Chapter 2 : The Ultimatum
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It took him a moment to take in his surroundings. He knew of the location, and he knew about it; he had been here, however briefly, so he could later Apparate. Taking it in with the enhanced senses of a werewolf was a whole new experience. The smell was overwhelming; he could almost taste it in the back of his throat. Was it possible to grow nose blind to this stench? Of course, the smell was the least of his worries as there was a fatigue he hadn’t experienced before, mixed with urges and desires that he had no idea Remus felt.
For the first time, he began to realize that while he and Sirius had made a game of things, it wasn’t as much of one for Remus as they thought. “I’m sorry old friend,” apologized James to the air before him, knowing that when things went back to the way they were he would have to tell this to Remus.
He stumbled along toward the makeshift shelter Remus had been using. It was slow going but he knew the general area from word of mouth and the maps Dumbledore had courtesy of Remus. The shelter was where Remus spent most of his nights when he wasn’t dealing with the full moon. While he was well aware that other wolves moved freely around, Remus sequestered himself away for the safety of others and for himself. It was always one of his deepest fears - turning someone into what he was. Remus suffered the curse for so long that he didn’t want another to suffer it as well, and James was beginning to understand why.
The dark thoughts, that he figured to be the wolf, played in his mind while he tried to push back and not give purchase to them. Was this Remus’ daily struggle, the underlying rage and wildness just sitting there beneath the surface? It was hard to imagine considering the calm demeanor that he always exhibited. Sure there were moments where he was on edge; it was usually when they had pushed him too far. Was it all to keep this at bay?
Eventually, James recognized the small space Remus had carved out for himself and felt like a knife was stuck in the chest. This was what his friend was living with? Remus' clothes had always been on the shabby side, but this was a far cry from shabby. It was a hovel. Remus was living homeless. He was choosing this? Even those times when he had offered to put him up at his place, back before Remus had turned traitor? It wasn’t possible; it had to be some sort of new development. It had to be. If it wasn’t, James was going to have to have a long talk with Remus. Letting out a sigh James settled into the shanty Remus constructed. He cast a few protective spells and tried to bunk for the night, feeling a weariness weighing on him.
It took a while for sleep to come to come to him, and once it did James wished it hadn’t. His mind was plagued with violent and horrific dreams, not just a manifestation of his worries and fears for Lily and Harry, but rather acts he performed himself. In his dreams he saw himself running rampant destroying and maiming, reveling in the death and blood he was creating. Yet while he took joy in the vile acts he was performing, there was a part of him that was utterly appalled by it all, a part of him that could do nothing to stop himself from going forth and killing more.
James desperately wanted out of his dreams, but could not quite wake himself up. He didn’t escape the world of dreams until he was roughly shaken. “Get your lazy ass up.”
Confusion clouded James mind for a minute as he tried to take in his surroundings. Who was this person with his broad shoulders and scraggly face? “Bigsby?” asked James, confused and hoping he was right about this man based on the description he had been given.
“Don’t tell me you conked your head. Cause if you’ve gone stupid, you can forget my helping you.”
“No, no,” quickly answered James, taking a moment to rub his eyes. “Just took me a moment to wake up.”
“I have spent the last hour looking all over for the sad excuse that you are, and here you are dreaming away!”
“Sorry, I guess I drifted off.”
“You guess? You did. Where the hell were you?”
“Out,” answered James. He didn’t have to give a reason for his whereabouts; he knew that as Remus he hadn’t been gone that long, thus there was nothing that needed explaining.
Bigsby took a non-threatening swing at James which he easily dodged.
“Rhea wants to see you.”
James’ eyes widened - this was quite unexpected. When it came to the current werewolf hierarchy, he was aware that Fenrir held majority control - being the most vicious of the lot. Rhea was second, as she was completely and utterly ruthless. Both of them were bad news; James knew, however, that if he - as Remus - were to make it into the werewolf community without killing, it would be through her. If he could get in, then he could start working on getting them to see reason. Not all of them were monsters like Fenrir. Still, he was the one that pretty much barred the way into the werewolf community. While most other wolves did not have to kill, Remus was an exception to the rule considering how he had pulled away from the life of a werewolf rather than embracing it.
Many werewolves mocked him for being something of a lap dog. Bigsby was one of the few werewolves that Remus had made any headway with. It chiefly was because he was still new to the pack, and still easily remembered his life as a normal human unafflicted by his curse. Of course, while one friend was better than none, one werewolf who wavered in his conviction was not much to speak for considering the amount of work Remus had done thus far.
“Do you know what she wants?” asked James, looking at the other man.
Bigsby gave a shrug of his shoulders. “Hell if I know. You don’t want to keep her waiting - if you know what’s good for you.”
James gave a nod of his head, making sure he had his wand on him before he left his small shelter in the direction of Rhea’s. He found his mind spinning at this unexpected development. Bigsby didn’t follow him, and it wasn’t really surprising. Bigsby was on friendly terms, but wasn’t apt to actually help him as he had been marked as an outsider.
James followed the directions he had learned via Remus’ map. He paused outside the construct that was Rhea’s dwelling not sure if he should knock or just enter, or what.
“You don’t have to just stand there like a lost puppy. I won’t bite – much,” said a deeply rich female voice, one that seemed to drip seduction.
James swallowed as he stepped inside. The interior was nicer than the outside, but it wasn’t much by normal wizard standards. If he had Remus’ current location to go by, though, this was on par with Buckingham Palace. In here it was warm. Rhea reclined on a chair next to a small table that held a small lantern. Its dim light illuminated a shabby mattress behind her.
“So I’m told you are under the delusion of being part of the local wolf clans,” said Rhea the moment James was inside, her eyes raking him up and down, as if she were judging him. “Fenrir’s failure. You thought it would be that easy?”
“Nothing comes easy,” answered James softly. He knew he could be Remus, but at the same time this was the first time that he was truly speaking on his behalf. In some ways it was just a little bit unnerving, particularly in regard to something so major.
“You’ve got that right.” There was sound of amusement in Rhea’s voice, as vague smile played on her lips as she slowly moved to stand. She approached James in a precise and predatory manner. He didn’t move, and stood there watching her carefully, not sure what to expect. He had heard that Rhea’s moods can easily fluctuate from demure to hot as hell fire.
She reached James, and trailed a hand from his shoulder down his arm, as she started to slowly circle around him. “So tell me, Remus, why would Fenrir want a reminder of his great failure around - even if you have humbled yourself and wish to be one of us?”
“I do not assume to know the minds of others.”
Rhea hummed an amused laugh as she passed by close behind James before leaning over the back of his shoulder lips near his ear. “Too right you are.” She grasped his other shoulder with one hand, as the other trailed and tickled down his back. James stood a little ridged. He was uncomfortable with what was happening in that moment, considering that he was a married man. Fortunately, Remus wasn’t easily swayed, though he could feel the beast inside him getting riled up a little bit. Animal instincts were what they were and his had now become stronger considering the wolf.
“So are you saying that nothing can be done?”
“Now, I didn’t say that,” Rhea purred her words as she drew to James’ side moving her nails across his chest. “I know killing is a little outside your tastes, but I’m sure we could … work something out.”
James turned to look at Rhea, part of him had a feeling that this was going to lead to things that he could not do. Still, he had to ask, “What is that?”
Rhea smiled looking James in the eyes, standing there for a moment, arms around him before she slowly dropped them and pulled away from him. She walked slowly back to the chair she had been sitting in. “As you know, every so often I hold the ear of Fenrir. I’m sure if you did a slightly different service, I can convince him to cut you a break. I’m sure if you bring another over to our side of life it would show a change of heart. Of course, the more tender they are, the more likely I will be able to persuade things in your favor.”
“You want me to become him?” said James feeling a twist of revulsion, one that he knew Remus would feel as well. The idea of doing this to another child!
“Hardly, I’m not asking for frequent trips to the kiddies. Just one will suffice. You could try someone older, but it will make my work that much harder. One nibble, Remus, that is all it will take. You do that, and your days stuck in limbo land will be over. Think about it.”
James stood there knowing that he couldn’t bite a kid; he couldn’t bite anyone. He knew what Remus stood for, what his dear friend believed in. He shared in those beliefs. He couldn’t do that, not to himself, not to his best friend, and not to the poor soul who would suffer if he acted in such a way.
“Either way, you have my offer Remus, and we shall see what happens come the full moon. Just know that if you fail, the amnesty you have been granted may not hold.”
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