It was light. My head pounded and my neck ached. My arms felt bruised and my back was sore. A shiver ran up my spine and I instinctively curled closer to the damp robes which were draped over my body.
Blearily, I opened one eye and then the other, slowly focussing on the rough bark beside my head. I was in the clearing; the home of the pack. The forest clearing was surrounded by fallen trees; giving some shelter against the bitter wind. In the centre was a large bonfire where, depending on your hierarchy in the pack, everyone took a turn beside the flames for some much needed warmth.
As a recent member, I was allowed five minutes every hour to warm up – along with the children and two identical twins, looking to be in their early thirties, who didn’t speak but kept their stubbled jaws closed whilst they watched the pack.
Around 100 yards south was a pool of water. It was a man-made trap for the rain which was used for those who wanted to wash or clean the blood of their hands. Ropien had smirked at me when I questioned why no one was using it.
”Just wait, Princess. After full moon the pool is always full.”
The pool was on one side of the camp whilst the house was on the other. It was an old building with white paint peeling off the rickety porch. Vines and moss grew up the side; engulfing any windows in its path. The door stood on squeaking hinges and the stairs before it had collapsed. It was where Fenrir Greyback slept. Him, and his guards.
Rancook and McQuire took turns throughout the night to guard the door. Mace, one of the first girls to approach me during that first night, had said that the room inside was bare – giving no hints to who Fenrir was before he turned feral.
Despite everyone else holding at least one item from their previous life, such as Mace’s locket, Fenrir had nothing. Apparently all that stood in the room was an old bed with ragged drapes hanging around the sides, a broken closet which held his Wizarding robes for when he needed to socialise with the Death Eaters and a fireplace.
Another shiver ran through my body and I pushed myself up into a ball, my face peeking out from under the hooded robes. Some of the pack were up; Fisher and Sansa were collecting wood for the pile whilst Rufus and Mace were cutting off meat from the deer carcass for breakfast rations. It was drizzling, no different to the general dampness of the wolves den.
I looked at Mace as her dark hair fell into her face. She carefully carved the meat from the bone with a sharp knife. If only she told me more. It was the fireplace that I was interested in. If things go wrong then it could be a possible escape. Is the floo network connected?
I needed to go near the fireplace to find out, yet when I asked Mace how to get inside the building, her eyes darkened and her mouth turned down.
”You’ll find out soon enough.” She whispered.
I found out how the following night when Fenrir was walking through the den. He paused momentarily beside Tess who was hanging the damp robes over a tree branch to dry. Tess froze, her shoulders hunched over and her eyes glued on the ground. “Come inside.” Fenrir demanded calmly.
Tess followed, stuck between Rancook and McQuire whilst everyone avoided her gaze. I watched Mace’s eyes fill with shame and other women bite their lips as Tess’ moans filled the air that night. She was allowed extra meat the following morning. There was only one way to get inside the building.
I’d seen Remus a couple times in the week since I joined the pack – he’d been placed on hunting patrol since we arrived. Fenrir claimed that ‘human’ food was bad for a werewolf and that instead they should purge on raw meat of whatever game the hunters brought ‘home’.
I’d been forced to watch in silence as the children had their lessons. The same message was pushed again and again; they were different. They were not human anymore. The Wizarding world had turned against them; forcing them into exile. Wizards and Muggles were the enemy – it was okay to kill them.
Remus had been in the den during one of the lessons - did no one else see how his eyes tightened? How his frown deepened? How his teeth clenched together? Remus left soon after on patrol, not coming back until long after I had fallen asleep. Yet, I doubted it was coincidence how my robes remained dryer than anyone elses – one night I had woken up in time to see him silently sneaking away from me; storing his wand in his large pocket.
“Why don’t you listen?” a small voice asked, pulling me into the present.
I turned to see the small girl perching on one of the tree trunks. Her head was tilted to the side causing her knotted hair to bundle under her collar. Charlene’s grey eyes watched me curiously. “Why?” she repeated.
I smiled, trying to ignore the blood in her hair and the dirt in her nails, “listen to what?”
“To the lessons,” Charlene answered simply. “Whenever we have lessons you always twitch and look away. Or you look at Uncle Remus. Or you look angry. Or you look at the house. Or you look at us. But you never look at Uncle Fenrir or Uncle Rancook when they give their lessons.” She paused to look at me again, tilting her head to the side once more. “Why don’t you listen?”
My heart beat rapidly under my chest; was I that obvious? I’d been distracted, but I’d been sure that I’d kept up appearances – no one else had made any comments – had they?
“No one else knows.” The young child said simply. “Just me – I like watching you. You’re different.”
I smiled, amused. “I’m different?”
“Uhuh.”Charlene nodded fervently. “Like when Uncle McQuire hit Tommy yesterday after asking to go home and you made a funny face but then you quickly touched your head and stared at your hair. You always do it when you’re angry.” Charlene shrugged. “It’s funny.”
I looked at the little girl, her twisted features still resembling her mother. We’d all been saddened by the Hemmingway’s murders, Katie Hemmingway was respected by most of the Order. Moody and Kenton had even suggested enlisting her into the society. Kenton knew her from Hogwarts; she was the most observant witch anyone had come across – even Dumbledore had been surprised at the depth of the amount she’d noticed. Moody was going to visit her the following day, yet by that point she was already in the morgue.
It seemed her daughter had picked up on the same skill. I shuffled closer to Charlene carefully, wary to how much she would keep to herself. Yet, for some reason I had the certain feeling that Charlene would keep anything to herself.
“I guess I don’t listen because I don’t believe everything that they say.”
Charlene pursed her lips whilst her eyes darted round the surrounding area. “What do you mean?” she whispered.
I reached out automatically and pushed some of the curls away from her face tenderly. “Charlene, what happened to your brother?”
Charlene flinched at the sudden change of subject. Her grey eyes seemed to darken as she instinctively spoke, “uncle Fenrir was saving us from being corrupted by wizards and witches. But Oli was scared, he was too weak. Wizards are weak, not werewolves.”
“Hey,” I said quietly, bending down to her level and feeling my chest tighten as I saw her eyes glistening. “Everyone’s still asleep – it’s just us. What really happened to Oliver, Charlene?”
The girl’s lip quivered slightly and a small tear escaped from the corner of her eye. She put a hand over her mouth but a whimper still reached around her small fingers. In one swift movement, Charlene had pushed herself into my arms, her tiny body shaking against mine. She leant even closer her fingers entwined in my hair, her hot breath against my neck and her tears sticking to my cheek.
“I m-miss my mummy,” she sobbed quietly, “and my d-daddy. They’d a-always read u-us a s-story before b-bedtime s-so we wouldn’t be s-scared at night. B-but now it’s dark and there’s never a-any stories.” She paused and took a deep, shuddering bed. “Oli u-used to climb into my b-bed when he got scared a-and I u-used to pretend that I w-was angry and I called him a-a b-baby. But I never m-meant it!”
My chest tightened and my throat thickened as the girl sobbed in my arms. Suddenly the image of jumping in my parent’s bed after a nightmare, my dad had simply held me whilst I’d cried, saying the same thing again and again – ‘I’m here. Everything’s going to be alright.’.
I rubbed Charlenes back, her ragged clothes hanging loose off her small frame. “It’s alright. I’m here; everything’s going to be alright.”
“B-but I miss them.” Charlene cried, snot running down her lips. “I-It’s my fault that t-they’re dead.”
“Why in Helga’s name do you think that?” I pushed her head up so that her grey eyes were looking into my dark ones. “Their deaths had nothing to do with you!”
Katie and James’ deaths were our fault. Somehow the Death Eaters had heard the Order was interested in the family. Remus speculated that they’d given the children to Greyback for good behaviour.
“I-It w-was. M-mummy and d-daddy said that we h-had to go to sleep, but I wasn’t tired. S-so I waited until they’d gone downstairs and then snuck out of bed. I wanted to get my storybook from the kitchen s-so I could read the next chapter before mummy and O-Oliver. But it was too high and I couldn’t reach so I-I thought that if I used mummy’s wand, like she always does, then the storybook would float down. S-So I hid behind the sofa where mummy and daddy were talking and I s-stole their wands off the t-table.” Charlene shook again, her voice thick. “T-then the bad men came and mummy and daddy couldn’t find their w-wands, so the bad men laughed and pointed green light at them. A-And mummy and daddy fell to the f-floor.”
My mouth hung open slightly, my chest clenched and my mind in overdrive as I desperately fought for something to say that would sooth the child. “It’s alright,” I whispered quietly, “everything’s going to be alright. It wasn’t your fault, Charlene. The Death eaters would have killed them, even if they had their wands.” I bit my lip and looked at the wild girl, “Charlene? What happened to Oliver?”
Charlene looked to the floor before checking that we were still alone. “I-I stayed hidden… b-but Oli came looking for me b-because he h-had a nightmare. He couldn’t find me so he started crying and the b-bad men heard him. T-they pulled him down the stairs a-and pointed their wands again, b-but I jumped out and b-begged them to l-let him go. The big man with the tattoo over his face grabbed me so I screamed, then w-we were in t-the forest.” I wrapped Remus’ robe round the shivering child, encouraging her to continue.
“They s-said they were settling a debt with u-uncle Fenrir. Then they disappeared and it was cold. Oli was c-rrying and he wr-apped h-his arms round my legs. Then someone growled and-and-and I noticed it was full moon and-and…” Charlene trailed off into sobs. “I tried to pull the wolfy off Oli but it shoved me away and b-bit my arm.”
I swallowed and closed my eyes. Pull yourself together, Tonks! Focus! “Charlene, do you know why I don’t listen during lessons?” Distracted, the little girl shook her head and pushed some hair away from her face. “Because I don’t believe that werewolves are superior. I don’t understand why we can’t live peacefully with wizards – why can’t werewolves go to school?”
“Because werewolves are bad.” Charlene whispered, her eyes frantically searching to make sure she wasn’t overheard. “We’d kill all the other children.”
I smiled slightly, “see, that’s where we disagree – I don’t see any difference. Werewolves are just like wizards, some are bad and some are good.” I paused and trusting my instincts, decided to continue. “Uncle Fenrir is bad. He’s fighting with bad wizards and he’s making us all believe we’re bad as well. But you’re not bad, Charlene. Neither were your parents – they were good. I don’t listen to the lessons simply because they’re wrong.”
Charlene gazed at me, her eyes wide as she contemplated the sudden discovery that she might not be bad, when a loud cough broke us apart.
Charlene’s eyes turned to fear and my heart thudded unevenly whilst I tried to discover how long it would take me to reach the building and what to do if there really was no fireplace. I turned slowly, pushing Charlene’s body behind mine.
His face was set in a deep frown. The lines danced round his eyes and mouth. His brown hair was unruly, dotted with silver. Blood ran down his shoulder from the dead rabbit which was swung casually over his shoulder.
“Uncle Remus,” Charlene squeaked, fear evident in her voice.
His eyes scanned the area as I brought Charlene closer and whispered, “it’s fine. Everything’s going to be alright. He’s good.”
Charlene looked at me before turning to face Remus. Her head tilted as she observed him, though her hands still trembled. Slowly, she nodded. “Y-you never listen either.”
Remus looked at the little girl, his eyes torn between sorrow, guilt and a slight trace of amusement. “Charlene, I’ll speak to you later, okay? I need to speak to Auntie Dora for the moment,” Remus told her gently, before lifting the rabbit off his shoulders, “can you give this to Tess for breakfast? We’ll be there in a moment.” Charlene bit her lip and wiped away any remaining tears before taking the rabbit and squeezing my hand as she left.
Remus turned to be slowly and held out a hand to help me up. “To-Dora.” He whispered urgently, “you know the result of this if you get found out. You’ll be killed immediately. Speaking to Charlene like that when anybody could be listening was like signing a death warrant. Merlin, Dora. You know better then that!”
I bit my lip as I imagined what Moody would say if he knew that I’d nearly blown my cover. “But it’s our fault that she’s here. Her parents are dead because the Order-”
Remus’ eyes widened and he quickly pulled me closer in an attempt to make sure we weren’t overheard. “because the Order was going to enlist them.” I continued.
“Dora – leave it. I understand that you’re lost – this is a world so different to ours, but please, I’m begging you, leave it.”
Remus looked to desperate in that moment that I had the sudden urge to comfort him. I shook my head to clear the thought and instead nodded slowly. Remus stepped back from our close proximity and gestured towards Tess and the meat portions she was now handing out. “Breakfast.”
I smiled, “so how long are you going to pretend that you don’t cook mine before you hand it to me?” I asked innocently, trying to lighten the mood to avoid suspicion.
Remus’ lip twitched slightly as he deliberately ignored me. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Uhuh.” I replied simply, smirking.
We’d nearly reached the group when Remus’ hand darted out to touch my arm. I looked at him, bewildered, as he frowned and looked slightly uncertain. Remus’ hazel eyes looked into mine momentarily, “d-did you mean what you said before? To Charlene? About werewolves being good?”
I frowned and tilted my head, “of course. Why?”
Remus looked slightly perplexed as his eyes boared into mine. After a moment he shrugged, “just wondered.” Before walking forward and getting lost in the crowd waiting for their raw meat.
Me again. So, did you like it? Did the wolf's den match up with what you picture? How about Charlene? Tonks? Remus? Tess? Fenrir?
Once again, thank you all so much for reading, reviewing and favouriting! It's amazing to have so much support for my stories and I really can't thank you enough. :)