kissed her cheek, then drew away. His eyes were shimmering with unshed tears. He hugged Tobias’ flight jacket to him.
Then it was Lily’s turn, and Eileen hugged and kissed her as well, promising to send a letter to Petunia. “I’ll tell her you’re working on an independent study project over the summer at school, so she won’t wonder where you are. And if anything should happen with your mum . . .”
“You’ll let me know, won’t you?”
“Yes. And we’ll find a way for you to attend the funeral, Lily. No matter what.” Eileen murmured. “Be safe, child. And take care of my Severus. He needs you very much now, even if he won’t admit it.”
“I will. Thank you for everything, Eileen. You and Tobias have been like my second parents since Mum got sick.”
“You were the daughter I always wished for, sweetling. Until we meet again.” Eileen whispered.
She watched as Lily and Severus made their way up the stairs to the secret room, then she turned to Dumbledore and said, “Watch over my children, Headmaster. If anything happens to them, I’m holding you personally responsible.”
“I understand, Lady Prince.”
“Good evening, Headmaster.” With that, she Flooed back to her home, where her husband waited with open arms to comfort her.
After they had eaten their supper of vegetable barley soup and bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, plus a serving of warm apple pie with ice cream, Lily hunted through her trunk for her pajamas. She wanted to take a shower, convinced she stank. “Sev, have you noticed . . . that your sense of smell has improved since it happened?”
“Hmm?” Severus looked up from perusing one of his potions magazines. “What? My sense of smell? Yes, it has become very acute. Must be a side effect of the curse.”
Lily groaned. “Merlin! You must think I stink to high heaven then.”
He smirked. “I would never say so, but now that you mention it . . .”
“Shut up, Sev!” she ordered, tossing a pillow at him.
It hit him in the face. “Hey! You brought it up. Besides, I don’t smell any better.”
“Well, I’m going to get cleaned up, for both our noses’ sakes.” She said, grinning.
“You do that, love.”
“You know, Mum gave us her blessing. She told me to live, love, and be happy.”
“That’s good advice,” he said quietly. Then he turned away to hide the sudden tears in his eyes. He was going to miss Amy Evans terribly.
“See you in a bit,” Lily called over her shoulder before slipping from the room.
Fifteen minutes later, Lily returned, dressed in clean pajamas, smelling like pineapple and strawberries. “Your turn, Sev.”
He rose, placing his magazine upon his bed, walked over to her and kissed her gently. “Mmm . . . you smell good enough to devour.”
She smiled. “Why Grandfather, what big teeth you have!”
“All the better to nibble on you, my dear,” he purred, nipping lightly at her neck.
“Severus!” she pretended to be shocked, but was actually quite pleased with his response. “Go on, you insatiable thing!”
“I’ll be back, Red Riding Hood,” he said in his best evil growling tone. He winked at her before leaving the room, his pajamas under one arm.
As he made his way to Dumbledore’s quarters, he thought about how ridiculous he sounded, but for some reason it had felt good to tease Lily and make her smile. This day had been three kinds of awful for both of them, and he would rather laugh a little than cry, for fear he would never stop. He hoped that Dumbledore had normal soap to use, and not just some fruity kind. He didn’t want to smell like strawberries.
Thankfully, he discovered the Headmaster’s bathtub, like the prefects’ bathroom, had a variety of selections of bubble bath and shampoo and conditioner. He chose one that smelled very similar to Tobias’ Old Spice soap and a shampoo and conditioner of green tea and honey. At first the scent of the bubble bath and shampoo was overwhelming to his newly sensitive nose, but soon he grew used to it and enjoyed his long soak. He knew this might be the last time in a long time he had a bath like this and so took full advantage of it. Despite the Marauders’ constant claims that he was a greasy dungeon bat who never washed his hair, he actually showered almost every night, since brewing potions tended to make your skin and hair slick with a residual film.
After cleaning up, he felt pleasantly relaxed, almost like his normal self again. He scowled at the bandage still on his arm, reminding him that such relaxed feelings were transitory. He quickly dressed and headed back to the secret room, wishing that Lupin were not going to join them tomorrow. He preferred to be alone with Lily, not forced to make nice with a boy who had both cursed him and watched him being bullied by the Marauders for years. Still, he knew he had no choice in the matter. He would just have to tolerate the other boy. At least Lupin was sorry for what he’d done, unlike the other three. He recalled the Headmaster saying that perhaps they would apologize, in a letter, but Severus wasn’t holding his breath. The day one of them took responsibility for their misdeeds would be the day the earth stood still.
When he entered the room again, he found Lily drowsing. He crawled up on her in her bed and kissed her gently. “Lily, guess who?”
She opened her eyes and her arms came about him. “You smell wonderful, Sev.” She buried her face in the hollow where his neck and shoulder met. “I wish . . . things were different. That we could go home, that my mother wasn’t dying . . .” He felt a sudden wetness upon his shoulder.
He hugged her close, rocking her back and forth. She cried herself to sleep in his arms. Only then did he allow himself the release of tears. He fell asleep finally, listening to her heartbeat, the scent of strawberries and pineapple filling his nostrils.
After breakfast, Remus came to join them in the secret room, until the staff had gone home. The werewolf merely said hi and didn’t ask any other questions. There was a tense silence between the three, with none of them willing to break it. Severus regarded Remus with suspicion and Lily cautiously. Remus felt so guilty he couldn’t bear to meet their eyes. Severus and Lily sat on their beds and Remus upon a chair. The silence stretched to breaking.
Finally, after fifteen minutes, Remus asked diffidently, “Do either of you know where we’re being sent?”
Severus turned away, refusing to answer.
Lily replied, “No. Dumbledore hasn’t mentioned it.”
“He didn’t say anything to me either.” Remus sighed.
Finally, there came a knock on the door, and Dumbledore’s voice called, “You can come out now, children. There is someone I would like you to meet arriving soon.”
Silently, the three followed the Headmaster down the stairs. Dumbledore gestured for them to be seated in the three chairs before his desk. A forth chair stood empty, awaiting the arrival of the mysterious guest.
“How are you all this morning?” Dumbledore asked.
Severus bit his lip hard to keep from snapping that they were all just fine and dandy and how did the Headmaster think they felt, with prices on their heads and being forced to leave the only home they’d ever known because three little bastards had to get their pound of flesh from him? Right then he wished Potter, Black, and Pettigrew to be thrown into the Forbidden Forest and eaten by a hungry chimera. They might have been expelled, but at least they could still live at home, and weren’t being hunted like animals. They should have spent time in Azkaban, he thought resentfully, not been sent home to live in the lap of luxury.
Lily and Remus muttered a good morning. Severus remained stubbornly silent. There was nothing good about this morning and he wasn’t going to pretend there was.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and glanced at his watch. “It won’t be long now,” he told them. “He’s normally very punctual.”
As if on cue, there came a brisk rap on the door.
Dumbledore smiled. “Ah, here he is now. Enter!”
The door swung open and in stepped a tall man who appeared to be in his thirties. He was wearing casual black jeans and a silvery gray shirt with a deep blue jacket and hiking boots. A tooled leather belt with a pewter wolf’s head buckle wrapped about his waist and on it was a sheathed long knife. He was tanned from spending much of his time outdoors, there were small creases about his green eyes, and his hair was short, dark, and grizzled with silver. He moved soundlessly, with a swift economical grace.
All three students suddenly sat up and snapped to attention. There was an odd presence about this man that demanded respect, it resonated deep within them and they responded to it instinctively. He eyed them thoughtfully for a moment, but said nothing, instead walking over to Dumbledore and clasping his hand firmly. “Albus, old friend. Well met.” His voice was deep, pleasant sounding, but with a faint accent that none of the young werewolves could place. It wasn’t very obvious, a human probably wouldn’t have detected it, but their keen hearing made them aware of slight differences in pronunciation.
Severus frowned, trying to place it.
“Valerius, it’s good to see you again!” Dumbledore smiled. “It’s been a long time. I wasn’t sure if my letter would reach you, since you left me no forwarding address.”
“You know I couldn’t, it’s safer without one,” Valerius answered. His lip curled slightly. “There’s a werewolf hunter around, I can smell her.”
Dumbledore grimaced. “Briar Stone. Do you know of her?”
“Yes,” the other said curtly.
“Please, sit down, Valerius. Would you like some tea, a buttered roll, a scone?” Albus gestured to the fourth chair. “How are Marianna and your children—Marcus, Cassius, and little Marcella?”
The tall man stiffened, his face going suddenly expressionless, all save the eyes, which flared with a bone deep pain. “They are . . . gone, Albus.”
“Gone? Surely, you can’t mean . . .? All of them?”
“How? Was it Briar Stone? I’ve heard she—”
The other gave a hoarse laugh. “No. Do you think she would still be breathing if she had?”
“But who else could have dared . . .?”
“I have plenty of enemies, but this one was one of my own. Greyback,” he hissed, and fury replaced the pain.
“Fenrir Greyback?” Albus’ eyes widened.
“He . . . he bit me,” Remus blurted, unable to keep silent.
Valerius turned and looked at him. “You don’t need to be concerned over him any longer, boy. He won’t be biting anyone ever again.”
“He’s dead?” Remus asked.
“He’s food for the crows now.” There was a quiet finality in the big man’s tone. He turned back to Albus. “That’s what kept me. First I had to lay them to rest and then I had to find their murderer and bring him to justice.”
“Oh, Val! I’m so sorry . . . Marianna was such a lovely woman and so were your sons and daughter.”
“Albus, don’t. Please.” The green eyes closed briefly.
“Forgive me. It’s just such a shock. I would have helped you if I had known.”
Valerius opened his eyes. “You had your own problems. And it was mine to do. Family to avenge family, and an alpha to mete out justice to an outlaw. It is done now.” Abruptly he whirled and faced the three students.
There was no sign of grief in his eyes, but Lily could smell a faint bitter tang, as of unshed tears. It made her wince in empathy. She made herself meet his eyes, though some primal instinct was telling her to drop her gaze to the floor. “Sir, who are you?”
“I am Valerius Antonius Marcellus. I was born during the reign of the Roman Emperor Titus Vespasianus, in 80AD. I was Captain of the Praetorian Guard during the year 112 AD, when Trajan was Emperor. I later resigned my post because I became cursed with lycanthropy. The same werewolf, a fellow Praetorian with connections to the Imperial family, also bit and infected my family. We survived by moving from Rome to remote parts of the Italian countryside, until the werewolf hunters became too numerous and powerful to avoid. In the beginning, they were sanctioned and backed by the Church, and we were doubly cursed, being both werewolf and magic-wielders. My wife Marianna was a witch, and my children inherited her magic. I also bear some myself, but my own talents don’t require a wand, I am an earth wizard, my magic is with plants and herbs, healing and communicating with animals.”
“You’re almost two thousand years old!” exclaimed Lily.
“Don’t remind me,” the elder werewolf’s mouth twitched into a wry grin. “You’ll find that lycanthropes can and often do live to very great ages, as long as you are left in peace, and not attacked by another were or slain by a werewolf hunter. I am the Praetor of a group of werewolves dedicated to learning how to control their wolf and tame the beast within. We call ourselves Lupercalians, after the old Roman festival of the Lupercalia. Those of my pack believe that the curse does not have to dominate you, that you can Shift without madness and pain, and with time, learn to find a balance between human and wolf.”
“Is that possible?” Remus asked wistfully.
“My mother believes that with a special potion you might be able to . . . arrest the curse.” Severus volunteered.
“Hmm. That is something I believe also, but have not yet managed to hit upon the right combination of ingredients that will react well with our physiology,” Valerius replied. “A lycanthrope metabolizes substances quicker than a human, even while in human form. We heal faster and age slower, and so many potions that work upon human wizards do not work as well with us. Perhaps I shall speak with your mother, and see what she may contribute. However, even without potions, you may achieve a mental balance between the wolf nature and the man. Lupercalians strive to eradicate the myth that all werewolves are doomed to go mad and slay and kill humans.”
“But sir, that’s not a myth. I know because I . . . bit and infected Lily and Severus!” Remus cried.
“You were not in control of your wolf, youngling.” Valerius said calmly. “What’s your name?”
“Remus Lupin. And this is Lily Evans and Severus Snape.”
Their eyes met, and Remus dropped his after a few seconds, unable to meet the command in that gaze. Valerius gazed into both Lily and Severus’ eyes, they too dropped their gaze after a minute or two, though Severus held the other’s stare the longest. Valerius looked thoughtful. “Hmm. Interesting. You say you bit them accidentally, Remus?”
“Yes. I . . . I was chained with silver, but . . .” Remus quickly told Valerius what had happened.
Valerius swore softly. “What idiots! Sometimes stupidity is a greater killer than any silver bullet. I can teach you all control and balance, and how to live in harmony with the wolf. It is why Dumbledore wrote to me.” He examined the youngsters once again, confirming something. He found it strange that the werewolf who had bitten the girl and the boy was not a dominant, most of the more aggressive ones were. Instead, he saw that the girl and the dark-haired boy were more alpha than Remus, especially the dark-haired boy. That one is alpha for certain, and the girl as well. Lupin is beta, despite his being the older lycanthrope. Unusual.
“How long will that take, sir?” asked Lily.
“That all depends on the individual,” Valerian said. “It may take months or years. Meanwhile, I have agreed to make you members of the Lupercalia, if you agree. My pack has scattered, and gone into hiding because of Greyback, my family butchered by him. This request of yours, Albus, could not have come at a worse time. However, I cannot refuse you. To do so would be condemning these children to death, or a life of unimaginable horror. No one deserves that. Therefore, I shall take you with me to a safe place, where I can teach you how to control yourself and to learn that being a lycanthrope has its rewards as well as its trials.”
“Is it safe from Briar Stone?” Severus asked.
“She may be good, but I am better. I also have the advantage of centuries of experience,” Valerius answered. “I shall defend and protect you as I would my own family.”
“Where would we be going?” asked Lily.
“Far away from here, Lily. Britain is no longer safe for you, not newly changed as you are, nor with Briar Stone searching for you. The best place for you is in Canada, in the boreal forest. I have a home there, in the wilderness, it’s isolated but free from a neighbor’s prying eyes, and warded against evil. Had my wife and children been there, Greyback could not have . . .” he broke off, shaking his head. “Best not to dwell on the past. Are you all packed and ready to go? I wish to travel as quickly as possible.”
All three teenagers nodded.
Dumbledore summoned Winken, Blinken, and Nod to fetch Lily, Severus, and Remus’ trunks. Once they had arrived, Dumbledore shrunk them and gave them to each teenager to put in their pocket. “Well then, I wish you all the best. Valerius shall watch over you. Mind you obey him as you would your parents. He’s not very tolerant of misbehavior.”
“That is true, but I am not an ogre, Albus. I don’t eat little children, nor do I whip them. As an alpha, I lead, but I am not a tyrant.” Valerius said. “My job is to protect and advise, and I only discipline when necessary. But we can discuss pack laws later. Albus, farewell.”
“Farewell, old friend. Take good care of them. I am sorry for your loss.”
The werewolf heaved a sigh. “As am I.” Once again pain flared in the green eyes. An instant later, it was wrestled into submission. He removed a carved wooden flute from his jacket pocket and told the three young werewolves to touch it. “This is a PortKey to my lodge.”
They said goodbye to the Headmaster, then they all grasped hands and placed one on the flute. In an instant there was a brilliant flash of light. When it faded, the four werewolves were gone, whisked upon the wings of magic to the Canadian wilderness.
Dumbledore settled back against his chair with a sigh. He hoped everything would work out for the best. The most important thing was that the children were now safe. “Nod, would you please bring me a cup of tea and some lemon tarts?”
Nod bowed and snapped his fingers and the requested items appeared. Then he vanished.
No sooner had he done so then there came a knock upon the office door. Dumbledore frowned. He had not invited anyone to see him today. “Come in,” he called.
The door opened and Briar Stone walked in.
Hope you all liked this! How did you like Valerius?
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