Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, Harry Potter or any of the associated characters and themes
Call of the Wild
Dawn was less than an hour away and the full moon was beginning to dip below the unseen horizon, giving way to what promised to be a beautiful summer day.
Willow sat on the worn wooden stairs of the cottage’s small porch, sipping on a cup of strong coffee as she waited. Her sharp green eyes stared at the forest of tall, widely spaced oak trees around her, searching for the pair of elusive figures that she knew would be approaching soon.
Her lips quirked into a smile as a playful yelp split the still, pre-dawn air. Soon after the last echoes of sound settled Willow heard the rapid paced running of a pair of four legged creatures. A pair of figures darted through the trees, their forms briefly visible as they darted through patches of moonlight that spilled through the canopy of the oak trees.
Swift feet, or paws in this case, soon brought the figures into the clearing in which the cottage was set. There were two of them, one larger than the other, and both wore animalistic expressions of excitement that, in all honesty, made them look more than slightly sinister. Having spent considerable time around both of them Willow could take the expressions for what they were and not worry about being eaten.
The redheaded Wicca reached down and the smaller of the animals, the one with jet black fur and golden eyes with green flecks, bounded forward eagerly, sniffing the hand and licking it.
“Did you have a good night, Harry?” Willow asked the young werewolf, scratching him as a fond smile played on her lips.
Harry nodded the action far to deliberate to be anything but purposeful. It was a measure of how far Harry had come in controlling his inner wolf in the last year that Willow was able to sit near him, unconcerned about the possibility of him losing control. Of course, the chance still existed that Harry would lose control but it was infinitesimal. Besides, between her own magic and the guiding form of Oz in his own werewolf form, Willow was sure that they could deal with one out of control werewolf cub if necessary.
“What about you, Oz?” Willow asked her old friend.
The green furred werewolf simply looked at her, lips peeling back to reveal a hint of dangerous looking fangs in what might have been a smile. The action was so much like those of an untransformed Oz that Willow couldn’t help but let out a small laugh at it.
“You’re doing amazingly, Harry,” Willow said, continuing the one sided conversation. “I don’t think any of Oz’s students have learned as quickly and as well as you have. I’m very proud of you.”
Oz let out a huff of agreement, maintaining a relaxed yet vigilant posture.
Looking up at the sky through the canopy of tree branches and leaves Willow hazarded a guess at how far off the dawn was.
“Come on you two, you’d best get inside. The sun should be up soon,” Willow informed the werewolves. “And don’t forget to wipe your paws,” she called to them, smiling as Harry and Oz stopped and with careful, exaggerated motions wiped all four of their paws on the doormat.
Rising from her seat, empty coffee cup in hand, Willow followed the pair inside just as the first rays of sunshine began to appear over the horizon. Detouring by the cottage’s small kitchen to deposit her empty cup in the sink and give Harry time to complete his transformation. Willow came to a stop outside of Harry’s room, lingering outside of the half closed door, even as she heard a sharp cry of pain from within. No matter how well Harry learned to control his lycanthropy there would always be a small measure of pain involved in the process for him. Oz still felt the pain, Willow knew, he had just built up an obscene level of pain tolerance so that he barely noticed it anymore.
“You can come in Willow,” Harry called out, his voice thick with tiredness.
Willow nudged open the door, entering the small, almost Spartan, room with a smile fixed firmly on her face. It saddened her to see how few personal touches the room had, even though Harry had been living in it for nearly a year, ever since he and Oz had moved into the isolated cottage. The distractions of society, mundane, magical or otherwise, could not be afforded when trying to gain control of something as volatile as a werewolf spirit, especially in the vital early days after the infection had occurred. Hence the reason Harry had gone to live with Oz in the cottage, both to avoid distraction and for protection, both from society and for society.
A rogue werewolf was nothing to joke about after all, especially if its targets were unaware of just what their attacker was.
Harry was already curled up under a thick blanket despite the promised heat of the day; his body was resting on an especially comfortable mattress, battered from both the transformation and a night of play in the forest.
Heavy green eyes, brighter than Willow’s own despite the tiredness that filled them, stared up at her from a face that was topped by an unruly mop of black hair. Sitting on the edge of the bed Willow reached out and ruffled Harry’s hair, so similar yet dissimilar to the werewolf’s fur. Harry seemed to stoically endure the ministration but to someone who knew him well, as Willow had come to over the past year, he was enjoying it. The Wiccan could tell by the way he leant into her touch slightly.
“Anything you need me to heal?” Willow asked.
Harry shook his head, the action slow and clumsy. “It’s nothing that my wolf healing can’t handle just a few scratches and bruises, small stuff. Are we having any visitors today?”
“I think Nicolas is stopping by later, why?”
Harry shrugged. “I was just wondering.”
“Go to sleep Harry, you need it,” Willow murmured, ruffling his hair one last time before she left the room.
Born to French parents of peasant lineage in the thirteen hundreds Nicolas Flamel rose further in the world than any of his ancestors had or than anyone expected him to. And he had risen far, especially based on his humble heritage in a time when ones family was everything. Nicolas often commented on how little the world had changed. The paintwork was different, he would often say, but the world was the same.
Short and stocky with thinning white hair and a pugnacious jaw, Nicolas looked like a particularly energetic man in his eighties. In truth his physical body was frozen in time thanks to the wonder of the Elixir of Life, produced from the Philosopher’s Stone which he had created in his hundred and thirteenth year of life as a wizard of above average, though not overwhelming, power, prodigal magical skill and impressive intellect.
An active and vibrant man, despite having lived for than six centuries, Nicolas was an engaging and exacting teacher who could get the best out of any student, just as he had Harry.
During his two years as a Hogwarts student Harry had been a lacklustre student at best, despite the few flashes of brilliant potential he had shown. Thrown into isolation with little to do but study Harry had begun to live up to his potential, largely because of the influence of his primary magical tutor Nicolas and had advanced by leaps and bounds.
Partway through their first one on one tutoring session Nicolas had realised that part of Harry’s problem at Hogwarts was his inability to learn primarily through books and by rote as his former friend Hermione did. Harry’s intelligence worked differently than hers. A skilled teacher Nicolas was able to adapt his lessons to Harry’s preferred learning style which resulted in their lessons being heavy on practical wand work and very light on theoretical book learning. More often than not when Nicolas required Harry to learn a piece of magical theory he delivered it in a lecture accompanied by practical examples of it and interspersed with the history of the particular piece of theory.
Despite that, Harry much preferred his wholly practical lessons. A holder of masteries in pretty every basic branch of magic, and a few of the more esoteric ones, Nicolas often wove together several different subjects into one lesson, with sometimes explosive results, especially when they were working with potions.
“Now remember Harry the mandrake root needs to be added as the potion begins to simmer but before it comes to the boil,” Nicolas instructed, peering into the depths of cauldron. “What makes this a very delicate potion, Harry?”
Harry chewed his bottom lip in thought, not taking his eyes off of the potion, his hand wavering over the recently cut mandrake root. “It isn’t just made up of just potion ingredients; it has a spell component to it.”
“And why does the spell component make it delicate?”
“The introduction of magical energy into the potion could make it unstable if too much power is poured into it,” Harry replied, carefully adding the mandrake root as the potion began to simmer. “Or render it useless if there’s too little magic.”
“And this particular potion requires a magical blessing to impart the requisite magical energy,” Nicolas lectured. “Now, based on the ingredients you should be able to tell me what this potion does.”
Harry frowned, running his mind over the ingredients. Potions, whether with Nicolas or Snape, was not his favourite subject but he certainly understood it better with Nicolas, if only because the man explained what certain ingredients did and how they interacted with other ingredients rather than just giving him brewing instructions.
“I know that the mandrake root is used to cure petrifaction and a magical blessing sounds protective in nature I’d say it’s a protective potion of some sort,” Harry concluded.
“Very good,” Nicolas praised. “In actuality it imparts a low level magical resistance on those who imbibe. While magical arts such as Occlumency are capable of rendering spells that affect the mind impotent they do nothing to protect the body. This potion will protect you from a range of low level hexes and jinxes that while not overly dangerous could prove to be a fatal distraction in battle.”
“Handy,” Harry commented as the potion began to boil.
“Watch this now,” Nicolas murmured, holding the tip of his wand over the surface of the potion. “Uranicus Lux!”
Softly light pulsed from the wand, flittering over the surface of the silver potion, merging with it.
Distracted as he was by the interactions of the magical blessing and potion Harry never realised that something was wrong but Nicolas did, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and dragging him backwards. Slashing his wand through the air the old wizard slammed a Protego into place between himself and his apprentice of sorts moments before the potion exploded, showering the brewing room with superheated liquid.
“To much magical energy,” Harry stated.
“I’d say so,” Nicolas agreed, dispelling his shield and the liquid with a lazy swipe of his wand while Harry stared at him, envious at the ease with which Nicolas used magic.
The purposefully closed door to the room opened and Willow entered cautiously, a glowing nimbus of magic surrounding her. Glancing around cautiously Willow decided that, for the moment, she was safe and dispelled her shield with some misgivings. It wouldn’t have been the first time that she had done so only to be covered in some amorphous goo.
“I heard an explosion,” Willow commented.
“The protection potion I told you about blew up,” Nicolas informed her. “It didn’t take as much magical energy as I thought it would.”
“Back to the drawing board,” Willow said. “I’ll help but first Oz wants to see Harry. You’re going to try an unassisted transformation; he’s waiting near the Containment Circle.”
Harry sucked in a nervous breath and ducked out of the brewing room. An unassisted transformation was exactly what it sounded like, a transformation into his wolf form without the aid of the full moon. Part of the process involved in mastering his lycanthropy was being able to control himself after performing an unassisted transformation as well as during an assisted transformation. According in to Oz controlling himself after an unassisted transformation would be much harder than it was during the full moon.
Oz was waiting where Willow had said he was next to the Containment Circle. The Containment Circle was exactly what it sounded like, a magical circle which trapped anything within it when it was activated. Harry had spent his first three transformations in it until Oz had let him run free on the nights of the full moon, guided and restrained by the older werewolf.
Without exchanging a word between them Harry settled into the Containment Circle and Oz raised it, an invisible curtain of magical power that made Harry’s hair stand on end.
“Do you remember what we talked about, Harry? About how to jumpstart the transformation?” Oz asked.
Harry nodded, eyes closed as he sunk into a meditative trance. He sought out the cloying web of power that clung his body, a wrongness that he had come to associate with the lycanthropy curse. Immersing himself in the power Harry probed it, pushing at it and moulding it until he received the response that he sought. Slowly he altered it, matching the feel of the power to that which he experienced during his transformations. Pouring more and more of his will into changing it Harry realised why an unassisted transformation would be harder to control.
By purposefully bringing the transformation on, he was aggravating it, making the semi sentient magic of the curse angry and granting it a surge of extra energy that it normally wouldn’t have.
With a soft cry Harry felt his body begin to change, his skin rippled and his bones broke as his entire skeletal structure altered itself.
The pain detracted from his concentration which in turn detracted from his ability to purposefully activate the transformation. He found himself trapped mid transformation, unable to complete it and unwilling to give up the effort.
The more he tried to maintain the transformation and push it to completion the harder it was to do so. Slowly his hold over the power waned and it became dormant once more. Exiting his meditative trance Harry looked up at Oz, his breathing heavier than normal, eyes wild with the remnants of werewolf energy.
He growled at Oz, his instincts still more animal than human despite the Lycanthropy curse’s currently dormant status. In that moment Harry wanted nothing more than to lunge at Oz, to tear into the other werewolf despite his senses telling him that his companion was an alpha, a leader in the animal world. Harry didn’t realise the significance of his feelings at the moment and wouldn’t for years to come.
Oz growled back, carefully altering the pitch of the sound to convey a specific message; friend, ally.
Harry rocked back, the animalistic part of his mind absorbing and translating the message.
“That was a good attempt,” Oz said, “better than my first attempt at an unassisted transformation. Do you understand why it’s harder to control an unassisted transformation than an assisted one?”
“The wolf gets angry,” Harry murmured, moping at his face, “and stronger because I provoked it.”
“It does,” Oz agreed, “which is why you must be stronger, stubborn. Do you think that you’re up for trying again?” Harry nodded. “Start when you’re ready.”
After darkness had fallen Harry sat down to a simple dinner with his three primary tutors, all school work, magical and mundane, set aside for the night.
“Perenelle’s planning stopping by sometime next week and is going to give you a lesson on Enchanting,” Nicolas said between mouthfuls of food.
“That’s with Ancient Runes, right?” Harry asked, unsure.
Nicolas nodded. “The Ancient Runes provide permanence to the spells that you’re lying onto an object, it takes a delicate touch not to foul it up.”
Harry snorted. “I’m not really delicate with my magic.”
Nicolas grinned. “Neither was I at your age, it’ll come with age and practice. For now, you’ll probably just blow up a lot defenceless inanimate objects.”
“It sounds like target practice.”
“Only harder,” Nicolas agreed.
“The summer holidays are coming up,” Willow ventured tentatively.
Harry grunted, closing in on himself slightly. “That doesn’t really matter to me, does it? It’s not like I have any friends left at Hogwarts.”
Willow winced slightly, scolding herself for even touching on such a sensitive topic, before rushing onwards. “The Council got invited to the Quidditch World Cup by the Bulgarian Ministry of Magic and we’ve got an extra seat. I was wondering if you wanted to go with Kennedy and me, we’re being sent as official ambassadors to celebrate the Council’s new treaty with the Bulgarian magical and mundane governments.”
“That sounds like it could be fun,” Harry ventured. “Would that be something I could do?” He asked Oz, who, given his expertise, had the final say on whether or not Harry left the cottage and its surrounds.
Oz smiled slightly and dipped his head in the affirmative.
“I think I’d like that Willow,” Harry replied with a smile.
“Brilliant, then you can explain just what Quidditch is to Kennedy and me,” Willow announced, “we’re not too sure ourselves.”
“Before I forget, Albus contacted me today,” Nicolas interjected. “He’s coming to visit on the weekend; apparently he’s got some news to share.”
“Good new or bad news?” Willow asked.
“Bad news and it involves you somehow Harry,” Nicolas replied, looking at the younger wizard.
Harry shrugged, not even the prospect of bad news could dim his excitement at being able to leave the cottage and forest that had been his world ever since he was infected.
It was this night that he would often look back on as the start of the storm.