Chapter 11 : Full Moon
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Severus was woken the next morning by someone shaking him. He rolled over, pushing them away. "Gerroff..." Keeping his eyes shut, he hoped whoever it was would go away. No such luck. In the end he had to accept that they weren't. He opened his eyes.
"Wassup, Remus? Go away..." He was tired and grumpy. The boy just grinned at him and pulled the covers off.
"Come on, it's nearly time for lunch." Groaning, Severus tried to go back to bed but Remus wouldn't let him.
"What's up, Sev? Usually you're the one telling us to get up." Severus scowled at Sirius, and James too for good measure. But he wasn't likely to get any more sleep so he might as well get dressed. A few minutes later he was following the others down the stairs, still yawning. Lunch helped wake him up, but not much. "So why so sleepy this morn- afternoon? You were out really late last night. It's not like you to break the rules."
"Shut up, Siri. I was talking to 'Gonagall." Another huge yawn.
"Really? Why?" James, poking his nose into other people's business as usual.
"None of your business."
"Ooh! Someone's grumpy today. Get out the wrong side of bed this morning? It's possible here, not like at home where the beds are usually against the wall..."
"Just shut up, James." Lion growled in Severus' head. He was tired too. Well of course he was - they were the same person! Now James and Sirius wanted to go and watch the Gryffindor Quidditch team training. They asked the others to come too, but Severus refused. Remus said he'd go with Severus - they had homework to do.
"Really? Surely it can wait? On such a nice morning..." It was freezing outside, definitely not worth going out to watch some people flying around on brooms. He could do that any time, if he actually wanted to. Everyone here was obsessed with Quidditch.
OK, Remus wasn't either, but he wasn't in the mood to be reasonable. He strode along the corridors back to Gryffindor tower, Remus struggling to keep up. He was shoving books into his bag when Remus shut the door. "Colloportus." The lock clicked into place. Remus turned to look at Severus. He was clearly excited. "Did you do it?"
Of course, Remus knew. Severus stood up and, instead of answering, shifted. Remus squealed with delight at the sight of the lion. "Wow!" He timidly moved closer and touched the lion's mane, as though reassuring himself that it was real. The lion was huge, at least compared to Remus. The twelve-year-old was small for his age and very skinny, at least partially due to his illness.
The lion rolled, and Remus laughed. He bent down and tickled Severus' tummy, and the lion squirmed. He rolled away and stood up, growling playfully and batting with his paws. He made sure his claws were sheathed. Suddenly Remus leapt on his back. Wow, the boy was light! Severus ran the length of the dormitory then twisted to throw his rider off. Remus tumbled down, but didn't land too hard. Severus backed off and transformed again.
"That was amazing! I can't believe you actually did it!"
"I can't believe you actually came straight up and played with a lion," Severus pointed out. His bad mood was gone suddenly.
"Well, I knew it was you. Just a big kitty. And how many lions am I likely to get the chance to play with?" Severus shifted, the lion snarled, and then he returned to his human form. After the first couple of times, it was really easy!
"Lion doesn't like being called a 'big kitty'."
"Well, he is."
"His teeth are bigger." Remus couldn't answer that. He sighed happily.
"Transformation are going to be so much easier now."
Severus thought about it. "When's the next one - Thursday?"
"Yep, that's right. I can't exactly say I'm looking forward to it, but..."
"I'll be there. Lion can handle a wolf, I should think." He grinned, showing his slightly sharper teeth. Some of the lion's characteristics affected his human body, as well as the other way round.
"Does McGonagall know what you're planning?" asked Remus nervously.
"Yes - Dumbledore does too. She called him when she found out what I was doing. He helped her become a cat, apparently." Remus' mouth dropped open - the headmaster? "And you're going to do join me anyway?" He felt guilty about encouraging Severus, but he really wanted the Lion's company.
"What? They're OK with it. Don't like it, but I convinced them." That grin again. "A lion is hardly helpless. Particularly not this one. And they know they can't stop me." That was a point, Remus realised. Knowing what Severus had done already to help his friend, they would hardly expect him to stay away just because they told him too. Unless it really was dangerous - McGonagall at least was too honest. It was better that he did it with permission than took risks to do it in secret.
Thursday came, and Severus supported Remus' excuse - he had really bad toothache and needed to go to the hospital wing. James and Sirius were trying to chat up Lily and her friends at the time, so weren't paying attention anyway. Severus said he would be working with Slughorn so wouldn't be back until late. James said they wouldn't wait up (which REALLY impressed Lily).
Professor McGonagall was at the hospital wing when they arrived. Her face fell when she saw Severus. "None of us can convince you ?"
"No." He was insistent. To his relief, she didn't argue further.
"I'll take Remus down," she told Madam Pomfrey. she led the two boys down the Whomping Willow and made Severus close his eyes while she did something to stop the branches from moving. She might let him through, but only with permission. "Transform now, please, Severus." she insisted. He did so. "You must not transform back until I collect you in the morning. If at any point you feel the slightest hint of danger, you must get as far from the wolf as possible but remain in lion form. Understood?"
The lion bowed its head in acceptance. She turned to Remus, and he handed over his wand. She nodded unhappily and allowed the lion to follow Remus into the passageway between the roots of the tree. The branches began to move again once they were inside, but Remus was hurrying away so Severus followed.
They emerged in a battered house. There were deep scratches everywhere, like Severus had seen at the Lupin house. The furniture was battered, what looked like bite marks on most pieces. Remus stood in the centre of the room, looking disgusted.
"This was me. We're in the Shack, by the way. Wolf always wants to get out, but never manages it fortunately. Now I'm going to undress because otherwise transforming wrecks my clothes. Turn round or not as you like." He bent down to untie his laces, avoiding the chairs. Severus didn't turn around - not because he wanted to see, but because he wasn't bothered. For the first time he saw the full extent of the scars.
Remus stood shivering in the centre of the room. "I hate this," he told Severus. Severus moved closer to him, pressing up against his legs. Remus sat down carefully, avoiding the splinters in the floor, and leant against the lion's warm fur. There they sat, waiting.
Remus stood after about five minutes. "It's coming. You might want to move back so you don't surprise the wolf." He always called it "the wolf", never considering it to be him. It wasn't, really. Severus backed into a corner, waiting and watching.
Then Remus howled with pain as his body began to change. Fur sprouted, and his fingernails stretched into claws. A tail burst out, and his face lengthened to form a snout. His ears became pointed. It was a bit like Severus' Animagus transformation, only slower and more painful.
Then the howl stopped and the boy was gone. In his place lay a wolf, horribly scarred. It pulled itself up and Severus was glad to see that it was smaller than him. He took one small step forwards. The wolf was busy sniffing, checking that it was indeed in the same place as last time. But there was something strange.
He snapped his head round, staring into the corner from which the smell came. There was something there. He growled threateningly, prowling forward. From the corner stepped a creature it had never seen before, huge with an extra thick ruff of fur around its head and neck. It moved into the pool of moonlight which shone through the window, and he saw the dark golden fir.
Wolf didn't like this. This was his territory. He growled again, but backed off. Never pick a fight with something bigger than you. Lion kept coming forward, and Wolf was afraid. He had never had company before, except for the rats. A small whine escaped him, and his tail tucked between his legs. He hunched his shoulders. The animal was bigger than him, and looked stronger.
Severus saw the wolf back away, and the Lion read the signs. Wolf was afraid of him! He didn't like scaring Remus, but it was good. So long as the wolf didn't feel too threatened, it wouldn't attack. The lion sat down, showing that he wasn't looking to hurt the wolf. Wolf stopped, confused. Lion rolled over and stretched. Wolf put his head to one side, contemplating this. This strange creature didn't seem to be a threat. Nor was it afraid. It wanted to... be pack?
Wolf had never had a pack. Wolves weren't meant to be alone. He took a cautions step forwards, a questioning whine. Lion just sat looking at him. Eyes met, and they held each other's gaze. Lion's amber eyes drilled into Wolf's, and it was Wolf who looked away first. He rolled over, exposing his belly to his Alpha. The lion stood and padded up to him, sniffing him. Wolf stayed very still.
Then Lion nudged Wolf and darted away with a playful purr. The noise was strange, but Wolf saw what was wanted. His Alpha wanted to play! Well, Wolf was up for that. This was the best night he'd ever had! He chased after the lion, out of the room and up the stairs. All of this place was his territory, or at least had been. But also a prison. Now he had a pack, and the territory belonged to his Alpha.
The lion felt the nudge and spun in time to see the wolf darting away. He gave chase. His plan seemed to be working. Remus hadn't injured himself yet. They played all over the shack, until Wolf collapsed onto the floor panting hard. He whined to his Alpha, who nudged him then lay down too. Severus looked up at the window and, for the first time, noticed the shape silhouetted against the night sky. A tabby cat, watching. But of course McGonagall would make sure nothing happened. He sat up and purred to her, and she nodded back. Wolf sat up too, following his Alpha's gaze. He recognised the cat from his first night in this prison. But Alpha knew it and didn't seem to want to drive it off, so it must be alright. He lay down again.
McGonagall turned and leapt down from the sill. As a cat, she ran back past the fence that surrounded the house. She transformed back into a human and sent out a Patronus before walking back along the road to the school gates. Dumbledore was waiting there for her when she arrived, and he opened the gates to let her in.
"He's fine. They both are." Her relief was evident in her voice.
"Good." How could he be so calm, like he hadn't been worried at all? But then, maybe he hadn't. This was Albus Dumbledore after all.
"The wolf was afraid of the lion at first, then..." She hesitated - how could she explain the purely animal ceremony that had taken place? "They seemed to make friends, and the wolf started following the lion."
"He's a wolf - they are meant to be in packs. Yes, I think they've formed a pack. And it sounds like Severus is Alpha, which makes sense if he is bigger. The wolf will obey him now - that's how things work in wolf packs. Severus is safe." A pack! That made sense. It was a bit strange, with the different species, but then Severus still had his human mind while Remus was pure wolf. "The next question is how long shall we wait before letting them run in the Forest?"
Her mouth fell open at that. "Let a werewolf out? And let two students run around in the Forbidden Forest? How long until someone is hurt?" He did not answer at once, but turned and began to walk back up the drive before he began.
"Think about it Minerva. First of all, they are not human children at the moment. That lion is perfectly capable of looking after itself. And don't forget that Severus is pack leader, so he can control the wolf. Remus won't disobey him, or run off on his own. That's not what wolves do, and regular wolf or not Remus is still a wolf at full moon. I wouldn't let them out yet, but maybe once they have really bonded as a pack it might be better to let them go. That shack is small and they will get bored."
"Albus, that is a very impressive insight into pack workings, but we have to be cautious. Think of the consequences if something went wrong!"
"I will always be cautious, Minerva, particularly where students' safety is concerned. I will not let them out unless I am sure that it will be safe for everyone concerned. But I happen to be rather clever, and my decisions are almost always right."
She choked. "Almost always?"
"Where Remus is concerned, I am always extra careful." They were at the castle by this point, so he left her and disappeared to his rooms. She returned to hers. She felt happy about Severus and Remus, and for once managed to get a few hours' sleep on a full moon night. But some of Dumbledore's ideas!
Lion licked wolf's head in a soothing motion. Wolf shifted and relaxed, stretching out in front of his Alpha. Lion continued to groom him. This was something Severus would never do as a human, but it was different for the lion. This was natural behaviour for any pride or pack - the lion part of him thought of the wolf as part of his pride, but the human part knew Remus considered it a pack. What difference did it make anyway? He was Alpha.
He finished and Wolf sat up, taking his turn at the duty. He groomed his leader, who stretched out with eyes closed to enjoy the sensation. That done, they lay side by side. Curled together, they slept, both tired from normal days as humans (although Wolf didn't remember the day, he was tired).
Remus woke as the pain returned, ripping though him as his body returned to its normal shape. Wolf rolled away from the warm fur of his Alpha, annoyed and confused as always. Why did this always have to happen? Particularly tonight, which had been different to usual. He hoped his Alpha would still be there next time. He struggled to retain his form, but it had no effect. His howl woke the lion, which jumped up and stood over him as he writhed on the floor. He was on his back, and the lion rested a paw on his chest to hold him down. At his Alpha's touch he lay still. It was less painful now he wasn't moving, but it still hurt.
Then Severus' paw rested on the chest of a boy. He waited for Remus to open his eyes and lie still before he lifted the paw and backed off. Remus examined his body with disbelief - not a single scratch! He remembered the night before, but it had actually been real. "Thanks, Alpha." He joked, remembering how the wolf had thought of the lion. The lion dipped his head.
Remus reached into the high cupboard to retrieve his clothes. He still felt stiff and sore, but only from the transformation. This was amazing - he was so glad Severus had been allowed to come. He started to shuffle to the door, but the lion pressed against his legs. He understood the hint and climbed onto Severus' back, lying down against the soft fur and winding his hands into the thick mane. Carefully, of course - he wouldn't want to pull.
He had to slip off when they reached the passageway - the roof was too low. Severus remembered the path from the night before, and stopped at the exit. A branch swished past. Outside, he saw a shape hurrying in their direction. From this angle, he couldn't see what she did to freeze the tree, but as soon as it was done he stepped out and paused to let Remus climb back on. McGonagall looked them over carefully.
"Impressive, Remus. This must be the first time I haven't had to come and retrieve you on a stretcher. Snape, I must admit that your plan worked. Now if you would let Mr Lupin off, you can change back before someone sees you and come to the hospital wing." Remus slipped off, and Severus shifted back into human form.
"Hi Remus. You make a great wolf, by the way." He hadn't had a chance to speak as a lion. Remus scowled playfully.
"Not voluntarily. You make a great lion, Alpha."
Remus choked. "Sorry, what?"
"Moony. You call me Alpha, I call you Moony." McGonagall watched, slightly bemused by what was going on but also pleased that both were able to joke. The night really had been a success.
"Hospital wing. Now." They might seem OK, but she wanted them checked over.
"But I'm fine," whined Remus. He hated being stuck in the hospital wing - he spent too much time there.
"Come on Moony."
"Yes, Alpha," Remus replied sarcastically. Both laughed. And for once it didn't hurt!
They had to get to the hospital wing quickly before anyone got up and saw them. It was rather early in the morning to be coming in from the grounds. Professor McGonagall sent them into the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey bustled straight over. She'd been waiting for Remus.
"Come on, Remus. What's the damage this time? Mr Snape, I know you enjoy visiting but this is a little too early. Now, Remus, you look so much better than usual. But let's have that shirt off." She tried to make Remus sit on his usual bed, but he refused and took a different one. That one meant pain to him. She clucked, but let him do it.
"I'm fine. No injuries." She stared in disbelief.
"What? Come on, Remus. Even if it's only a few scratches and it's not visible, I need to deal with it. You know they don't heal."
"No, I mean it. No injuries." He pulled off his shirt to demonstrate it. The scars were there, but no new wounds. Madam Pomfrey sat down hard.
"How...?" she asked weakly.
"Severus. He's an Animagus. He kept me company last night and stopped the wolf from hurting itself."
"What... How... I don't believe it. You're too young." Severus moved away and transformed. She gasped in shock at the lion that appeared. Severus just padded over to Remus' bed and allowed him to stroke the mane. He changed back almost immediately and explained.
"Werewolves only hate humans. I decided to become and Animagus, and managed to transform for the first time on Saturday. Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore helped, and they took me to register afterwards. Well, last night I went with Remus - in lion form - and stayed with him when he transformed. Basically, the lion and wolf formed a pack and the wolf didn't get bored so it had no reason to hurt itself."
"The Alpha wouldn't have approved, either," added Remus. "Eh, Alpha?"
"He would not, Moony," said Severus sternly. Madam Pomfrey's mouth was opening and shutting like a goldfish. Severus wondered idly whether Dumbledore was the only one who didn't do fish impressions when he mentioned his Animagus. Remus frowned at the nickname but didn't argue - that was the price for calling Severus Alpha and besides it was said in a nice way.
Madam Pomfrey didn't really know what to say, so she examined both boys. They were perfectly healthy, except that Remus was stiff from transforming, so she had to let them go. "You should never have been allowed to do this in the first place, but your plan appears to work. I suppose you should do this every time." They waited until they were round the corner before sharing a high-five.
"Come on Moony. No excuse for missing lessons this time."
A/N: If anyone is thinking "no teachers would allow this", remember that this is Hogwarts, where they fly around high above the ground in gale-force winds with no harnesses or safety nets, navigate an ancient castle with no maps, plant a lethal tree in the grounds with no fences around it, and - oh yes - practise new spells on each other. So letting a Lion animagus run around with a transformed werewolf is pretty tame really...
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